Issue 1095

News

The organisers of a rally against racism are adamant that the community rally — months in the planning — will go ahead peacefully on May 28 outside the library in Moreland. Councillor Sue Bolton told Green Left Weekly that the organisers are committed to a peaceful and safe rally. “Our rally will be culturally diverse and children will be present so we want a safe space. We aim to do this by organising marshals who are committed to a peaceful rally.
A rally on Saturday May 28 in Moreland in the inner north of Melbourne has been attracting support from organisations keen to show their opposition to racism. About 55 groups, including unions, community and faith-based groups, community radio and political parties have signed on to the rally initiated by Socialist Alliance Councillor in Moreland Sue Bolton. The rally's focus is around four key points: Stop the forced closure of Aboriginal communities; Treaty now; Let the refugees in — Close Manus and Nauru; and No to Islamophobia.
A group of about 40 homeless people have set up camp in Melbourne's city square to put homelessness in the spotlight, as housing agencies and people sleeping rough grow increasingly frustrated with government inaction. The camp was set up on May 12, after stories in the Herald Sun about aggressive beggars picking fights with pedestrians cast rough sleepers as a public menace.
Cottesloe Council in WA has prohibited the use of air or helium filled balloons at events approved or run by the council. Once released into the air, balloons can drift for hundreds of kilometres, or rise into the stratosphere where they burst and return to earth in a spaghetti-like shape. As “airborne litter”, balloons then end up in waterways and the ocean. Terrestrial and marine animals mistake balloons for food and swallow them or get entangled in the string attached. This can lead to the loss of a limb or even to the death of turtles, whales, dolphins, dugongs or seabirds.
The Divest from Detention network disrupted the Australian Council of Super Investors (ACSI) annual conference in Melbourne on May 10. Activists gained access to the main stage where they played audio recordings of protesters on Nauru and held banners reading “Close the camps” and “Mandatory detention can't be risk managed”. Spokesperson for the network Liz Patterson said: “ACSI already recommends divestment from unethical businesses like tobacco. They must extend this to detention.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles announced a new policy on Facebookfor the Territory election in August on May 14. The policy, called “Knowledge Territory”, promises $500 education vouchers if the Territory receives royalty payments from onshore gas fracking. The ALP has announced it will declare a moratorium on fracking if it wins the election and this is Giles’ latest attempt to sell the Country Liberal Party’s position of supporting gas fracking across the Territory.
The Illawarra Knitting Nannas Against Gas (IKNAG) held a knit-in outside the office of the federal deputy leader of the ALP, Tanya Plibersek, in Sydney on May 16. IKNAG's Annie Malow contacted Plibersek with two questions asking for "yes" or "no" answers. The first was: Do you support a ban on CSG mining in drinking water catchment? The second was: Would you move legislation for such a ban? Plibersek was not in her office, but two of her staffers came out offering the Nannas several balls of wool — all the wrong colours.
Up to 500 people packed into the Balmain Town Hall on May 19 to protest the state government's $17 billion WestConnex tollway project, which will destroy a large swathe of the city's inner western suburbs, and spew massive traffic flows and pollution into suburban streets. The forum, sponsored by No WestConnex Annandale, heard from a panel of speakers, including Labor member for Grayndler Anthony Albanese and Greens candidate for the seat Jim Casey.
The odious Peter Dutton, minister for torturing refugees, has plumbed new depths in responding to a Greens proposal to increase Australia's refugee intake from 13,750 to 50,000. "They won't be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English," Dutton said. "These people would be taking Australian jobs, there's no question about that. "For many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it so there would be huge cost and there's no sense in sugar-coating that, that's the scenario."
A multi-generational delegation from the Borroloola Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory's Gulf Country were front and centre at a protest outside global mining giant Glencore's Sydney headquarters on May 19. The protesters demanded that Glencore close its McArthur River mine and rehabilitate the site as well as the river and the surrounding land, on which they have traditionally relied for food.
Hundreds of nurses from the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association protested outside health minister Jillian Skinner's electorate office on May 17.
About 3000 people, young and old, women, men and children, kayaked from Horseshoe Beach and blocked Newcastle Harbour to stop the coal ships on May 8. Organised by 350.org and other climate change campaigners, the Break Free event was a great success and also fun. There was a large contingent of First Nations people from all around Australia and internationally, from Samoa and other Pacific islands that could disappear due to rising sea levels.
Sydney University campus came alive with political discussion, talks and workshops for three days during the Socialism for the 21st Century Conference, held over May 13–15. The conference had more than 30 sessions and 50 speakers, including international special guests Marta Harnecker, Michael Lebowitz and Ian Angus. Local and international activists shared their experiences of struggle and discussed the necessity of building alternatives to capitalism today. Up to 400 conference-goers faced the task of choosing from a range of stimulating sessions on offer.
The Australia First Party will not be able to use the Eureka flag as its logo on ballot papers in the federal election on July 2. Their application was ineligible because it had not been advertised for 30 days as required by law. However, the application will be considered again in 100 days' time, well after voters head to the ballot box.
Heavily armed “anti-terrorist” police raided homes in Melbourne and arrested a teenager in Sydney on May 17. This foiled two unrelated terror plots, according to saturation media coverage based on information from police and security agencies that is too secret to be heard in court. In Sydney, 18-year-old Tamim Khaja was arrested in Parramatta and charged with planning a terrorist attack and preparing for “foreign incursions”.
The committee campaigning against the proposal to establish a Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek met on May 12 at Blacktown Council Chambers to discuss their plans to oppose the new airport. It decided to begin an extensive education campaign, involving leafleting western Sydney, taking the issue to local schools where pupils will experience disruption and letter box drops.

Analysis

Sometimes there are things that appear in the media that just make you shake your head in disbelief. Take for example the tale of Duncan Storrar, the man on ABC's Q&A who dared to ask why the budget was looking after higher income earners while ignoring those on the lower end of the scale. For his trouble, Storrar was mercilessly attacked by sections of the media for everything from his tax record to his criminal history — all because he publicly dared to question the economic orthodoxy of the federal budget.
Support for Australia's Safe Schools program has been gathering pace since plans to gut the anti-bullying initiative and cut its funding were announced by the federal government in March.
On May 16, students gathered outside the at Wesley College gate with their mouths taped shut, demanding the names of the editors of the 2014 Wesley Journal which included a page called the “Rackweb”.
While everyone's eyes were focused on the federal budget, the NSW government released a very controversial piece of draft legislation that will remove restrictions on land clearance and, despite their claims, threaten biodiversity.
On May 10, the MP for Cairns Rob Pyne did what many politicians in Queensland have claimed for the past 30 years could not be done: he presented a private member's bill to decriminalise abortion. While some members of parliament over the years have claimed to have had a private members bill in their top drawer ready to go, when it came to the crunch these bills never saw the light of day. But it was not due to a lack of evidence from medical, legal and public health experts, who supported removal of abortion from the Crimes Act.
Climate change was a glaring omission from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s address announcing the federal election. It has also been below the radar on the Labor’s campaign trail. In contrast the Greens launched their election campaign at a protest on May 8 organised by climate group 350.org, which closed down the coal port of Newcastle. Greens leader Richard Di Natale said it was time Australia got serious about “tackling dangerous global warming”.
One good thing about being out of the country for a while is not having to listen to the lies of the Coalition and Labor. We know that on every occasion they lie to get into power. They take no responsibility for the carnage they cause in their quest to see who can be the biggest slaves to corporate Australia. The Socialist Alliance is running myself, Susan Price, Sharlene Leroy-Dyer and Howard Byrnes in the NSW Senate. Peter Boyle is running for Tanya Plibersek's seat of Sydney. As Brother Kev Carmody's song goes: “From little things big things grow”.
Zebedee Parkes, an activist in Sydney’s Refugee Action Coalition and member of Socialist Alliance prepared this for Green Left Weekly. 1. Asylum seeker protests in Nauru detention centre for more than 60 days Protests in the Nauru detention centre started on March 20 and have now continued for more than 60 days in the face of hostility from guards and attempts to stop messages from getting out to the world.
Duncan Storrar, the man who dared to ask a question about tax thresholds on ABC TV's Q & A program on May 9, has thanked Australians for their support and criticised the Murdoch press after he was villified in News Corp newspapers the following week. A GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign in the following days raised more than $60,000 for Storrar, after he questioned the Coalition government's tax policy, introducing himself as someone with a "disability and a low education".
With polls showing growing support for the Greens and independents, the powers-that-be and their media hacks are becoming increasingly hysterical. For the 1% and their supporters, the prospect of the July 2 double dissolution election delivering a hung parliament is the worst of all possible worlds. Uncertainty threatens their profit margins and means political and economic chaos — a nightmare for the ruling class that has had it so good for so long.
Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon was one of the invited speakers at the annual Nakba rally, in Sydney on May 15, organised by the Palestine Action Group. The next day the Daily Telegraph ran an almost full-page story, under the headline “Taxpayers funding Greens' Israel blitz”, alleging Senator Rhiannon had misused her parliamentary allowance by photocopying the poster advertising the rally.
The federal Coalition government is planning to hold a referendum in 2017 on Constitutional Recognition of Australia’s original inhabitants. So far the campaign consists of establishing the Recognise campaign, in a bid to educate Australians about the importance of the recognition referendum. The government has already funded the Recognise campaign to the tune of $15 million, and promised another $15 million in this year’s budget. At the same time, it has cut funding to Aboriginal medical centres, Aboriginal legal services and other Indigenous programs and services.

World

A few months ago, when political commentators looked ahead to the coming year, there was a widespread prediction that Labour would suffer substantial losses in the May 5 local council elections. Would it be 200 seats lost? Perhaps a little less, perhaps even more? After all, these elections would be for seats previously contested in 2012, a mid-term peak for Ed Miliband. It was assumed that Labour's new left-wing, anti-austerity leader Jeremy Corbyn must be electorally unpopular.
Protest against cuts to the Library of Birmingham last year. The main thing to realise about the crisis in Britain's steel industry, which is rapidly shedding jobs, is that the government has been clear and decisive.
Candidate for the socialist Awami Workers Party (AWP) Baba Jan will contest a May 28 by-election for the assembly of the Pakistani-administered Himalayan territory of Gilgit-Baltistan from his jail cell. Baba Jan has been described as a climate justice prisoner. In 2010, his home area in Hunza was devastated by climate change-fuelled floods and landslides. A protest movement developed against the misappropriation of relief funds. Police responded with brutality and protesters were killed and arrested.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa summit in Kigali, Rwanda, on May 11 to 13 reinforced extractive industry and high-tech myths. The gathering unveiled the elite’s exuberant imagination and its lack of exposure to the continent’s harsh economic realities. As an antidote, grassroots protesters all over Africa are questioning the logic of export-led “growth” and renewed fiscal austerity. Instead they demand policies that meet their basic needs.
The May 9 election of controversial populist Rodrigo Duterte as president of the Philippines is a sign that capitalism is in crisis in the Philippines, chairperson of the left-wing Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) Sonny Melencio told a conference in Sydney on May 14. Melencio told the Socialism for the 21st Century conference: “People were fed up with the old 'trapo' [traditional politician] and elite forces that have long ruled the government since the overthrow of military dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
Democratic Convention, Nevada, May 14. The 16 hour-long Democratic Convention in Nevada crumbled into chaos on May 14, TeleSUR English said that day, as supporters of socialist presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders raised allegations of voter suppression. US Uncut reported on May 17 that Sanders issued a blistering response to the Nevada convention in which he denounced the entire process as illegitimate.
US Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told a crowd of supporters in North Dakota on May 13 that it would be wrong to view him as a saviour who could solve the country's problems alone, TeleSUR English said. The self-styled democratic socialist said the US needed a movement of millions of people instead.
Truck drivers blocked major roads across France on May 17 while angry workers and students marched through city streets. Demonstrators were protesting against the longer working hours and reduced overtime payments ordered by President Francois Hollande's government.
Bernie Sanders is more likely to defeat Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump in the November general elections than Democratic rival Hillary Clinton according to recent polls, Al Jazeera said on May 17. Nonpartisan polling organisation Real Clear Politics showed that Sanders — who has run as a socialist supporting a political revolution against Wall Street — had a 13% advantage over Trump. Clinton's lead was about 5%.
Right-wing protests hit the streets of Caracas and other cities across Venezuela — and in some cases turned violent, attacking police and other targets. The protests were part of a May 18 national day of action to demand that electoral authorities speed up the process of scheduling a recall referendum against left-wing President Nicolas Maduro. The national mobilisation came after right-wing leader Henrique Capriles gave a press conference on May 17 in which he invoked violence and called for the country's armed forces to “pick a side”.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has hit out at “mounting aggressions” against his government after it was confirmed that a US plane had twice violated Venezuelan airspace. The US Boeing 707 E-3 Sentry is reported to have illegally entered Venezuela’s national airspace on May 11 and 13. Both incursions were detected by Venezuela’s Bolivarian air force and have sparked rumours that the US might be conducting covert spying operations over Venezuela. “This plane has all the mechanisms to carry out electronic espionage,” said Maduro on his television program on May 17.
Brazil’s Federal Senate voted on May 12 to proceed with the impeachment process against Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff in a move that many see as an attempt by the right-wing opposition to carry out an “institutional coup”.
As protests continue in Brazil over the Legislature’s vote to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and put her on trial, Noam Chomsky told Democracy Now!: "We have the one leading politician who hasn’t stolen to enrich herself, who’s being impeached by a gang of thieves, who have done so. That does count as a kind of soft coup."
A group of over 800 international academics and intellectuals from around the world, calling themselves "Humanity Against the Coup in Brazil" released a statement on May 16 condemning the ouster of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff by right-wing elements. The statement says that Rousseff's ouster on May 11 was an "imposed coup d'etat by a questionable and corrupt Congress."

Venezuela's socialist president Nicolas Maduro told a crowd of supporters on May 15 that to increase productivity and help alleviate scarcity of basic products facing the South American nation, all businesses and factories closed down by their owners would be seized and handed over to their workers so production could be restarted. “A stopped factory [is] a factory turned over to the people,” Maduro said. “The moment to do it has come, I'm ready to do it to radicalise the Revolution.”

Last year, Puerto Rico's governor announced it simply did not have the money to repay its US$72 billion debt — on bonds owed mainly to US financiers. On May 2, the US's Caribbean colony defaulted on $400 million that was due on that day. A further $2 billion is due on June 1.

United Left leader Alberto Garzon and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias celebrating the formation of an alliance between the two parties. Spain's anti-austerity party Podemos and older left-wing party United Left announced on May 9 that they had reached a preliminary agreement to run on a joint platform before Spain's new general election on June 26.

Culture

The Meddler Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria Starring Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, JK Simmons One place where the personal is very political is the sometimes fraught relationships between mothers and daughters. Some time ago Hollywood screenwriter Lorene Scafaria, while dealing with a major project, also had to grapple with difficulties with her mother. That became the raw material for her new film, The Meddler.
The Hidden Wealth Of Nations: The Scourge Of Tax Havens Gabriel Zucman University of Chicago Press 2015, 129 pages Criminal heists do not come any bigger than the global theft every year by the ultra-rich of about US$200 billion courtesy of the off-shore tax haven banking industry. The Panama Papers has grabbed headlines, but in The Hidden Wealth of Nations, Gabriel Zucman, economics professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, also takes a close look at the famous tax-evading practices in Switzerland.
The Coalition government’s arts funding cuts have deepened in a confused, inconsistent fashion that has only added to the sector’s turmoil. The Australia Council for the Arts has told 62 small-to-medium-sized arts companies and organisations that their applications for grants for the next four years have been rejected. Yet more than 40 new organisations have been given grants.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Lines of debate: the subaltern and the proletariat of the world Marcel van der Linden is Senior Researcher at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, widely recognized for his work on global labor history. In this interview, Ideas de Izquierda's Paula Varela speaks with Van der Linden about Marx's conceptualization of the working class and Van der Linden's efforts to build on this theory with the idea of “subaltern workers.” How Leon Trotsky organised the Red Army