Issue 1146

News

About 50 people gathered on July 8 at the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) offices in Sydney to celebrate Venezuela’s Independence Day and express support for the Venezuelan people and their government.

It followed a reception of more than 100 guests organised by the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Canberra on July 5, marking the 206th anniversary of Venezuela’s Independence Day.

A “Venezuela-Brazil Solidarity” meeting organised by the Latin America Solidarity Network (LASNET) was held on June 8 in Melbourne.

It brought together a wide array of activists, including members of the Socialist Alliance, Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) and trade unionists.

Since April, the people of Venezuela have been under constant attack from violent protests orchestrated by the right-wing opposition to the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Message of solidarity from branch secretary Paul McAleer on behalf of the Maritime Union of Australia Sydney Branch.

The man who ran over and killed Aboriginal teenager Elijah Doughty in Kalgoorlie last August could walk free from jail in seven months.

He was never charged with murder and was cleared of manslaughter by a Supreme Court jury, which convicted him of the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death. He was given a three year jail term but  could be released on parole by February.

Candles were firmly held against the darkness of Australia’s cruel bipartisan refugee policy on July 19.

Initiated by GetUp! and supported by numerous refugee rights organisations, the vigils drew thousands of people to more than 50 locations across Australia from big cities to small country towns.

The vigils marked four years since then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that anyone who came seeking asylum in Australia via boat would never be resettled in Australia.

One hundred and twenty young people between the ages of 16 and 25 from around Victoria made their way to Parliament House in the first week of July for the YMCA Youth Parliament program. Spending up to four months preparing their bills, students in 20 teams of six presented and debated the issues most important to them. After debating each bill for an hour, each student was allowed a conscience vote.

The 20 bills presented by the Youth Parliament were mostly progressive responses to social issues, with a quarter having an environmental focus.

Sydney rally condemns Aboriginal deaths in custody

Jim McIlroy

Sydney

The July 19 anniversary of the death in custody of Aboriginal woman Rebecca Maher was marked by a march from Hyde Park to Parliament House. The march also protested the recent death of Indigenous man Eric Whittaker, a prisoner in Parklea Prison. The action was organised by the families and the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA).

The rally condemned the continuing killing of Aboriginal people in police and prison custody, with no one ever convicted of these crimes.

Residents of the Gronn Place public housing estate in West Brunswick vowed to resist eviction at a community forum on July 15.

Gronn Place residents’ spokesperson Neville, who has lived there for 30 years, said, “We will not let them tear down our homes,” adding that he would chain himself inside his home. “I'm not going anywhere. They’ll have to drag me out.”

About 80 residents and supporters attended the lively community forum, the first since residents received letters that they would be evicted.

A rally called by the Campaign for Democracy in Sri Lanka was held in Federation Square on July 16. Protesters are opposed to the creation of a private medical college, the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine. The Government Medical Officers Association has called for SAITM to be nationalised.

Speakers condemned police attacks on students, doctors and others protesting against the privatisation of medical education, including when 96 students were injured during a police attack against a demonstration on June 21.

Some 150 people gathered at Carriageworks in Redfern on July 17 to launch an exhibition marking the centenary of one of the largest industrial confrontations in Australia’s history.

1917: The Great Strike is a commemorative exhibition featuring archival images, moving footage, oral history excerpts and commissioned artworks depicting this landmark struggle. It is a joint effort by Carriageworks and the City of Sydney, in partnership with the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) and will run until August 27.

Unions NSW: Wage theft the new business model

A Unions NSW report Lighting up the black market: Enforcing minimum wages, released on July 17, found 80% of a sample of online job advertisements in Korean, Chinese and Spanish publications around the country paid below award rates.

Analysis

A hallmark of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was responding to falling opinion polls by holding press conferences full of totalitarian imagery, announcing moves to weaken civil liberties or intensify persecution of refugees in the name of keeping Australians safe from the apparent existential threat of terrorism. His successor, Malcolm Turnbull, is trying to out-do him.

Federal government hospital spending rose by 80% in the decade to 2014, from $23 billion to $42 billion. This has led to a renewed push by conservatives for a new state income tax to fund health costs.

The Sydney Morning Herald published audio on July 19 from a Liberal Party function in Sydney at which former Western Australian state MP Michael Sutherland described anti-fracking campaigners and refugee rights activists as "a bunch of cockroaches".

The rise of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the US has led many to ask where is our Corbyn or our Sanders and to question whether conditions in Australia are ripe for a similar break to the left.

Because Australia was buffered from the worst of the GFC, due mainly to the mining boom, some argue that conditions here may need to get a lot worse before people are prepared to get behind a left platform.

Let’s look at some social indicators in Australia today.

I’ve often heard it asked, “Is Australia a racist country?” only for the question to be railroaded by a series of semantics: “What does that even mean?”; “How can a country have a collective mindset?”; and “You can’t confer a universal attitude onto a population of 24 million, surely?”

Politicians and commentators tell us there are such things as Australian values. The same quibbling arguments about whether Australia is collectively racist apply to so-called national values.

Infamous right-wing ideologue Andrew Bolt penned a "column of shame" about Venezuela in the Murdoch media on July 13. The column is a clear example of what might be dubbed "Bolt's Law": anything he writes is the opposite of the truth unless proved otherwise.

I can understand Brian Boyd’s frustration concerning the Superannuation Guarantee Scheme (SGS) in “Superannuation: A Generation Betrayed” (Green Left Weekly #1144 and #1145).  The original promise was short on delivery.

He is right to point out the inequity that existed in providing superannuation for workers prior to 1992.

If there is one thing to be wished for, it is “humanity”, the most vital and forgotten word.

Humanity had already died before the time of the Crusades. Humanity had already died before the Thirty Years’ War. Humanity had already died before Hitler proclaimed: “Winners are not judged. Nobody ever checks whether they lied or not”.

There is no genuine reason why Australia cannot have 100% renewable electricity in less than a decade, at sharply reduced prices.

In May a vice-president of Sempra Energy, one of the largest utility firms in the US, caused a stir by stating flatly that there was no longer any technical obstacle to powering California with 100% renewables.

The shock resignations from parliament of Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters highlight one of the many undemocratic features in the Australian Constitution.

World

The media likes to blame government repression for the recent deaths in Venezuela, but the actual figures tell a different story.

Worryingly, they reveal a right-wing terror campaign involving political assassinations and public lynchings of government supporters, providing a frightening insight into what the opposition would do in power.

While the media reported the results announced by the right-wing opposition for its July 16 national consultation as fact, even its own “observers” have raised doubts as to its democratic credentials.

1. Venezuela’s housing mission has built 1.5 million homes for Venezuelan families since 2011. By the end of this year, the government aims to have completed a further 540,000 new homes and repaired 550,000 existing homes under the Barrio Nuevo, Barrio Tricolor mission.

On July 30, 545 delegates will be elected by the Venezuelan people to a National Constituent Assembly (ANC) proposed by President Nicolas Maduro.

The ANC will discuss proposals to reform the constitution, though any official amendments will have to be put to a referendum.

Venezuela is heading towards an increasingly dangerous situation, in which open civil war could become a real possibility.

Civil war becomes more likely as long as the media obscure who is responsible for the violence and the international left fails to show solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian socialist movement.

A new wave of neo-fascist sentiment has been emerging in recent years in Europe, endangering the basis of Western democracy.

Just think of the Ukraine, where the Communist Party has been banned, or Hungary, where the President Viktor Orban built an anti-migrant wall along the Serbian border (and is about to build a new one). Or Poland, where the parliament recently approved an illiberal law designed to limit the autonomy of the judiciary, subordinating it to the diktats of the justice minister.

Disabled people faced off with armed police at Parliament on July 19 as they were told their T-shirts exposing the savage nature of Tory cuts were off-limits, Morning Star Online said the next day.

The campaigners were there to lobby MPs over the horrendous toll the Conservatives’ austerity and blitz on essential benefits has had on disabled people. The rally was part of a week of action organised by Disabled People Against Cuts to flag up the brutal nature of the attacks.

US exports to China totalled US$116 billion last year, while its imports reached $463 billion. The $347 billion deficit accounts for almost 70% of the US’s total trade deficit.

US President Donald Trump’s most influential senior advisers, Peter Navarro, who heads the National Trade Council, and US secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross, call China “the biggest trade cheater in the world”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has challenged Prime Minister Theresa May to allow people to self-identify as transgender without having to go through medical checks, The Guardian said on July 19.

The socialist politician pledged that Labour would support any government attempt to change the law.

The United Nations High commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reported on July 19 that an airstrike carried out by the US-backed Saudi-led coalition in Yemen killed 20 civilians — including women and children — who were fleeing violence in their home province.

The agency said in statement: “Most of those killed are believed to be from the same family.”

Disparaged and smeared by the Labour Party machine and corporate media for almost two years, Momentum — a grassroots group of Labour members committed to the socialist politics of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn — came out fighting during the campaign for the June 8 general elections.

Spurred on by a sense of idealism, this campaign came close to sweeping Labour into government on the most transformative manifesto for a generation.

The first-ever major report looking into the secretive workings of the Big Four accountancy firms that assist individuals and companies to evade taxes has been released by members of European Parliament from the European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) who sit on the European Parliament’s Panama Papers inquiry committee.

The study analyses the size, scope and location of the activities of the Big Four accounting firms. Its findings include that these firms are heavily over-represented in tax havens when compared with the population size and GDP, where they make exceptional profits.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has rejected the United States economic blockade imposed on Cuba, as well as President Donald Trump’s decision to backtrack on the normalisation of diplomatic relations with Havana.

In a public letter sent to his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, Morales repeated his nation’s “unconditional support and solidarity” with the Cuban Revolution and the “most heroic people of the continent”.

The rise to power of India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has been built on a paradigm of development and anti-corruption that has enabled him to develop sustained electoral support among the Indian middle classes and rehabilitate his image as a statesman on the international stage.

But the neoliberal model of development that Modi represents is one that comes at great cost in terms of economic inequality and basic civil rights.

The article below is based on a talk by Felipe Stuart Courneyeur to the Canada-wide convention of the Canadian Network on Cuba, in Toronto in June.

Courneyeur has dual Nicaraguan-Canadian nationality; he divides his time between the two countries. He is an active member of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). The article is abridged from johnriddell.wordpress.com.

The rise to power of India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has been built on a paradigm of development and anti-corruption that has enabled him to develop sustained electoral support among the Indian middle classes and rehabilitate his image as a statesman on the international stage.

But the neoliberal model of development that Modi represents is one that comes at great cost in terms of economic inequality and basic civil rights.

Venezuela’s government and opposition both claimed millions voted in rival symbolic elections on July 16.

Meanwhile, the US has responded to the opposition vote, with President Donald Trump describing the unofficial referendum as an example of “democracy, freedom, and rule of law” in a White House statement on July 17.

"Social justice isn't copyrighted," British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told Naomi Klein in an interview published at The Intercept on Thursday.

Culture

RAD Exhibition
Until August 27
Newcastle Museum
Radical Newcastle
Edited by James Bennett, Nancy Cushing & Erik Eklund
New South Publishers, 2015
$39.99

Exhibitions like RAD, now showing at the Newcastle Museum, and Radical Newcastle, the book that inspired it, help each generation of activists remember and learn the lessons of previous struggles.

The Cuban Revolution has created international ripples ever since its military victory on January 1, 1959. The United States was quick to recognise the threats to its dominance in Latin America and set out to crush the rebel regime.

In response, the revolution’s leaders took the process rapidly leftwards, socialising property and seeking to help revolutionaries in other countries. The moral and political weight of Cuba’s revolutionaries remains far out of proportion to their economic and military strength.

Cuban moral authority within the Third World of super-exploited countries is absolute. However, the Cuban Revolution has proven a litmus test for the intellectual and moral fibre of socialist currents in the advanced capitalist countries — a test that some have failed.

Artists and activists have pushed back against English rock band Radiohead, as the band goes ahead with its gig in Tel Aviv.

Two days before the July 19 show, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mike Leigh condemned Radiohead’s intransigence towards Palestinians.