Issue 1248

News

The first Activist Report for 2020 focuses on the huge climate rallies across Australia on January 10, instigated by University Students for Climate Justice.

As the country has been engulfed in catastrophic bushfires for weeks with lives lost, homes and businesses destroyed and air quality readings in cities reaching toxic levels it was no surprise that so many people attended.

There was palpable anger towards Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his refusal to take action on the climate emergency. Anti-Morrison chants spread through the marches like wildfire.

As the bushfire emergency drags on, with large parts of the country devastated, unions are demanding the government provide greater support for the firefighters, more assistance to the affected communities and to confront the climate change reality.

Australia Institute poll Jan 2020

Poll results released on January 9 by the Australia Institute think tank show that even before the bush fire emergency peak around the week following New Year's eve,  66% of people in Australia believe the country "is facing a climate change emergency and should take emergency action".

Around 100 people formed a circle at the Queen Victoria Building on January 5 to call for urgent government intervention on the fire emergency, support for the firefighters, and real action to combat climate change. The vigil was organised by Extinction Rebellion Sydney.

XR vigil outside NSW Parliament

Sydney Extinction rebellion began an indefinite vigil outside NSW Parliament House on January 6 to demand that the NSW and federal governments declare a climate and ecological emergency.

"Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the fire crisis had escalated to an unprecedented level.

East Gippsland is one region among many affected by disastrous bushfires. Three quarters of it — stretching about 250 km from west to east and 150 km from south to north — has been burned as I write this: about 700,000 hectares.

Bill Ryan, one of Australia's foremost environmental activists, has died in Sydney at the age of 97.

Climate activists, led by School Strike 4 Climate, protested and set up tents outside Kirribilli House to demand Prime Minister Scott Morrison return from his holiday and take action on the climate emergency and catastrophic bushfires.

Then the police moved in.

Video: Zebedee Parkes

Extinction Rebellion hosted a graduation march on December 11 for current, past and future graduates and their families and supporters to take a symbolic stand for climate action.

"This march is an opportunity for emerging professionals to declare they will not sit idle as the climate crisis looms, but will approach their lives with the health of the planet at the forefront of their minds," according to the event description.

Greg Adler came into left-wing politics in the late 1960s at a time of great political turmoil in Brisbane.

The reactionary Joh Bjelke-Petersen government had moved to shackle the unions and crush dissent, provoking a series of mass protests. In 1969, Greg joined the Revolutionary Socialist Alliance, part of which went on to join the Socialist Labour League (SLL).

Perth Pride assembled its biggest parade to date on November 30, with 115 floats. But many in the LGBTIQ community were unhappy that a large number belonged to corporate sponsors and police while smaller community floats were squeezed out.

The Morrison government has launched a political attack on the arts and artists can no longer afford to be apolitical.

More than 1000 people attended the funeral for Wangerriburra and Birri Gubba leader Sam Watson in Musgrave Park on December 6. Watson passed away on November 26, just two weeks after his 67th birthday.

Far-right extremist Phillip Galea was convicted of planning a terrorist attack. His convinction is welcome, writes Sue Bolton, but others need to be brought to account.

End toxic systems

A snap action was held on December 5 after three Extinction Rebellion activists were denied bail after they were arrested for peacefully protesting on a coal train the day before.

Anna Reynolds from Action Ready told Green Left that that denying bail is "totally unprecedented and seems to undermine fundamental aspects of the justice system".

In October last year, the federal government finally established a royal commission into aged care, after a Senate inquiry received numerous complaints among its 5000 submissions. The deep-seated problems included poor standards of care, physical assaults and extremely challenging working conditions.

TAFE staff and supporters rallied outside the Sydney campus on November 28 to demand the NSW government halt its job cuts.

Union members and commuters protested outside New South Wales Coalition Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s office in Martin Place on December 2 in response to her government’s plan to privatise the remainder of Sydney’s bus services.

Buses have already been sold off in the city's inner west and Newcastle, with disastrous results for commuters, including buses running late, service and route cuts and the loss of many bus stops.

The ongoing bushfire emergency is the reality of climate change. This was the message of the Brisbane #ThisIsClimateChange solidarity sit-down.

All the speakers - including a fire-fighter, a mother who lost her home to fire, an Aboriginal person from Gumbaynggirr country - spoke about the effects of the fires. Aunty Deb Sandy gave a passionate Welcome to Country.

Analysis

The United States military strike on January 3 that assassinated Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, Quds Brigade commander Qasem Soleimani and deputy commander of the Iraqi government-affiliated Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iran’s retaliation against two US military bases in Iraq on January 8 brought the World to the brink of war.

Anti-war networks and progressive parties have urged the federal Coalition not to support the Donald Trump administration’s latest attack on Iran, that began with the illegal assassination in Iraq of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and deputy commander of the Iraqi government-affiliated Popular Mobilisation Forces Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on January 3.

There are two positive things to come out of the horrific bushfire crisis ripping through our country: recognition of the connection between global warming and more frequent and intense bush fires; and the inspiring courage and generosity of volunteers and emergency service personnel to protect their communities, despite being hugely under-resourced.

As the catastrophic fires raged over several states from late December into early January, Green Left’s Pip Hinman asked Shaun McDonald, a professional firefighter currently based in Tasmania about his views. McDonald has been a firefighter for 13 years, fighting fires in three states and territories, including recently being deployed to NSW.

The horror of the devastating and apocalyptic fires in NSW and Victoria not only dampened the New Year party mood, it has fanned anger over the government's obvious failure to respond to the climate emergency.

On December 9, Labor leader Anthony Albanese reaffirmed his party’s support for ongoing coal exports which make this country the Saudi Arabia of coal exports. Absurdly, Labor's supposed “climate action” wing, the Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN), backed Albanese and attacked the Greens for questioning Labor's climate credentials.

The Alternative Liberal Party under “climate champion” Anthony Albanese supports Australia maintaining its status as the “Saudi Arabia of coal”. No surprise there, unfortunately.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres delivered another bleak warning about the climate emergency on December 2. He told the 197 country leaders assembled that global average levels of carbon dioxide have now gone over what used to be considered an “unthinkable global tipping point”.

The Coalition’s union-busting Ensuring Integrity Bill failed to pass after One Nation leader Pauline Hanson changed her position. But Sam Wainwright writes that it reveals a serious strategic and political weakness in the union movement.

First Nations people's knowledge and rights have been overlooked as the largest privatisation of water on the planet has been underway. Tracey Carpenter examines how the privatisation of this most precious resource — water — has enriched a few at the expense of many.

Environmental destruction isn’t driven by human nature or mistaken ideas. It is an inevitable consequence of a system built on capital accumulation argues Climate & Capitalism editor Ian Angus.

World

Opposition leader Juan Guaido installed a “parallel” parliament in Caracas on January 7.

The self-proclaimed “interim president” led a group of deputies in a standoff with security forces outside the Legislative Palace in Caracas, while the National Assembly (AN) held its regular session inside. The session was led by newly-elected AN President and Yaracuy State Deputy Luis Parra, who announced the creation of a commission to “restore” constitutional order.

Former veterans, labour organisations and leftists in the United States have come out against a US war on Iran. Anti-war rallies will be taking place across the US and Canada on January 25, as part of a global day of action.

By the narrowest of margins (167 votes to 165 with 18 abstentions), the 350-seat Spanish Congress invested a coalition government of the social-democratic Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and the more radical Unidas Podemos (UP) on January 7.

No Spanish prime minister has ever been elected by so low and so close a vote: eight of the parliament’s eighteen parties voted in favour, eight against and two abstained.

Cuba is the most sustainably developed country in the world, according to a new report launched on November 29.

The socialist island outperforms advanced capitalist countries including Britain and the United States, which has subjected Cuba to a punitive six-decades-long economic blockade.

By limiting the impeachment charges against US President Donald Trump, the Democratic establishment has left aside the major crimes Trump has committed — against humanity worldwide as well as the great majority of the US population, writes Barry Sheppard.

The British General Election, held on December 12, resulted in a huge victory for the right and a sweeping defeat for the left. Boris Johnson, a close ally of United States President Donald Trump, topped the poll with 43% of the vote for the Conservative Party.

Socialist Alliance member and Green Left journalist Federico Fuentes speaks about Latin America at the "World In Revolt" panel at the Socialist Alliance national conference 13 December 2019.

Indonesian human rights advocate Veronica Koman speaks about West Papua at the "World In Revolt" panel at the Socialist Alliance national conference 13 December 2019.

Since protests began in Iraq in early October, more than 400 people have been killed and thousands have been injured.

The uprising has escalated, despite the cruelty and brutality used by security forces against demonstrators, which has been strongly condemned by many governments and international humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations.

Louay Alzaher, a member of the Iraqi community in Brisbane, told Green Left Weekly that corruption, food shortages and high levels of unemployment have been the catalysts of the protest movement that has erupted in Iraq.

“The significance of the Iraqi movement is enormous, as it seeks to fight for the freedom of Iraq from control and influence, including the total removal of United States military bases from the country,” said Alzaher.

Surya Anta Ginting, the national spokesperson for the pro-independence Indonesian People's Front for West Papua — who along with five other Papuan activists is being held in Jakarta's notorious Salemba prison awaiting trial on treason charges — is reportedly seriously ill.

Anta's wife Lucia Fransisca told reporters that she visited him on November 29 and found that he and the other five Papuan detainees were ill and were not receiving proper medical treatment.

A new movement against the racist ideology of right-wing Matteo Salvini’s Lega (League) has been mobilising in its tens of thousands across Italy. But Daniele Fulvi questions whether the new "sardines" movement has what it takes to defeat Salvini's racist, nationalist agenda.

Culture

limate and Capitalism editor Ian Angus takes a look at seven new titles for an ecosocialist bookshelf. 

No One is Too Small to Make a Difference
By Greta Thunberg
Allen Lane/Penguin Books, 2019

On August 20, 2018, rather than go to school, Greta Thunberg sat outside the Swedish parliament to protest inaction on climate change. The then-15-year-old Swedish school student had with her some flyers and a hand-painted wooden sign that read Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate).

Karl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society: The Life of Karl Marx and the Development of His Work
Volume 1: 1818-1841
By Michael Heinrich
Monthly Review Press, 2019 
390 pp., $46.00

In the opening lines of this book Michael Heinrich quotes from an 1868 letter in which Karl Marx mentions a publisher’s request for a biography. “Not only did I not send one”, said Marx, “I did not even reply to the letter.”

Maryanne Ilhen

Maryanne & Leonard, Words of Love
Documentary film directed by Nick Broomfield
In cinemas

As I emerged from the media preview for this film, I heard another viewer mutter that it was “the most self-indulgent film I’ve ever seen”.

So, beware! This documentary about Leonard Cohen’s personal and artistic life will cut the sheep from the goats of fans and detractors – much like his music and atonal singing have always done.

Evald Ilyenkov

Finding Evald Ilyenkov: How a Soviet philosopher who stood up for dialectics continues to inspire
By Corinna Lotz
Lupus Books, 2019 
57 pp., $8
Order online