Issue 736

Australia

Sydney Stop the War Coalition has confirmed that it will be organising an Australian tour of US Labor Against the War (USLAW) leader Kathy Black. The tour will be in the lead-up to the March 16 Palm Sunday rallies that will mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Long-time environmental campaigner David White has been preselected by the Socialist Alliance to contest the inner-city Central Ward in the March 15 Brisbane City Council elections.

The Say No to GMO campaign launched a new petition in Western Australia this month, asking that liability for contamination of non-genetically modified crops rest with those responsible for bringing GM crops or food into the state.

On January 8, protesters took to piers around Port Philip Bay as part of the campaign against the planned dredging of the bay — scheduled to begin in the coming weeks. The Port of Melbourne Corporation intends to dredge an underwater rock wall containing unique sea life.

The proposal by Premier Morris Iemma to privatise electricity generation in NSW has been met with a campaign of opposition from unionists and community activists.

The Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) held a snap vigil on January 15 outside the Villawood immigration detention centre in response to the death of a 62-year-old detainee (known to other detainees by his last name, Pishehvar). Pishehvar died of a heart attack on January 13. Around 25 community activists joined the vigil.

As part of a global day of protest to call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay about 50 people gathered on the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide on January 11. Guantanamo Bay has a particular meaning in this city, as the home town of David Hicks, one of the first detainees to arrive at Guantanamo Bay and the first to be put through the military commission injustice system.

A proposal to build the 1200-student Al Amanah Islamic College in the semi-rural Sydney suburb of Camden has seen an escalation of organised racism not seen in the Sydney area since the 2005 Cronulla riots.

The Rudd Labor government has confirmed pre-election announcements that it will move to censor access to the internet. Originally announced by former ALP leader Kim Beazley in March 2006, the plan is outlined in a November 2007 document Labor’s Plan for Cyber-Safety. It states: “A Rudd Labor Government will require ISPs [internet service providers] to offer a ‘clean feed’ internet service to all homes, schools and public internet points accessible by children, such as public libraries.”

World

The blatantly rigged election victory by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in the December 27 presidential election triggered nationwide violence that took place largely along ethnic lines.

Philip Agee passed away in Cuba on January 7 at the age of 72. He was a former agent for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who broke ranks in 1968 to expose its role in intervening into foreign countries on behalf of US corporate profits. For this act of bravery, his passport was revoked and US pressure saw him expelled from a number of European countries. Marcel Hatch, education coordinator for Cuba Education Tours in Vancouver (<http://www.cubafriends.ca>) pays tribute.

A collective discussion is occurring throughout the revolutionary movement led by President Hugo Chavez following the defeat of the proposed constitutional reform proposals — that were intended to deepen the revolution to help open the way towards socialism — in the December 2 referendum.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez spearheaded the release of two prisoners held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — Colombia’s largest left-wing guerrilla force that controls significant portions of the countryside — on January 10.

As Hollywood enters its award season, the 12,000 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) continue their strike that has shut down the majority of the US film and television industry since November 5. The Directors Guild of America (DGA) has also begun to renegotiate its contract.

On January 15, the Israel Defense Forces killed 17 Palestinians during incursions into east Gaza City. The IDF killed nine more in raids over the following two days. The attacks launched a new wave of Israeli violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) following the January 9-16 visit by US President George Bush to Israel, the West Bank city of Ramallah and other centres in the region.

In December, after 16 months of wrangling, the elected delegates to the constituent assembly finally passed a draft constitution that will be put to a national referendum sometime before September.

The 10oC “summer” weather in Bolivia’s capital city is strongly felt in Bolivian Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera's house, which has no heating, like nearly all the houses in La Paz. For almost an hour we went over the conjuncture of a week of uncertain negotiations between the government and opposition, in search of an anxiously awaited national accord.

“The death rate in Iraq in the past 12 months has been the second highest in any year since the invasion, according to figures that appear to contradict American claims that the troop ‘surge’ has dramatically reduced the level of violence across the country”, the British Independent daily reported on January 7.

The 8th congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) ended with a massive 100,000 strong all-India rally in Kolkata on December 18. A key focus of the rally was solidarity with the peasants of Nandigram against attempts to drive them off their land by the West Bengal government in order to establish a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

The chance of President Chen Shui-bian’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holding on to its ruling party position in the March 22 presidential poll is in serious doubt after his party suffered a major defeat in the January 12 parliamentary election.

In a sign of solidarity with the struggle by the peasants of Nandigram against the West Bengal state government’s attempt to seize their land for a Special Economic Zone, the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist), publisher of Liberation magazine, held its 8th congress in Kolkata, the state’s capital, December 11-16.

Voters’ desire to see political change has become the undisputed theme of the 2008 US presidential election scheduled for November following a strong surge of support for contender for Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama that has caused other candidates, even Republicans, to adopt similar rhetoric.

Called by military dictator General Pervez Musharraf after the imposition of emergency rule — which saw the sacking of the judiciary, imprisonment of 10,000 opposition activists, censorship and closure of media outlets and the violent suppression of protests — and set against the backdrop of increasing terrorist attacks by religious fundamentalists, Pakistan’s upcoming general elections were already set to be farcical.

Analysis

On January 9, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission released its report into mainland immigration detention facilities, based on HREOC visits to detention centres in August and November. The report noted a number of improvements in the system of immigration detention. However, there was yet another death in detention just days after the report was released.

The unforgettable tabloid headline “Greenie granny goaled” accompanied a picture of a smiling, backpack-toting Betty Downie being led away by two policemen from the Franklin River blockade sums up the fighting spirit of this wonderful activist. Betty died, aged 95, in a retirement home in Launceston on December 5, 2007.

On January 7, Indigenous activist Christine King made a statement to ABC Radio on behalf of the Stolen Generations Alliance. She called on the Rudd government to put its money where its mouth is and provide a national fund of $1 billion to compensate the stolen generations.

The 23rd Congress of the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), a Marxist tendency in the Socialist Alliance in Australia, reaffirmed its commitment to broader left regroupment.

A long standing activist of anarchist persuasion, Peter had been a lecturer in media studies at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) until his retirement in 2005.

During a December 21 visit to Iraq, newly elected Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that Australia’s “battle group” of 515 combat troops would be withdrawn from the country by June 2007.

In 1997 at Kyoto, Al Gore bamboozled negotiators into adopting carbon trading as a central climate strategy in exchange for Washington’s support — which never materialised.

The world is teetering on the brink of unstoppable climate change. Many now recognise the need for serious change in the way we produce and use energy, our transport systems, food production, urban design and forestry practices. Yet politicians are still mouthing platitudes while allowing corporations to continue to profit from polluting our atmosphere and destroying our ecosystem.

There are two starkly different election processes underway right now, but most readers will probably have only been reading about one of them: the US presidential elections, which Forbes magazine estimates will likely cost as much as US$3.3 billion all up! In Cuba, just 145 kilometres from the coast of Florida, a very different election process is taking place.

Letters

Thank you

I was both delighted and surprised that I won the major prize in the Green Left Weekly Christmas hamper raffle.

Together with my family, I did not have a particularly good 2007, having lost several dear friends, including Gail Lord

Resistance!

Call for a national day of action against climate change on April 1, 2008

The latest research shows that the effects of climate change are speeding up, with real dangers of self-perpetuating, or “runaway”, global warming. At the same time, global carbon emissions are rising at higher rates than ever before. Australia continues to hold the position of the highest greenhouse gas emitting country per capita, and is the world’s biggest exporter of coal.

Headlining this year’s Big Day Out is Rage Against the Machine. RATM stands out as one of the few bands to achieve mainstream success while putting an openly anti-capitalist message.

Culture

This compact book by Roberto Regalado, a veteran member of the central committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, reaffirms the need for revolution in Latin America and beyond.

Unsettled Places, Aboriginal People and Urbanisation in New South Wales

By George Morgan

Wakefield Press 2006, 162 pages, $24.95

Ten Canoes — Award winning film of an Indigenous story directed by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr. SBS, Saturday, January 26, 9.30pm.

Difference of Opinion: What Do We Do When the Oil Runs Out? — Discussion of how to fulfil our future energy needs. ABC, Sunday, January 27, 9am.

Political Assassinations: Ghandi — Gandhi was a prominent civil rights leader during the Indian independence movement. SBS, Sunday, January 27, 11am.

Cutting Edge: Energy War — Describes the geopolitical consequences of the dependency on fossil fuels and how the 21st Century will be dominated by the struggle for energy. SBS, Sunday, January 27, noon.

Best of Message Stick: Jackie — For more than a decade, Jackie Huggins has been the national face and Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia. ABC, Sunday, January 27, 1.30pm.

Black and White — Based on a true story and set in 1958 in conservative Adelaide. The police fit up a young Aboriginal man for the rape and murder of a nine-year-old white girl at Ceduna. ABC, Sunday, January 27, 8.35pm.

Strange Days on Planet Earth: Troubled Waters — Over the years, increasing efforts have been made around the world to clean up our water systems, but are they really as clean as we think? ABC, Tuesday, January 29, 8.30pm.

Five Seasons — While enjoying the benefits of the modern world, the Numurindi people of South East Arnhemland in the Northern Territory’s Gulf of Carpentaria are still guided by the seasons and the stories of the Dreamtime. SBS, Thursday, January 31, 1.30pm.

Six Days in June —Long seen by Israel as the miraculous victory, for the Arab states, this was a humiliating defeat suffered at the hand of imperialistic plotters. SBS, Thursday January 31, 2.30pm.

Global Village: Boundary Lands — Borneo: The Sacrificed Forest - The island of Borneo historically had extensive cover, but the area is shrinking rapidly due to heavy logging for the needs of the Malaysian plywood industry, and also because of multinational companies such as Mitsubishi taking their share. SBS, Thursday, January 31, 6pm.

This film tells the true story of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and murdered by a jihadist group in Karachi in January 2002. However, it focuses mainly on Pearl’s wife, Mariane, who was pregnant at the time of the kidnap, and on the ineffectual search for Pearl carried out by the Pakistani and US intelligence services.