Issue 750

Australia

The Australian speaking tour of Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) leader Jorge Schafik Handal Vega began in Sydney on May 6, with a public meeting attended by 50 activists, most from the local El Salvadorean community.

Five unions met in Brisbane on May 6 to launch a national campaign for the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

On April 27, around 300 residents gathered at Rozelle’s Callan Park in the second Sunday protest against the NSW ALP government’s bid to close the psychiatric hospital and redevelop the parklands.

While Mount Isa welfare organisations are alarmed about not being able to provide for the large influx of Aboriginal people who have fled the federal government’s Northern Territory intervention, the government is looking to expand this racist bipartisan policy.

More than 10,000 unionists marched through Brisbane’s streets on May 5, celebrating the union movement’s role in the defeat of the Howard government last year. The annual Labour Day parade was led by the building unions, with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in the lead. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the original building workers\' union in Queensland.

More than 2000 people rallied at Fremantle Esplanade to celebrate May Day and to call for the scrapping of all of the anti-worker laws of the previous government.

After a four-hour community blockade on April 9, Melbourne Chef agreed to pay out sacked National Union of Workers (NUW) member Abdelwahab Bekhaled and negotiate a collective agreement at the site. However, the company reneged on the agreement, sparking a month-long union campaign. Bekhaled has finally received a payout that included long-service leave and all his entitlements.

On May 5, Victorian Premier John Brumby and education minister Bronwyn Pike announced that they had struck a deal with the Victorian Australian Education Union (AEU) over teachers’ pay. While there are several aspects of the agreement to be finalised, the government decided to go public and claimed that Victorian teachers are now the highest-paid teachers in Australia.

On May 5, the night before the Victorian budget was released, it was revealed that Premier John Brumby’s government is proposing to pay households with solar power$0.60 per kilowatt hour for electricity that they feed into the grid. However, this $0.60 will only be paid if households are exporting more energy than they are taking from the grid.

Thirty people participated in a media stunt outside the office of federal resource minister Martin Ferguson on May 7 to demand that he and the ALP keep their election promise to repeal the Commonwealth Radioactive Management Act of 2005 and its 2006 amendment. The protest was organised by Friends of the Earth.

Western Australian public servants voted unanimously to continue their fight for a decent pay rise at a 1000-strong rally on the steps of Parliament House on May 8.

The Rudd government has been rejecting asylum seeker claims at an extraordinary rate. A report by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), released on May 4, revealed that out of 42 ministerial decisions over five weeks, 41 appeals had been rejected — a 97.6% rejection rate.

World

The Western press has been untiring with respect to the changes happening in Cuba after Raul Castro’s election as president of the Republic and have celebrated a possible liberalisation of the island’s economy.

For the South Korean left, the April 9 general election was another fiasco following the presidential election last December, in which the election of Lee Myung-bak brought forth the return of the conservative government. Democratic Labor Party (DLP) candidate Kwon Young-gil received just 3%, less than the previous result in 2002 — a drop of 300,000 votes.

Below is an abridged May 7 statement from the Burma Partnership Secretariat.

Nearly 30 years since she had seen her Northern Galilee home in what she called "48 Palestine", Rasmiya Barghouti was finally given a permit by the Israeli military authorities to visit. She decided to take two of her daughters and four of her

“The workers feel that what we achieved was a great triumph”, said Jose Melendez, the finance secretary for the United Steel Industry Workers’ Union (SUTISS), on the signing of a new contract for the Sidor steel plant’s workforce with the Venezuelan government, according to a May 6 Venezuelanalysis.com article.

According to a May 7 Prensa Latina report, the Ecuadorian government has denounced Colombia following the release of evidence that the Colombian military had executed four prisoners as part of its infamous March 1 assault on a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that was within Ecuadorian territory.

Coordinated acts of nonviolent civil disobedience took place at six different locations across the city May 7 in a protest against the not-guilty verdict for three police officers who shot and killed unarmed African American man Sean Bell with 50 bullets — on the night before his wedding.

A realignment of political forces appears to be underway in East Timor, with the signing of an agreement for a strategic alliance for future elections between the largest party in parliament, the Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor (Fretilin), and the Timorese Social Democratic Association (ASDT) — the second largest party in the coalition of non-Fretilin parties that has held government since the July 2007 parliamentary elections.

“Deaths and injuries are soaring in Sadr City as US troops increase their military and economic pressure” on the Iraqi capital’s huge Shiite slum district, the English-language website of Baghdad Azzaman daily reported on May 5.

Below is a statement from the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. Visit http://space4peace.org.

Originally published in Liberation, the magazine of the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist Liberation. A longer version can be found at the socialist e-journal, Links, http://links.org.au.

“If the government cannot lower the cost of living it simply has to leave”, a demonstrator said in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. “If the police and UN troops want to shoot at us, that’s OK, because in the end, if we are not killed by bullets, we’ll die of hunger.”

Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro proposed that Latin American countries create a food bank to counter food supply problems and that oil profits of the region go towards a new food fund. Maduro made the proposal during the Food summit held in Nicaragua on May 7.

A day of violence, fraud and a “grand rebellion” against the Santa Cruz oligarchy.

Below is an abridged April 30 Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) article. Visit http://cispes.org.

On April 25, the three cops who murdered African American Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets in New York were acquitted of all charges.

Analysis

In presenting the state budget on May 6, Premier John Brumby announced that “doing business in Victoria will become even easier”. The ALP government’s pro-corporate measures will cut almost $1.5 billion from taxes and costs for the big end of town.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and state mines and energy minister Geoff Wilson were on hand in early May to celebrate Rio Tinto’s announcement that the company would double exports of coal from Queensland in the next seven years.

“What the hell is happening in NSW”, interstate callers have been asking the Socialist Alliance national office in recent days. Many are former activists in NSW left politics, and remember with bitterness the days when “Sussex Street” (headquarters of Unions NSW and the ALP administration) could be relied upon to stifle any protest movement threatening the stability of NSW Labor in government.

The plan for the privatisation of electricity in NSW is like the mythical creature the hydra, which had multiple heads. It had to be “killed” many times before it would actually die — and every time it was “killed” it could bite back apparently unharmed.

Ground-breaking new research findings posted on the internet in April have confirmed what many scientists and climate activists have already concluded — that the goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions embraced by the European Union and Australia’s Labor government are gravely inadequate.

Colonel Moe Davis, former chief prosecutor at the US prison Guantanamo Bay, has finally told the world that David Hicks was never a serious terror threat and that his pursuit was politically driven. Davis has also now said that evidence was obtained through prisoner abuse.

“[On] the question of [civil unions] legislation … it’s always been our view, as the Labor Party, [that] that lies properly within the prerogative of the states, and that remains our position.” This was then opposition leader, now PM, Kevin Rudd’s view quoted by ABC News on December 7. It was a promise that, unlike the Howard Coalition government, federal Labor would not overturn civil unions legislation in the ACT.

A new report released on May 5 by Greenpeace, False Hope: why carbon capture and storage won’t save the climate, puts the case against governments’ obsession with a technology they calculate will breath life into the dirty fossil fuel industry.

Letters

Tibet 1

Dick Nichols’ article “Let the Tibetans decide their future” (Write On #748) argues that it is irrelevant that “the Tibetan resistance army up until 1959 was funded and trained by the CIA”. This statement is incorrect, as he meant to write 1969 not 1959. More importantly, however, contrary to Nichols opinion, I believe that understanding the reasons why the CIA supported the Tibetans is very significant if one wants to develop a full understanding of the corporate media’s ongoing fixation on Tibet’s struggle for liberation.

General

“How many minutes to midnight, do you reckon it is?”, asked a Green Left Weekly buyer at a street stall last week.

Resistance!

“[It] would be imprudent to tip the winners in the race for low emission technologies”, wrote Barney Glover, University of Newcastle deputy vice-chancellor, in an April 10 letter defending the university’s research in so-called clean coal technologies.

Plans are under way for the 2008 Resistance national conference, to be held at the University of Technology, Sydney from June 27-29. This year’s theme is: “war, racism, environmental destruction, homophobia, sexism … Turn anger into action!”

A May 8 meeting in Wollongong heard an eyewitness account of the political struggle within Venezuela from Carlos Sierra, a political leader in the radical Venezuelan youth organisation Frente Francisco de Miranda. The meeting was part of Sierra’s Resistance-organised tour which also took him to Newcastle and Sydney Universities.

Culture

Cuba: How the Workers & Peasants Made the Revolution

By Chris Slee

Resistance Books, 2008

55pages, $6.00(pb)

Available from <http://www.resistancebooks.com>

The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict

By Joseph Stiglitz & Linda Bilmes

Allen Lane, 2008

311 pages, $32.95 (pb)