Issue 883

Australia

"Since May 15, tens of thousands of young Spaniards calling themselves los indignados (the indignant) have been camping out in at least 80 city centres and towns, and are protesting daily," Socialist Alliance activist Liam Flenady told a June 7 Green Left Weekly forum.

“The movement goes under various names: ¡Democracia Real Ya! (Real Democracy Now!), 15-M and even The Spanish Revolution, and its initial call was: ‘Real democracy now. We are not merchandise in the hands of the politicians and bankers!’."

As part of a nationwide day of action, more than 1000 people marched on the Victorian parliament on June 8 to fight for state and federal governments to back their claim for increased wages.

The Melbourne rally was one of 17 across the country, organised by the Australian Services Union (ASU), which advocates for workers in the female-dominated community services sector.

The national day of action comes as a response to Fair Work Australia’s finding that the sector’s workers were not being payed enough, in part, because most of them are women.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) in West Melbourne celebrated its 10th birthday on June 8. The celebration included the announcement of the centre’s Patron and Ambassador Program — which has been developed to raise the profile of the ASRC by demonstrating high-profile supporters.

Patrons are pre-eminent supporters of the organisation and ambassadors are public figures who lend their standing to the promotion of the centre.

About 5000 people walked across Canberra’s Commonwealth Bridge and rallied in front of Parliament House on June 5, calling for real action on climate change now. Up to 45,000 people rallied nationwide.

Speakers at the Canberra rally included former Liberals Leader John Hewson, Richard Denniss from the Australia Institute, 2010 Greens Senate candidate Lin Hatfield Dodds and Bishop Pat Power.

Hewson said we needed to respond to climate change with a greater sense of urgency and in a way that recognised the magnitude of the problem.

The Perth Magistrates Court has grouped a 16-year-old boy to stand trial on charges of people smuggling with two men he has never met and who were not even on the same boat.

The boy told WA-based human rights activist Gerry Georgatos he was born in 1995. From a poor family, he was hired to fish on a boat going from Indonesia to Australia. He said the immigration department insisted he was born in 1991 on the basis of a wrist x-ray. They had not contacted his mother.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) organised a “save solar” rally in Newcastle on June 6. The rally was at the office of Liberal MLA Tim Owen and was the latest in a string of protests calling for planned retrospective cuts to NSW’s solar bonus scheme to be abandoned.

The rally attracted about 250 people and included many solar industry workers.

SEIA representative Chanti Richardson chaired the rally and introduced Solar Newcastle (SN) director Adam Dalby.

The Victorian government has proposed a new law that will allow police to give on-the-spot fines for “indecent, offensive or disorderly language”.

In response, a protest has been organised at 2pm, June 25 at Melbourne’s Flinders St Station. By June 11, more than 10,000 people had said on the event Facebook page that they would attend the “Fuckwalk”.

Below, protest organisers explain the politics behind Fuckwalk.

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More than 500 community services workers rallied in Nundah Memorial Park near the electorate office of federal Treasurer Wayne Swan on June 8. It was part of a national day of action calling for full government funding for fair wages for community Services workers.

Melbourne’s City of Yarra awarded the volunteer-run climate research group Beyond Zero Emissions its 2011 sustainability award for community action on June 2.

BZE’s Melbourne group office is based in the Yarra council area.

The council said: “Beyond Zero Emissions Inc. (BZE) is an independent, not-for-profit, volunteer-run organisation leading a ‘can do’ campaign for climate solutions grounded in commercially available technologies and peer-reviewed research.

World

ZCommunications received the following open letter from indpendent filmmaker and journalist John Pilger reporting very disturbing events in progress. Visit www.johnpilger.com for more of Pilger's work.

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Dear Noam...

The United States embassy in Haiti worked closely with factory owners contracted by Levi's, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom to aggressively block a paltry minimum wage rise for Haitian assembly zone workers.

The moves to block a wage rise for the lowest paid in the western hemisphere were revealed by secret US State Department cables obtained by Haiti Liberte and The Nation magazine.

The factory owners refused to pay $0.62 an hour, or $5 per eight-hour day, as mandated by a measure unanimously passed by Haiti’s parliament in June 2009.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has claimed successes for the war in Afghanistan, while acknowledging growing opposition.

The June 8 Age reported that Gillard said: “I understand there would be many Australians who over the past two weeks have asked themselves what are we doing there, why are we still there, should our soldiers be there?

“I do want to say to the nation we know why we're there, we are very clear about our mission and our mission is being accomplished.

“We are doing what we intended to do and we have a timeline for achieving our goal.”

After nearly two years of living in exile following the June 28, 2009 coup that overthrew his government, former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya returned to his nation on May 28.

The agreement that allowed for Zelaya’s return, negotiated by the governments of Venezuela, Colombia and current Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, dropped fraud charges lodged against Zelaya, permitted a future plebiscite on constitutional reform and cleared the way for the readmission of Honduras to the Organization of American States, which lost its membership after the coup.

The Venezuelan News Agency published the article below on June 5. The decision to freeze relations with the US government came after the US imposed sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company, PDVSA, over economic ties with Iran.

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Relations between Venezuela and the US are frozen, said Venezuela's foreign minster Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro said the government of President Hugo Chavez has tried to restore respectful dialogue with Washington.

Maduro said the Venezuelan government aspired to have relations of respect and open communication.

The path for Maori liberation, debates on left perspectives and the 30th anniversary since the 1981 Springbok tour were some of the discussions at “Workers Power”, the national conference of the Workers Party held in Hamilton over June 3 to 5.

The recent formation of the Mana Party was a focus of the discussions.

Prominent Maori leader and MP Hone Harawira initiated Mana after leaving the Maori Party, frustrated over its deals while in coalition with the right-wing National Party.

Harawira resigned his seat to force a by-election and stand again as a Mana candidate.

In April, the Washington, DC-based National Security Archive posted a 5500-page document tranche detailing the extent of Cincinnati-based food giant Chiquita’s dealings with Colombian death squad United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC).

The documents shed further light on the relationship between multinationals and Colombia’s murderous right-wing paramilitaries.

“The troubled sky reveals/The grief it feels.”

Those two lines were written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem “Snow-Flakes”, published in a volume in 1863 alongside his epic and better-known “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”.

Much of the news chatter this week has been about Sarah Palin’s flubbing of the history of Revere’s famous ride in April 1775. Revere was on a late-night, clandestine mission to alert American revolutionaries of an impending British attack.

Peruvian stocks lost a record 12% of their value as local and global investors jettisoned mining shares after left-leaning nationalist Ollanta Humala won the second round of Peru's presidential elections on June 5.

The multi-billion dollar plunge reflects the fear and hostility that “market forces” instinctively bear toward an expression of the popular will in “developing” resource-rich nations like Peru.

Humala defeated the right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori with 51.3% of the vote. Keiko is the daughter of jailed ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori.

The June 5 national elections in Portugal produced a sharp lurch to the right.

The two main conservative parties, the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Democratic and Social Centre-People's Party (CDS-PP) won 50.4% of votes and 57.1% of seats in the single-chamber parliament. (The results for the four seats determined by overseas Portuguese voters will be announced on June 15.)

Compared to the 2009 poll, the PSD vote rose from 29.1% to 38.6%, and CDS-PP from 10.5% to 11.7%.

Isn't this excellent news? The International Monetary Fund (IMF) say the British government's strategy for sorting us out is going to work.

Every time they've been asked to comment on a country's economy they've insisted it must cut wages, restrict the unions and privatise everything. So the government must have been really nervous as to whether they'd approve of the strategy of cutting wages, restricting unions and privatising everything.

It must have felt like waiting for your A-level results.

US warplanes and drones have been bombing anti-government forces in Yemen amid the uprising against long-time US ally President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, two US officials said on June 9 that US forces launched an air strike on June 3 against Islamist militants in the south of the country to keep al-Qaida's Yemeni offshoot from taking advantage of the uprising in the Gulf state.

The attack followed a May 5 drone strike on alleged militants, they said.

Pity the stressful life of police ministers in Spain and its autonomous communities (states). 

For weeks, the central plazas of big cities and towns across Spain have been the site of the camps of the “outraged” (los indiganados) of the M-15 movement — so-called after the large May 15 national protests that sparked the movement.

The movement, which opposes the savage austerity imposed on ordinary people to pay for the crisis and the undemocratic nature of the political system, is now spreading into the suburbs of the larger cities and out into smaller regional towns.

The revolutionary struggle for democratic and economic freedoms continues to grow in Tunisia and Egypt in the aftermath of the ousting of dictators Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak.

Western powers are working to block these struggles — just as they supported the fallen dictators until the very end.

Vast sums of money have been pledged by the United States, European Union and the Group of Eight (G8 — the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Russia and Japan) to aid what British Prime Minister David Cameron termed “democracy, freedom and prosperity” in the Middle East.

Hundreds of Palestinian and Syrian refugees marched on June 5 from Syrian-controlled territory to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Refugees in Palestine and elsewhere marked the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Egyptian Sinai and Syrian Golan Heights.

On the frontier with the occupied Golan Heights, hundreds were injured and more than 20 killed when Israeli soldiers opened fire with live ammunition on unarmed demonstrators.

Delegates from Community, a trade union representing workers in iron and steel, clothing, textiles, footwear and betting industries, delivered a crushing blow on June 7. They opposed the union executive's attempt to force through a resolution aimed at undermining the Trade Union Congress's policy of boycotting Israeli goods produced in illegal settlements.

At the union's biennial conference in Southport, members accused the leaders of seeking a “retrospective mandate” to support Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (Tulip), which they labelled “an apologist” for Israeli war crimes.

Analysis

Melbourne's largest feminist conference in more than a decade, the Feminist Futures Conference, took place over May 28-29.

The conference was organised by the newly-formed Melbourne Feminist Collective (MFC), a group of mainly young activists who were inspired by a similar conference they attended in Sydney last year.

In the lead-up to the conference, a debate between the radical feminist supporters of Melbourne lecturer Sheila Jeffreys and the sex worker supporters of Elena Jeffreys broke out on the conference blogsite.

A bill attacking the rights of NSW public sector workers pushed by the O’Farrell Coalition government are set to pass through the upper house on June 14, with the support of Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats and the Shooters Party.

It can then be put through the Liberal dominated lower house on June 15.

The anti-union bill is a draconian measure. If passed, it will give the state government the power to unilaterally set the wages and conditions of public sector workers.

It was a good thing when 14 Labor members of the Western Australian parliament and the federal member for Fremantle, Melissa Parke, publicly voiced their disgust that unaccompanied children would be sent to Malaysia as part of the Labor federal government’s refugee swap.

The claptrap used to sell this cruel and illogical farce is deservedly collapsing in on itself.

Federal Labor’s contradictory flip-flopping on this issue has been excruciating to watch. It’s not guided by any rational policy making, but political imagery.

The recent figures on CO2 emissions are sobering. Despite the fact that the world has suffered a terrible recession, emissions are still rising.

In essence, all the efforts to tackle climate change have simply slowed the rise a little rather than reverse it.

The problem is that the solutions to climate change put forward at international conferences like Copenhagen and Cancun dare not deal with the real root cause of climate change — our current economic system.

Australian climate scientists and researchers are subject to a rising level of hate mail, abuse and death threats from climate change deniers.

More than 30 researchers told the June 4 Canberra Times “they are receiving a stream of abusive emails threatening violence, sexual assault, public smear campaigns and attacks on family members”.

New and contradictory details of the Australia-Malaysia refugee exchange have been brought to light, as the federal Labor government grows closer to sealing the fate of up to 800 asylum seekers.

Evidently we are making progress as a nation in addressing the Indigenous development problem.

On February 9, the prime minister delivered the Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2011. Progress is apparently happening: not according to any statistics, but to the powerful government public relations machine.

In fact, the prime minister could provide little evidence about gap closing, except to tell us that the statistics are not readily available despite a commitment of nearly $50 million to this task.

There are alternatives to the federal government’s NT intervention into Aboriginal communities, and some of the key ones have been brought together in a new statement that has won the support of Aboriginal community leaders and other groups and individuals.

The statement, “Rebuilding from the Ground Up: An Alternative to the NT Intervention”, is available on the Jumbunna Aboriginal Education Centre website.

Since March 2009, it has been unclear whether promising footballer Rex Bellotti Junior will need to have his leg amputated after he was run over by a police four wheel drive in Albany, Western Australia.

The Indigenous boy, then 15, was leaving a wake when the police vehicle, driving on the wrong side of the road, struck him with sufficient force to drag him under the van, breaking his right femur and inflicting lacerations to his legs.

Under the guidance of the NSW Coal and Coal Seam Gas Strategy, the CSG industry is set to grow. Economic growth and the move towards a low-carbon economy are suggested as a just cause for its expansion.

In spite of this, a swell of media reports, documentaries and scientific studies have revealed that CSG’s growth will come with substantial socio-economic and environmental costs.

Marrickville Mayor Fiona Byrne has received a letter of support from South African anti-apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The letter appears below.

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Dear Mayor Fiona Byrne,

We in South Africa, who both suffered Apartheid and defeated it, have the moral right and responsibility to name and shame institutionalized separation, exclusion, and domination by one ethnic group over others. In my own eyes I have seen how the Palestinians are oppressed, dispossessed and exiled.

Blind Carbon Copy, June 4 — World Environment Day on June 5 was the Say Yes Australia rally called by an alliance of unions and NGOs like GetUp.

A large number of environmentalists, including the Greens party, rightly rejected the last attempt of the government to set a carbon price, the “Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme”. It was shonky, riddled with loopholes big enough for a diesel-spewing truck to drive through.

Letters

Opposed to carbon tax

I am a committed greenie, but I was not one of the thousands who rallied on the weekend.

I am opposed to the carbon tax because it hurts the poor and lines the pockets of the rich, without doing anything real for the climate.

Just 10% of this tax is earmarked for funding for renewable energy, with more than this amount (the government is very coy about the exact figure) to be given to the biggest polluters, as “compensation”. This is just business as usual — lots of money for the worst polluters and a few crumbs for renewables.

Resistance!

I was as worried as anyone when I wandered down to my local pub to find a poster over the door announcing the government was trying to shut it down.

In their national campaign against proposed changes to poker machine use, Clubs Australia and the Australian Hotel Association (AHA) say “some bloke in Tasmania” (Independent MP Andrew Wilkie) is trying to push through laws that will bankrupt our pubs, destroy our communities and put us all under more government surveillance.

Culture

The Refugee Art Project (RAP) was established in 2010 by Safdar Ahmed and Dr Omid Tofighian. They run free art classes at the Villawood (NSW) and Broadmeadows (Victoria) detention centres.

Some of the artworks, created by the asylum seekers, were on display at the recent Platform Art Space as part of the Human Rights Art and Film Festival. RAP is also organising the fear + hope exhibition featuring works by detained asylum seekers at the Mori Gallery in Sydney from June 20 to July 8. Visit TheRefugeeArtProject.com for more information.

Koestler: The Indispensable Intellectual
By Michael Scammell
Faber & Faber, 2011,
720 pages, $32.99 (pb)

Arthur Koestler had a taste for political drama.

As a communist, he spied against Franco's fascists in the Spanish civil war; as a Jew, he escaped from the Gestapo in France by joining the French Foreign Legion; he saw the inside of five jails; he wrote a famous novel of Stalin's show trials; he became a vociferous anti-communist; and he enjoyed a fashionable vogue for his 1970s books on parapsychology.

Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who performs solo under the name The Nightwatchman, was inspired by the huge struggle in Wisconsin against a savage anti-union law to release a benefit EP of songs dedicated to workers' struggles. The Nightwatchman's Union Town EP has been released by New West Records and can be bought at iTunes. All proceeds go to the America Votes Labor Unity Fund.

Fighting Fund

Ten years of Western military occupation and war in Afghanistan has killed hundreds of thousands of people (mostly Afghan civilians), created millions of refugees and paid billions of dollars of “aid” into the hands of brutal warlords who serve as a puppet regime for the occupiers.