Issue 967

Australia

Over 1000 people - organisers said 1600 - marched through the streets of Perth in opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the company Monsanto (which is one of the foremost proponents of GMO technology).

The rally was one of more than 400 actions that took place in over 60 countries as part of a global day of action.

Delegates arriving at the Australia-China Minerals Investment Summit in Darwin on May 17 were met with about 20 protesters. The group had a strong message for those going into the convention centre: “Stop uranium mining, lock the gates on shale oil and gas, go solar!”

This is a speech by Peter Boyle, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Sydney, at a rally for equal marriage rights in Sydney on May 25.

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Let me begin by acknowledging that we are gathering here today on stolen Aboriginal land, the land of the Gadigal people that was never ceded but taken by force from its Indigenous owners.

We pay our respects to elders and warriors — past and present — who have battled for survival and justice for against tremendous odds.

The Tamil Refugee Council released this statement on May 22

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The decision to release Tamil widow, Manokala, and her six-year-old son, Ragavan, from indefinite detention was a welcome move, and opens up many questions about ASIO’s adverse security assessments, the Tamil Refugee Council said.

A spokesperson for the Tamil Refugee Council, Trevor Grant, said the release cast grave doubts about the legitimacy of the secret assessments that have left 55 refugees detained indefinitely, most for between three and four years.

About 100 people attended a rally at the University of Sydney on May 23 to protest the police brutality that has occurred at picket line held at the university earlier this month.

Staff at Sydney University are involved in an enterprise bargaining process between the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the university administration.

The university administration is trying to force through changes that would undercut pay and conditions for university staff, including more casualisation and creating teaching-only positions.

The North West Alliance released this statement on May 23.

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A broad range of farmers and community members concerned about the impacts of new mining and coal seam gas proposals across NSW north-west are expressing their support for the Gomeroi native title claimants in their recent stance to halt all mining in the region.

The Gomeroi native title claimants are the latest group to publicly oppose coal seam gas in the north-west, joining a range of farmers, town residents, conservationists and church ministers in the battle.

Registrations are now open for the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network’s (AVSN) next brigade to revolutionary Venezuela. The solidarity tour, to run over December 4-13 this year, will be a special one for the AVSN, the first since the election of President Nicolas Maduro following the death of Hugo Chavez on March 5.

Since 1998, when Chavez was first elected president, the Bolivarian revolution has achieved remarkable things by putting control of Venezuela’s politics and economy back into the hands of the poor majority.

World

There are more than half a million poor or socially marginalised children in Greece, while 322,000 of these are in dire straits materially, the Athens-Macedonia News Agency said on May 22. The shocking statistics were found in a “The state of the children of Greece 2013” report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), in collaboration with the University of Athens.

The Obama administration asserts that presidents of the United States have the power to wage endless war anywhere in the world without permission or hindrance from Congress.

This claim is reiterates the position of the Bush administration, which was most strongly pushed by Bush’s vice-president Dick Cheney. It is another example of the seamless transition from Bush to Obama in foreign affairs.

The 40-day strike of more than 500 dockworkers at the Port of Hong Kong ended on May 6 with a settlement that included a 9.8% wage rise, non-retaliation against strikers and a written agreement, all of which had been fiercely resisted by the four contractors targeted in the strike.

Strikers accepted the offer by a 90% vote.

The four contractors also agreed to work through the port manager Hong Kong International Terminal (HIT) to provide meal and toilet breaks, which had been lacking even for workers on 12- or 24-hour shifts. Crane operators laid off during the strike will be rehired.

In West Papua, May 1 holds a special significance besides being the international day marking working-class struggle. It was on May 1, 1963, that Indonesia was granted control of the western half of the New Guinea island the by the United Nations.

Since then, many West Papuan independence and human rights activists have been jailed, tortured and killed for demanding real democracy and a genuine independence referendum. As thousands of people across the region prepared for May 1 demonstrations marking 50 years of brutal occupation, the Indonesian authorities launched raids on April 30.

A report released in May by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and the Norwegian Refugee Council shows that 32.4 million people were forced to flee their homes last year by disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes. Asia and west and central Africa bore the brunt, but 1.3 million were also displaced in rich countries, with the US particularly affected.

Founder of Venezuela’s world famous El Sistema music program, Jose Abreu, met with President Nicolas Maduro on May 22 to discuss expanding the program. They agreed on a project called Musical Program Simon Bolivar, which aims to have 1 million Venezuelan youths and children playing musical instruments.

The People's Assembly is electrifying the movement against austerity in Britain. Hundreds of new people are flocking to People's Assembly meetings around the country to hear speakers like author Owen Jones, comic Mark Steel, anti-war activist Lindsey German, trade unionists and local campaigners outline the need for coordinated national resistance to the government's plans.

Francisco Louca is an economics professor at the Technical University of Lisbon. Louca was part of the student movement against the Salazar dictatorship in the 1970s. He was a founding member of the Left Bloc, launched in 1999 when several left groups united. He served as the Left Bloc's chief coordinator between 2005 and last year. He was interviewed by Mark Bergfeld, a London-based socialist activist. The interview is abridged from MRZine.

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The first McDonald's strike ever in Wellington took place on May 22. At 8am, five of the seven workers on shift came off the job and joined the picket line that had been set up outside Bunny St McDonald's.

It was a noisy, lively affair, with Fightback member and Wellington Unite union organiser Heleyni Pratley leading the way with chants, songs and the occasional speech to the people passing by. Pratley explained why the strike was being held and why the public needed to respect the picket line.

After a relatively quiet couple of years, the Unite union, which organises fast food and other previously unorganised sectors, has burst into action with a vigorous industrial campaign against McDonald's.

The key demands are focused around winning a NZ$15 starting wage, an end to casualised hours, a fair and transparent roster system and a number of union-only benefits, most of which have already been won by KFC Unite members.

See also: New Zealand: McDonald's hit by first ever strike in Wellington

Bolivia is demonstrating to the world why nationalising natural resources is a crucial first step for any government seeking to put people and the environment before profits.

On May 1, 2006, less than four months after becoming president, Evo Morales decreed the nationalisation of the country’s gas reserves. This move restored state control over the strategic resource.

WikiLeaks released an enormous treasure-trove of classified US government documents in 2010. It included US military logs from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 250,000 diplomatic cables, and Collateral Murder, a video depicting the killing of 12 civilians by a US helicopter gunship in Iraq.

The source of the leaks, US Private Bradley Manning, acted on his conscience. He believed that people have a right to see the information he had been privy to as an army intelligence analyst. He was prepared to risk his life and liberty to reveal that information.

The May 22 attack in Woolwich yesterday was horrific. There can be no justification for a murderous attack on an individual soldier in the streets of London. It must have been awful, too, for the local people who witnessed it.

Unlike with most terrorist attacks or indeed other crimes, we have been able to see film footage of the perpetrators, hear testimony from the witnesses who saw or talked to them. So we know what these men say motivated them.

An important summit of global significance, held in Brazil May 16-20, has largely passed below the radar of most media outlets, including many left and progressive sources.

This summit was not the usual type, involving heads of states and business leaders.

Instead, it was a gathering of social movement representatives from across Latin America and the Caribbean -- the site of some of the most intense struggles and popular rebellions of the past few decades.

Jose Maria Aznar, Spain’s messianically neoliberal former prime minister, announced during a television interview on May 21 that he was ready again to serve his country.

“I will act in accordance with my responsibility, my conscience, my party and my country, regardless of consequences, have no doubt about that”, intoned the Popular Party (PP) leader who took Spain to war in Iraq. Aznar was defeated in the 2004 national election after claiming that the Madrid train bombing was the work of Basque Homeland and Freedom (ETA).

When my eyes caught the words “thoughts are with Oklahoma” on a friend's Facebook status update, my heart skipped a beat. As I hurriedly scanned the first article that I found, I saw the words “devastation” and “Moore”, and my stomach tightened.

I dialed my father's house and got that line-disconnected signal. The tears followed. I was pretty sure that the Moore Medical Center, which the article had described as “destroyed”, was where my father worked.

Analysis

As part of its federal election campaign this year, the Socialist Alliance is calling for the mining industry, the big banks and the energy companies to be put back into public hands, so that they can be run in a way that respects the environment and social justice.

But several other important industries should also be in line for nationalisation under workers' and community control in future.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme, now to be known as DisabilityCare, has become a central theme of Australia’s national debate. This is a tribute to the many thousands of people who have campaigned tirelessly for better support for and inclusion of people with disabilities in society.

Najaf Mazari, an Afghan refugee, rug-maker and author addressed a meeting of about 70 people at the Eltham College in Melbourne on May 17.

He described his life in an Afghani village and his journey to a new life in Australia, including his time in a detention centre. The event was organised by the Diamond Valley Oxfam group and supported by the Eltham bookshop.

Australia’s first Aboriginal parliamentary leader, Adam Giles, announced on May 13 that his government would increase the number of Aboriginal children removed from their families. Concerns that a new stolen generation could be created were putting children at risk, he said.

The Socialist Alliance's Sue Bolton and Socialist Alternative's Mick Armstrong addressed a packed public forum on left unity in Melbourne on May 21.

Unity discussions have been taking place between the groups since last year. The forum attracted about 140 people, including individuals and observers from other left groups.

This statement was released by Socialist Alliance on May 25.

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The Gonski review into school funding showed the need for an immediate injection of funds into public schools.

The independent Gonski review into school funding reaffirms what many teachers and parents already knew. Current school funding arrangements are dysfunctional and inequitable. The failure to reform the way we resource our public schools has come at a big social and economic cost.

Gonski’s recommendations are far from perfect — it recommends continued public funding of elite private schools.

A lively protest took place outside federal MP for Wakefield Nick Champion's office in Adelaide’s Northern Suburbs on May 20.

The protest was organised by Stop Income Management in Playford (SIMPla) and Single Parents Action Group (SPAG).

SIMPla was founded last year in response to the introduction of income management in Playford.

SPAG began in response to the Julia Gillard government cutting single parents' income by moving them off the single parent benefit to the lower Newstart allowance.

In the wake of Ford's decision to close up in Australia, at the cost of 1200 jobs directly and potentially more 10,000 manufacturing jobs all up, fellow corporate giant Holden publicly said it was “ready to seek” more government subsidies.

It’s been a busy week for discussions of racism. Delta Goodrem re-tweeted a photo of a fan in blackface and was criticised for being racist, Mia Freedman defended her and asked us all to save the word racist for something really important, and we had the blackface discussion all over again.

The rising pressures on the costs of living for Australian households, in particular caused by soaring electricity prices, will likely be a feature battleground in the September federal election.

The two big parties have long been scuffling over who is to blame for an issue that severely affects most Australian households and is a huge source of discontent as a result.

Letters

At the Australian Hotels Association award night on May 22, Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles said the NT's drinking culture was a "core social value". The ABC reported on May 23 that Giles said “‘having a coldie' in a pub should be 'enshrined' as part of Territory life."

Alcohol indeed is a disturbingly central part of life for many Territorians. The NT has the second-highest alcohol consumption rate in the world, and the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths in Australia.

Resistance!

Socialist activists are involved in political struggles across many different issues. From equal marriage rights to defending education, refugee rights to the environment, socialists help organise and lead these campaigns, and seek to win important political reforms around them.

It might seem contradictory for socialists to fight for reforms. Since socialists oppose capitalism and the capitalist state, why is it that they campaign for measures that encourage the expansion of the capitalist state?

Culture

A selection of this week's politically-relevant entertainment news...

Jailed Pussy Riot Member Maria Alyokhina Hospitalised After Hunger Strike http://bit.ly/19kvC8a

Domestic abuser Chris Brown Potentially Facing 4 Years Jail Following Fender Bender http://bit.ly/150DfOa

New Report To US Congress Suggests IP Thieves Be Legally Targeted By Malware http://bit.ly/10B14bA

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds Allow Music To Be Used In New $6 Million SA Tourism Campaign http://bit.ly/1139vfP

Quarterly Essay
Issue 49 2013
'Not Dead Yet: Labor’s post-left future'
By Mark Latham
Black Inc 2013

Margaret Thatcher may be dead, but Thatcherism is alive and well and living in the bowels of social democracy if Mark Latham’s contribution to the latest Quarterly Essay, “Not Dead Yet: Labor’s post-left future”, is anything to go by.

Round Nine of the Australian Football League, held from May 24-26, was designated the “Indigenous Round” in honour of Aboriginal players and culture.

However, former Age sports journalist Trevor Grant writes that, despite progress, the AFL continues to block Aboriginal access to key aspects of the sport ― on and off the field. The article is slightly abridged from Grant's website What's The Score, Sport, where more of his writings on sport and politics can be found.

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The Kinetic Energy theatre company, a Sydney-based independent company, has just returned from its first national tour of the year: four weeks of performing our Village Space theatre-in-education program in Tasmania, Melbourne, Gippsland, and the Riverina, across April and May.

Over the years, we have developed an engaging way of educating young people about social justice. We focus on issues such as poverty, inequality, refugees, Indigenous struggle and the environment, and how these issues are interconnected.

Burn The World
AC4
March 2013
Ny Våg / Deathwish / Shock
www.ac4official.bandcamp.com

Swedish hardcore punks AC4 blast nuclear policy on their new album, Burn the World. Green Left's Mat Ward spoke to frontman Dennis Lyxzén and main songwriter Karl Backman.

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Fighting Fund

I had to spend some time in waiting rooms for medical checkups recently. It was an opportunity to glance through glossy magazines.

In its latest issue, National Geographic magazine has an article entitled “Is Australia the Face of Climate Change to Come?”. It said that after a major spike in extreme weather over the past few years, scientists were looking at “the lucky country” as a “bellwether for the Earth's changing climate”.

It may not be so lucky for us but I guess being a bellwether is useful.