Issue 969

Australia

World Refugee Day rally in Perth. Features music from Junkadelic and speeches by Tamil and Hazara refugees, Amer Saabi from the Palestinian community, Rob Callan from Refugee Rights Action Network and Greens senator Scott Ludlam.

Green Left TV's coverage of the Sydney World Refugee Day rally, held on Sunday June 16.

The Victorian government continued its attack on civil rights last week with the announcement that new prison cells would be built at train stations for use by protective services officers (PSOs).

The statement below was released by the Socialist Alliance on June 5.

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Liah Lazarou has been pre-selected by the Socialist Alliance to run for the seat of Adelaide in the federal election in September.

Lazarou is a communications student and a committed grassroots activist. She has been involved in organising workers, students and young people as a member of the Socialist Alliance since 2006.

Australian foreign Minister Bob Carr finally acknowledged the US grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange on June 5.

This investigation will decide whether Assange should be prosecuted for his role in releasing confidential documents through WikiLeaks.

Despite the risk to Assange, Carr told a Senate budget estimates committee that the Australian government will not be seeking information from the US government about the grand jury, because “it doesn’t affect Australian interests”.

Moreland City Council has voted to accept an offer from the Victorian government to fund the installation of CCTV cameras on Sydney Road in Brunswick.

The offer was made following the rape and murder of Brunswick resident Jill Meagher in a side street near Sydney Road last year.

Three councillors voted against the decision: Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton, and Greens councillors Samantha Ratnam and Lenka Thomson.

A two-day seminar, "Organising for 21st century socialism", drew 150 people from around Australia to Sydney over June 8-9.

The seminar hosted US author and socialist activist Paul Le Blanc. Le Blanc is the author of Lenin and the Revolutionary Party and A Short History of the US Working Class, and spoke at the conference on the topic “Lessons from Lenin for 21st century socialism”. The talk prompted constructive debate about how to organise a socialist party in Australia today.

The September election is approaching and the Socialist Alliance needs the financial help of members and supporters to run an effective election campaign.

This is even more essential this federal election since the two big parties have made it harder for socialists and progressive, single-issue parties to stand, by doubling the fees required for candidates to nominate.

About 250 people, mainly from the Turkish and Kurdish communities, held a protest in Melbourne’s Federation Square on June 10 in solidarity with protesters in Taksim Square and Gezi Park, Istanbul, who have come under intense repression from the Turkish state.

The rally was organised by the Melbourne Taksim Platform, a coalition consisting of the Anatolian Cultural Centre, the Australian Alevi Council and the Australian Turkish Cultural Association. The rally was also supported by the Kurdish Association of Victoria.

The Refugee Action Coalition held a public forum on June 3 titled: “Bridging Visas, Community Detention: what rights do asylum seekers in the community have?”

About 12,000 asylum seekers who have arrived since August 13 last year are living in the community on “bridging visas”. August 13 was when the government introduced the “no advantage” policy and ceased processing refugee applications.

Refugees on bridging visas receive less than the paltry Newstart allowance with little support. They could be sent to detention on Nauru or Manus Island at any time.

Julia Gillard was greeted by a vibrant protest by students, unionists and Aboriginal activists when she spoke in Fremantle on June 12.

As Labor party faithful -- who paid up to $250 per head -- waited to hear her talk, protesters took aim at some of the worst policies of the Gillard government.

World

AS PRESIDENT Obama weighs whether to give the Keystone XL pipeline his approval, climate scientists have warned that the volume of greenhouse gases released by the pipeline could push the planet over a climate tipping point.

In Venezuela's April 14 presidential elections, called after the tragic death of president Hugo Chavez, the candidate from Chavez's United Socialist party of Venezuela (PSUV), Nicolas Maduro, was elected with just over 50% of the vote. In response, the right-wing opposition cried fraud and organised days of often-violent protests that lead to the deaths of eight Chavez supporters and the torching of PSUV and government offices, as well as health clinics from the government's pro-poor programs.

Mark Twain's maxim that "History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme" is echoing in the streets of Istanbul. The echo is heard in everything that makes Turkey resemble a sequel to the 2011 Egyptian Revolution that toppled assumed President-for-Life Hosni Mubarak.

Turkey and Egypt are of course two very different countries with different leaders, different political systems and different histories. But the revolt of the highly intense, usually apolitical "ultra" football-fan clubs must be noted.

To listen to its advocates, there is little shale gas won’t do: bring down energy prices, cut carbon emissions, support renewables and bring us out of recession.

The “climate-sceptic” Global Warming Policy Foundation even claimed that “because of shale gas, wealth and health will be distributed more equitably over the planet”.

Add to this newspaper stories with misunderstood numbers saying that there is enough shale gas to heat British homes for 1500 years and you can see why some people are getting excited.

More than 50 people gathered in the Newtown Community and Cultural Centre in Wellington on May 31 and June 1 for the annual conference of the socialist organisation Fightback.

The sessions were filled with lively and respectful debate across a number of different perspectives within the left on national and international issues.

Fightback 2013 featured speakers from Fightback, the International Socialist Organisation (Aotearoa), the Socialist Party of Australia, and the Australian Socialist Alliance.

Huge, angry protests have broken out in Brazil over public transport fare rises and poor services. The largest protests in years in Brazil come as large amounts of money is spent in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, which is helping drive up prices and causing wide spread anger

An increasingly vocal movement against fare rises on public transport has swept Brazil in the past two weeks, resulting in street demonstrations in several cities and angry confrontations between protestors and police.

In Sao Paulo, the night of June 13 was marked by the fourth demonstration in the space of a week, drawing a crowd of almost 10,000 people. Nearly 130 people were arrested and 105 people were injured, according to march organisers, the Movimento Passe Livre (MPL).

When the Turkish Prime Minister ayyip Erdogan called the protesters in the streets of Istanbul plunderers (çapulcu) on June 2, he contributed a new verb to the English language.

A video clip of the resistance — entitled “Everyday I'm Chapuling” — hit the internet on June 4 with new lyrics written on the pop song “Everyday I'm Shufflin”. And the new English verb was born: to chapul.

Soon after, the word moved to the French language and found a place among such words as liberte, egalite and fraternite: chapulite.

The Harmony Centre, a coalition of left-wing parties, won 59% of popular vote in the municipal elections held in this Eastern European country on June 1.

The coalition is made up of the social-democratic party Harmony and the Socialist Party of Latvia (heir of the Communist Party, which was declared illegal in 1994).

The exposure of the huge surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) of all phone calls in the United States, as well as the vast data mining of all electronic communications through computer servers and search engines worldwide, is one of the most important whistle-blowing events of our times.

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the surveillence Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, says these exposures by Edward Snowden, who worked for a private contractor used by the NSA, said Snowden’s exposures were even more important than the Vietnam War revelations.

During the early days of the Gezi protests, researchers from the University of Istanbul surveyed 3000 activists in the heart of the struggle around Taksim Square.

Seventy-one percent of respondents described themselves as “pro-freedom” with no affiliation to any organisation, most of them first-time activists. Only 7.1 % said they were a member or supporter of any group.

Barricades on the streets are nothing new to Turkish people. Barricades have been put up against the authorities many times.

Greece's three biggest trade unions called a general strike today on June 13 in protest at the government's decision to close public broadcaster ERT, the Morning Star said that day.

The decision costs more than 2600 workers their jobs in a context of a huge rise in unemployment due to austerity policies. The move to close the public station is also seen as a big attack on democracy. The only other time it was shut down was during the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War II.

The court-martial of US Private Bradley Manning opened on June 3, and is expected to last 12 weeks.

The courageous US soldier leaked a large trove of classified material documenting US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, diplomatic cables exposing Washington’s machinations in the Middle East and elsewhere, and other material.

At a previous hearing, Manning admitted he was the source of these leaks. As a result, he opened himself to a potential sentence of up to 20 years in military prison.

Analysis

Paul Le Blanc, author of Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, visited Australia in June in a tour hosted by Socialist Alliance. This is his presentation to 150 people at the 'Organising for 21st Century Socialism' seminar in Sydney on June 8, 2013.

In the latest bid to convince desperate people not to seek safety in our country, the federal government is running an ad campaign on primetime Afghan TV directed at members of the persecuted Hazara ethnic minority.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and Brisbane-based consultant Katestone have come under fire for releasing a report, on coal train dust in the Hunter Valley, that appeared to have been doctored.

The ARTC is a federal-owned corporation and leases rail track from the NSW government. It is in charge of most rail track other than dedicated inner city passenger rail corridors, including rail tracks that deal mainly in freight and commodity haulage.

Markets are neither free nor efficient, and they are bad for the environment. Market choice is not cheap. While that may sound like a timeless left-wing credo, it's also a simple assessment of Australia's 20 years of privatisation and market-oriented restructure of electricity supply.

Outside small left-wing dissident circles (from Keynesians to Marxists), operating the power industry according to market principles has become an unquestioned and unspoken assumption.

Information revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden about the PRISM spy program — which used data from giant internet companies, such as Google and Facebook, to carry out mass surveillance of people outside the US — has provided new evidence about the warrantless spying on civilians by the US government.

Although a government spying on civilians is hardly new and will not come as a surprise to many people, what is concerning about this case is the size and number of companies involved and the apparent ease with which this data was obtained.

World Refugee Day comes amid reports of more deaths at sea, forced deportations to torture and execution, malaria in the offshore camps in Nauru and Manus Island, suicide in detention, babies imprisoned as security threats and revelations of refugees on bridging visas without food, housing or work rights.

A competition in cruelty

This is a slightly edited text of a presentation made by Dave Holmes at the “Organising for 21st century socialism” seminar, held in Sydney on June 9. Holmes is a leading member of the Socialist Alliance in Melbourne.

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Today I want to talk about how socialists need to work to win mass influence and how that relates to the unity process between Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative.

Representatives from the Environment Centre NT (ECNT) and the Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the NT (AFANT) travelled to Mataranka on June 13 to host a public meeting about water allocations in the region.

The Country Liberal Party government has made changes to the allocation process, which threatens the Roper River region’s environment, as well as pastoral and Indigenous interests.

A new website has published the biggest set of immigration detention records in Australia to date. It will provide unprecedented verification of the endemic self-harm and psychiatric crises that refugee rights campaigners have independently reported for years.

Socialist Alliance candidate for Fremantle, Sam Wainwright introduces the Socialist Alliance campaign to a packed out candidates forum organised by GetUp.

The forum was held in the state library theatre on 14 June 2013.

The following resolution was adopted by the Socialist Alliance national council meeting on June 10.

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• If socialism is not just to be a good idea, it has to become a movement of the working class and other oppressed groups. It flows from this that to build the socialist movement we have to have a permanent focus on linking up with the activists and leaders of the working class and oppressed groups who are fighting capitalist oppression.

During this year alone, an estimated 128 people have drowned or vanished trying to seek asylum in Australia. By June 14, up to seven asylum boats trying to reach Christmas Island had foundered, sunk or been stranded.

This includes the boat that sank in Indonesia’s Sunda Strait in April, when Australian authorities failed to give accurate coordinates of the foundering vessel to Indonesian search and rescue. Up to 58 people drowned, 53 of whom were never retrieved.

General

Former Greens leader Bob Brown explains why he supports Green Left Weekly as the alternative to the Murdoch press.


Resistance!

Like most sectors of society, the education system in Australia is under attack. For decades, education has been underfunded, so when Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that she intended to fund the Gonski reforms, many people were temporarily relieved.

Then she said that, to pay for primary and high school education reforms, the government would cut funding to universities. Private schools won’t lose funding and, in some cases, will get more. Yet the ailing TAFE system would get nothing.

So much for an education revolution.

Culture

Earthmasters: Playing God With The Climate
Clive Hamilton
Allen & Unwin, 2013
247 pages, $24.99 (pb)

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” seems to be the philosophy, says Clive Hamilton in Earthmasters, of the fossil fuel companies, the World Bank and the billionaire “techno-entrepreneurs” like Bill Gates and Richard Branson who are funding research into geo-engineering schemes for “large-scale intervention in the climate system designed to counter global warming”.

Mary Meets Mohammad
Directed by Heather Kirkpatrick
www.marymeetsmohammad.com

If you thought that knitting and controversial current affairs don’t mix, then think again. Mary Meets Mohammad is a fantastic first feature length documentary by Tasmanian film maker Heather Kirkpatrick. It has received rave reviews by cinema-goers in Tasmania and will soon be screened in cinemas across the country.

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

Gurrumul, Archie Roach & Thelma Plum Set For New Byron Bay Indigenous Festival http://bit.ly/13RnHMD

Chief Keef Arrested Again Outside Court By Police Armed With AK-47s http://bit.ly/ZZ2Ndz

Win double passes to Manic Street Preachers Australian shows, and a huge back catalogue pack. Closes June 26. http://bit.ly/14fhWap

Tim Lambesis' Austrian Death Machine Album To Go Ahead Despite Murder-For-Hire Trial http://bit.ly/14zJSrD

Fighting Fund

It feels like the sewers have burst, spilling a stinking mess of racism, homophobia and misogyny all over the public debate in Australia. Aboriginal football stars and a female prime minister have been among the noted victims of hateful abuse and insult.

It has shocked some people. Where did this come from? What does this say about 21st century Australia?