Issue 990

Australia

Six Malaysian activists from the Himpunan Hijau (Green Assembly) group have begun a three-day occupation of the entrance to the corporate headquarters of Lynas in Sydney. The Australian company has built an unwanted toxic rare earths refinery in Kuantan , Malaysia.

They have come armed with a petition with signatures from 1.2 million Malaysians who demand that the toxic plant be shut down by June 29, 2014 at the latest.

National Union of Workers (NUW) members went on strike at the Sheridan sheet warehouse in Port Adelaide on November 25.

The NUW have been bargaining with the company as part of a new enterprise agreement.

Workers at the Adelaide warehouse are upset they receive $160 a week less than workers in the Victorian sites doing the same job. Workers also want more control over rosters so they can plan to spend time with their families.

Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at Murdoch University have voted to call off industrial action and support a new enterprise agreement with the university.

The agreement was offered as union members were preparing to go on strike on November 20.

Initially, the university had refused a pay rise of more than 4% over the next two years. This would have been well below inflation and effectively a pay cut.

A Melbourne woman has taken to living in a treehouse suspended from a tall mountain ash in the Toolangi area north-east of Melbourne, to highlight loss of Victoria's native forest and the critically endangered Leadbeater's possum.

Hannah Patchett told community radio 3CR that she decided to take the action because “a lot of people didn't even know where Toolangi was, let alone that there was clearfell logging happening in Leadbeater habitat.

The National Tertiary Education Union released this statement on November 21.

***
 
The Minister for Education Christopher Pyne today introduced the Higher Education Support Amendment (Savings and Other Measures) Bill 2013 into parliament, a bill which in the minister’s own words will be damaging to the university sector. 
 
The bill slashes more than $900 million from university grants over the next four years and will cost students almost $300 million in lost discounts for early repayment of their HECS debts.
 

Rita Hester was found murdered inside her apartment on November 28, 1998. Hester was transgender and also African American, her death highlighting not only the issue of transphobic murder, but also the disproportionate representation of people of colour among its victims.

Her murder is still unsolved but an international day of action known as Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is marked on November 20 each year.
 
Hester’s murder was preceded and followed by other high profile transphobic murders.

Friends of the Earth released this statement on November 21.

***

Friends of the Earth has welcomed today’s announcement by the Premier that the moratorium on the process of unconventional gas fracking will be extended at least until June 2015.

Friends of the Earth campaigns co-ordinator Cam Walker said: “This is a good start. Pushing the moratorium out to 2015 will take some of the heat out of the community concern over new fossil fuel projects.

Unionists and community activists protested outside the Melbourne headquarters of Australian-based mining company OceanaGold on November 15, in solidarity with the people of El Salvador and the Philippines.

The protest took place in support of a tour by an anti-mining activist from El Salvador, Vidalina Morales. A grassroots environmental advocate, Morales has been a leader in her local area in the struggle to oppose mining in El Salvador's Cabañas province since 2006.

Qantas has announced the closure of its maintenance base for Boeing 747 aircraft at Avalon airport in Victoria. About 300 workers are to be sacked, most of them from the local town of Geelong.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association has questioned company claims that the jobs will be transferred to the more efficient Brisbane maintenance base, suggesting that a shortage of skilled workers in Brisbane will mean the maintenance is mainly done offshore in south-east Asia.

These job losses add to a long string of bad news for employment in Geelong.

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) members have been on indefinite strike at the Centre for Adult Education (CAE) since November 18, in pursuit of a new agreement with fair pay and conditions.

Staff and their union have been trying to negotiate a new agreement since February 2011, and have not had a pay rise since May 2010. Their pay is 20% behind teachers in the TAFE sector, despite the Box Hill TAFE buying the CAE back in 2010.

Supporters of refugees from Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Newcastle converged on Parliament House in Canberra on November 18.

About 600 protesters gathered, among them were Hazara and Iranian refugees.

The protest coincided with the Labor parliamentary caucus meeting to decide whether to support the Greens move to disallow temporary protection visas.

Staff at RMIT University held a 24-hour stopwork for a new Enterprise Agreement on November 20.

Organised by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), the strike was called to reject a substandard agreement that offers a 3% pay rise with no improvements to conditions. 

RMIT management wants to leave many vital entitlements in "policy" rather than the Enterprise Agreement because this gives them the "flexibility" to alter them at their discretion.

The gallery was packed at the Moreland Council meeting on November 13. About 100 residents crowded into the Glenroy Senior Citizens Centre determined to make their concerns felt over several contentious planning issues.

First was Amendment C123, which, if passed, will turn parts of Coburg into a mini-CBD with 10-storey buildings permitted, irreparably changing the character of the area, sharply reducing people’s quality of life and removing residents’ right to appeal against proposed developments.

Macquarie Street, home to NSW Supreme Court and Parliament, reverberated with chants for justice as 150 Aboriginal people and supporters marched to demand justice for the Bowraville three on November 21.
 
In 1991, a triple murder of three Aboriginal youths took place within five months in Bowraville on the New South Wales mid north coast.
 

About 150 people walked through Perth on November 16 to call for an end to blaming victims of sexual assault, in the city's third annual SlutWalk.

Initiated in response to comments made by a Canadian police officer that women should avoid looking like sluts if they don't want to be raped, SlutWalk continues to attract global support.

Victoria police have apologised to the family of a man who died hours after being released from police custody in 2010.

The Age reported on November 20: "Deputy Commissioner Tim Cartwright, who is responsible for all people in police custody across the state, said officers at Dandenong police station had fallen well short of community expectations on how they treated Gong Ling Tang on May 12, 2010.

World

A Walmart in northeast Ohio is holding a holiday canned food drive ― for its own underpaid employees. “Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” a sign reads in the employee lounge of a Canton-area Walmart.

Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesperson, says the drive is a positive thing. This is part of the company's culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships, he said.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro criticised US “intervention” in the internal affairs of Latin American countries, and in the Honduran elections, on November 25.

Xiomara Castro, candidate for the LIBRE party formed by the resistance movement that opposed the 2009 US-backed coup, declared victory after the vote. However, so did her conservative opponent, National Party's Juan Hernandez , with the Electoral Supreme Court (TSE) declaring Hernandez clearly ahead. LIBRE rejected the TSE's count, alleging serious fraud.

The 40th anniversary of the polytechnic uprising that helped end the Western-backed military junta in Greece was marked on November 17.

The date is a national day of remembrance and marks a defining moment in modern Greek history. The image of a tank battering down the gates to the student-occupied polytechnic school 40 years ago remains strong in the public consciousness.

To this day, it is illegal for the police and army to enter the university grounds.

Lurid articles about Venezuela have peppered the Western press in recent days and weeks. The latest event that has been widely reported is the use of the military to occupy stores, including the national electronics chain Daka, with a mandate to sell products at “just prices”.

This is viewed by most media outlets as further evidence of the chaotic mismanagement of the economy by the government. However, while there are serious economic problems in Venezuela, this one-sided portrayal prevents an informed debate.

Three of the main political parties contesting the November 24 election in Honduras are accusing the oligarchy-controlled Supreme Elections Tribunal of vote manipulation and fraud following a massive voter turnout on election day.

Venezuela’s National Assembly granted President Nicolas Maduro the power to pass laws by decree on economic and anti-corruption issues for a period of 12 months on November 19.

The National Assembly held a second and final vote on a proposal from Maduro to enact the so-called enabling law, which allows him to legislate by decree on specific issues for the period set by the assembly.

Maduro has been empowered to pass laws to “fight corruption, usury, money laundering and the economic war unleashed in recent times against the country by the national oligarchy”.

“A new union report alleges rampant lawlessness in the lucrative and growing reality TV industry,” Josh Eidelson wrote in a November 19 Salon.com article.

“The Writers Guild of America, East [WGAE], which authored the report based on a survey of current and former non-union workers, contends that it reveals an ugly reality behind top shows like 'Pawn Stars' and 'Fatal Encounters,' which have been supplanting unionized, scripted sitcoms and dramas.”

Eleven years to the day after the crew of the 80,000 tonne oil tanker Prestige heard the huge bang that marked the start of its break-up and of Europe’s most devastating oil spill, a high court panel in the Galician city of A Coruna delivered its verdict in the case on November 13.

Who was guilty of an environmental catastrophe when the tanker broke in two and spilled 63,000 tonnes of sticky, sulphurous fuel oil along 2900 kilometres of Spain’s and France’s Atlantic coast?

Both leading candidates are claiming victory in Honduras’s disputed presidential election, Democracy Now! The race has pitted Xiomara Castro, wife of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, against right-wing candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez.

According to election officials, with more than half of precincts reporting, Hernandez has won 34% of the vote, while Castro has 29%. Castro’s husband, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted in a US-backed coup in 2009.

At just 16 years old, Malala Yusufzai is the youngest person to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. When the Pakistani teenager was shot in her head by Taliban gunmen because she spoke out about her right to education, it sent shock waves around the world.

The Western media took notice. Her attack was used as an excuse by Western media and governments to justify the invasion of Afghanistan.

Malala is a courageous young woman, whose brave example in the face of barbaric violence is being used to justify the barbaric military violence associated with the occupation of Afghanistan.

Young Palestinian prisoner Hassan Abdul-Halim Turabi, who suffered from leukemia, died at the Afula Israeli Hospital aged 22 on the November 5.

Turabi was killed by deliberate Israeli medical neglect, after being denied essential treatment. The number of Palestinian prisoners who have died in Israeli jails since 1967 now sits at 205.

Turabi was taken prisoner more than 10 months ago. Due to his ill health, Israel said it would release him but did not. When he first started experiencing pain, he asked for medical treatment in the prison clinic and was given painkillers.

Continuing New Zealand’s proud history of protests at sea, attempts by Texan oil giant Andarko to start deep-sea oil drilling are being blocked by a tiny sailing boat.

Thousands came out to NZ's west coast beaches on November 23 to support the Oil Free Flotilla in its stand against Anadarko. More than 1000 gathered for the main event at West Auckland's iconic Piha beach, carrying colourful home-made banners with messages such as "We love our beaches", "No drill, no spill" and "Anadarko go home".

After the storm, the “shock doctrine”. This is what awaits the Philippines after the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan.

The familiar cycle of “disaster capitalism” allows wealthy and politically connected First World corporations to profit obscenely from the suffering of acutely vulnerable disaster-affected communities.

Disaster profiteering is a parasitic tendency deeply embedded in the structures of the neoliberal global economy. It will degrade and corrupt the international “relief effort” under way in the Philippines.

More than 135 groups internationally have condemned Poland and European Union for facilitating a corporate takeover of United Nations climate talks (COP19) that started October 11 in Warsaw.

The EU aims to expand carbon markets that would benefit big polluters at the UN climate talks, says a statement signed by more than 135 groups, movements and networks from all over the world.

A group of 133 developing nations have walked out of a key part of the United Nations climate talks in Warsaw, Poland. The walk out came amid a conflict over how countries that have historically emitted the most greenhouse gases should be held financially responsible for some of the damage caused by extreme weather in nations with low carbon emissions.

The United States, Australia, Canada and other industrialised countries are pushing for the issue — known as loss and damage — to be put off until after the 2015 climate talks in Paris.

Kshama Sawant, an openly declared socialist, was elected to the city council in a major United States city, Seattle, in November’s ballot.

You need to go back to the first half of the 20th century to find anything similar in the US.

The Indian-born Sawant ran as an activist. She first drew attention as part of the Occupy Seattle protests that included taking over a downtown park and a junior collage campus in 2011.

The People's Caravan is a grassroots relief effort initiated by the Party of the Labouring Masses, a Filipino party of the marginalised and poor. It has been collecting goods and food and transporting relief directly to areas devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (known as Yolanda in the Philippines) -- while the Filipino government holds up aid and sends in soldiers to target "looters" (desperate people seeking food).

Analysis

The formation of the Labor Party — created as part of a global movement to form mass workers’ parties in the 1890’s — differed markedly from the formation of social democratic parties in mainland Europe. The tendency in these countries was for the formation of workers’ political parties to precede the formation of a mass union movement which the parties then encouraged.

Australian environmentalists welcomed the October announcement that mining giant BHP was abandoning its plans for a coal export rail and port development at Abbot Point in Queensland.

However, the company is simultaneously involved in a giant new coal export development on Kalimantan in Indonesia.

At the recent UN climate talks in Poland, poor nations and NGOs singled out the Australian delegation for doing the most to block progress on a new deal to cut carbon emissions.

After attending the national day of action on climate change, organised by GetUp on November 17, Sally Rawsthorne wrote in the Guardian that “fringe dwellers” like the Socialist Alliance and the Green Left Weekly participating in the rally “does climate action a disservice”.

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo on November 15 — boycotted by India and Canada in protest against the Sri Lankan regime's crimes against humanity towards the Tamil people — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said of the regime's crimes: "Sometimes in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen.”

Since capitalism began, socialists have debated how to bring to an end to class divisions and make society more fair and just.

Early on, a split developed between those who thought revolution was necessary to overthrow capitalism, and others who thought a socialist society could be created gradually through parliamentary reforms.

Some socialist parties started with radical politics but gradually became part of the system and gave up on calling for revolution.

Imagine if we found out exactly who was systematically destroying the habitability of Earth? If we had their names and addresses? Wouldn't a responsible society make them stop the destruction?

Climate researcher and author Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado has done a study which found that just 90 companies — among them Chevron, Exxon, BHP, Rio Tinto and BP — have been responsible for producing two-thirds of all global warming-causing emissions.

It's long been a favoured wish of many environmentalists to go off the grid, to be self-sufficient in energy and other services, and avoid the corporate utilities and their coal-powered electricity. The ambition for freedom from energy bills and fossil-fuel electricity is understandable.

And now in the age of relatively cheap solar panels (which weren't around in the 1970s), you can live off the grid and use a huge battery attached to a large array of solar PV (photovoltaic) panels, to maintain a hi-tech lifestyle on clean solar energy.

The Socialist Alliance condemns the violation of Indonesia's national sovereignty through the actions of the Australian government in tapping the mobile phone of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and nine of his closest advisors, including his wife.

These actions are a reflection of how Western nations such as Australia treat poor nations with neo-colonial contempt.

On the same day that Tasmania decriminalised abortion, the New South Wales parliament took a big step backwards for women’s rights. The Legislative Assembly voted 63 to 26 for a bill aimed at giving 20-week-old foetuses the same legal rights as human beings.

Culture

12 Years a Slave
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by Steve McQueen

12 Years a Slave has received countless accolades from critics. The New Yorker has called it “easily the greatest feature film ever made about American slavery”.

High praise, and the end result lives up to it. The film is a moving portrait of Solomon Northup's struggle to survive as a man while he is made to be a beast to enrich a Southern ruling class.

The New York Yankees of Egyptian football, Al Ahly, have officially expelled one of its top players, striker Ahmed Abdel Zaher.

Did this extraordinary act take place in the aftermath of a heartbreaking loss? No, the team had actually just triumphed 2-0 and Zaher had even scored a goal.

Was there an off-field scandal? Did Zaher find himself caught with steroids, or bullying teammates or running a dog-fighting ring? None of that. He was, by all accounts, a model citizen.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Strengthening the socialist movement today

Socialist Alliance activist Dave Holmes, in a speech to Socialist Ideas Conference held in Melbourne, November 2, discusses strategy and tactics for socialists in Australia. Holmes looks at the difficult task of how to win broad support from working people, taking up key controversies among socialists.

Denmark: Red-Green Alliance big winner in municipal elections