Issue 998

News

Activists have held solidarity actions against right-wing violence in Venezuela in several Australian cities, as part of an international campaign of solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution. About 20 people rallied outside Sydney Town Hall on February 19. Holding banners and placards expressing support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian revolution, the protesters handed out leaflets explaining to passersby the need to defend the people of Venezuela and their government against extreme right attacks, backed by the US government.
When refugees are being killed and injured by thugs hired by the Australian government to run its offshore refugee detention camp in Manus Island, PNG; when Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop pressures Cambodia (one of the poorest countries in the world) to take asylum seekers off Australia (one of the world's richest countries) surely it is time to say: NOT IN OUR NAME! And this is what thousands of people did over the weekend of February 22-23 in more than 750 vigils, called by internet campaigning network GetUp.
All around the country this week there have been angry snap protests against Abbott Liberal-National Coalition government's cruel policies towards asylum seekers. This follows the death of one asylum seeker and several injuries in violence in an Australian offshore immigration detention camp on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
On February 21, around 2000 rallied in Melbourne against the government's inhumane treatment of asylum seekers follows the death of one asylum seeker and several injuries in violence in an Australian offshore immigration detention camp on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Speakers included Greens MP Adam Brandt; Mohammad Baqiri, a refugee detained on Nauru under John Howard; State Secretary of the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union, Michele O’Neil and Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
The Wilderness Society releases this statement on February 20. *** More than 100 people protested against Whitehaven’s proposed Maules Creek coalmine outside the company’s Sydney office on February 20. About 50 people protested outside Whitehaven’s Brisbane office while Greenpeace’s threatened species protection unit entered the Leard State Forest in north-west NSW to document endangered species at the proposed site for the coalmine.
The High Court declared last year's senate election in Western Australia void on February 20. Western Australians will head to the polls as early as March 29 to re-elect six senators, because after 1300 ballots went missing during the count, it was impossible to determine the last two senate spots from the election.
Murdoch Universiity administration has acted to close down student club stalls in the academic orientation week prior to classes beginning and the clubs and societies "O-day". Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance was one club that set up a small stall on February 17. Campus security were called to remove the stall from campus. Resistance members complied with the request and packed up the stall, settling to hand out leaflets promoting events on campus. Murdoch University then demanded the leafleting stop.
Calls to boycott the Sydney Biennale unless it cuts ties with major sponsor Transfield — which holds government contracts to provide welfare services in immigration detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island — have been gaining momentum. A group of high-profile artists involved in the Biennale have written to the festival’s board of directors, calling on them to withdraw from the funding agreement with Transfield.
About 700 people attended a public forum called “We are one, but we are many: Working towards a humane refugee policy” hosted by the Combined Refugee Action Group (CRAG) in Geelong on February 18. Taking place on the same day that news broke of the appalling treatment of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and the death of one person after the compound had been attacked, the mood among the crowd was of anger and disbelief.
The Tony Abbott government has done something no other government in the world has done before, asking UNESCO to take one of the nation’s unique natural areas off the World Heritage list. In Tasmania, 170,000 hectares of forest was given World Heritage status in June last year. Environmentalists have long considered the areas, which mostly border existing World Heritage areas, worthy of protection. Among them are well-known forests such as the Styx, Weld and Upper Florentine Valleys.
About 150 people rallied outside the home of Sheila Oakley in the Brisbane suburb of Logan on February 15. Oakley was tasered in the eye by police outside her home on February 6. She has been hospitalised and will suffer permanent disability. The rally marched from her home to Logan police station to hand over a petition calling for an urgent investigation into the incident, to be carried out by an independent body including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives.
A fire burning in a coal seam at the Hazelwood coalmine in Victoria's Latrobe Valley caused the local Air Quality Index to reach nearly five times the amount considered “very poor” on February 19. Schools and kindergartens have been closed down in the town of Morwell, which is less than 500 metres from the edge of the mine. Residents have been complaining of headaches and other problems, and many have left the area.
The Northern Territory's environment minister Peter Chandler has called for a government inquiry into the use of “fracking” in the oil and gas industry. Currently 90% of the NT is targeted for shale gas exploration. An anti-fracking group says an independent inquiry into fracking in the NT is needed, but must be accompanied by an immediate moratorium on the controversial practice.

Analysis

Sue Bolton was elected to Moreland City Council in north Melbourne in November 2012 on the platform of “community need not developer greed”. As a member of the Socialist Alliance, Bolton sees it as important to take up the “bread and butter” issues as well as broader social justice issues. Bolton does not seek to just represent residents, but encourages residents to get involved in local community campaigns and feel empowered to take up issues with the council themselves.
The Socialist Alliance released this statement February 19. *** Over the weekend of February 15-16, the socialist youth organisation Resistance merged into the Socialist Alliance of which it was previously an affiliate. Members of the Socialist Alliance aged 26 and under are now part of a new youth wing called “Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance”.
From its inception, Green Left Weekly has reported on the fight against discrimination suffered by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.
It’s impossible to ignore any longer just how cruel and irrational the government’s war on refugees has become after violent attacks in the Manus Island detention centre left one dead and scores injured. The threat of expulsion to Manus Island is particularly terrifying for some asylum seekers given the criminalisation of homosexuality in Papua New Guinea. Amnesty International said last year that staff would be forced to report suspected same-sex activity in the detention centre. PNG can prosecute same-sex people with a penalty of 14 years jail.
After the collapse of Ansett Airlines and National Textiles in 2001 — both of which owed their employees millions of dollars in unpaid entitlements — the then-John Howard government was forced to introduce legislation establishing the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme, which guaranteed basic entitlements for workers if a company went broke.
You know, unless asylum seekers somehow managed to sneak into this country and made it all the way to Geelong to pose as Alcoa executives to announce yet another plant closure at the cost of nearly a thousand more jobs, then I really think this nation has some bigger goddamn problems than boats carrying refugees asking for help.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently toured drought stricken areas of north-west New South Wales and southern Queensland, promising that his government was close to finalising subsidies to farmers affected by the drought. The National Climate Centre says in the past two years “most of Queensland and New South Wales inland of the Great Dividing Range as well as much of South Australia have received less than 70% of their long-term average rainfall, with a substantial area having received less than half the average for the period.”
The federal Coalition government is conducting a review of Australia's Renewable Energy Target (RET), which aims to have 20% of Australia’s energy produced from renewables by 2020. The recent appointments of prominent climate change deniers and fossil fuel industry heavies make the review panel look more like a lynch mob for renewable energy. Dick Warburton, who will head the review, is on the public record denying climate science.

World

It stands to reason that the perpetrators of crimes against humanity have a vested interest in silencing those who speak out against them. So it is not surprising there has been an intensified campaign of repression in Pakistan against those speaking out against the US bombing campaign in Pakistan's north-west. The US drone war in tribal areas of Pakistan, initiated by the George Bush Jr administration and dramatically escalated under Barack Obama, is reported to have claimed about 3500 lives since 2004. This includes nearly 1000 civilians unconnected to militant activities.
The Kansas Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill on February 11 that makes it legal to discriminate against LGBTIQ people in the mid-western US state. This caused outrage across the US. If passed by the Senate, the law would make it legal for private businesses to discriminate against LGBTIQ people and allow public servants to deny LGBTIQ people basic services — so long as their reasoning is motivated by “sincerely held religious beliefs”.
Many see Australia as a small power dependent on British and then US power for protection, but it is important to note that Australia has its own imperialist agenda it pushes the Pacific region. From the late 19th century to today, Australia's ruling class has been finding ways of extending its influence on nearby countries. It has even succeeded, if only temporarily, in gaining colonial possessions. This began even before federation in 1901, as the new capitalist class, having accumulated capital from the gold rushes in the mid-19th century, was looking for outlets for investment.
Since the 1990s, many critics of the United States have accused Washington of promoting the dismemberment of nations such as Yugoslavia, in accordance with neoliberalism’s drive to weaken central governments and nation states. Today, Washington’s official policy in nations like Syria and now the Ukraine has been support for rebels seeking to overthrow the government, even though their chances of success are minimal.
Alexis Tsipras speaks in a debate organised by the Dutch Socialist Party in Amersfoort on January 18. In December, Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), was elected as lead candidate of the Party of the European Left for the May 25 European elections.
Bolivia's Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera, a veteran left activist and Marxist academic, spoke at the December 13-15 congress of the Party of the European Left (PEL). The PEL unites left groups from across Europe and is running Alexis Tsipras for president of the European Commission. Tsipras is president of the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which nearly won elections last year on an anti-austerity, pro-people platform.
For days after the National Party (NP) was declared the winner of widely disputed elections on November 24, thousands of people protested on the streets of the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa. The student movement in particular declared that they were not going to be intimidated by widespread political persecution in the country.
Three years ago, the Museum of Broken Relationships was set up in Zagreb by former lovers Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisi to display items symbolising the end of various personal relationships. This museum is a metaphor for how the nationalists in the countries of the former Yugoslavia view their past ― a broken relationship remembered with mementos and nostalgia, but nothing else. The recent uprisings in Bosnia-Hercegovina are the biggest attempt to rebuild that relationship since sniper fire broke up the Sarajevo demonstration against national divisions in 1992.
When is it considered legitimate to try to overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the US government says it is. Not surprisingly, that is not the way Latin American governments generally see it.
“WHERE IS MURDEROUS DICTATOR #NICOLASMADURO HOLDING #LEOPOLDOLOPEZ ?IS LOPEZ TORTURED,DEAD?INSANE MONSTERS CAN’T BEAR PPL KNOWING THE TRUTH?” So tweeted singer, actress and renowned Venezuelan political analyst Cher on February 19. Cher was far from the only celebrity to express support for the right-wing protests in Venezuela, and such tweets symbolise how much the source of disinformation and attacks on Venezuela and its democracy has shifted from mainstream to social media.
The slant of Venezuela’s private media and the international media on what is happening in Venezuela is clear: The government is responsible for the violence. In the first place, it is said, government-ordered gunmen are shooting at peaceful demonstrators and the violence generated by the opposition is just a response to the brutality of police and military forces. But there is considerable evidence that shows the violence, including that of unidentified motorcyclists against demonstrators, is being carried out by the opposition. Consider the following:
The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), together with other groups and individuals, is forming a body called Left Coalition to bring class politics to Malaysia. PSM secretary general S. Arutchelvan said it is looking to form the coalition with Parti Rakyat Malaysia, Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia and other activists and individuals. “We are trying to bring back class politics,” he told FZ.com. “We feel the younger generations are actually more receptive to more radical and progressive ideologies ...
“Contrary to popular belief, the end of the war has actually deepened the ethnic conflict. This is because the underlying causes for the conflict have not been addressed and in certain ways exacerbated”. These were the words of C. V. Wigneswaran, chief minister of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) in Sri Lanka, addressing an academic conference in capital, Colombo, on February 13.
In recent years, a powerful student movement has erupted in Chile against right-wing neoliberal attacks on education, and fighting for a fundamentally different, pro-people education system. The mass movement has developed in the face of often brutal state repression.

Culture

Hip Hop, White Supremacy & Capitalism: Why Corporations Infiltrated RAP Music Solomon Comissiong Released November 2013 www.solomoncomissiong.com The politics in early hip-hop music inspired Solomon Comissiong to become an activist, author, lecturer and film-maker. Green Left Weekly's Mat Ward spoke to him about his work, which uses rap music as a tool to educate and organise. ***
Celebrity deaths from drug overdoses always garner heavy mainstream media coverage. Last year, it was the death of Cory Monteith, a star of the popular TV show Glee — a lethal combination of heroin and alcohol killed him. This month, it was the gifted actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died of an apparent overdose of heroin.
Actress Ellen Page, best known for her work in the 2007 film Juno came out as gay in her speech at a Human Rights Campaign conference on February 14. The conference itself was aimed at LGBTIQ youth where, during an emotional speech, Page said she was “tired of hiding” and “lying by omission”. “I'm here today because I am gay,” Page said. “And because maybe I can make a difference.”
In what the Sydney Morning Herald described as the "darkest night" in Sydney Football Club's history, active supporters of the A-League football (soccer) club ― known as "the Cove" ― staged a walkout during the February 8 match against Adelaide United in protest against heavy-handed security tactics.

Fighting Fund

At the beginning of this year, Green Left Weekly launched a special fund appeal to mark its 1000th issue (due to be published on March 12). We set ourselves a target of $100,000 in pledges or donations by that date. The response from our readers and supporters has been fantastic and on February 20, a $1000 pledge by a longstanding subscriber and supporter took us over the line! We got there with 21 days to spare!

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

'Don't be fooled by what most media outlets are telling you about protests in Venezuela' Eva Golinger writes that there is a revolution in Venezuela, but it is not the right-wing protests what most media outlets are showing taking place today in Caracas. Syria: Assad to blame for sectarian rise