Barcelona remembers the International Brigades

On the northern outskirts of Barcelona, on La Rambla de Carmel, stands one of the most visually striking and symbolic monuments to the volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade of the International Brigades.

“David and Goliath”, designed by US sculptor Roy Shifrin and first unveiled in 1988, was the most prominent gathering point for the 80th anniversary of the departure of the International Brigades — anti-fascists who had come from around the world to fight against Francisco Franco’s forces — from Barcelona on October 28.

Organised by the Association of the Friends of the International Brigades (AABI) with the support of both the Barcelona City Council and the Catalan regional government, the events in remembrance of the departure of the volunteers took place over October 25-28 across Catalonia.

At its convention, Portugal's Left Bloc gears up for year of crucial fights

In 2019, European and legislative elections will take place in Portugal in a national political context different from anywhere else in the European Union (EU), where austerity policies still reign and the racist and xenophobic right is rising, writes Dick Nichols from Lisbon.

Over the past three years in Portugal, the minority Socialist Party (PS) government has been supported from outside by the Left Bloc, the Communist Party of Portugal (PCP) and the Ecologist Party-The Greens (PEV).

During that time wages and welfare payments have risen, privatisations have stopped, unemployment has halved to 6.3%, casual workers in the public sector have been made permanent, and the electricity and public transport bills of about 700,000 poor families have been cut.

In the 2019 budget, the maximum level of university fees will be cut by 20% and text books will become free for the period of compulsory education.

Producing a troublemaker's diary

Melbourne-based researcher Iain McIntyre is the author of a number of books including a recent anthology entitled On The Fly! Hobo Literature and Songs, 1879-1941. Rachel Evans spoke to him about the 2019 How To Make Trouble and Influence People Diary he has produced as a fundraiser for the Rainforest Information Centre and Community Radio 3CR.

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You’ve been involved in books and various projects documenting the history of radical movements, the latest of which is the 2019 diary. What inspires you to do this work?

On a personal level, I find history fascinating and entertaining and I have a strong interest in and commitment to progressive politics. Researching and sharing stories, images and information about activists and movements from the recent and distant past is a fun and fulfilling thing to do.

Crucial super pamphlet for unionists

Don’t Forget Super
By Brian Boyd
Published by the Victorian Electrical Trades Union, 2018

Ever wondered where your superannuation scheme came from and what it is meant to do?

I always thought it was a lump sum payment so I could buy a caravan and go around Australia before going on the age pension, and many have tried to do just that. But today anyone will tell you the age pension is not enough to live on, and working until your 67 is just not possible for most people, especially if you work in the construction industry.

Don’t Forget Super is a timely book and has a clear agenda. It puts out there, in the debates leading up to the next federal election and the upcoming Labor national conference, that a substantial revamp of industry superannuation is needed.

Out-of-control system burns California

A combination of real estate capitalism and climate change has unleashed murderous fires in California, writes Phil Hearse.

Things are getting serious. On November 15, at least are 56 were confirmed dead with hundreds missing. Thousands of homes and businesses have burned down. Two major fires, in the north and south of the state, were still not under control.

The scenes could be the aftermath of a US or Russian bombing raid in the Middle East — bodies littered on the ground, people burned to death in their cars, families devastated with grief at the loss of homes and loved ones.

United States President Donald Trump has chimed in with the line propagated by Fox News for weeks, blaming bad forest management in a state that is — by US standards — liberal and anti-Trump. Fox News even claimed it was because the people running California are “socialists”.

How Christianity screwed Antiquity

The Darkening Age
By Catherine Nixey
Pan Macmillan, 2018
352 pp, $32.99

Do you remember the horror in 2015 when ISIS seized the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, killed archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad who had protected its monuments and attacked the 12-metre-high statue of Athena?

It wasn’t the first time that statue was attacked by religious fanatics. As Catherine Nixey records, in the 4th Century, Christian zealots attacked Palmyra and pulled the statue down. It lay in ruins until Muslim experts put it back together.

The fundamentalists were formed from Christian monks living in the desert. In the modern Christian telling, those “desert Fathers” were the originators of the peaceful and learned monastic tradition. Nixey depicts them as smelly, bearded illiterates, swarming to invade centres of civilisation, terrorise the inhabitants and force conversions.

The hell that was British India

An Imperial Disaster: The Bengal Cyclone of 1876
Benjamin Kingsbury
Hurst, 2018
256 pp, $45

In the early hours of October 31, 1876, there was a terrible convergence of storm, tide and full moon in the Bay of Bengal. Its immediate effect was to send a giant wave, 12 metres high, over the low lying islands and coastal areas.

At least 215,000 people drowned.

It was followed by famine as shocked communities tried to scrounge what food they could. Then at least a further 100,000 died in a cholera epidemic.

It still ranks as the worst natural disaster of all recorded history. Except, as New Zealand historian Benjamin Kingsbury demonstrates with forensic precision, the weather may have been “natural”, but the disaster was a product of British rule.

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