Cultural Dissent

Miss Muriel Matters
Robert Wainwright
ABC Books, 2017
376 pages

In 1909, Muriel Matters planned to rain on the parade of King Edward VII to the ceremonial opening of parliament. She aimed to drop a shower of “Votes for Women” leaflets on his head from a chartered air balloon trailing streamers in the white, gold and green of the Women’s Freedom League (WFL).

Women footballers in Australia, playing in the W-League, will receive a sizeable pay rise and improved employment conditions after a landmark collective bargaining agreement announced on September 11 between Football Federation Australia, W-League clubs and the players’ union, the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA).

There were innumerable horrors committed by El Salvador’s right-wing death-squad government during the civil war that raged from 1980 to 1992. Alongside the peasants and workers killed or disappeared and the nuns raped, were the priests who were executed. The most sensational execution of all was the murder of Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero, gunned down while celebrating mass.

Regular readers of Green Left Weekly will sometimes admit their favourite part of the paper is Carlo’s Corner, the semi-regular satirical column by comic writer and performer Carlo Sands.

In a paper filled with heavy and even gloomy topics, people appreciate the chance to laugh — especially at the seemingly all-powerful forces who presume to be our betters yet cause so much pain.

“No joke can change the world, or really anything at all,” Sands says, ahead of his stand up show Inspired? at the Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival.

Omnia Sunt Communia: On the Commons & the Transformation to Postcapitalism
By Massimo De Angelis
Zed, 2017
456 pp, $20.76

Massimo De Angelis, an Italian academic based at the University of East London, has produced a thought-provoking guide to “commons” as a means of transforming and ultimately displacing capitalism. Commons, referring to collective forms of ownership, are increasingly seen as a way of moving beyond both oppressive states and exploitative markets.

Aboriginal AFL star Leon Davis has backed up the allegations made by his former Collingwood teammate Heritier Lumumba about racism inside the club, saying he “shared his pain and grief” as a Black man.

Mark Munk Ross is hip-hop guru Munkimuk — whose beats, rhythm, sense of humour and hard hitting themes have earned him the coveted title of “Grandfather of Indigenous hip hop”.

Mark has been working in a remote Aboriginal community at Brewarrina in north-western New South Wales, regenerating age-old fish traps that are the oldest known human-made structures, dating back farther than the pyramids of Egypt.  

He spoke to Green Left Weekly about his recent projects.

In the early 1970s, an unlikely alliance of builders labourers, environmentalists, residents and LGBTIQ activists united to support the Green (and Pink) bans which helped save huge swathes of Sydney, and other parts of New South Wales, from the wrecking ball.

Four new books on climate change, neoliberalism and movement strategy for ecosocialists compiled by Ian Angus, the author of A Redder Shade of Green and editor of Climate and Capitalism.

Donald Trump’s immigration policies — and the marching orders he has given to Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) — are destroying lives. When this hits home, it gets very real, very quickly.

It is a reality that recently smacked the members of the elite Bethesda Soccer Club right between the eyes: Their teammate and friend Lizandro Claros Saravia was detained by ICE, along with his older brother Diego. Both were then deported.

A rally gathered in front of the NFL’s Park Avenue Headquarters in New York on August 23. A host of civil-rights organisations protested the exile-status of free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick — the star quarterback formerly of the San Francisco 49ers who caused waves by taking to his knee during the US national anthem as an anti-racist protest.

There was no indication that Kaepernick is connected to the rally, but his endorsement is irrelevant: The issue has become something far bigger than the makeup of an NFL roster.

The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger portrays British Marxist cultural commentator John Berger over a period of five years.

Berger was a well-known figure on 1960s British TV, explaining and democratising art theory. He rocketed to international fame with his early 1970s book Ways of Seeing. Combining it with an accompanying TV series, he articulated a dialectical and demystifying approach to art.

Heritier Lumumba, the retired Brazilian-Congolese AFL star, has described Collingwood as a “boys’ club for racist and sexist jokes” in comments reported by the media ahead of the August 27 screening  of the SBS documentary Fair Game. Lumumba played 199 games for Collingwood between 2005-14.

While Adriana’s Pact director Lissette Orozco reflects on the role her aunt, Adriana Rivas, played during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, Roberto Calzadilla's El Amparo focuses on one of a number of state-sponsored massacres of civilians that occurred during the 1980s in Venezuela as a prelude to the bloodbath that would occur in the February 1989 Caracazo uprising.

The Sydney Latin American Film Festival (SLAFF) is on again for the 12th year running. Featuring a specially curated program of captivating contemporary Latin American cinema, the festival has several films that progressive filmgoers won’t want to miss.

An important feature of this year’s program is that 50% of the films feature female directors, festival programmer Lidia Luna said.

Walking into any souvenir shop in Australia, tourists see the walls lined with Aboriginal designs and artwork. What is less obvious is the fact that most of these items are mass produced in parts of Asia.

Banduk Marika, a Youngu artist, said: “We’re not making those. Indigenous people, even Australians, we’re not making those. Who is making this?”

Aboriginal communities say the answer is corporations.

Two very different exhibitions communicate critical evidence about the Aboriginal experience of the 1967 referendum, through which the Australian constitution was amended to remove the racist provisions of sections 51 and 127.

That victory certainly did not end racism in Australia, but opened up the possibility of a broader, unfinished struggle.

In June 1940, Winston Churchill described the German rout of the French, Belgian and British armies and the seaborne evacuation of 338,000 troops from Dunkirk in northern France as a “colossal military disaster”.

For a nation whose national identity is intimately bound up with victory and conquest, it is paradoxical that the retreat from Dunkirk has become such an important part of British mythology.

Shashi Tharoor’s brilliant speech in 2015 to the Oxford Union on the motion “This house believes Britain owes reparations to her former colonies” went viral, receiving coverage across the world.

Tharoor, an MP for the Indian National Congress, former senior United Nations official, novelist and scholar, has now expanded the argument he made at Oxford into Inglorious Empire.

There are few subjects more reliably depressing than the problem of impending climate chaos.

In some ways, the daily dumpster fire that is the Donald Trump administration is a welcome distraction from the increasingly dire predictions of the Hell on Earth awaiting us if we do not drastically and immediately alter our trajectory.

It is worth going to see An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, however, for the same reason that it was valuable to see it’s prequel, An Inconvenient Truth, over a decade ago: Through these films we can come to understand how the liberal establishment proposes to tackle this, the mother of all capitalism’s crises.

“The general idea of this little book is to understand and explain why Marx will still be read in the twenty-first century, not only as a monument of the past, but as a contemporary author — contemporary both because of the questions he poses for philosophy and because of the concepts he offers it,” French philosopher Etienne Balibar writes in The Philosophy of Marx.

With some reservations, I feel he achieves this goal. It is a thought-provoking book, but it may disappoint readers who seek either an introduction to Marx’s philosophy or a straightforward account of how Marx’s ideas can inspire focused political action in the 21st century.

In Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, director Joe Piscatella depicts Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and his comrades struggles from 2011-16 against Chinese government attempts to impose control on the former British Colony.

“Today we mourn the loss of a great Australian, Dr G. Yunupingu who sadly passed away yesterday in Royal Darwin Hospital at age 46 after a long battle with illness,” the singer’s record label Skinnyfish Music said.

“Dr G. Yunpingu is remembered today as one of the most important figures in Australian music history, blind from birth and emerging from the remote Galiwin’ku community on Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land to sell over half a million copies of his albums across the world, singing in his native Yolngu language ...

Plebeian Power: Collective Action & Indigenous, Working-Class & Popular Identities in Bolivia
By Alvaro Garcia Linera
Haymarket Books, 2014
345 pp, US$28.00

 

Alvaro Garcia Linera, twice-elected vice-president of Bolivia, is the continent’s most prominent theoretician-politician to place 21st century Latin American left thought in a Marxist framework.

RAD Exhibition
Until August 27
Newcastle Museum
Radical Newcastle
Edited by James Bennett, Nancy Cushing & Erik Eklund
New South Publishers, 2015
$39.99

Exhibitions like RAD, now showing at the Newcastle Museum, and Radical Newcastle, the book that inspired it, help each generation of activists remember and learn the lessons of previous struggles.

The Cuban Revolution has created international ripples ever since its military victory on January 1, 1959. The United States was quick to recognise the threats to its dominance in Latin America and set out to crush the rebel regime.

In response, the revolution’s leaders took the process rapidly leftwards, socialising property and seeking to help revolutionaries in other countries. The moral and political weight of Cuba’s revolutionaries remains far out of proportion to their economic and military strength.

Cuban moral authority within the Third World of super-exploited countries is absolute. However, the Cuban Revolution has proven a litmus test for the intellectual and moral fibre of socialist currents in the advanced capitalist countries — a test that some have failed.

Artists and activists have pushed back against English rock band Radiohead, as the band goes ahead with its gig in Tel Aviv.

Two days before the July 19 show, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mike Leigh condemned Radiohead’s intransigence towards Palestinians.

My bias is real. When it comes to tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, they have never been just athletes to me, but people. I have felt an imperative to defend them against detractors, know-nothings and dime-store bigots.

The reasons are obvious: they were once two Black teenagers from the public courts of Compton, treated with contempt — of both a race and class variety — by their sport. They not only survived but thrived.

In no breast did the prodigious financial corruption of world football’s administrative elite beat more vigorously than that of Chuck Blazer, the head of football in the North and Central American and Caribbean regional body.

Chuck was not called American soccer’s “Mr Big” for nothing. His bottomless appetite for high-calorie nosh gave him a gargantuan girth, which was matched financially in size by his tax-sheltered bank accounts. These bulged with millions of dollars received through fraud, embezzlement, bribes, perks, gifts and inducements.

Not only could he afford to rent an entire floor of luxury apartments in the prestigious Trump Tower in Manhattan, but he preserved one of them solely for the use of his cats.

Martin Pieter Zandvliet’s multiple award-winning 2016 film Land of Mine is harrowing viewing. But it is not to be missed by anyone interested in issues of war and peace — or in fine films.

Activist singer-songwriter from Brisbane, Phil Monsour, has released a new song and video, “Voices Rising” which celebrates the work of teachers and the struggles of the Queensland Teachers’ Union.

A the same time, Monsour has released One Song One Union, an album of contemporary trade union and solidarity songs, which is available online.

The Vatican Treasurer, George Pell, could turn out to be the Lance Armstrong of the Australian Catholic Church.

Like Armstrong, the world’s former top cyclist who furiously denied being a drug cheat until he was eventually rumbled by dogged investigative journalists. Pell, Australia’s top Catholic, has maintained his innocence in the face of mounting allegations that he covered up an epidemic of sexual abuse of children by Australian Catholic priests.

He has now been charged with such crimes himself.

Last year, a group of studying music at the LGBTI Centre in Bogota decided to organize a rock band unlike any other in Colombia. Members say the band, 250 Milligrams, is the first transgender male rock group in South America. 

“Supporters of around 70 English football clubs have vowed to boycott The Sun over its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster,” The Independent said on July 3.

The decision by the fan groups comes after six people — including the senior police officer in charge on the day — were arrested over the infamous disaster in which 96 Liverpool fans were killed. Coverage by The Sun infamously blamed Liverpool fans and included insulting lies about their alleged behaviour since proven to be entirely false.

The 2017 Sydney Film Festival, which ran from June 7-18, featured a range of progressive-themed films. Below is a look at five by Green Left Weekly’s Zebedee Parkes.

***

Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves
By Mathieu Denis & Simon Lavoie

This is a genuinely interesting dramatic film, with an epic narrative and visual style.

Song of Gulzarina
By Tariq Mehmood
Daraja Press
November 2016

Sing to the Western wind the song it understands.

Song of Gulzarina, by British-Pakistani filmmaker and author Tariq Mehmood, stands out as a unique piece of literature that intertwines personal issues such as migration, identity crisis and romance, with the impact of racism, Islamophobia and Western imperialism in the Middle East.

Below are five new books for the “ecosocialist bookshelf” on climate change and human health, ecology and imperialism, environmental economics, capitalism and universities, and the meaning of hegemony.

They have been compiled by Ian Angus, the editor of Climate and Capitalism, where this first appeared. Angus is the author of A Redder Shade of Green, which has just been published by Monthly Review Press.

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