Democracy

In 2012, Quebec’s student movement carried out a months-long strike, managing to push back and hold off a neoliberal government’s bid to raise tuition fees. Repeatedly mobilising upwards of 200,000 people at monthly “mega-manifs”, the “Maple Spring” was an all-too rare win against the forces of austerity, and so it captured imaginations around the world.
The Venezuelan government and the commune movement are taking steps to move towards the creation of what is referred to as a “communal state”, which involves community groups assuming collective control of local production and decision making. Communes in Venezuela are formed out of groups of community councils, which are small neighbourhood groups representing 250 to 400 families. In communal councils, local residents organise to develop their local community and run community affairs. They can also receive public funds to undertake social projects in their area.
Sixty years ago, in June 1954, a CIA-orchestrated coup ousted the reformist Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. The coup installed a brutal right-wing regime and decades of bloody repression. This event, so notorious in the annals of US imperialism, also Guevara. For it was in the Central American nation, where Guevara's Latin American road trip culminated, that the strands of his early thought Marxism, anti-imperialism, indigenismo were fused in a dramatic, galvanising moment.
Students and staff at Jaffna University lit candles on May 21 to remember the Tamils who died in May 2009 when the Sri Lankan army carried out a genocidal onslaught in the final days of the island's decades-long civil war. Tens of thousands of men, women and children were killed as Sri Lankan government forces bombarded them from land, sea and air.
Why would the victim of a brutal military dictatorship appoint someone accused of covering up the regime’s crimes as ambassador to the country in which she once sought exile? This is the question many Chileans are asking after the new government of President Michelle Bachelet named James Sinclair as Chile’s highest diplomatic representative in Australia. In response, several groups have begun organising a campaign against the appointment.
With right-wing parties gaining footholds throughout the world, Colombia followed suit with the far-right party, Democratic Centre (CD) winning with a narrow lead in the first round of the presidential elections on May 25. CD won just under 30% of the vote. The election presented Colombians with a five-party choice, ranging from the leftist Alternative Democratic Pole (Polo) with Clara Lopez to the CD's Oscar Ivan Zuluaga and his major rival, incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos from the Social Party of National Unity.
While attacking pensioners, the unemployed, single parents and the marginalised, the Coalition government has stepped up its attack on the organised. There are two inquiries aimed at unions underway — a Productivity Commission inquiry into the Fair Work Act and the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. Both are designed to emasculate an already legislatively constrained union movement. For good measure, Attorney-General George Brandis has now added a third.
If you were to take Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Coalition on face value, they appear to be against debt. All the pain imposed on the poorest in society by the federal budget and all the cuts to education, health and welfare are justified as being necessary “medicine” to solve a horrendous debt problem left to them by previous Labor governments. Yes, we've heard that line over and over again. Never mind the fact that the government's debt as a proportion of gross domestic product is one of the lowest among the developed countries and lower than it was in the 1950s and 1960s.
On the evening of May 23, the United States suffered another massacre of the type that has become all too familiar. Elliot Rodger, a 22-year old student at the University of California campus in Santa Barbara went on a killing spree that left seven dead, including himself. He left a video and a manifesto that made clear his motive was hatred of women.
By criticising the 2014 World Cup and the spending priorities of the Brazilian government, Brazilian football legend Pele has accomplished the rarest of feats in 21st century sports media: he has shown the capacity to shock and surprise. “It’s clear that politically speaking, the money spent to build the stadiums was a lot, and in some cases was more than it should have been,” Pele said during a lecture at Anahuac University in Mexico City.
Sudan’s people are bearing the brunt of the country’s deepening economic crisis. According to Bella Bird, World Bank director for Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, half the population is now living below the poverty line. Last August, Sudanese economist Hassan Satti estimated the real figure would likely exceed 95%.
After Thailand’s military overthrew the government and seized power in a coup on May 22, its new ultraconservative rulers wasted no time in rolling out the most radical and repressive right-wing reforms the country has seen since the height of the Cold War. Army chief General Prayuth Chan-Ocha is now prime minister. The administration of the nation is being conducted out of an army base, and its people ruled by decree.