Almost a year has passed since the death of Hugo Chávez on March 5, 2013. Arguably this has been the most difficult one for the Bolivarian Revolution. Many people, both on the left and the right expressed doubt that there could be Chavismo without Chávez. Perhaps a year is still too short of a period to assess the situation after Chávez’s passing. Yet, the dynamic developments over the past twelve months call for some preliminary remarks.
Venezuelan car workers have slammed multinational car manufacturers for cutting back production in the country. The country's largest trade union federation has called for the industry to be nationalised. Accusing multinational car companies of being “imperialist”, the National Workers' Union (UNT) has called on the government to place car factories under worker control. The UNT said: “It's clear that building socialism relies on the working class, indeed the workers' control of the factories.”
Terry Barnes, a former adviser to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is credited with coming up with the bright idea of introducing a $6 payment when people visit their GP. After Barnes left the prime minister’s employ, he wrote a submission to the government’s Commission of Audit on behalf of the Australian Centre for Health Research, a right-wing think-tank set up by a private health insurer, proposing the extra charge for GP visits. He claimed that it would save $750 million over four years.
After failing to violently crush mass protests in Kiev’s Independence Square, which have been raging since November 21, the regime of Viktor Yanukovich collapsed on February 22. The protests began in opposition to Yanukovich’s decision to back out of a Free Trade Agreement and Association Agreement with the European Union. But in the face of police brutality, the protests evolved into a general expression of anti-regime discontent. The movement was initially known as Euromaidan (“Eurosquare”) but later just Maidan, reflecting this evolution.
Four days of talks in Singapore for the proposed TransPacific Partnership (TPP) ended inconclusively on February 25. It is clear big disagreements still exist between the negotiating countries. Combined with unease among the populations in negotiating countries, this is likely to prevent the deal being finalised this year.
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.
Australia’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia, gets its powers from the Reserve Bank Act (1959). Its two primary functions are to ensure the stability of the currency and the provision of full employment. Besides managing Australia’s gold and foreign exchange reserves, it supposedly meets these objectives by setting the cash rate to meet an agreed medium term inflation rate, which is now set at a target band of 2% to 3%.
A new opinion poll shows left-wing opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party ahead of the ruling conservative New Democracy by 1.5%, Ekathimerini.com said on February 12. The survey showed SYRIZA leading with 30% support. A poll published in January put SYRIZA at 31.5% and New Democracy at 28%.
The period allowed for businesses to adjust their prices to the government's new “fair prices” law ended on February 10. The government has a wave of inspections planned to ensure the measure is applied. The Law for the Control of Fair Costs, Prices and Profits aims to stop price speculation, product hoarding and other activities that are destabilising the Venezuelan economy and contributing to its ongoing economic problems. Further, a maximum profit margin of 30% has been established across the economy to stop companies over-charging.
In his State of the Union address on January 28, United States President Barack Obama highlighted growing inequality in the US. He also pledged to take steps to cut greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So what has the Obama administration done recently on both counts?