Friday, 29 February 2008

Germany: Hamburg and the Horns of a Dilemma

The Wombats have been a tad busy of late, so instead of our own take on the recent state elections in Germany - Hamburg this time - we have reproduced this article from Monthly Review. It is becoming clear that Die LINKE has the German political establishment frothing at the mouth with frustrated outrage, as they keep defying the odds - and the media war that has been declared against them.

The challenge that remains is to forge Die LINKE into a more cohesive, more politically clear, even perhaps more revolutionary, unit. Time will, of course, tell, but the developments in Germany are amongst the most exciting on the left internationally, even if it is only a matter of electoral gains.

Hamburg and the Horns of a Dilemma

by Victor Grossman

There was plenty of suspense Sunday evening in Hamburg, Germany's second biggest city. Would the mayor, Ole von Beust, win a majority again and keep ruling the city-state without requiring support from any other parties? Or could the Social Democrats, possibly with the help of the Greens, overtake him and regain control of a city which they had ruled for many decades?

But the biggest question was: could the young party called The Left, whose predecessor, the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), was never able to break out of its East German strongholds, now continue its march westwards with the aid of the young new western group it had joined up with? Last spring it won its first seats in a West German provincial legislature in the city-state of Bremen. Then in January, in two sensational election campaigns, it won seven percent of the vote in Lower Saxony and just above the required five percent in Hesse, thus getting deputies in both. Would it continue upsetting worn-out apple carts in the city-state of Hamburg as well?

It sure did! On Sunday it won just about 6.5 percent, meaning 8 seats in the provincial legislature.

Die Wahlergebnisse in Hamburg
SOURCE: "Die Wahlergebnisse in Hamburg," Der Spiegel, 24 Febraury 2008.

The results of these victories are far more important than the single digit results would indicate. Until now, if no one party had an absolute majority, the provincial governments were often ruled by a coalition, usually either the two right-wing parties, Christian Democrats and Free Democrats, or the two supposedly left-of-center parties, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens. Sometimes, when this didn't add up, the two big parties, Christians and Social Democrats, would join to form a Grand Coalition. This is what happened on the national level with Angela Merkel and her CDU sharing the government with the SPD.

But in Hesse it hasn't worked out. The SPD there can hardly join with the Christian Democrats, whose head, Ronald Koch, ran an extremely nasty campaign based on hatred toward "foreigners," especially young immigrants, which almost descended to the level of the neo-Nazis. The SPD leader fought him very hard and tried to sound more leftish than usual. But alas, the Greens did not win enough seats to form a government with them either. The only logical conclusion would seem to be a coalition with the Greens but with The Left agreeing not to vote against it. The Left offered this solution.

But the SPD had sworn never to work together with those nasty Left people under any circumstances. Weren't they mostly old Communists from the East or renegade Social Democrats from the West? If the Social Democrats stuck to this pre-election pledge, they would automatically bar themselves from ruling Hesse and Ronald Koch might stay in power. A few SPD leaders have begun to weaken -- and approve an agreement with the Left -- while others showed outrage at the idea. It is still up in the air.

And now Hamburg. With the entry of The Left into the city-state legislature, nobody has a majority here either. The Christian Democrats lost votes but remained the strongest. Since their buddies and allies, the Free Democrats, got only 4.8 percent of the vote, they are out of the legislature and out of the running altogether.

This leaves the city with only three choices. The Social Democrats could join the Christian Democrats in a Grand Coalition like the one on the national level. But they hate the idea. Both big parties are busy jockeying for position ahead of the next national elections in 2009, and the SPD is trying to lose the bad reputation it earned of turning to the right, placating big business at the cost of working people, policies which have been sending more and more of its members and supporters to The Left.

The second choice would be for the Greens to swallow any and all remaining principles and form a coalition with the Christian Democrats, giving up their main planks on equal education for all and stopping further pollution. This would be the first such coalition on a provincial scale and would surely cost them a large number of their grassroots membership all over Germany, often sending them leftwards.

The third choice, as in Hesse, would be for the SPD and the Greens to form a coalition with an agreement for The Left to support them. Of course this would mean giving The Left a veto power over any reactionary decisions they might come up with. If they avoid any more such rightward moves, they would be OK. And this arrangement is the only way for the SPD to get back into leadership. It would naturally require an alteration of long established red-baiting.

Before the Hamburg election, the leading candidate of the SPD, Michael Naumann, a well-known publisher, said he would never work with The Left (he said: "Nein, nein, nein, nein, nyet" -- his attempt at either humor or irony). Will his party keep to this position, cutting off its nose to spite its face? Or will it overcome its prejudice and face up to the fact that Germany's voters are sick of the corruption, the lopsided economy with its growing hardships and widening income gap, and the giant expense of foreign military ventures? And that they seem to be moving leftwards?

Of course, below-the-belt attacks against The Left are increasingly prevalent in nearly all of the media. Many old-time politicians are getting more and more worried about a development they can no longer ignore. And with The Left winning such first-time victories in one province after the other and already gaining first place in opinion polls in the five East German provinces, this situation may well dominate the national elections next year. Almost anything is possible.

Victor Grossman, American journalist and author, is a resident of East Berlin for many years. He is the author of Crossing the River: A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War, and Life in East Germany (University of Massachusetts Press, 2003)

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Rip up ALL anti-worker laws! Motion calling on Rudd government

Motion calling on the Rudd government to repeal all anti-union laws
[This motion was put to the AMWU Brisbane delegates meeting, held on Tuesday, February 26. The motion will go to AMWU National Conference later this year]

The Rudd Labor government came to power on the back of a massive upsurge of working people who took mass action on the streets and campaigned tirelessly through Your Rights at Work and other community groups for the repeal of all of Work Choices.
The backlash was so great that the Howard government was voted out and even John Howard lost his own seat.
Now is the time for the Rudd-led ALP government to deliver on its promise to workers and get rid of all of Work Choices and all anti-union laws.

This [name of union or community group] calls on the federal Labor Government to:

1. Abolish Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs)
- Backdate the abolition of Australian Workplace Agreements to the date of the ALP’s election victory, November 24, 2007
- No AWA clones! Abandon legislation for Interim Transitional Employment Agreements (ITEAs).
- Allow workers covered by existing AWAs to opt out and to move onto union negotiated Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBA) awards.
2. End “prohibited content” in EBAs
3. Reinstate strong awards for all workers (no award stripping)
Awards must include:
- The protection of all penalty rates, loading rates and allowances
- Full wage indexation
- Protection of shift arrangements and rosters
4. Reinstate unfair dismissal laws for all workers immediately. No delay until 2010
- No watered-down system of “conciliation”
- Restore all lost rights
5. Guarantee that all legislation abide by ILO conventions on workers’ rights to freedom of association including
- Union officials right of entry to workplaces
- Workers right to elect workplace delegates
- Workers right to strike, without the threat of fines
- Repeal the ban on industry-wide (pattern) bargaining
6. Abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC)
7. Abolish the anti-union powers of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)



To download the Socialist Alliance's leaflet "Now really rip up WorkChoices", click here.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Cuba: Fidel soldiers on

For the past week, the international media has been in paroxysms with the anouncement on February 19, in a measured, sober letter from Fidel Castro, that he would not be contesting the presidency of Cuba, due to be decided on February 24. The Wombats have been astounded with the reaction. No, really.

It was an amazing day in Miami, where all the wonder of nature were on show: there were no earthquakes, meteor showers, signs form God or tidal waves. No glorious rapture took the Miami Mob back to Cuba to return them and their gangsterism to power in the small island country. Time didn't stop. There weren't even the massive spontaneous street-parties where everyone speculated about the fact (which their cousin's wife's grandmother's brother who used to sell bananas in Vedado in 1947 KNOWS is true, because he was THERE) that Fidel actually died in a fishing accident in 1982, and the Soviets provided the regime with a wax dummy.

Worse yet for the wannabe fascists in Florida, there weren't even any protests or outbursts of joy in the streets of Cuba. In fact, when the western media descended like vultures onto the sidewalks of Havana, most them could only find ... well, sorrow, and a sad acceptance that the day had to come when Fidel would step aside.

In fact, Fidel stepped aside almost 19 months ago, in order to undergo life-threatening intestinal surgery for diverticulitis, and handed over the top job to his younger brother Raul, and the country didn't stop then either. The Cuban people didn't stop, but they did express concern and worry about (not the state of the country) but the health of Fidel, who they hold in the deepest regard.

If anything, the announcement only confirms Fidel in the role he has been playing, of leading by example, but also of creating space so that others can learn how to lead as well. It's a role he's had, not only for the past 19 months
, but for decades beforehand, as generation after generation of Cuban youth has been encouraged to step forward and lead the revolution, from the ground up (not top-down, as Cuba's critics imagine, their minds filled with the "big-man" version of history that dominates individualistic, egoistic, capitalist society).

So, on Sunday, February 24, Raul Castro was elected president of Cuba. Once again, no bangs, no supernovas, no Second Comings or capitalist restorations - despite the pangs and Norwegian-Blue-pining-for-the-fjords of the capitalists across the Keys. No great schism between Raul Castro and Carlos Lage. No military coup and sudden economic changes "with Chinese characteristics".

No, life goes on in Cuba, where they are in the middle of a massive public debate about the future of Socialist Cuba (not anyone else's version, patented in Tampa, Fl. on the Potomac, or in Silicon Valley) where 1.3 million proposals for change have come out of 215,687 open public meetings - in communties, workplaces, and universities - over the past year. The newspaper of the Communist Youth - Juventud Rebelde - joins Fidel (who continues to write his newspaper articles for Granma under the title
"Reflections by comrade Fidel") as "Public Critic Number 1" of the problems and shortfalls of Cuban society, of the corruption, the bureacracy and the ineptitude that places the revolution in jeopardy.

The Cuban revolution continues to inspire millions around the world by its ability toproduce the bets of humanity, when facing the worst of us only 90 miles from its shores. And, as the only country which the World Wildlife Fund regards to be developing in a manner sustainable for the continuation of life on earth, we all continue to have a lot of things ot learn from the Jewel of the Caribbean.

Of course, Fidel himself continues in politics too (don't let the media let you think he's retired, or dead, or anything - he's only 81 you know. Plenty of years to go yet.), as
First Secretary of Communist Party, as an elected member of the National Assembly, and, most importantly, as one more, very necessary, "soldier in the Battle of Ideas" that confronts us all, at every turn of the struggle for socialism against barbarism and for the future of humanity.

Gracias Fidel, nuestro camarada de luz en la lucha por el futuro socialista.
Hasta la victoria siempre! Socialismo o muerte! Venceremos!
Condenarmos, no importa. La historia nos absolvera!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Climate Change | Social Change Conference, Sydney, April 11-13

Climate Change | Social Change

A conference to strengthen radical social action to stop climate change

April 11-13, 2008
Sydney Girls High School (near corner Anzac Parade & Cleveland Street, Surry Hills) Sydney

The world is teetering on the brink of unstoppable climate change. Many now recognise the need for serious change in the way we produce and use energy, our transport systems, food production, urban design and forestry practices. Yet politicians are still mouthing platitudes while allowing corporations to continue to profit from polluting our atmosphere and destroying our ecosystem.

The need for social change has become an urgent part of preventing catastrophic climate change. Can the market fix the problem? What is the real record of carbon trading? How can we build a social movement capable of averting this disaster? What models and experiences can offer real solutions?

To strengthen the exchange of ideas and contribute towards that urgent action Green Left Weekly is organising the Climate Change | Social Change conference from April 11-13, 2008, in Sydney.

Featuring international speakers:
Speakers from Australia include:
  • Stephanie Long — Friends of the Earth Australia's international climate justice spokesperson; works on FoE International' s climate change campaign
  • Mark Diesendorf — Institute of Environmental Studies, University of NSW
  • Jim Green — Friends of the Earth anti-nuclear campaigner
  • Dick Nichols — author of Environment, Capitalism and Socialism
  • Cam WalkerFriends of the Earth, Melbourne
  • John Rice — Adelaide Ecosocialist Network
  • Adrian Wright – Zero Emissions Network
  • Stuart Rosewarne co-editor of Journal of Australian Political Economy, and Capitalism, Nature, Socialism
and many more....

will be available on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th April during conference session times. To allow us to have sufficient staff, please let us know by March 28th if you will require childcare.

If you would like to present a workshop, exhibit your artwork or register interest in the conference email Workshop submissions close on March 16, 2008.

To receive updates about the conference, send an email to

Friday, 15 February 2008

"Andrew Bolt, Please Forgive Us"

The Wombats will be following this up with an account of the week's actions, activities and agonies in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander movement, as well a more theoretical piece on the question of resolving the issues still very outstanding. For the moment, however, it seems appropriate to repost this excellent piece, originally from New Matilda, swiping the outraged smirk off the faces of the lunar right.

Satire 15 Feb 2008
Andrew Bolt, Please Forgive Us!
By Ben Pobje

Ben Pobjie offers his apologies to the traditional owners of the Herald Sun opinion pages

The Herald Sun's esteemed opinion columnist, Andrew Bolt, is upset. Very, very upset. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to Indigenous Australians seems to have set something off in the poor fellow. He's so apoplectic with rage he's started making sheep noises. And I have to say, I feel a little bad for him. He just seems so furious, so desolate at the way the country's going. And the fact is, we're to blame. You and me, and our fellow left-wing, do-gooder, bleeding-heart PC Australians. We've given poor old Andrew heartburn. And at a time like this, I think it's only appropriate that I offer, on behalf of the nation, an apology to Mr Bolt.

Andrew, I'm sorry that, as you say, the Prime Minister offered an apology to stolen generations "no one can actually find". Many of us found quite a lot of them, actually. There were a fair few up in Canberra the other day, in fact. I'm truly sorry you still can't find them. Maybe you could ask your friend Ms O'Donoghue to help you look.

I'm sorry that any of us have the temerity to suggest that Australians might, once, somewhere, somehow, done something for racist reasons. I'm sorry on behalf of all those people who keep talking about "stolen generations" rather than "rescued by kindly European philanthropists generations". I'm sorry such an acceptance of history reduces you to such bitter tears of affronted patriotism. And I'm sorry that it was us, the people of Australia, who wilfully and deliberately accepted that history without the slightest regard for your feelings. We are sorry.

I'm sorry that you think an email from Victorian Education Minister Bronwyn Pike encouraging schools to mark the day of the apology seems to you to be equivalent to turning our children into ‘Red Guards'. I am deeply sorry for the hurt and anguish your paranoia and Cold War fantasies must be causing you. I apologise, on behalf of Ms Pike, for the suggestion that schools should "acknowledge" the day. In future, on occasions of historical import, we will all do our best to completely ignore what's going on. Like we did back when the Aboriginal children were being stolen, which, again, I would like to apologise for mentioning.

I am very, very sorry, Andrew, that you were so upset by the national Sorry. I'm sorry that the sight of the welcoming ceremony cut so deeply into you. I'm sorry for all those deeply offensive tears of joy. I realise now how the spirit of unity and pride, although entered into with good intentions, was in fact unpardonably objectionable and hurtful to the traditional owners of the Herald Sun opinion pages.

But clearly, it's not just the apology that's got you so worked up, Andrew, and I realise we bear responsibility for so much more that's upset the applecart of your life.

So I'm sorry, Andrew, that so many of us lefties act like we don't like you. I'm sorry that Robert Manne and Jon Faine were mean to you. I'm sorry that the rabid left-wing is brainwashing our youth through their awesome power and total domination of the media, and all you get is an entire page to yourself twice a week in the most widely-read daily newspaper in Australia to fight against the massive, unstoppable tide of Marxist lies. I'm sorry that you don't have your own TV show; maybe you and Gerard Henderson could form a support group.

I'm sorry so many of us have bought into the global warming hype; I'm sorry that our political biases have caused us to so blindly follow the relevant science. In addition, I am sorry on behalf of the planet Earth for allowing its climate to change in such a reckless and decidedly politically correct manner. It is possible, I concede, that the planet has undergone warming in response to an email from Bronwyn Pike.

I'm sorry nobody listens to your warnings about Greens being Nazis. I promise that when Bob Brown sets up his first death camp, we're all going to feel really silly.

I'm sorry nobody will listen to the good news about Iraq. I'm sorry we get so fixated on the car-bombs and POW-torture that we neglect the important issues, like all the freedom and democracy floating around, and the soccer team and stuff.

I'm sorry that the culture wars are over. I'm sorry if that makes you feel irrelevant. I know how awful it is for you when you run out of things to fulminate on. I'm sorry if the lack of opportunities to rant about black armbands ends up forcing you into another article about the sinister left-wing agenda of children's cartoons. I apologise sincerely and without qualification for the pain and suffering caused by the political correctness of Finding Nemo. And I'm sorry for those people unkind enough to suggest that someone who considers talking fish a threat to our way of life is less a serious political commentator and more some sort of hilarious caricature of a right-wing lunatic. The suggestion is cruel and unnecessary, and I'm sorry it was ever made.

I'm sorry artists get art grants, and I'm sorry the Liberal Party isn't conservative enough. I'm sorry academics keep disagreeing with you, and I'm sorry there are still people who don't think Christian folk are the best folk in the whole wide world. I'm sorry Victoria was so disgustingly PC as to make a woman Police Commissioner, and I'm sorry there's too much sex on TV. I'm sorry for not being scared enough of Muslims, and I'm sorry for watching Media Watch.

But most of all, Andrew, and I think I speak for all my countrymen and women here, I'm sorry we didn't listen to your warnings. I'm sorry we all lost our minds and voted Labor. And I'm sorry that the country hasn't sunk screaming beneath the ocean as a result. It must really hurt that Kevin hasn't killed us all yet. I'm sorry.

I'm sorry we had the blazing audacity to kick John Howard out. I apologise for our flagrant ingratitude towards him for all he did for us, and to you for all you did for him. I'm sorry for that little smile we keep allowing to creep onto our faces. I am so, so sorry for the way we put you on the sidelines.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of you, your fellow Howard-boosters and their descendants, we say sorry. To Bolt and Akerman, Henderson and Windschuttle, for the breaking up of the Liberal leadership, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud right-wing people and a proud culture of denial, dog whistles and xenophobia, we say sorry.

Honestly, Andrew, I’m really and truly sorry for you.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Protest Against NT Intervention, February 12 2008

ROBERTO PEREZ :Cuban permaculturist Australian speaking tour, March-April 2008

When Cuba lost access to Soviet oil, fertilizers and export trade market in the early 1990s, the country faced virtual overnight economic collapse and an immediate crisis – feeding the population. The story of the Cuban people’s hardship, ingenuity, and triumph over sudden adversity - through cooperation, conservation, and community- to create a low-energy society is inspirational. Cuba’s transition to organic agriculture, and rapid relocalisation based on decentralized health care and higher education, bicycles and public transport, and community response to radical change is both thought provoking and empowering.

Roberto Perez, the Cuban permaculturist and educator featured in the film The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil and an articulate and inspiring speaker, will tour Australia in March and April sharing the Cuban experience. Roberto works for the Foundation for Nature and Humanity, Cuba’s major environment organization. His visit will provide a rare opportunity to hear about the Cuba experience first hand and engage in dialogue and discussion on practical ways we can meet the challenges of climate change and making the transition to a low energy society.

The tour is proudly sponsored by: Erda Institute Inc • Permaculture Education • Permaculture North APC9 * Lismore City Council • Southern Cross University • Permaculture Noosa - Future Ready Expo April 18-19 • Green Left Weekly - Climate Change/Social Change Conference April 11-13

Tour itinerary
BYRON BAY, NSW - Wednesday 12th March
5.30pm Screening of The Power of Community - How Cuba Survived Peak Oil. 6.30pm Dinner of Local Food. 7.30pm Public Forum.
Byron Bay Community & Cultural Centre, Johnson Street, Byron Bay (TBC)
Contact: Ken McLeod - 0412 871 789

NIMBIN, NSW - Friday 14th March
6pm Dinner, presentation by Roberto Perez, panel discussion, music & entertainment.
Djanbung Gardens Permaculture Centre, 74 Cecil St, Nimbin
Contact: Robyn Francis: Ph 02-6689 1755 / 0429 147 138

LISMORE, NSW - Saturday 15th March
9am - 3pm: Feeding our Future: Creating sustainable local food systems
Southern Cross University, Military Road, Lismore. 3.15pm: Optional tour to Elizabeth Gardens - site of Rainbow Region Community Garden
Contact: Jessica Huxley, Lismore City Council PO Box 23A Lismore NSW, 2480
Ph 02 6625 0565, mob 0448 537 422, fax 02 6625 0434

Monday 17th March
7pm Public forum with Roberto Perez. KU-RING-GAI Council Chambers Level 3, 818 Pacific Highway, Gordon.
Contact: Penny Pyett, President, Permaculture North Inc. (02) 9888 2575

Thursday 20 - Tuesday 25th March
9th Australian Permaculture Convergence - Permaculture North Inc.
Thursday 20th March
7pm APC9 Official Opening & Dinner. Guest Speaker: Roberto Perez "Cuba, Permaculture and Peak Oil". Glengarry Training Centre, North Turramurra, Sydney.

KATOOMBA, Blue Mountains - Thursday 27th March
7-9 pm Public forum with Roberto Perez.
The Carrington Hotel, Katoomba St, Katoomba.
Contact: Susan Girard: 02 47825810
Rosemary Morrow: 024782.7898

SYDNEY, Inner West – Friday 28th March
6pm Roberto Perez speaking on Urban Solutions, Sustainability & Building Community.
Petersham Town Hall. Cuban Band (Armandito y Su Mechanico, Cuban dance performance (El Moro).
Contact: Michele Margolis 02 95696975

BEGA, NSW South Coast – Sunday 30th March
2pm Screening of The Power Of Community, Presentation by Roberto Perez, other speakers, discussion, music. Food available.
Candelo Town Hall. Candelo.
Contact: John Champagne.

REGIONAL VICTORIA – Tuesday 1st to Thursday 4th April.
For details, click here.

MELBOURNE – Saturday 5th – Monday 7th April
April 5th 4pm Meeting with National Consultation of the Australia Cuba Friendship Societies & Cuban Consul
Contact: Pam Morgan

April 5th 7pm Public screening of The Power of Community, and presentation by Roberto Perez.
Contact: Kylie Moon 0411 104 813 or 03 9354 7751

April 6th
Roberto Perez workshop. Petty's Orchard, Cnr Monckton and Homestead Rd, Templestowe
Contact: 0418 665 880

GEELONG, Victoria – Tuesday 8th April
7pm Public forum with Roberto Perez. Clonard College, Kildare Theatre,225 Church St, Geelong West.
Contact: Trish Jardine, (03) 52 2 32407

ADELAIDE – Wednesday 9th & Thursday 10th April
April 9th BBQ at The Aldinga Arts Eco Village, late afternoon.

April 10th Roberto Perez presentation.
Contact: Pam Gurner-Hall 0419 213 237 & 08 85563551

SYDNEY – Friday 11th – Sunday 13th April
Climate Change/Social Change Conference, featuring Roberto Perez, along with John Bellamy Foster (author of Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature, and editor of Monthly Review) and Patrick Bond (Director of the Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and editor of Climate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil Society). Sydney Girls High School.
Contact: Kamala Emanuel, 0417 319662, 02 9690 1230 (Mon and Thurs)

BRISBANE – Wednesday 16th April
Roberto Perez presentation at City Hall.
Contact: Scarlett Patrick, 0407 752 793,

NAMBOUR, Sunshine Coast – Thursday 17th April
Contact: Chris Carroll : 07 5442 1555 on behalf of Sharon Stott of Maroochy Shire Council,

NOOSA, Sunshine Coast – Friday 18th & Saturday 19th April
Future Ready Expo - Permaculture Noosa Inc. Lake Kawana Community Centre, Sportsmans Parade, Bokarina, Kawana Waters, Sunshine Coast.
April 18th 7pm for a 7.30pm start.
April 19th 9am to 5pm. Talks, displays and workshops by a variety of sustainability specialists, including Roberto Perez.
Contact: Christine Carroll, Ph/Fax: 07 5442 1555, 0413 161 414

Monday, 4 February 2008

New report: Climate Code Red!

Friends of the Earth have just released a new report on Climate Change, "climate code red: the case for a sustainability emergency", which is available to download from the site ClimateCodeRed. The press release can be dowloaded here.More details are below:

Climate policy is characterised by the habituation of low expectations and a culture of failure. There is an urgent need to understand global warming and the tipping points for dangerous impacts that we have already crossed as a sustainability emergency, that takes us beyond the politics of failure-inducing compromise. We are now in a race between climate tipping points and political tipping points.
Read summary

5 keys to a safe-climate future

1. Our goal is a safe-climate future – we have no right to bargain away species or human lives.
2. We are facing rapid warming impacts: the danger is immediate, not just in the future.
3. For a safe climate future, we must take action now to stop emissions and to cool the earth.
4. Plan a large-scale transition to a post-carbon economy and society.
5. Recognise a climate and sustainability emergency, because we need to move at a pace far beyond business and politics as usual.

Read 5 keys to a safe-climate future | PDF version (2 pages)

Campaign for a sustainability emergency

A number of local Climate Action Groups are organising to campaign for a climate and sustainability emergency. More information soon, plus flyers, powerpoints, animations and campaign tools.

Socialist unity in Oz? Two steps forward...?

Well, it's been a while in coming, but the bad running joke of the Australian Left - the existence of not just two, or even three, but FOUR Cliffite groups (that is, groups with politics originating in the International Socialist Tendency) - is over. There's only two now.

On February 2-3, the International Socialist Organisation (ISO), Solidarity, and the Brisbane-based Socialist Action Group (SAG) held a unity conference in Sydney and decided that maybe being in different organisations was a tad silly. After all, they have the same politics (not least a fondness for the nonsense which is State Capitalism), and have been working together (including pre-caucusing before movement meetings) in various campaigns for a while now. This collaboration has been accompanied by a series of joint internal discussion bulletins which, if a wee bit light on the theory, were are least genuinely oriented towards some kind of unity.

The final outcome is a new organisation under the name of "Solidarity", which reflects, if anything, the relative strength of that organisation compared to the other two, particularly in movement work. SAG members apparently argued for a name including the word "socialist", but clearly didn't win. There is likely to be a monthly newspaper, and while the Wombats haven't heard the new paper's name yet, we hope that one of the options floated, "Liberty", gets quickly stymied. Sounds thoroughly daft, in our opinion.

The background to the various splits in the Australian IST would be too formidable a task to go into, except to say that Solidarity left the ISO when it was in the Socialist Alliance, while SAG managed to extricate themselves from the pretty undemocratic propagandist sect-ism of Socialist Alternative (the fourth member of the Cliffite menagerie in Oz). A small group of SAlt members in Sydney left around the same time, joining Solidarity (although two of them soon decided to join the Greens).

The Solidarity split, led by Ian Rintoul, was fiercely anti-Socialist Alliance, so when the ISO finally gave the formal imprimatur to their withdrawal from the Socialist Alliance (a left-unity project, mind you, and one which is ongoing), the biggest barrier to "unity" was overcome. One of the other key features of the new organisation is it's decision to support the Greens in elections, rather than calling for a socialist vote where possible.

This is so despite the nation-wide presence of the Socialist Alliance, and the presence in Melbourne of the Socialist Party, both of which compete in elections; and despite the fact that the internal joint discussion highlighted the inability of the three united groups to have little, if any, impact on the Greens or Greens members during the election campaign. As the Wombats have pointed out here and here, both the Socialist Alliance and the SP approached the ISO last year asking for socialist solidarity around the elections, to no avail.

Socialists do indeed have to work out the best way to work with the Greens, especially those in the amorphous 'left' of the Greens, and there are no "perfect" formulae that are especially better than any others. So the basic idea of Solidarity is hardly flawed in that respect. But ignoring the existence of the rest of the left won't help much when it comes to winning over people caught up in the biggest left-of-Labor political party in history. We need the most unified and vibrant approach possible, and, while the step towards unity is to be welcomed, if it - as seems likely - aims to become yet another competing force on the left, it's unlikely to assist that process.

[One interesting way forward on the Greens question is the ecosocialist reading circle that has been set up in Adelaide, containing members of the Greens, as well as Socialist Alliance, DSP, Communist Party, and others. Dave Riley is preparing an educational series on Climate and Capitalism which could well be used by this group, or by any others for that matter, in conjunction with various forms of socialist/ Green collaboration.]

So, while Bob Gould might think this unification is the best thing since sliced bread, it is still fundamentally limited by what is - if past practice is anything to go by - likely to end up with a certain amount of tail-ending of the Greens, and a sectarianism towards the rest of the organised left - especially the Socialist Alliance. It is perhaps telling that one of the sole voices in the ISO to point out that they might have made mistakes themselves in the early period of the Socialist Alliance (as opposed to blaming everything on the DSP) is in an extreme minority.

The recent unification is still a largely healthy development, however, and we will chart it's development over time.

As if this wasn't enough for one weekend, the Melbourne-based Socialist Party (of the Committee for a Workers' International), has put up on it's website a pamphlet it produced two years ago calling for a "New Workers' Party", and then attempting again to explain why it's simultaneously not actually trying to build one. It's a bit of a read, but for a small group operating only out of Melbourne (even if they do have the country's only elected socialist in Steve Jolley on Yarra council), the tone is all a bit rich, really.

It will be interesting to see, however, whether and how the question of left unity can find new ways forward under the new right-wing Rudd Labor government. There are already plenty of opportunities opening up. The test is, as always, whether we can muster the subjective resources necessary to make use of them. The energy privatisation campaign would be a particularly good one to start with, one would think.