Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Cricket & Class Struggle?

The wombats, having grown up in the thick of rural Australian cricket, have long been considering a foray into the question of cricket and class struggle. However, having neither the time nor total dedication (nor, perhaps, the skill) of C.L.R. James, we have failed to produce such a piece.

The game is afoot, however. John Passant has written a small piece post-Ashes, declaring England's defeat of Australia victory for the class struggle, and a defeat of "cricket's imperialist masters" (ie Australia), and the right-wing troglodyte Andrew Bolt has picked up on John Passant's piece, applying the usual finesse (equvialent to passing a nuclear weapon through a key-hole) that passes for "analysis" in his work. So, perhaps now is the time...

Firstly, the wombats disagree with John Passant's proposition, and we believe it to be a fundamentally flawed approach to the question of class and cricket (although we assume John's eye was primarily on the ball of racism in cricket, and there are valuable points to be made there).

In fact, however, cricket and class struggle, cricket and national liberation (sometimes called "liberation cricket"), cricket and racism, and cricket and the development of capitalism, its grave-diggers and its silly-mid-off have a far more interesting connectivity.

While we are no James, the wombats have decided that - after the disaster of the recent Ashes tour - we'll have a go, over a number of posts, at sketching a brief "People's History of Cricket".

Monday, 24 August 2009

New book: "Facing the Musharraf Dictatorship" (with free download)

Farooq Tariq (centre) with members of the DSP.

Below is Labour Party Pakistan spokesperson Farooq Tariq's introduction to his new book, Facing the Musharraf Dictatorship: An Activist's Narrative, republished from Links. Following Tariq's piece on Links is the book's preface by Peter Boyle, national secretary of the Democratic Socialist Perspective of Australia. Facing the Musharraf Dictatorship is available from Good Books Lahore. Email goodbooks_1 [at] yahoo.com to order a hard copy. You can also download the entire 300-page PDF file by following the links at the end of the two articles or by going here.

* * *


By Farooq Tariq

It was October 12, 1999. As usual, I was at the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) secretariat in Lahore. Around 6pm, Farooq Sulehria called me to break the news that Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif had removed the army chief General Pervez Musharraf who was flying back to Pakistan from a visit to Sri Lanka. Sulehria asked me to issue a press statement to explain the LPP's point of view. "Wait and see the response of the army", I told him.

A journalist by profession, Farooq Sulehria was at home and his television was on. He called me again after an hour to tell me that the television transmission had stopped and the TV screen was blank.

"This is army taking over", I told him. "How do you know"?, he asked. "I have lived through two [periods of] army rule and this could be the third", I replied. I had faced the military dictatorships of General Ayub Khan (1958-1969), General Yahya (1969-1971) and General Zia ul-Haq (1977-1988). As student activists, we had raised slogans against Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan. But it was the military rule of General Zia ul-Haq which we fought energetically for all the 11 years of his dictatorship.

By 8pm it was clear that army had taken over. But there was no formal reaction from any political group. Pakistan Television (PTV) started broadcasting war songs. I went out on my motorbike to observe the state of affairs. The LPP office was just opposite the PTV building in Lahore. I saw army troops there. I went to Governor House on the main Mall Road of Lahore. Army trucks were there too.

Around 8pm, I went to the office of Nawabzada Nasrulah Khan, the head of People's Democratic Alliance (PDA), which the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was part of. There were jubilations. The PPP activists were happy that Nawaz Sharif was gone. I asked Nawabzada Nasarullah Khan why was he happy with the military takeover? Although smiling, he said, let's wait for the general's speech and his priorities. Meanwhile one PPP supporter brought in some Benazir Qulfa, a popular local flavour of ice-cream to distribute among those present. I was getting irritated by this behaviour.

I decided to go back to my office. I hurriedly collected the records of the LPP membership and other important documents to put them in a safe place. Army rule could mean the seizing of political parties' offices. We had a short meeting of leading comrades and decided to oppose military rule. Although, we had been opposing Nawaz Sharif's government since 1997, we could not welcome the military takeover under justification.

I went back home around 10pm and waited for the speech of General Musharraf. It was full of same old excuses of democracy not functioning. The general was claiming that his plane had been hijacked and it had not been allowed to land.

I immediately wrote a press release opposing military rule and went out to deliver it to the Daily Jang and other newspapers. Army trucks were everywhere but not many people were on the roads. I was very afraid of being stopped by military personnel and caught red handed with the press release, opposing their rule. It was around 11.30pm when I arrived at the front desk of the Daily Jang.

The next day the Daily Jang printed only a few lines of the LPP statement. But we were satisfied as we knew that every word that appeared in the newspapers would be read that day. The LPP was one of the very few political parties that opposed military rule from the day one. On October 13, I wrote a lengthy article explaining the reasons for the military takeover and it must be opposed. The article was perhaps the first explanation of the developmets available on the internet.

The next week, the office of our weekly paper Mazdoor Jeddojuhd (Workers' Struggle) was raided and the army took away all the copies of the newspaper. The cover headline was "No to army rule!". The paper started in 1980 from Amsterdam, by our small group of Pakistani comrades in exile due to the military dictatorship of General Zia ul-Haq. So, it was not new for us. We had received such treatment several times before, not only at the hands of the military rulers during the 1980s, but also by the civilian government of Mian Nawaz Sharif during 1992.

This was the beginning of our struggle against the military rule of General Musharraf. I was arrested atleast nine times during the nine years of Musharraf's military rule. Numerous police cases were registered against me and other activists of the LPP. My house and party office were raided many times by police seeking to arrest me. Sometimes they were able to catch me, other times the police raids ended in failure as I managed to hoodwink them.

During this period I often used to receive threatening telephone calls, not only from the police officers but also from army officers and sometimes from the intelligence agencies. LPP activists were also threatened by religious fundamentalists several times. All this was due to the LPP's staunch opposition to military rule and its relentless efforts to building an alternative to the politics of the rich and feudal.

This book is not a narration of Musharraf's nine-year army rule, rather it is a saga of our resistance to it. This is a story of the decisive last 18 months of Musharraf rule. Some of the articles and diaries I wrote during those 18 months are included in this book. Written at the thick of the activities, it is more like a running commentary of a cricket match.

[Farooq Tariq is spokesperson for Labour Party Pakistan.]

Friday, 21 August 2009

SOS - No privatisation of Sydney ferries!

Privatisation spoils a nice day on Sydney harbour

By Peter Boyle

Sydney, August 21 - It was a nice day to be out on Sydney harbour. But we were at Circular Quay not to go on a relaxing ferry ride but to protest against the planned privatisation of Sydney ferries by the NSW Labor government. The Maritime Union of Australia had organised the rally but it drew support from a range of other unions, including the Nurses Federation, whose members are in the frontline of a hospital system in severe crisis after years of cutbacks by neo-liberal Labor governments.

O'Bray Smith, a midwife representing the Nurses Federation, told the protestors that she had been taught at school that in the late nineteenth century the trade unions had formed a party to represent the interest of the working class. But today, she and other trade unionists are fighting a privatisation- mad NSW Labor government.

"I've spoken to many rank-and-file members of the Labor party and they can't believe what is going on. And many are not going to vote Labor in the next elections as a result."

This echoed the angry sentiment at another anti-privatisation rally in Sydney organised by trade unions less than a month ago, that one being against the Rees Labor government's attempts to privatise jails. And before that it was the privatisation of the power industry that workers had to mobilise against...

Pictures here

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Video on Climate Change from 1958

Think climate change is one of them new-fangled greenie/ commie/ whacko ideas designed to destroy western "civilisation" and bring about a "new world order"?

Well, maybe you're right, and maybe you've forgotten to take your meds. Either way, climate change is not a new idea. The only thing new is that the theories are being proved correct, one after another. The dominoes are falling, the glaciers are melting, and the age of humanity appears to be drawing to a close.

And to think we knew about it 50 years ago...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The CPRS was a fatally flawed scheme

August 14, 2009

Socialist Alliance statement on the Senate rejection of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme

The Socialist Alliance welcomes the Senate’s rejection of the Rudd Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

We commend the Greens Senators for their principled opposition, which reflects the viewpoint of the grassroots climate action movement, as well as their own goal of achieving a safe and sustainable climate.

Labor’s CPRS has never been “a good starting point to achieving real targets for reduced greenhouse emissions” as claimed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Neither is the CPRS the best way to create “a million clean energy jobs in six key industry sectors over the next two decades”.

It is simply a dangerous and immensely complex proposal: with its paltry 5% reduction target it would actually allow carbon pollution to increase, would pay $16.4 billion in compensation to the big polluters, allow an increase in coal production and exports, and transfer to poor developing countries the task of offsetting Australian greenhouse gas emissions.

The Coalition’s carbon policy, which has yet to be finalised, but which was foreshadowed only two days before the Senate vote, would be even more generous to corporate carbon polluters and power generators.

The ACTU’s support for Labor’s CPRS and its claim that rejection puts green jobs at risk (because “business can’t invest until they have certainty, and jobs can’t flourish until they do”) confirms the myopia of policymaking by Australia’s peak union body.

The ACTU, and its partners in the Southern Cross Climate Coalition (the Climate Institute, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Council of Social Services) that have supported the CPRS, don’t seem to understand that the transition to climate safety cannot be trusted to market forces. The market will only invest in climate-friendly technologies when there’s a profit to be made, not because it has to be done.

This stance ignores the facts of climate science. To reduce global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to 350 parts per million at most—a target that the ACF itself now accepts as a necessary minimum—carbon emissions will have to fall by at least 5% a year. However, the best results achieved through a market-based approach (by Germany) have been a reduction of 1% a year.

The only way of cutting emissions quick enough to avoid catastrophic climate impacts is through massive publicly financed and controlled investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, the funds sourced from cuts to subsidies to polluters and military expenditure, with the workers in polluting industries retrained on full pay for green jobs.

The Senate rejection of the CPRS also poses big challenges for the grassroots climate action movement. In three months, the CPRS bills can again be presented to the Senate. Another Senate rejection would give Kevin Rudd a basis for a double-dissolution election.

So the pressure is now on the grassroots climate movement to campaign vigorously to educate everyone about the deficiencies of the CPRS, and about the better alternatives. A majority of Australians still see the CPRS as a positive first step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, primarily because they have not been given the facts they need to make an informed judgment.

An equally important job is to equip the union movement with a climate policy that addresses the global warming emergency. The challenge—in individual workplaces, union meetings and conferences, Trades and Labour councils and other union peak bodies—is for the unions to fully accept that the climate crisis will not go away.

The rejection of the CPRS should encourage all of us to accept that the most important way of healing an overheating planet is not any “cap-and-trade” scheme, but to make the mass of working people aware of the issues and determined to play a role in avoiding catastrophe. That working majority will be central to identifying and eliminating waste and pollution in the workplace, closing down the old polluting industries and developing and building new sustainable ones.

It’s now important for the grassroots climate movement to help transform Australia’s unions from a cheer squad for Labor’s parody of a climate approach into a powerful force for progressive policy and campaigning against the biggest threat humanity faces.

CONTACT: David White (National Environment Coordinator) 0403 871 082

Latin America: Will the era of military dictators & US military intervention return?

“The U.S. Empire ... has launched a retrograde and anti-historic counteroffensive, with the aim of rolling back the union, sovereignty, and democracy of our continent.”
- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, August 17, 2009

The recent military coup in Honduras, which deposed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, and the planned establishment of new US military bases in Colombia (just next to Venezuela), has set off alarm bells around Latin America. Is this the beginning of a return to military dictators and US military intervention that blighted the subcontinent for decades?

Guest speakers on this important topic will address the next meeting of the Sydney Central Socialist Alliance branch:

  • Jose Pena, Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) committee in Sydney.
  • Victor Hugo, Committee for Human Rights in Guatemala.
  • Stuart Munckton, Green Left Weekly co-editor.

Saturday August 22, 2pm
Sydney Resistance Centre

23 Abercrombie St

Chippendale (near UTS Broadway)

More info: Peter 9690 1977/0401 760 577

Monday, 17 August 2009

Geelong Sandwich-Gate #2: Victory!

From Green Left Weekly:

Fight reinstates Geelong workers

Lisa Gleeson, Geelong
16 August 2009

Two Geelong council workers who were sacked on July 24 for accepting free steak sandwiches from a Geelong club owner have been reinstated. The victory followed an escalation in the two-week-old dispute, when the Australian Services Union (ASU) members walked off the job on August 10.

Mick Van Beek and Peter Anderson were sacked for filling in a pothole at the Leopold Sportsman's Club car park with material bound for the local tip in November 2008.
Eight months later a “whistleblower” alerted council to the pair's actions, which led to their sacking. The council said the pair were found guilty of theft, fraud and using council materials for personal benefit.

The alleged “personal benefit” came in the form of two steak sandwiches that the owner of the club insisted the workers take — more than a week later.

Geelong city council backed down on August 13 and agreed to reinstate the workers. The settlement negates all allegations made against them.

The sackings sparked an enormous public outcry. It made the front pages of local media most days and provided a hot topic for local talk-back radio. Commercial TV station vans became a familiar sight outside the city hall.

Supporters joked that the workers were getting more media coverage than the town's AFL team, the Geelong Cats. The campaign included street marches, union leaflets, stop work meetings, solidarity T-shirts, a satirical cartoon and even a commemorative song from the Geelong Trades Hall Choir called, “There's a hole in my car park”.

At the height of the campaign all council depots were closed and workers joined community supporters to picket city hall council meetings. Hundreds dressed in yellow T-shirts with the slogan: “Rein-steak Peter and Mick.” They noisily chanted: “Touch one, touch all.”

Geelong Trades Hall secretary Tim Gooden told Green Left Weekly: “The community had quite clearly said that enough was enough. We had people from all walks of life and all the unions coming in to lend a hand so we could build a campaign to get their jobs back.

“One of the local pubs even gave away free steak sandwiches to all council workers one lunch time. At the end of the day the unity and solidarity built by the ASU's industrial campaign, supported by the community and organised through Geelong Trades Hall, won out.”

Cuba - Gardening Its Way Out Of Crisis

From COHA - Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Sunlight brightens the paved streets and historic buildings of Havana, Cuba, bouncing off the tents of vendors and the tin drums of a street band. Once stricken by poverty and inequality, the city has slowly blossomed as a result of the bustling enterprise of urban agriculture. Between buildings and behind street walls, in every green space available, locals have cultivated crops, utilizing the techniques of sustainable urban farming. After years of isolation from the United States and the former Soviet Union, Cuba has independently fostered development of urban agriculture and now provides an environment of growth and structure for its economic, social and political policies.

Cuba is the only country in the world that has developed an extensive state-supported infrastructure to support urban food production. Functionally, this system was established in response to acute food shortages in the early 1990s, which occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the island was forced to find an alternative manner of cultivating crops. Havana has established and expanded on this innovative model since this time, and it continues to lead the island nation in its quest for self-sufficiency. The increasing prevalence of urban agriculture benefits the economy, environment, community and health of Cuban citizens.

Crisis to Bounty
Cuba turned to urban agriculture out of necessity. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the termination of trade with the Soviet-based Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON), the industrial agriculture on which Cuba had relied since the 1970s disappeared. Almost overnight, diesel fuel, gasoline, trucks, agricultural machinery, spare parts for trucks and machinery, as well as petrochemical-based fertilizers and pesticides, became very scarce commodities. Like many large metropolitan centers, Havana was a food consumer city, completely dependent upon comestible imports from the Cuban countryside and abroad. Havana had no food production sector or infrastructure, and had little land dedicated to cultivate this vital industry.

In light of the severe agricultural crisis, a shift to urban agriculture seemed an obvious and necessary solution. Urban production minimized transportation costs and smaller-scale operation decreased the need for machinery. Urban agriculture necessitated production sites near highly populated areas, and at the same time avoided the use of toxic petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides, which were no longer available.

Roots of Growth
Although Castro began installing organoponicos (rectangular-walled constructions containing a mixture of soil and compost) in military facilities in 1987, it was not until the end of 1991 that the first “civilian” organoponico began operation. This governmental experiment prepared at least some parts of the Cuban institutional structure for the impending food crisis. By 1994, an organization was created to oversee the systematic introduction of organoponicos along with intensive gardens into urban agriculture.

Since the development of urban agriculture in Havana, production has increased exponentially, with the harvest of fresh herbs and vegetables jumping a thousand fold from 4,000 tons to 4.2 million tons between 1994 to 2005. The introduction of locally grown, organic agricultural products has significantly benefitted the typical Cuban diet. The environment of Cuba’s cities has immensely profited in terms of both climate change and aesthetics. Plots that were previously eyesores and de facto garbage dumps have been transformed into productive land. The social and economic environment has enjoyed the creation of sizeable sources of urban employment as well as the robust incorporation of women and youth into the workforce.

Although Havana constitutes only 0.67 percent of the total area of the island, 20 percent of Cuba’s population is concentrated in the capital. The immense agricultural production capable in this small area could be considerable. This production rate is largely due to the overarching organizational structure of Havana’s urban agricultural model. Clearly fundamental to the success of this paradigm is the coherent, central direction that the socialist government provides. In spite of this collective approach, a certain amount of decentralization exists allowing citizens wide pathways to guide marketing and production. The central government offers support and an organizational backbone, while the decentralized arms furnished by the planning model permit decision-making to be made by producers and encourage local solutions to local problems. Thus, urban agriculture in Havana is a model of urban self-sufficiency worthy of imitation.

Havana and the Outside World
By incorporating modern farming methods into its economy, Cuba has experienced considerable advancements that have allowed the country to address many of its structural as well as life-style shortcomings, particularly the security of its people, the environment and the economy. The former food-supply problem plunged the Cuban economy into a downward spiral of hunger and despair. However, by fostering agricultural awareness, the country was able to attain enhanced levels of food sovereignty and security. This increased allocation of edibles has contributed enormously to the opening of society. Resources are now accessible and affordable to the general public and the creation of infrastructure accommodates more labor and increased wages. Thus, the changes Cuba has made have generated a positive interaction between the community and economy.

Many worry whether Cuba’s budget and planning services will be able to maintain its commitment to urban agriculture and sustainable methods, as the country enters the global economy and faces pressures to restructure its economic and political system, especially as Washington nears a decision to lift the U.S.- Cuba trade embargo. As the economy opens, the tourism industry and multinational food corporations will compete for urban land and attempt to flood the Cuban market with cheap imported food products that could undermine the urban agricultural system. Havana must develop policies that will protect their growing agricultural sector, but also allow for international influence and trade to flourish.

Although the opening of trade relations threatens local food production, Cuba’s success in the agriculture industry makes it a substantial contender in the global market. Its products are competitively priced and thus, have the ability to generate a considerable profit for the island nation. Not only will increased participation in international trade boost revenue, but it could also promote social reform in the country. Cuba’s urban centers, once underdeveloped and filthy, are now encouraging progressive goals, targeting rising living standards and sanitation concerns, while promoting national initiatives that will support future improvements in the urban landscapes.

Agriculture for the Future
Cuba’s successful implementation of urban agriculture should serve as a model for other developing countries, particularly in Latin America. By embracing more modern and effective methods of farming, countries theoretically have the opportunity to transform their local markets, augmenting the labor force and cultivating capital and infrastructure. Introduction to the global market would allow a country like Cuba to become an important economic actor, ultimately expanding its profits through competitive transactions and trade. Considering the increasingly overbearing nature of contemporary power-house economies, as well as the improvements that would address many of the social and economic issues that plague struggling nations, Latin America, as well as other regions, should acknowledge the practicality of a low intensity urban approach to agriculture, if only as a supplement to other major approaches.

Agricultural urbanization is not only inevitable, but also may be the best available option in ensuring food sovereignty and security for increasing populations, and facilitating economic opportunities for the poor. The prospect of growth and development, as well as increased global cooperation and communication, should serve as incentive for industrializing countries to integrate and harmonize urban agriculture into their local communities.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

ABC's Foreign Correspondent Censors Venezuela's Majority

Press release from the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network

ABC TV's Foreign Correspondent program screened on August 11, titled "Hugo Chavez: Total Control" did nothing to shore up the ABC's reputation for well informed, accurate reporting. Eric Campbell's report from Venezuela was riddled with inaccuracies, half-truths and transparent biases that need to be corrected.

The program's main message - that President Hugo Chavez is "the dominator. aiming for total control" in Venezuela - is the stock-standard propaganda being peddled by a mainstream media that refuses to recognise or reflect the voices of the poor majority in Venezuela.

What "evidence" does Foreign Correspondent present for Chavez's supposed megalomania?

Campbell says, "Millions of poor people see Hugo Chavez as a saint . taking money from the rich and giving it to them". Indeed! Chavez's popularity is based upon his willingness to put the needs of Venezuela's majority - who for hundreds of years have been exploited and disenfranchised - ahead of those of business elites, and to use the country's natural oil wealth to improve living conditions for most, rather than line the pockets of a tiny elite.

Under Chavez's leadership, a 50% increase in social welfare spending in 1999-2005 was accompanied by decreases in infant mortality, an increase in school enrolment (according to the United Nations, illiteracy has been eradicated in Venezuela) and a decrease in poverty.

By 2005, approximately 50% of the Venezuelans enjoyed government health-care and food subsidies. Between 2000 and 2008, enrolments in higher education more than doubled. In the six years to 2009, according to internationally recognized poverty measures, poverty has been reduced from 55.1% to 25.3%. Extreme poverty has been reduced by 72%. (A comprehensive assessment is available in the US Center for Economic and Policy Research's 2009 report, "The Chavez Administration at 10 Years: The Economy and Social Indicators".)

In the words of one of the very few ordinary working people interviewed by Foreign Correspondent, "In all ways [Chavez] is a president that worries about his people".

But, Campbell says, after a referendum this year that enabled Venezuelan presidents to be re-elected beyond three terms, Chavez can now "keep running for president until he dies!". Well, so can any Australian prime minister. And if it is the people's will, why not? That's democracy. Foreign Correspondent doesn't even attempt to explain how it is that this supposed dictator can be democratically elected and re-elected in 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2006, in ballots certified as transparent and legitimate by international monitors.

Still not deterred by the facts, Campbell goes on to assert that "managing the message and clobbering the media have become a Chavez obsession".

In fact, there is much more oppositional media in Venezuela than in Australia, and a much greater range of debate in the media. The vast majority of Venezuela's media is privately owned. Before the government acted this month to enforce Venezuela's telecommunications law - handing over the expired licences of 32 privately owned radio stations and two regional television stations to community media ­- just 27 families controlled more than 32% of the radio and television waves; many owned 10 to 20 stations. These rich families ensured that the media is a political player, routinely broadcasting reporting that would not be allowed in Australia (such as calls for violent protests and insurrection, and, as broadcast recently by privately owned Globovision TV, a call for Chavez to be "lynched").

Foreign Correspondent claims that Chavez's "autocratic socialism is jeopardising the benefits of his revolution". This misses the point that it is not Chavez's revolution, but the Venezuelan people's. Beyond Campbell's "beleaguered middle class" (which all the statistics reveal is actually earning more than ever) is a thriving network of "social missions" and communal councils that are creating a new participatory democracy in Venezuela that, for all the problems that persist in a country that for centuries was bled dry by a wealthy, corrupt elite, creates the possibility for genuine majority rule in Venezuela.

We urge the ABC to revisit the Bolivarian revolution with open ears, eyes and mind, and give viewers the opportunity to hear the voices of the majority in Venezuela.

August 12, 2009

Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Can Éirigí replace Sinn Fein as Ireland's main Republican party

Nicked mercilessly from Mick Hall's Organized Rage. Please direct any comments you have there.

By Mick Hall

I have published below in full an article about Éirigí, (Arise) a comparatively new Socialist Irish Republican organization that first emerged in April 2006, after a number of Sinn Fein's leading members in the Dublin City area resigned from the party. At first they concentrated on building a core leadership base in both political jurisdictions on the island of Ireland. Then gradually began organizing against partition, the Afghan war, support for the Shell to Sea campaign and various other progressive causes.
Éirigí is now in the process of registering as a political party after its Ard Fheis [Conference) last May agreed by democratic vote to go in this direction. There is little doubt that Éirigí has steadily recruited experienced Republicans, many of whom first cut their political teeth, helping to build SF in the post Hunger Strike period. Éirigí has also managed to attract a younger generation of Republicans, something that SF is finding difficult to achieve these days.

Éirigí has made it clear it is opposed to armed struggle, claiming at this time there is no mass popular support for it. It’s main strategy seems to be, to replicate the manner in which SF in the 1980s-90s gradually built its support base by patiently building political support at a local level within working class communities in both rural and urban areas, before moving forward electorally.

After I recently wrote it is imperative for Éirigí to challenge SF at the polls if it is to gain ground, I was told by an Éirigí member I must have patience as the party has no intention of entering the electoral fray, before it has prepared its support base on the ground, as it intends taking its membership and any potential voters with it every step of the way. Which was something I found encouraging as it means without a solid presence in a constituency or ward, it has no intention of parachuting in candidates etc...


* Photo above of leading Belfast republican and Éirigí member Brendan Mac Cionnaith.
Éirigí: New kids on the Republican block.
By Conor McMorrow.

Slowly, but steadily and obviously, a new political group has started to make its presence felt. It was present last weekend when workers from the Thomas Cook travel agent locked themselves in their Dublin office to protest at inadequate redundancy terms. It has been a regular at the Shell to Sea protests in Mayo. Staff at the Israeli embassy in Dublin have become very familiar with its protests. It expects to play a prominent part in the campaign to oppose the Lisbon treaty, and soon it will apply to be registered as a political party. Already, two Sinn Féin councillors have resigned to join the new grouping.

So who is behind this organisation, éirigí, whose name translates as 'Arise'? What defines éirigí's politics? And is this dissident group in support of or opposed to violence?

Dissenting voice.

The group was formed in April 2006, on the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, as a dissenting voice against the status-quo republicanism of Sinn Féin. It barely registered on the Irish political radar at first but it has recently become more prominent. éirigí protestors have been particularly noticeable at the Shell to Sea protests in Co Mayo.

Other activities have included distributing leaflets calling for a boycott of Israeli goods at shops in Belfast, organising a protest at an RIR (local British army unit) homecoming parade for soldiers returning from Afghanistan and picketing Stormont when former British prime minister Tony Blair visited, to oppose British foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The group is thought to have around 200 activists in the North and a few hundred in the south, with the highest concentration in working-class areas of Dublin.

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, the organisation's chairperson Brian Leeson said, "We are in the process of registering as a political party after our ardfheis in May gave us a mandate to contest elections." So how does Leeson define éirigí's politics?

"We are socialist republican. We would define our politics relative to all other parties and not just by comparing ourselves to Sinn Féin. Over the last three years, we have succeeded in attracting people who were never involved in politics at all so it is wrong to assume that our members are all from Sinn Féin.

"We see the Good Friday Agreement as more likely to reinforce partition than get rid of it. We favour building a mass movement in support of Irish freedom and British withdrawal.

"We started in Dublin and now have a good foothold across the six counties and a more scattered membership across the south."

A republican source, who defected from Sinn Féin some years ago, said, "It was started by people who had been in Sinn Féin but grew disillusioned with the progress and development of the party three or four years ago.

"They were not particularly pleased with the way Sinn Féin was moving within the establishment in the six counties and they were concerned about Sinn Féin's social and economic policies in the south. Sinn Féin's position in the 2007 general election would have confirmed their outlook that Sinn Féin moved away from being a republican socialist party."

Mary Lou McDonald's sister Joanne is one of a number of Sinn Féin activists that left to join éirigí around that time.

"éirigí has accepted the IRA ceasefires and it has non-insurrectionist policies," the republican source continued. "It is not planning an insurrection and there is no armed wing in the undergrowth. It is not a younger version of the Continuity IRA."

Sources in the North view éirigí as having a militant profile in the south but it is not seen as "serious" about national sovereignty issues by militant republicans, who view it as just a "more active Sinn Féin".

Militant republican Dominic Óg McGlinchey was formerly a member of éirigí, and two men (Brian Shivers and Colin Duffy) charged with the killing of two British soldiers at Massereene army barracks in Co Antrim last March had been members, but they left éirigí before Massereene.

Sources claim the organisation genuinely does not want a return to violence in the North; it just initially attracted people who thought otherwise. One republican source said, "éirigí doesn't want to be within spitting distance of those involved in armed struggle against British soldiers or police."


Informed sources say there have been a number of events in recent weeks that prove éirigí is not a violent organisation. Firstly, it had several members present at anti-Orange Order protests in Ardoyne in north Belfast last month but none were involved in the violence that ensued.

Secondly, the North's First Minister Peter Robinson held talks with Brendan Mac Cionnaith, spokesperson for the Garvaghy Road residents, last month. The talks were aimed at finding an end to the protracted dispute between the Orange Order and residents over the annual Drumcree march.

A republican source explained, "Mac Cionnaith left Sinn Féin some time ago and he is now in éirigí. It is significant that Robinson met him. As First Minister, he would be well briefed by the PSNI chief constable so I would be very surprised that if Robinson had the slightest suspicion about éirigí having an armed wing those talks would have gone ahead.

"The UUP was decimated by the DUP for doing business with Sinn Féin. If Robinson was willing to meet éirigí there must be no lingering doubt that it has a military wing."

When asked about éirigí's position on the use of violence, Leeson, who is from Lucan in west Dublin, replied, "We are not in support of or aligned to any armed organisation as we don't believe the conditions exist for a successful armed struggle and we believe there are more constructive ways for republicans to channel their energies."

So who is joining éirigí? Sources claim it is attracting a demographic of people in their 30s, mainly from working-class areas of Dublin.

"They are people who joined Sinn Féin as teenagers and are now a generation of republicans that have become disenchanted with the direction Sinn Féin is taking. They are fairly solidly working-class Dublin and they seem to have a good grip on social and economic issues in the capital.

"Éirigí has no grip in areas like Cork and Kerry so, apart from its supporters in the North, it is pretty much a Dublin phenomenon. It had no candidates in the local elections and that is probably because it doesn't have the resources, capacity or manpower to contest elections yet.

"I don't think it is a massive organisation but it could pose a real threat to Sinn Féin as it has some very articulate, intelligent people in their 30s involved and these people are hard working and full of energy."

One republican, who has closely watched the emergence of éirigí, drew an interesting analogy between the new movement and the politics of former Official IRA chief of staff Cathal Goulding.

He said, "éirigí seems to be very interested in the nationalisation of natural resources. It won't like this comparison but its politics sound a bit like the republican movement of Cathal Goulding. There are certain similarities as it is aiming at building a party on a base of Dublin working-class socialists."

Opinion is mixed on whether or not éirigí poses a realistic threat to Sinn Féin. While some observers say Sinn Féin is concerned, others say it is not, as éirigí doesn't pose an electoral challenge.

Éirigí has caused Sinn Féin some embarrassment in the last fortnight when councillor Louise Minihan left the party to join the new organisation, claiming Sinn Féin had "steadily moved away from the core values of Irish socialist republicanism".

The reality is the beneficiaries of Sinn Féin's mediocre electoral performance in the June elections were the Socialist Party's Joe Higgins, in taking McDonald's Dublin EU seat, and People Before Profit, which capitalised on a move to the left by gaining council seats.

One observer said, "éirigí is pointing out the inconsistencies in Sinn Féin to a younger generation. Its critique is intellectual rather than on the street in gunfire. Unlike other breakaway groups in the last decade, it cannot be written off as the people who are responsible for Omagh."

A republican source told the Sunday Tribune Brendan Mac Cionnaith provided a significant insight into éirigí's modus operandi at a meeting in Belfast shortly after the two British soldiers were killed at Massereene barracks.

"At that meeting, Mac Cionnaith went to some lengths to point out the importance of a point made in the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) constitution drawn up in 1873," said the source. "That constitution stated that the IRB would not stage an armed insurrection without the will of the people.

"Bulmer Hobson, a key figure in the IRB, was opposed to the 1916 Rising, as it was contrary to the 1873 document. It was significant that Mac Cionnaith highlighted this at a meeting in Belfast as he was showing that it is opposed to arms."

In some quarters, éirigí is seen as a trendy left-wing group. Its emphasis on becoming a party of protest is not incompatible with Sinn Féin membership except that Sinn Féin has admitted itself that it has drifted away from grassroots activism.

In her controversial article in An Phoblacht last month, Toireasa Ferris said the party was "suffering from an identity crisis" and needed "to get back to the basics of representing people on the ground and building republicanism from the ground up".

Hardliners in the North believe éirigí's efforts are tokenistic and do not challenge British rule. Some even suspect a conspiracy theory behind the group's motives. There is some suspicion among hardline republican dissidents that while many éirigí activists are 100% genuine, Sinn Féin had a hand in the organisation's formation and some of its main figures' loyalties lie with Sinn Féin.

The conspiracy theory goes that Sinn Féin knew it would lose people, so it decided to set up a "tame opposition" that would engage in left-wing activities rather than have members defect to dissident paramilitary organisations.

The IRB framed a constitution in 1873 and Hobson opposed the 1916 Easter Rising because it contravened that document.

Éirigí's recent reference to that 1873 constitution is part of the latest chapter in the kaleidoscopic history of Irish republicanism. Just three years into its existence, it is still unclear to what degree éirigí will feature in future chapters of that troubled history.

Additional reporting by Suzanne Breen.

'We can phase out coal and create jobs': Graham Brown

Graham Brown, a retired coalminer from Australia's Hunter Valley, is on a national speaking tour to call for a serious program to create green jobs and phase out coal. The tour is being organised by Resistance, a socialist youth organisation. Details of the tour here.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Australian Tamil Congress: Our Crusade for Peace and Justice

In welcoming to its official homepage of The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC), a national organization that has been set up to actively serve Australia’s Tamil community the founding member Dr. R T Rajeswaran states that as the unified voice of Australian Tamils, the ATC will avidly work to integrate various community service organizations and individuals across the states in an effort to better represent and serve the nationwide community. [Eelam Nation]

Our Crusade for Peace and Justice

An initial policy statement by the Australian Tamil Congress


The need of the hour is for our people, in each and every country that we have taken refuge in throughout the world, to unite and form country organisations that can constructively engage in diplomatic political dialogue with the governments of those countries to bring peace, dignity and freedom to our people wherever they may reside.


The immediate situation that needs to be resolved as a matter of prime urgency is the desperate plight of our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka. Here in Australia we must engage as Tamils with one voice, through political dialogue and awareness campaigns, with the Australian government, political leaders of every persuasion, trade unions, eminent Australians and the general public to bring to their attention the dire humanitarian, human rights and self sufficiency issues that the Tamils in Sri Lanka are now facing.

Upholding Human rights

This process of engagement must be a democratic one and as such we must unite and speak as one. The current plight of our people warrants that we must expeditiously explore all political avenues we can engage in to bring immediate relief and protection under international law and independent supervision, and guarantee the upholding of human rights for the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

Global awareness of our conflict

The current problem we are facing with the International Community is twofold. Through lack of understanding of the problems the Tamils have faced in Sri Lanka since the country’s independence from Britain in 1948 many simply ignore the issue as unimportant. Others, who are perhaps better informed, nevertheless feel that their individual geopolitical interests will be better served by the current Sri Lankan Government, and as such raise no objection to what is happening.


To begin with we must find out why we did not have one single friendly nation standing up for us, even with all the protests by our Diaspora throughout the world, during our time of desperate need and despair which unfortunately is still continuing without any signs of respite. It is our solemn duty to make sure that the International Community is made aware and then accepts that genocide of the Tamil People has taken place in Sri Lanka, and that ethnic cleansing of the areas traditionally occupied by the Tamil people was carefully orchestrated soon after independence and is being carried out at an even greater pace today than ever before. Families are being forcefully separated based on age and gender, our people are being abused and many go missing routinely. This is undoubtedly ethnic cleansing and must be stopped through the engagement of the International Community and the United Nations.

Importance of Tamil unity

We have no choice but to establish a single organisation that represents the political aspirations of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and speak for them as they have been made voiceless through harassment and imprisonment. This must be our top priority. The age old Tamil proverb “Adampan Kodium Thirandal Miduku” seems a very logical statement however somehow we are failing to grasp this concept which has been successfully embraced by those faced with similar situations in the past. We must start afresh with no baggage from the past.

Remember our heroes

Please do not forget our men and women who fought bravely to the end and effectively left us, the Tamil Diaspora, with a clean slate to work out, in our own way, how to carry on the struggle to fulfill the aspirations of the Tamil people left in Sri Lanka. We must not desert them in their desperate hour of need and we cannot forget those heroes who laid down their lives so that we may lead a better life.

Australian Tamil Congress

Ideally we would like to unite all the existing Australian Tamil organisations, however, starting a fresh organisation with clearly stated political goals under one umbrella will help us move forward without any unwanted and unfair labels attached to it and this would also encourage all Tamil people to participate in a free and democratic manner. We appeal to you all to rid yourselves of all petty aspirations and think exclusively about our people in need who are voiceless and are looking to us for help. We must establish an inclusive single entity built from grassroots support through which everyone can make a statement. The time is right for such an organisation to be created and we are appealing for your support.

Need to prove

To this end we have formed the Australian Tamil Congress. We can and will make this Congress function effectively and thereby show the world that Tamils throughout Australia can unite and that they can be unselfish for the sake of their kith and kin languishing in concentration camps wondering “will our people ever come to our aid”.

Lead by example

If we in Australia can demonstrate that through unity we can move a mountain, then it is to be hoped that other Tamils living throughout the world will follow this example and collectively we can form a world body that will take care of the needs of all Tamils in the world.

Our Aim

The Australian Tamil Congress encourages the positive participation of Tamils in Australian society, highlights issues of importance to Tamils, upholds core Australian values and engages other communities, governments and organisations in addressing the socio-cultural and political concerns of Tamils.

Collective action

Through ‘Collective Global Tamil’ action it is hoped that an international Human Rights and Political Organisation can be established in the not too distant future to represent the voice of the Tamil people,

This organization will attempt to educate people on the Tamils’ right to survival and self-determination, and to promote the safety, welfare, and economic development of Tamils worldwide. It will also ensure that the genocide that has taken place in Sri Lanka is acknowledged by the International Community, that perpetrators are brought to justice and that future generations are never allowed to forget.

Make a Stand

On behalf of the Australian Tamil Congress, we invite you to join us and work with us to bring lasting justice and peace to our people. This work must start today; it cannot wait until tomorrow. Please join with us and make a difference and we shall rise from the ashes like the phoenix.

"You died when you refuse to stand up for right... You died when you refuse to stand up for truth... You died when you refuse to stand up for justice..."Martin Luther King Jr.

-Eelam Nation-

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Carnival of Socialism #41 - the sky is falling

The Wombats were daft enough to think we should say "yes" to the offer of hosting the Carnival of Socialism, and the organisers of the Carnival were then daft enough to let us do it.

In so doing, having tried to make heads or tails of humanity's parochial banter, we have reached a dialectical impasse, and are left with only one solution - share it with the world (or whichever small part of it sails these seas).

So, in no particular order:

As pressure mounts for more govenmental openness, Mick Hall at Organized Rage points the finger at UK informers in Norn Iron. Just how dirty was the “dirty war”?

Mick also gets a second hat-tip for picking up on the latest unravelling of the German SPD, while A Very Public Sociologist tracks the sisyphean task of negotiating much-needed left unity in Britain.

If there's one thing excercising the English imagination at the moment that isn't left unity or cricket, it's the Vestas occupation. Oh, and did I mention Vestas? What about Vestas?

At Socialist Unity blog, the SSP’s Ritchie Venton remarks on the growing wave of workplace occupations, including (would you believe?) Vestas.

And fair enough too. In fact, while we’ve all been farting around at the Carnival, the planet’s turning a very crisp brown as the climate turns it into Sunday Roast. Those Vestas workers probably now a thing or two about the wind turbines we'll need if we are to survive.

Not socialist, but worth the read, Green Blog dissects and destroys the arguments of Tim Flannery – “well-known environmental expert, a former Australian of the Year and also chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council” - over his misplaced support for the Australian government’s proposed “Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme”.

One of Downunderland’s leading “lefty” blogs, Larvateus Prodeo – more social democratic than socialist – picks up on the more worrying news of the week: the science is in, and planet’s much more stuffed than you thought it was.

Still locally speaking (that is, in the magical land of Oz), at Crikey, Andrew Crook gives the ALP apparatchiks a solid serve. So does the Socialist Alliance's Peter Boyle.

Self-confessed Marxist horror-writer Benjamin Solah planned to cover the August 1 protest outside the ALP national conference calling for same sex marriage rights. His post didn't make it up in time for this post, but take a look at it anyway.

At Revitalising Labour (the labour movement, that is, not the Labor party) Chris Latham reminds us that construction workers in Australia have less rights than terror suspects.

Australian Tamil blog Fast Unto Action blogs the launch by Women for Justice of a new group, Ahimsai, to commemorate the suffering of Tamil women under occupation.

Ever wondered what alcoholic, morbid, wastrel Green Left Weekly staff and their friends get up to on their days off? Carlo Sands gives you the low-down on whatever it is that alcoholic socialists are worried about in the wee hours before opening time.

@ndy at Slackbastard takes a break from hunting Melbourne (and other) Nutzis and celebrating the glory of the Collingwood football team with a wonderfully atonal kick in Bob Geldof's teeth.

Australian labour law specialist and long-time unionist Chris White writes largely about Australia. He is, however, well versed in Chinese labour law, and keeps an eye on the protests of potentially the world’s most important labour movement.

While we’re talking China, a couple of weeks ago Splinty picked more of the left's scabs over the Uighur conflict.

You want controversy? We have controversy. Socialist Voice is hosting debate on how the left should respond to Iran.

Over at LINKS, there is coverage of the violent and vituperous debate over the movie "Stolen". "Stolen", which claims to portray slavery in the camps of Western Sahara, screened recently at the Sydney Film Festival. The film makers - not to mention the Moroccan government, were less than overjoyed when the Saharawi "slave" featured in the documentary came all the way to Sydney to deny the claim.

LINKS also fills us in on the violent protests and occupations in Ssangyong, South Korea.

Back to Ole Blighty then, and over at Lenin’s Tomb, Richard Seymour continues to excel in lefty blogging. This Carnival, however, I can think of nothing so useful as the adage “a picture tells a thousand words”. In this case, two videos expose the insanity, propaganda and bullshit of the Zionist occupation. Thrust; Riposte.

Louis Proyect takes MRZine to task over support for the regime in Iran. There's more Iran over at Revolutionary Road, with live blogging from the Tehran General Office of Justice.

With the way the Ashes are going, it’s no surprise that the English seem pretty happy, now they’ve learned how to cheat at cricket (the ball bounced, the ball bounced, the ball BOUNCED). So happy, in fact, that while here in the Antipodes we’re trying very hard to pretend that cricket really ISN’T one of the most important things in existence, the Daily (Maybe) and Stroppy record a new, better, use for the sport in the latest effort for peace, democracy and working class emancipation in Iran, all the way from London E17.

Talking of cricket, Reading the Maps argues the toss about touring Sri Lanka in light of the oppression of Tamils.

In other important sporting news, the greatest game (bar Hurling) this side of the Large Magellanic Cloud has lost one of its stars. Hak Mao pays tribute to a Geordie Gentleman.

Another Green World and Climate and Capitalism bemoan the restriction of democracy in South Africa, in particular, the Socialist Green Coalition’s exclusion from elections.

And at the roof of the world, Revolution in South Asia alerts us to UCPN chairman Prachanda’s latest statements regarding their strategy in Nepal, namely: “The Unified Nepal Communist Party-Maoist is preparing to lead a new peoples’ revolt”.

The Honduras coup has been going on for a while, so hopefully you've heard about it (some haven't you know, but that's the tabloids for yer). It’s getting bloodier now, and may be reaching tipping point. Honduras Coup 2009 is watching the fascistas very closely, giving you the best analysis of the issues behind the Golpe, and destroying arguments of “constitutionality”.

River’s Edge brings another view of Honduras, via sunny Lancashire.

Still in Latin America, the ever-sharp BoRev, now with added contributors and more fun, brings you dispatches from the Bolivarian revolution with a difference. What's the difference? Well, facts, facts, more facts, the occasional Blingy picture of Evo Morales, and the application of a white-hot razor to the political genitals of the right wing press and their pet politicians.

Inka Kola News continues to give us the latest exciting graphs, pie charts (mmmm, pie), statistics and low-down on all those uppity economies of Latin America. In this case, Otto examines the strange case of Evo's ever-improving international currency reserves. When will those crazy indians learn?

Ecuador Rising
– your favourite English language news source on the tiny Andean country – keeps you up to date with the latest shenanigans: Correa deals with allegations he took cash from the FARC, the Central Bank loses its autonomy, the indigenous population fumes while their lands are mined, the economy slides into health and the occasional oil company gets nationalised while Chevron faces US$27 billion in damages for polluting the jungle.

Peru en movemiento tracks the bloody rebellion of Peru’s indigenous peoples of the Amazon, fighting no less than their own government and the big mining and oil companies whose activities are destroying the fragile ecosystems of the Amazonian rainforests.

The outstanding Bolivia Rising gives us a handy translation of an article by Raúl Prada Alcoreza on Bolivia’s “New Political Constitution of the State”.


And that's yer bloomin' lot. Enjoy.