Friday, 31 October 2008

The Flame, October 2008 - Green Left Weekly's Arabic supplement

Via Links

According to the 2006 census, the most commonly spoken language in Sydney households, after English, is Arabic. In Australia as a whole, Arabic is the fifth most commonly spoken language. The Arabic-speaking community includes Lebanese, Egyptians, Syrians, Iraqis, Palestinians, Jordanians and Sudanese. Many other ethnic groups also speak Arabic in addition to their language because they have lived in Arabic-speaking countries. These include Armenians, Kurds, Assyrians, Mandaeens and many more.

With the help of Socialist Alliance members in the growing Sudanese community in Australia, Green Left Weekly -- Australia's leading socialist newspaper -- is publishing a regular Arabic language supplement. The Flame will cover news from the Arabic-speaking world as well as news and issues from within Australia. The editor-in-chief will be Soubhi Iskander, a comrade who has endured years of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the repressive government in Sudan.

“There are Arabic newspapers in Australia, but still all reflect the views of their editors and there is a great need to establish a progressive Arabic-language press which can frankly discuss the squalid condition of the Arab world due to submission and subservience to neo-colonialism”, Iskander explains. “At the same time, the Arabic-speaking communities in Australia need to read articles relating to the Australian government policy internally — articles which will unmask the pitfalls of these policies, and will expose the violation and the lies of the capitalist parties. The Flame, we hope, will be a powerful addition to Green Left Weekly.”

Iskander and his team are working to involve progressive activists from other Arabic-speaking communities in the Flame project. They are promoting GLW subscriptions to interested members of the Arabic-speaking communities. GLW is proud to be taking this major step to broaden the audience for progressive ideas and news of the movements for radical political, economic and environmental change. We know we will not achieve radical change without bringing together all sections of the oppressed and exploited in a common struggle.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is also proud to bring the Flame to readers outside Australia. Below is the fourth edition of the Flame, published on October 22, 2008.

Bolivia: Unprecedented alliance defeats right-wing assault (now with audio)

From Links

Evo Morales
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NOW with audio: Listen to Federico Fuentes' assessment after just returning from Bolivia. Morales seems to have outmanouevred the ultra-right's attempts to unseat him and to have made his position stronger, while his enemies are in disarray. He is so confident of his support in the popular social movements now that he is holding another referendum next month. Thanks to Left Click.

Part 1

Part 2
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By Federico Fuentes

La Paz, Bolivia -- October 28, 2008 -- After three months of intense class struggle, there can be no doubt that the US-backed right-wing opposition to the government of President Evo Morales has suffered three important defeats. The right’s offensive to topple Morales, which climaxed with the September 11-12 “civic coup” attempt, has been decisively rolled back by the combined action of the government and social movements.

The government secured a historic vote in its favour with more than 67% endorsing Morales’ mandate in a referendum in August that also revoked the mandate of two opposition prefects. Another opposition prefect was arrested for his role in the coup. And now Morales has secured a referendum for the new draft constitution to “refound Bolivia” on the basis of justice for the indigenous majority.

More importantly, a strengthened Morales government now counts on an unprecedented alliance of indigenous, peasants’ and workers’ organisations determined to defend their government and the Morales-led “democratic and cultural revolution”.

Third wave of struggle

With the turn of the century, Bolivia’s social movements — united behind Bolivia’s powerful indigenous peasant movement — began to rise up in opposition to neoliberalism and indigenous oppression, overthrowing two presidents and paving the way for the victory of the Morales-led Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) in early general elections in 2005.

On assuming the presidency, Morales moved to nationalise Bolivia’s gas reserves and convoke a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution — the two central demands of the mass movement.

A concerted campaign led by reactionary forces grouped around the prefects of the “half moon” — the eastern departments (or provinces) of Pando, Beni, Santa Cruz and Tarija — to wear down government support in order to pave the way for Morales’ downfall, succeeded in stopping the advance of this process for most of 2007.

Mistakes by the government and a relative demobilisation of the movements also contributed.

With their ability to mobilise an important social base against the government in the east around defence of “regional autonomy” and to stall the constituent assembly around the demand for a two-thirds majority vote on the new constitution, these forces spread their support outside of the half moon to the central departments of Cochabamba, where violent clashes occurred in January 2007, and then Chuquisaca.

Racist attacks against indigenous people and the assembly delegates in Chiquisaca’s capital Sucre forced the assembly to reconvene, first in a military barrack and afterwards in a different state — without the opposition — to approve the final text.

Bolivia appeared to be approaching the abyss, as regional and ethnic tensions deeply divided the country.

Victory at the ballot box

Believing that the time was right to move to get rid of Morales, the right-wing Podemos party (which controls the Senate) approved a law for recall referendums on Morales and the prefects.

This was also partly an attempt by Podemos to seize the initiative within the opposition from the half moon opposition prefects.

The opposition prefects, now grouped together in the National Democratic Coalition (CONALDE), initially opposed the referendums. However, following a series of meetings with US ambassador Phillip Goldberg, they agreed to accept the challenge.

A June by-election resulted in an anti-MAS prefect replacing the MAS predecessor in Chuquisaca, further lifting the right’s hopes.

But the results of the August 10 vote demonstrated a totally different reality. Morales’ mandate was endorsed with an historic 67.4% of the vote.

Morales also won in Pando, tied in Tarija and got more than 40% in Beni and Santa Cruz, with the opposition’s support base isolated to the main cities, encircled by MAS-aligned rural areas.

In the majority of rural electorates Morales scored over 90%, while in poor urban areas like El Alto in the west and Plan 3000 in Santa Cruz his support was above 80%.

Opposition prefects were also recalled in Cochabamba and La Paz.

Together with social programs that had begun to change the lives of millions, the deep connection felt with a president “just like us” that exists among the indigenous and poor urban sectors helps explain this result.

A coup by any other name

Fearing the government would use this victory to push ahead with a referendum on the draft Constitution, the right wing went to Plan B.

After a series of meetings between the US ambassador, US congresspeople and the half moon prefects, it was agreed to enact a plan to destabilise the east, stirring up violence to the point where either the military would be forced to react, causing deaths and Morales’ resignation, or creating the justification for some kind of United Nations intervention to “restore stability”.

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Small groups of balaclava-wearing thugs took over airports to create an image of a president that could not set foot in half the country, while the prefects openly talked about regional independence.

With violent attacks on indigenous people escalating, fascist youths began to target police officers and soldiers. The aim was to stir up discontent within these institutions.

The plan was ratcheted up as paramilitaries began to appear openly together with armed youths and to take over and loot state institutions, stating that they would now come under the jurisdiction of the prefectures.

Uncertain as to the potential reaction from the people and soldiers, the government wavered on whether to send in troops.

At the same time, the right began to seek out support among high-ranking military officials. On September 5, a meeting was held between US embassy representatives and military figures, including the Santa Cruz-based commander of the army’s eighth division, General Marcos Bracamonte.

Bracamonte agreed to not act against the coup plot.

The government finally decided to order the top commander of the armed forces Luis Trigo, known to have links with the Santa Cruz oligarchy, to move into Pando to take control of the situation. He responded that he would do nothing until a presidential decree had been signed to ensure that full responsibility for any blood spilt lay with Morales.

Once in Pando, he ordered troops to remain in their barracks and turned off his phone. According to sources in the government, Morales could not communicate with Trigo for four days. Others in the military high command did the same.

An emergency meeting of social movements was held in Cochabamba on September 10 where they resolved to march on Santa Cruz and crush the coup-plotting offensive.

Pando massacre

In order to distract the attention of the social movements focused on Santa Cruz, the coup plotters agreed to create a crisis in Pando.

Paramilitaries ambushed and fired upon unarmed peasants travelling to a meeting of their departmental union federation. At least 20 men, women and children were massacred, with more than 60 still missing.

A wave of revulsion spread throughout society, including among middle-class sectors in the east that the opposition had hoped to mobilise.

The social movements stepped up plans to encircle Santa Cruz. Peasants in the rural areas of Santa Cruz cut off all access to the city.

Amidst generalised revulsion against the actions of the right, and with the social movements on the march, Morales — and the entire ministerial cabinet according to one source — signed the decree to implement martial law in Pando.

Desire for action also swept through the military, as soldiers demanded to be allowed to go and defend their indigenous brothers. Under direct orders from Morales, new troops were sent to Pando.

After fighting off armed paramilitaries in the airport, they moved in to restore order in the capital Cobija.

Three days later, at an emergency summit of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), nine countries in the region came out strongly in defence of the Morales government and against any attempt to break up Bolivia.

Lacking international support, and with their plan unravelling, the prefects quickly called for a return to dialogue. The right-wing gangs began to lift their roadblocks and the government regained control of public buildings.

Although many of the social movement marchers wanted to continue until they reached the central plaza of Santa Cruz, on September 23 a decision was taken to end the protest and avoid a potential confrontation and bloodbath, as there were no guarantees for the security of protesters and snipers were rumoured to be present.


The government stated that the dialogue would focus on two controversial issues: regional autonomy and the level of funding to the departments from the direct tax on hydrocarbons.

Meanwhile, the government stepped up its campaign to hunt down those responsible for the Pando massacre and the destruction of state property. Pando prefect Leopoldo Fernandez, accused of ordering the massacre, had gone into hiding. He was found and arrested.

Numerous opposition “civic leaders” find themselves in the same situation.

With no overall agreement reached, dialogue shifted to Congress. Even with the votes of the other two opposition parties, MAS did not have the numbers without support from at least some Podemos deputies to achieve the required two-thirds vote of approval for a referendum on the Constitution.

The National Coalition for Change (CONCALCAM), which unites more than 30 peasant, indigenous, workers' and social organisations, together with the Bolivian Workers Central (COB) in a historic unity pact, decided to organise a march on Congress to ensure the approval of the law.

As a result of negotiations, the mobilisation of the social movements and the overwhelming public support for the law’s approval, Congress voted on October 20 to hold a referendum in January.

As well as agreeing to minor modifications to around 100 of the 411 articles in the draft, the government agreed to take Morales’ current presidential term into account under the new constitution. This means Morales will not be able to stand for re-election in 2014 if he wins the proposed December 2009 presidential elections.

The new constitution will limit presidents to a maximum of two terms in office.

A separate referendum will be held to determine whether large landholdings will be limited to 5000 or 10,000 hectares.

The land reform proposed in the constitution will not be retroactive, but continued ownership of land will depend on landowners using the land productively.

The CONALCAM supported the decisions, arguing that they demonstrated the willingness of the government to negotiate, and announced that it will immediately begin to campaign for a “yes” vote.

On the other hand, while the parliamentary right have stated they will also campaign in favour of the new constitution that until recently they described as approved by a “constituent assembly stained in blood”, the opposition prefects have announced they will campaign for a “no” vote.

An important political space has opened up in the east, where broad parts of society that until now have not felt part of MAS’s project, now openly reject the right-wing prefects who hoped to drag them into a civil war.

How MAS can reach out to these sections and consolidate its national hegemony is a crucial question in the next period. MAS is attempting to use the issue of regional autonomy, previously used by the right, to win these sections over to an autonomy based on solidarity and national unity.

Importantly, the Morales government now also counts on the revitalised social movements, which, together with their government, successfully neutralised the fascist coup attempt.

Cuba - Overwhelming UN General Assembly vote against US blockade

Overwhelming UN General Assembly vote against blockade of Cuba

NEW YORK.—The UN General Assembly today approved by an overwhelming majority the resolution demanding an end of the U.S. blockade of Cuba, a vote passed by the Assembly over 17 years, the news agencies report.

Of the 192 UN member states, 185 voted in favor of the resolution, while three voted against (the United States, Israel and Palau) and two abstained (Marshall Islands and Micronesia). With this result, Cuba has gained another vote this year in relation to 2007, when 184 voted in favor, four against (the United States, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands), and Micronesia abstained.

The resolution calling for an end to the blockade has been approved on 16 occasions with a backing that has grown from 59 votes in 1992 to the 185 of today.

Before the vote, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque spoke before the Assembly and noted the special situation in which this resolution is taking place, an economic crisis that is being internationally felt and above all, the imminent U.S. elections which, he observed, will produce a new president who "will have to decide whether the blockade is a failed policy."

"You are alone, isolated," said the foreign minister, addressing President George W. Bush. Pérez’ speech was loudly applauded by the Assembly.

Translated by Granma International

The Crisis In Germany, Das Kapital & The Poll Results

Berlin -- Yes, the big economic crisis is hitting Germany, too. The evidence includes the hasty meetings of top politicians and the decision by the government coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats to save the suffering banks with 500 billion Euros in credit.

Another piece of evidence: Karl Marx's famous book 'Das Kapital' is selling better than it has for years; its main publisher has already sold 1500 copies in 2008; in the past, at the very most, it sold 500 for an entire year. More people seem to be hunting for explanations and even solutions. (But the publisher warned that for laymen the book might be 'rough going'.)

A third piece of evidence: employees of the Opel auto plant in the East German town of Eisenach are now working only four days every two weeks. Opel belongs to General Motors which, we hear, is not having an easy time either. I still recall the joy of many Eisenach workers nineteen years ago when they got the chance to work for such a famous and giant company - and to buy its cars.

An even more curious bit of evidence: A recent poll of East Germans by a major magazine found that 52 percent had lost all confidence in the free market economy while 43 percent would support a return to a socialist economy. Most of those interviewed for the accompanying article agreed. Looking back to GDR days one 46-year- old worker from East Berlin said, "In school we read about the 'horrors of capitalism'. They really got that right. Karl Marx was on the ball.I had a pretty good life before the Wall fell. No one worried about money because money didn't really matter." A retired blacksmith said: "The free market is brutal. The capitalist wants to squeeze out more, more, more." And a city clerk added: "I don't think capitalism is the right system for us.The distribution of wealth is unfair. We're seeing that now. The little people like me are going to have to pay for this financial mess with higher taxes because of greedy bankers." Another Easterner recalled being delighted about the fall of the Berlin Wall and capitalism replacing communism. But, he added, "It took just a few weeks to realize what the free market economy was all about... It's rampant materialism and exploitation. Human beings get lost. We didn't have the material comforts but communism still had a lot going for it."

Such sentiments show up in the ballot boxes. The young party called The Left (Die Linke), whose origins trace back largely to the former ruling party of East Germany and whose program, despite many alterations, still calls for socialism, won second place in four out of five East German states, is the strongest party in East Berlin and, currently, leads polls of all East Germany. Since joining with a leftwing party in West Germany it is slowly but steadily spreading there as well.

All this is worrisome, indeed, downright alarming for the four parties which have hitherto ruled the German political roost. But they are not abandoning the fortress of free enterprise capitalism by any means, crisis or no crisis.

Almost every evening one or the other German TV channel explains to viewers how terrible life in the GDR used to be. Sometimes several channels compete in taking on this job. Two constant themes, of course, are the terrors of the Stasi and the horrors of the Berlin Wall. But there is also variety: how really bad GDR child care centers were, how athletes were made to suffer, how vacationers were regimented, how corrupt the big shots were, how poor the music, how heavily censored the books, plays or films. This enlightenment is often offered in the form of historical reportages, sometimes we are treated to full-length dramas and feature films, some of them very well-made. Similar message are inserted in the form of clever barbs into even the briefest, seemingly irrelevant news items.

Some of the facts are undoubtedly correct. Many of the private impressions are certainly genuine. There was far more than enough bureaucracy, dogmatism, repression and injustice during the forty years of the German Democratic Republic. But three things strike me when I watch these programs or, more and more frequently, turn them off after a few minutes.

Although they sometimes try to hook an audience by sounding impartial, admitting, often slightly sarcastically, that after all there may have been a few acceptable elements in GDR life, even then the overwhelming message soon reverts to the usual extremely bleak picture full of all the clichés, ignoring the many aspects of life which were very normal and could even be quite pleasant. But it is just such a mix of good and bad factors which I observed during the 36 years I lived in the GDR, participating in everyday life as an apprentice, a worker, a student and a journalist who visited nearly every nook and cranny of the country and spoke, publicly and very privately, with people from all walks of life. But the media prefers bashing and smashing, the rest is barely hinted at, and the media provides virtually no opportunities to talk back.

It may seem a mystery why programs telling us how tough we had it in those years of misery are not diminishing in number or ferocity, although the GDR has been dead since 1990. Why do they insist so very long on kicking a dead horse?

The recent opinion poll makes the answer more obvious than ever. True, the demise of the GDR in 1990, officially called German reunification but referred to by many as 'annexation', did bring a wide array of hard-to-get or unknown consumer goods, from bananas and kiwis to BMWs and ocean voyages. World travel became possible, retail trading expanded, houses were renovated, cafes multiplied, road traffic and advertising, from neon lights to TV commercials, virtually exploded. A certain percentage of the people certainly lived and still lives better than before, perhaps about one third.

But very many paid a heavy price, which is now being worsened by the new financial and economic crisis. Millions of jobs were lost after 1990 when East German factories were priced out of existence or bought up by western competitors for a song and soon shut down. Unemployment remained steady at double western levels (it is now about 14 percent), wages and pensions stayed just as consistently below West German levels, often 30 percent below.

Very gradually, a few areas began to pick up a little - some resort areas along the Baltic, a few auto and electronic plants, for example. But other factors worsened. Medical care became more and more expensive. Fees climbed or threaten to climb for child care and education. Taxes, except for the wealthy, moved upwards. Pensions, worth less and less, are now set at 67 (in the GDR men received pensions at 65 and women at 60). Worst of all, there is little or no security. Even those working for the few famous and established companies which did open up East Germany plants never know when their jobs will be terminated; a friend of mine lost hers exactly on her 50th birthday. For those laid off after the age of 45 or 50 it is extremely different to find a new job, and after a year with jobless pay the relief sums granted reduce their recipients to poverty and virtual subservience. And now, while the situation has not yet reached USA proportions, homelessness is also spreading. Is it any wonder that people recall GDR days when jobs were secure and evictions were prohibited by law?

But all that was known as 'socialism'. The very thought of such recollections frightens the powerful forces controlling the three main parties and greatly influencing the fourth, the once progressive Greens. Some years ago a Social Democratic cabinet minister demanded the 'de-legitimizing of the GDR'. Every trick in the book, every propaganda device is being thrown into the fight. A major battleground is the school system where, unlike TV, there is some dialogue. Leading politicians complain constantly that East German pupils are 'unclear about recent German history' and instead of listening to what teachers are ordered to teach them or what the new textbooks preach, they are often influenced by what parents and grandparents tell them about life in the old days, not only the bad but also the good. The politicians almost hysterically demand ever more forceful methods and ever more one- sided textbooks, now for the coming anniversaries of the founding of the two German states (1949) and the 'Fall of the Wall' (1989).Who will win this tug-of-war? Or rather, who will gain more ground? The next elections, on state and national levels - and maybe a few protest demonstrations or strikes - could provide some answers.

October 20, 2008

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Tim Gooden: What union response to job losses?

Tim Gooden

From Socialist Alliance

The global financial crisis isn’t just clipping the wings of grossly overpaid bank executives and speculators in shonky “financial instruments”. It’s going to hit ordinary working people hard.

Even if the trillions being injected into the bloodstream of the world financial system manage to restore its heartbeat, growth rates will fall and unemployment will rise. A whole generation of workers, who since 1991 have only known economic growth, will find out what it means to lose a job and not find another.

Areas where unemployment rates are higher than the national average will be worse hit. And it won’t be just blue collar workers in traditional manufacturing, like the several hundreds at Ford Geelong. Victoria University in Melbourne’s West recently announced the biggest job cuts in Australian university history: 250 staff (19% of teaching and general staff).

You can tell how serious the threat is by the speed with which the government dropped its May budget fight-inflation-first line and decided to inject $10.4 billion into economy via one-off payments to pensioners and parents.

But how much we will spend and save out of the pre-Christmas handout is just a guess by Treasury: what if most people use their payments to reduce debt instead of blowing them in Harvey Norman and Bunnings?

Then the economy will continue its nosedive into recession as consumption stagnates. What if — as seems probable — the capitalists become pessimistic and reduce their investments? Recession will come faster and be deeper.

The stakes for our living standards are so serious that the unions simply can’t afford to entrust everything to the Labor government and twiddle their thumbs on the sidelines, hoping that things don’t turn out as badly as everyone fears.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and treasurer Wayne Swan show no signs of wanting to tackle those responsible for the mess: the corporate (especially financial) elite. Rudd has unveiled a line of rhetoric against “extreme capitalism” and “excessive executive compensation”, but where is Labor’s action?

After just a couple of grumbles from senior bankers about Rudd’s idea of linking senior finance sector salaries to the security level of their financial institutions, the PM backed off. This was after the Reserve Bank had already sent billions the way of the financial institutions and the government accepted the banks keeping 20% of the last interest rate cut.

Some of Rudd’s emergency package is just plain counterproductive. Home buyers get a doubling or tripling of their grant, but building companies will no doubt use the extra rebate to temporarily keep up house prices that are already seriously inflated. The International Monetary Fund warned this year that Australia’s house prices are overvalued by at least 25%.

University of Western Sydney associate professor of economics and finance, Steve Keen, says Labor’s move will suck new home buyers into borrowing $70,000 more than their homes will soon be worth!

So what should the union movement be fighting for? A serious union policy against the crisis has four key points:

1. Give pensioners and the unemployed a living wage now, at the very least 35% of average weekly earnings. That’s the only way to ensure a sustained boost to consumption.

2. Speed up public spending on sorely needed infrastructure, particularly that which underpins the transition to environmental sustainability. Invest the Infrastructure Australia and Future Fund money, and the federal budget surplus, in rail, renewable energy, and decent public housing, health and education;

3. Nationalise the banks and run them in the community interest, beginning with the re-nationalisation of the Commonwealth Bank. This might seem an “extreme” policy to some, but let’s remember that the US and UK governments have already conducted crisis nationalisations and that the ALP has supported this policy in the past.

4. Really tear up Work Choices and all other anti-union laws. The coming recession will drive employers to sack workers and try to cut wages and conditions.

Under the present industrial regime the union movement is fighting with one-and-a-half arms tied behind its back. If working people and their communities — the vast majority of the Australian population — are to defeat the dragon of recession, they will need their unions to be as strong and as organised as possible.

Tim Gooden is the secretary of the Geelong and Region Trades and Labour Council.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Message from Gumatj clan nation - MataMata Homeland, NE Arnhem Land.

"There is a new wave of attacks on remote Indigenous communities. The government is set to close down most remote schools. Because cdep and welfare are linked to school attendance this is a retraction of any government support from these communities.

Schools will no longer teach in the local Indigenous languages either. English only.

They are also proposing to stop all funding to small remote communities, called Homelands or Outstations. These communities - like that we live in here at MataMata - is the cultural source of identity, pride and indigenous religion and law. These are sacred Homelands that the people WILL NOT leave.

There are also ominous signs the government wants to change the land tenure in these communally held estates (free hold title under the Land Rights Act).

These, among many other measures suggest the government seeks to move remote community people into larger centres. This is exactly as Vanstone suggested, but with more subtle rhetoric.

It may seem crude, but what would the response be if the government proposed to shut down all schools in white communities? If they proposed to shut down all service provision to white communities? If they started unilaterally CHANGING LEGAL LAND TENURE LEGISLATION in white communities?

People out here on the Homelands are both saddened and angry. However, they are defiant, that no matter what the government does, they will not leave their sacred lands and their law. The government will be condemning them to a life of EXTREME poverty. Is this 'closing the gap'? Is this 'reconciliation'?

They call this a representative democracy. What a joke - what representation do my family have out here? What say do they have in deciding on legislation that directly effects them and their children and their property?

For more info, check out these government discussion papers on the proposed legislation and here

The two policies have to be read as working together - that is where the more sinister policy proposals lie.

Also, it is worth looking at the proposed changes to education in remote Indigenous communities, and the government's latest response to the review of the NT Intervention.

For a great response to the government policy on CDEP and 'increasing employment', check out Frances Morphy's paper:

This gives a clear indication of some of the possible cultural effects of the new wave of Government attacks.

The more people that are informed and active on this issue the better.

Please talk to people about this down south! It is really so urgent I
can't stress it enough!

In solidarity,

Gumatj clan nation, MataMata Homeland, NE Arnhem Land.

Sam Watson: Protest Lex Wotton's shameful conviction!

Media release: October 26, 2008

Socialist Alliance Indigenous Rights Spokesperson and Aboriginal activist Sam Watson has called for major rallies in cities across Australia in response to Palm Island Aboriginal man Lex Wotton being found guilty on October 24 of “rioting with destruction”.

Watson said: ``This verdict was business as usual in the sovereign state of Queensland. Aboriginal people are absolutely outraged. You have an all-white court: a white judge, white lawyers, a white jury deciding on the merits of a case that involves very deep Aboriginal cultural issues.”

``This is classic Alabama-style justice from the mid-50s”, Watson continued. ``But the matter does not end here. They may think they've silenced the black community by jailing courageous leader in Lex Wotton, but what they have done is light a flame that will burn a long time in the heart and soul of Aboriginal people, in this state and around Australia.”

The Palm Island uprising occurred after 36-year-old Mulrunji was taken into police custody without charge, and was dead within an hour, with massive internal injuries. Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, who only faced charges after a massive public campaign forced the Queensland government to act, admitted in court that he “must have been responsible” for the injuries, including Mulrunji's liver being cleaved in two.

However, the all-white Townsville jury acquitted Hurley, accepting that Mulrunji's death was caused by an "accidental fall".

Watson noted that during the trial against Wotton, Officer Darren Robinson, who was a key witness in both the charges against Wotton and the acquittal of Hurley, admitted to lying in a previous serious allegation against Hurley.

“He had said there were no witnesses to allegations by a Palm Island woman that Hurley had deliberately run over her foot, for which she had to be taken to hospital. Robinson later admitted to having the names of two witnesses in a police logbook.”

Testimony from Robinson and other Palm Island police alleged that Wotton was wielding weapons, smashing police station windows, and distributing tins of petrol.

Watson commented: “Wotton's barrister, Clive Steirn, accused Queensland police of ‘lying through their teeth’ to convict his client. He said that ‘not only was Lex Wotton never a part of any riotous assembly, he did his level best to stop the violence.”

Watson concluded: "A white police officer admits he caused an Aboriginal man's death, yet he walks free. A black man, who can't be connected to anything except that he was on Palm Island on the day, is fitted up for jail.

“There is no justice for Aboriginal people within the courts of Queensland.”

In Brisbane, a protest against the decision will take place on Saturday, November 1 at 12 noon at Queens Park, marching on state parliament.

  • Watch video of Lex speaking in Melbourne before the trial.
  • National Indigenous Times: LEX WOTTON TRIAL: Jury returns GUILTY verdict
  • Wednesday, 22 October 2008

    Wombat Day! Wombats of the world unite!

    Although they have lost many of the true traditions (and have substituted lollies and chocolate for more honest fare), the website called Wombania still holds on to the memory of that most important of days: Wombat Day!

    In the Autumn of 2005, the Grand Wombat Council, under the wise leadership of President Wombat, realized that the world needed a special day to commemorate the often overlooked Australian wombat. October 22nd was chosen, and the very first Wombat Day was observed on October 22, 2005. Wombat Day is alternatively known as "Hug a Wombie Day" and "Wombats of the World Unite Day."

    The above note is mistaken, of course. Wombat day is centuries older that the internet, or any friendly humans. It is in fact a celebration of the wombat socialist victory, when we cast of the yoke of bush capitalism. Ever since that day, the victory of vombatid decency and good-will over greed and despoliation has been a major celebration in wombat culture. Karl Marx - an honourary wombat - was so inspired, he took one of our slogans for his own movement: "Workers of the world - unite!"

    Of course, those wastrel, lumpen, koalas don't appreciate it - they're too busy getting high on eucalyptus. But the order of the Bush has been kept in balance now for countless generations. In balance, that is, until you humans brought your crisis-ridden system into our ecosystems, threatening world-shattering strife and destruction.

    So, in these days of human capitalist crisis (much like the final days of the giant kangaroo market) and environmental jeopardy, the wombats invite you to join us in declaring: "Workers and Wombats of the World - Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!"

    And if you are serious about fighting for justice (and potatoes - we just love potatoes) - make sure you come down to Geelong on December 5-7!

    Tuesday, 21 October 2008

    Malaysia: Socialist Party celebrates legal recognition

    By Letchimi Devi, PSM via ASAP
    Kuala Lumpur, 19 October 2008: "If we want workers to survive then we must build socialism". A simple remark that illustrates the true purpose of socialism uttered by a farmer in his few words today, captivated me the most. He was one of the speakers from Perak who took part in a victory celebration organised by Party Socialist Malaysia (PSM) st the Selangor State level. 19 August 2008 was the day Registrar of Society signed the license for PSM to operate legally in Malaysia. It took 10 long years of struggle for PSM to get that piece of paper. It was a historic victory!

    A modest celebration was organised today, 19 Oct 2008, to thank the grassroots, civil societies, individuals and political parties who have fought along PSM to get the party registered. In spite of the bad weather, around 800 people attended the event that was held at Girl Guide's Hall, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.
    PSM leaders with party registration certificate
    The function was further honoured with the presence of Lim Kit Siang, the paramount leader of DAP [Democratic Action Party] and former Opposition leader, Teng Chang Khim The Speaker of Selangor State Assemble as well as one of PSM lawyers, Ishak Surin of PAS [Party Islam] who is also one of the founder member of Parti Rakyat in 1955, Hassan Karim, President of Parti Rakyat Malaysia and R.Sivarasa the Vice Chairperson of PKR [Justice Party] and MP for Subang, Theresa Kok of DAP, Monagar, Che Kamaruddin, Syed Ibrahim, AV. Kataiyah, K.Arumugam and many other leading leaders in the political and civil rights movement.
    Their presence and solidarity was further enhanced by the many community and local leaders from various working class background.
    The atmosphere and the spirit was red as the three main roads leading to the Assemble point at Brickfields were decorated with the PSM flags. . The hall itself was full of banners congratulating PSM over the victory! Light food was served throughout the function and there were many varieties sponsored by the many communities which PSM works with.
    As in all PSM events, the program started with the singing of the Internationalle followed by a 20-minute slide show on the struggle for party registration. A very powerful welcoming address was then delivered by PSM Secretary General, Comrade Arutchelvan. In his speech Comrade Arul thanked all groups including PKR and DAP for allowing their logo to PSM candidates in 2004/2008 and 1999 national election, to the lawyers, NGOs and Community movements for fighting the Rights to Association, and most importantly the grassroots urban settlers, factory workers, plantation workers, that have stood affirm with PSM as well as the backbone of the Party all these years. He then touched on the left history in Malaysia and how they were brutally crashed with draconian laws including ISA. An act that continued to be excessively used and misused! He further reminded the audience that PSM has never ceased to work though it was not given registration for 10 years as the party was considered national threat by the ruling government. As such HINDRAF should feel proud for being called "illegal" as it is a form of recognition by the government of it's strength.
    Then, [DAP leader] Lim Kit Siang took the stand with his commanding voice and authority.
    The hall became packed as everyone who was having meals entered the hall to hear him speak. Kit Siang congratulated the Party and gave solidarity message on behalf of his party. He stressed the need for all political parties opposing the BN government to join effort to create a nation with socialist values as the driving power.
    Comrade Segar who is also PSM CC member captured the entire audience with his Malay hit song titled "Socialism Returned to Malaysia". The day was boasted with many speeches and many solidarity messages. Grass root representatives and leaders spoke with many styles and among them were Comrade Chin Ko Youn of Perak Farmers Coalition (JERIT), Comrade Ang from Kg. Papan settlers, Comrade Rizana of Factory Workers Coalition (JERIT), Comrade Kannayah of Plantation Coalition and Comrade Santhana from PSM Youth Wing Section. Solidarity messages were also read out.
    Comrade Ishak Surin, 75 years old, a socialist in PAS and the founding member of Parti Rakyat (PR) urged all left parties to support PRM to win a battle with the government that wants to cancel it's registration. "What is wrong in having more political parties, at least the entire nation would be properly represented?" said Ishak. President PRM, Hassan Karim also welcomed PSM, which is open to all races and embrace socialist ideology as an important contributing factor in Malaysian politics..
    Ang an Urban settlers in his short speech said "I never expected that one day, I would go to Malay and Tamil urban settlers villages to fight for their rights, this is what PSM taught us". He said PSM resembles the thunder God.
    State Assemblyman of Sg. Pinang, State Assembly Speaker, CC member of DAP, a lawyer and a very good friend of PSM – Comrade Teng in his speech said, 'for 13 years I did not become rich, thanks to PSM for giving me more and more forced eviction cases and among tehm he cited Sg. Nipah, Rimba Jaya, Barembang. The task helped me to be with the most oppressed group of people and I thank PSM for that too". He too stressed the similarity between DAP and PSM as a foundation to work together, "we both want freedom, peace, equality and solidarity – principles of socialism".
    PKR vice president and the founder member of SUARAM, Comrade Sivarasa stated in his speech that PSM as a party that rejects sectarian or racial politics is an added strength to the national politics and he too wants to work with PSM on minimum program, "lets focus on the similarity between PKR and PSM".
    Party chairman, Comrade Nasir Hashim, the sole socialist State Assemblyman in Selangor took the opportunity to thank all parties and the bases of PSM's strength – the grassroots for their continues support. He also read a poem on the Journey to socialism in English.
    At about 10.45pm, Dr. Jeyakumar, PSM sole federal Memeber of Parliament led the remaining people to lit a candle at the road outside as a sign of protest. A group of about 200 people who remained lighted candles and together walked towards the main entrance of the hall. Syed Ibrahim, GMI chairperson gave a short message and end the program with high spirit "Abolish ISA…. Mansuhkan ISA".
    The wet day did not dampen the spirit of socialism. PSM strength is its work and its relevance to the working class. The many lights which remained lighted after the event symbolizes the hope and the aspirations of an on-going struggle to redeem the dignity of the toiling masses and to put socialism back in the mainstream landscape of Malaysian politics.

    Monday, 20 October 2008

    New edition of Alliance Voices

    Alliance Voices
    Socialist Alliance Discussion Bulletin & National Newsletter

    Current Issue -- Volume 8, No 1, October 2008 [20081016]
    CONFERENCE:Don't miss our 6th National Conference
    It is two years since our last conference and Alliance Voices speaks with SA National Coordinator Dick Nichols about the importance of the Socialist Alliance's Sixth National Conference in Geelong -- December 5-7, 2008.

    CONFERENCE:Getting There -- Cheap flights to conference
    Directions and maps to the conference venue, plus a review of all your cheap travel options.
    Read more....

    CONFERENCE:Pre-conference discussion - how we're going to do this
    How to get the most out of Alliance Voices in the lead-up to the Socialist Alliance National Conference.

    NEWS:New branch of Socialist Alliance forming in Northern Queensland
    In time for the national conference the word from Cairns and district is that a new Alliance branch has been formed. Read about all about Socialist Alliance activities in Far North Queensland.

    NEWS:Adelaide climate emergency conference a success

    Adelaide branch of the Socialist Alliance helped facilitate a highly succesful Climate Emergnecy Conference with a range of guest speakers.

    NEWS:National trade union work focusing on campaign to abolish the ABCC
    Now that the Rudd Labor has won office through the groundswell of opposition to Work Choices, the Socialist Alliance has been focusing on a campaign to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commisioner (ABCC).

    NEWS:Report on national environment work by the Socialist Alliance
    In the wake of the Climate Emergency protests and new figures on the Arctic ice melt, the Socialist Alliance has been focusing its environment work on fostering a national campiagn of protests.
    Read more....

    NEWS:Socialist Alliance Blacktown council campaign advances work with Sudanese socialists
    The Socialist Alliance's campaign in ward 3 of the Blacktown City Council in the September NSW local elections was an excellent beginning to collaboration with members of the Communist Party of Sudan and the broader Sudanese community in Sydney.

    NEWS:Socialist Alliance advance in NSW council elections

    September's NSW local government elections took place in a context where the state Labor government has been lurching from one crisis to another - notably (but not exclusively) a result of their persistence in pushing for privatisation of electricity against the wishes of 86% of the population.

    NEWS:Media falls in love with Newcastle's youthful team
    Newcastle Socialist Alliance sharply increased its vote in the September local government election. Zane Alcorn, Laura Ealing and Tom Cameron won 3.7% in Ward 3, almost tripling our 2004 ward result, (although on that occasion we made the mistake of not running as a group), and Zane scored 2%, which is at least twice our 2004 Lord mayoral result.

    NEWS:Marrickville: notes from the polling booths
    Candidate Pip Hinman reported from that the atmosphere between the ALP and Greens at the booth where the Socialist Alliance received around 100 votes, one of the highest, was pretty friendly - unlike in the past.

    NEWS:Western Australia Socialist Alliance election effort
    Our election effort on Saturday September 6 was a great success. It was all the greater because we started from such a low base!
    When the snap election was announced it was legitimately debatable that we could not even stand a candidate. At the decisive moment Julie Gray stepped forward and we got up and running.

    NEWS:Illawarra branch campaigns for local government democracy and against corruption
    The centre of attention for Socialist Alliance Illawarra—as for most political currents in Wollongong—has been the struggle to rewin the right to vote for the town's city council. The previous Labor administration, suspended while the Independent Commission Against Corruption investigated their links with developers, would have been thrown out if it had stood at the September 13 local government elections.
    Read more....

    NEWS:Socialist Alliance NSW conference helps boost left unity

    Around 60 people attended the Socialist Alliance NSW conference in Wollongong on August 23. The day was an inspiring success for a number of reasons.

    INTERNATIONAL: Building the mass anti-capitalist party in France
    Sam Wainwright reports: The French Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) summer school, which, I recently attended, has attracted around 1200 people. In the 12 years since I lived in France, the LCR has grown from about 900 members to around 3500 today. This is in the context of an ongoing cycle of mass struggle that began with the massive public sector strike in 1995 and continues to this day, feeding into social movements as well as industrial fights.

    CONFERENCE DOCUMENT: Alliance Perspectives

    The Socialist Alliance perspectives document, a discussion-starter for our Sixth National Conference, asks what we have achieved, the political terrain on which we are operating, what our priority campaigns should be, and how to best strengthen our organisation.

    DISCUSSION: On the draft perspectives document
    A contribution to pre conference discussion from Sara Moss (Gold Coast).

    DISCUSSION: A commentary on Socialist Alliance and the 2007 Federal election
    A contributrion to pre conference discussion from from David White (Brisbane).
    Read more....

    Contact the Socialist Alliance

    “End the NT Intervention”: ARC Forum Nov 1


    Aboriginal activists and other speakers take a critical look at Rudd’s Review Panel Report on the on the NT Intervention, the continuation of attacks on welfare and the need to resist racist attacks on Aboriginal Communities in Sydney as well as the NT

    2pm – 4pm Saturday 1st November

    Redfern Community, Centre Hugo St, Redfern

    For more information, ring Greg 0432 050 240 or email

    The Aboriginal Rights Coalition, Sydney, meets every Monday at 6pm @ the Redfern Community Centre. Please come along and join the campaign for justice.

    If you can’t make the meetings, please consider donating to help the ARC cover our costs. Whether it be travel costs for speakers, photocopying, food or venue hire, the ARC is a volunteer organisation, and depends upon your help to continue.

    Lift the Blockade of Cuba!

    Dear friends of Cuba,

    Lift the US blockade on Cuba - Urgent appeal for your solidarity

    On October 29, the UN General Assembly will once again vote on Cuba’s annual motion calling for the criminal US blockade against it to be lifted. It is likely that the overwhelming majority of the General Assembly will vote with Cuba once again. However, given the Australian government’s prevarication on this vote in recent years, it is crucial that all supporters of Cuba’s right to sovereignty urgently put pressure on the minister of foreign affairs and Australian ambassador to the UN to this year vote in favour Cuba’s motion without amendment.

    Please find below a “model” letter (to be modified as you wish) to be sent to the minister, with a copy to the Australia’s ambassador to the UN, urging their support for Cuba’s motion.

    Please also forward this letter as widely as possible to others in the next few days with a request that they actively support this emergency campaign – the letters need to be received by the minister by October 24 to be effective.

    Thank you for your solidarity.

    Lisa Macdonald

    ************ ********* ********* ********* ********* ********* ********* *********

    The Hon. Stephen Smith

    Minister for Foreign Affairs

    PO Box 6022, House of Representatives, Parliament House
    Canberra ACT 2600

    Fax: 02 6273 4112

    Phone: 02 6277 7500

    Email: Stephen.Smith. au

    Cc: The Hon. Robert Hill

    Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations

    150 East 42 Street, Level 33, New York NY 10017, United Nations

    Fax: 212 or 646 351 6610

    Phone: 212 or 1-646 351 6600

    Dear Minister,

    We are writing to urge you, as a representative of the Australian people, to ensure that Australia votes in support of the government of Cuba’s motion to the United Nations General Assembly on October 29 calling for the United States government to lift its 46-year-long economic blockade on Cuba.

    The lifting of the US blockade is, this year, more urgent than ever following the devastation of Cuba last month by hurricanes Gustav and Ike. While Cuba’s remarkable achievements in social development meant that very few lives were lost as a result of those natural disasters, the US blockade – by preventing Cuba from buying most construction and other supplies directly from the US - is a huge obstacle to this tiny country’s ability to recover from the hurricanes. On humanitarian grounds alone, we believe it is incumbent on Australia to do all it can to end this unjust blockade.

    As in every previous vote on Cuba’s motion to the UN, it is likely that the overwhelming majority of General Assembly members will once again recognise that the US blockade is a flagrant violation of the Cuban people’s right to decide their own government and future, and support the motion. We urge the Australian government to do likewise, and to refrain from sponsoring, as it did in 2006, an amendment to Cuba’s motion that sought to interfere in Cuba’s sovereign affairs.

    As a nation that values democracy, Australia has a responsibility to advocate and uphold in forums such as the UN the right of all nations to self-determination, just as we expect our national sovereignty to be respected. To sacrifice such democratic principles to an economic and foreign policy alliance with the United States shames Australia in the eyes of the rest of world.

    We urge you to take a principled stand on behalf of the Australian people and ensure that Australia votes in favour of Cuba’s just motion in the UN.

    Yours sincerely,

    [Name and contact details of individual or organisation]