Tuesday, 25 May 2010

AVSN replies to SBS's anti-Chavez propaganda

“Power politics”: A reply to SBS TV’s political propaganda

The Dateline program “Power politics”, aired on SBS TV on May 23, 2010 (and on SBS2 on May 24) was one of the most blatantly biased reports on Venezuelan politics yet to be aired on Australian TV. The anti-Bolivarian line unashamedly pushed by reporter David O'Shea mirrors (in fact was shaped by) the most right-wing of Venezuela’s opposition parties.

O’Shea’s key spokesperson for the supposedly widespread public disgruntlement with President Chavez and his government was Aixa Lopez. Lopez is presented as an ordinary citizen/mother of an asthmatic daughter/lawyer turned activist who set up the "Association of Victims of the Blackouts" out of fear for her child’s safety. What O’Shea fails to mention is that Lopez is also a long-term, committed activist for the political right, including holding the position of Women’s Secretary in the conservative Accion Democratica (Democratic Action - AD) party.

Almost everyone interviewed by O’Shea are middle-class professionals with axes to grind, and he gives them free, uncritical rein. Their vague but vehement claims that the Chavez government silences dissent are ridiculous in a country where there is greater freedom of movement, speech and assembly than even in Australia.

In this regard, O’Shea’s apparent refusal to absorb the significance of some of his own script is stunning. For example, just seconds after footage showing government critics freely demonstrating outside the ombudsman's office, anti-Chavez leader Vladimir Villegas is presented accusing the Chavez government of “shutting down critics, restricting debate, trying to impose a political view that monopolises society and preventing dissidents from expressing their views, especially internally”.

Just minutes after O’Shea reports that Venezuela’s government has recently armed 30,000 farmers and other ordinary people in national defence militias, Chavez is described as an “egotistical, militaristic totalitarian”.

It doesn’t make sense. If Chavez is such a totalitarian, why would all members of Venezuela’s armed forces be required to pledge not harm their fellow citizens? Why would Chavez have led the radical reform of Venezuela’s military to include social and community work as part of military life?

What does make sense is that, in the face of coup threats and plots, the alarming militarisation of surrounding countries by the United States, and Western TV stations like SBS actively promoting “regime change” in his country, Chavez wants an armed population.

Before Chavez was elected in 1998, Venezuela was ruled by only two parties: Democratic Action (AD) and Copei, the Christian Democrats. By contrast, the September 26th, 2010, national assembly elections will be contested by around 10 major parties, as well as dozens of smaller parties. This is hardly a state that does not allow dissent.

In fact, this Dateline program is very like the many aired daily in Venezuela by the opposition, who own the licences for all but one state-owned and one community TV broadcasting frequency. Again, hardly evidence of a state that does not allow dissent.

For a program supposedly focused on a basic service – electricity – it is remarkable that there was no mention of the many infrastructure projects the Chavez government has successfully undertaken: a huge expansion of public housing, schools, universities, hospitals and health clinics. Compared to 1998, more than 4 million more Venezuelans now have access to clean drinking water, and more than 5 million more Venezuelans now have access to sanitation.

It is even more remarkable that, having mocked the Chavez government’s public education campaign to reduce energy consumption, Dateline did not even mention the more significant attempts of the government and workers in the electricity sector to address the energy crisis. There was no mention, for example, of the two-day presidential consultation with the rank-and-file electricity workers in April, or the May 15 handover of control of various primary production plants to the workers.

Setting aside the absurdity of implying that President Chavez is somehow responsible for the current drought in Venezuela, or that low-energy light bulbs are evil tools of communist dictatorships, it in evident in every election result since Chavez first came to power that the poor of Venezuela know they would be the last to get any electricity had this happened before Chavez was elected.

And that is the nub of it: it is not Chavez the individual that fills the opposition with fear and loathing as much as the poor majority - the millions of Chavistas who are determined not to let themselves be driven back into an underclass of excluded and oppressed people. Despite undeniable obstacles and problems, in Venezuela a large proportion of people are starting to play an active role in their shaping their society, organising collectively to overcome their problems through mass movements, social missions, communal councils, community media and so on.

Rather than providing a well-researched, credible investigation of the social, economic and political situation in Venezuela, this Dateline program appeared, as one viewer’s comment on SBS’s website put it, to be little more than “an English version of the election launch for the Democratic Action (AD) Party … AD ruled Venezuela badly for 40 years. AD chose to boycott the last elections - their mistake. But now they are running for office with Dateline's help!”

We suggest that SBS endeavour to repair some of the damage to its reputation by commissioning another Dateline report that strives honestly to document the views of some of the majority of Venezuelans, who have repeatedly re-elected Chavez with increasing majorities each time, and who support his efforts to put such vital resources as electricity and the media under their/public control.

As another viewer commented on the SBS website: “For those who have missed out on dreams of a gravy boat ride or a green ticket to the US I imagine that Chavez would be hard to swallow. For the people of the world who support … equality across all economic groups, Chavez is a hero. Chavez supports the poor, obviously the rich are going to cry, they will have to share. Viva Chavez!”

Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network


May 25, 2010

Thursday, 20 May 2010

May 22: Socialist Alliance NSW State Conference & Election Launch

Struggle, Solidarity, Socialism!

Saturday May 22, 11am -5pm Redfern Community Centre, 29-53 Hugo Street, Redfern.

Socialist Alliance members and supporters from Wollongong, Newcastle, Blue Mountains, Dubbo, Northern Rivers, Armidale, Sydney and Sydney West will gather to launch the Alliance's Federal Election campaign, and plan the Alliance's work in NSW. All-in sessions plus workshops on topics including Aboriginal and refugee rights; climate change action; union struggles; queer & womens rights + much more. All welcome.

Donation entry for the day $10/5.
Ph Paul 9690 1977, 0410 629 088.

Draft agenda:

11::00-11:15am Aboriginal community welcome

11:15am-12:15pm Opening panel: A socialist vision for the Federal Elections
Featuring Socialist Alliance NSW based election candidates Rachel Evans & Soubi Iskander (NSW Senate), Jess Moore (Cunningham), Zane Alcorn (Newcastle), Duncan Roden (Parramatta) & Pip Hinman (Grayndler) outlining a grassroots vision that puts people and the planet ahead of profit.

12:15-1:45 Educational & Campaign workshops
* Climate Action campaigning - the issue of our age
* Sexism & queerphobia under capitalism – our fightback
* Origins of racism & our campaigns for Aboriginal & refugee rights
* International Solidarity: Supporting red shirts: from Thailand to Venezuela

1:45-2:30 Lunch

2:30-3:45 Activist skills and Campaigns workshops
* Skills for using 21st century technology for social change
* How socialists get our ideas across
* Creative socialism - visuals and design to inspire change
* Lessons for community campaigning

3:45-4 – Afternoon tea

4-440 – Workshop report backs and adoption of proposals

440-5 – Organising and building Socialist Alliance

Conference After-Party! Food, drinks, & post-conference festivities!
From 6:30pm @ 17 Holmesdale St, Marrickville

The CFMEU car-bomb hypocrisy

A former CFMEU insider writes:

So my old workplace was attacked with a car bomb last week. There are not many people in this country who can make that statement! The attack occurred in suburban Western Sydney, missing by less than an hour a community group meeting in the building.

A group of people stole a car, loaded it with canisters of petrol, smashed it through a three-metre high wrought iron gate and crashed it into the front doors of a three-storey office block. I had a look at the damage myself less than 12 hours after the attack. The picture to my eyes looked very Baghdad indeed.

Amazingly, since the attack, not one state or national political figure has come out and condemned the violence. The reason? The target was the NSW headquarters of the construction division of the CFMEU.

Imagine for a moment, if such an attack had been perpetrated on any other part of civil society. A church. An RSL. A scout hall even. Our political leaders would have been racing each other to the scene of the crime. Jostling to inspect the damage, crunch over the broken glass, comfort the staff, condemn the violence.

It would have been (mis)named as a terrorist attack. Bi-partisan condemnation would have come from all levels of government. The papers would be full of it for days.

Instead we get this ... silence.

The attack got good electronic media coverage Friday but major papers such as the so-called "paper of record" in my home town, the Sydney Morning Herald, literally ignored the attack. For the readers of the SMH and The Australian, the attack just simply never happened. Not worthy of being reported on it seems. Middle-class indolence at its most revealing.

But I am mostly angry at Kevin Rudd and our political leaders. Rudd and IR minister Julia Gillard have shown their true colours here. They are fakes. Shallow fakes. A serious attempt to terrorise and intimidate a key plank of our civil society and they are mute. Too busy seeking reflected glory from Jessica Watson, in Rudd's case. For these people, including Kristina Keneally, the puppet in NSW, condemning outrages must clearly never be about principle. This incident has demonstrated how there must always be a cynical political calculation behind every expression of sympathy or outrage. Some hollowman down in Canberra must have just done the calcs on Rudd or Gillard coming out on this and decided it didn't fit the government's "narrative." Or something. Best ignored.

Clearly our political leaders are happy to associate themselves with a disaster when politically expedient, but run a mile when its not. That's not what leadership is in my book. What a bunch of frauds.

The hypocrisy revealed in this incident is sickening. A bit of blue language on a building site and there are screaming headlines, a politicised Royal Commission (which could not find any of the corruption and organised crime in the building industry because it was only looking for it among the unions) and an industrial police with powers and an agenda that would make the Gestapo proud. But drive an improvised explosive device into a union office? Somewhere a cricket is audible in the silence.

The shocking explanation is that what happened at Lidcombe simply does not fit with the anti-CFMEU agenda of the political and media elites in this country.

The CFMEU has all sorts of problems, I should know I used to work there. But the reason a terrorist-style attack on its NSW headquarters can be ignored in this manner is because the union represents a danger to the political and media elites. Along with just a handful of other effective unions, it remains an example, an imperfect and flawed example, of ordinary people having a little bit of power in their working lives.

That's why the CFMEU is fair game.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

“Reject the names invaders gave us”

Goodooga, northwest NSW, 15 May 2010 -- Aboriginal political activist Michael Anderson said today that the second New Way Summit held over the weekend of the 8-9th May at the Sydney University was very successful.

While it was very difficult for many people to attend, the internet is very effective at getting to a large audience, Mr Anderson said.

The issue of the continuing sovereignty of Australia’s Aboriginal nations was the centre piece of the weekend’s discussions and the summit decided that Aboriginal people must assert their continuing sovereignty by identifying their territory and clan country as it was before the British invasion.

“People must reject the nominated names that the invaders gave to us and return to our original names,” Mr Anderson said.

“It is not an easy task to throw away the names and tags that have been imposed upon our peoples throughout Australia, but it is a challenge that we as Aboriginal nations face,” says Mr Anderson.

“The invader has imprisoned us within his society just with name tags that they own. By registering our children under their birth registration the oppressor gets to own our children and us,” the New Way summit was told.

“Mabo Judgment number 2 exposed Australia’s weakness to hold claim over the Aboriginal nations. This is borne out by the Chief Justice alluding to the fact that the High Court of Australia was not the appropriate judicial location for this question to be answered as it belonged to another jurisdiction.

“This means the only appropriate court is the world court and there is already a precedent in the Western Sahara case. In this judgment the International Court of Justice said that sovereignty always remains with the people,” said Michael Mr Anderson.

“The existing Australian society and parliament assert a right of claim. Trying to get them to talk to us about a New Way forward and settlement on our claim to this country on equal terms for negotiations is like asking the thief ‘did you take it’. He will always find a way to say NO, I did not,” Michael Anderson argues.

“What is the claim of ‘right’? It appears that this claim of right comes from the ‘Bible’ where Abraham was told by God that his children would go out and take the lands of others.

“This is the basis upon which the Papal Bulletins were issued to England, France, Spain and others who set sail to locate other lands and settle them for their kings and queens and thereby assert a right of claim upon settlement,” said Mr Anderson.

“In our case we have never ceded nor relinquished our sovereignty to the invaders, the British, nor have we treaties with the existing government,” Mr Anderson said.

“These issues are the ghosts that haunt this country and we must lay to rest this question.

“It is a very daunting task and I understand that people will say ‘what about the assault we are experiencing from these existing governments.

“To that I reply: How many times can a dog stand being kicked? It is time to stand up and say ‘no more’.

“Our people must have a long hard look at our current position and situation. You cannot stand on the sideline and be spectators.

“We must get into the game, and not be cowards and wait for the players of defiance to play the game and when they take some yards from the opposition you step in and take this position from which you yourselves will benefit while tacitly siding in part with the enemy in fear of a loss,” Mr Anderson said.

“There is a plan of action that the delegations will act on and these actions will be rolled out over the rest of this year.

“We are one and we must work together; if we fail, all will be lost,” Mr Anderson said.

The next New Way summit will be at the Melbourne University during the June Queen’s Birthday weekend, when the lead topic will be the British genocide of Aboriginal people and the ongoing war against Aboriginal people through assimilation and absorption. Another key topic to be discussed is the 'Treaty’.

Michael Anderson can be contacted at 02 68296355 landline, 04272 92 492 mobile, 02 68296375 fax, ngurampaa@bigpond. com.au