Across the globe, working people are facing a disastrous surge in the price of food. Prices for basic staples such as maize, rice, and wheat have more than doubled over the past year. Widespread protests against the growing threat of mass hunger in many underdeveloped countries has raised concerns by the mouthpieces for big business in the rich countries that these protests could explode into mass social rebellions.
On May 12, the American Broadcasting Corporation reported that US voters’ "disgruntlement neared a record high and George W. Bush slipped to his career low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. Eighty-two percent of Americans now say the country’s seriously off on the wrong track, up 10 points in the past year to a point from its record high in polls since 1973."
On May 17 the Asia Pacific Solidarity Network (APSN) launched its new website of the same name. Based on its predecessors – Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET) and Action in Solidity with Asia and the Pacific (ASAP) websites – as well as providing regular news updates and analysis on the people’s struggles in the Asia-Pacific region, the new site has more than 10 years of archived articles, background reports, statements and press releases on Aceh, East Timor, Indonesia and West Papua.
Since the September 15 failure of Wall Street-based Lehman Brothers, the fourth largest investment bank in the US, the world’s capitalist governments have been scrambling to keep the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s from turning into a total collapse of the global financial system.
"The severity of this economic contraction is a once-in-a-hundred-year phenomenon. It really does compare in severity to the Depression of the late 1920s and through the ‘30s", Donald Brean, a professor of finance and economics at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, told the November 11 London Financial Times.
"Batten the hatches. This is not just a recession. This is the sharpest deceleration Australia’s economy has ever seen", Australian economic forecaster Access Economics warned in its latest quarterly Business Outlook report, released on January 18. The Access report said that Australia’s economy shrank in the December quarter despite the Rudd Labor government’s $10.4 economic stimulus package and will shrink again in the current quarter. It predicted that the official number of unemployed workers would swell to 850,000 (7.5% of the workforce) by early 2010.
The announcement by the Melbourne-headquartered Pacific Brands clothing and footwear manufacturing company on February 25 that it would sack 1850 employees – one-fifth of its global workforce – over 18 months, including 1200 in clothing manufacturing, demonstrated the failure of the Rudd Labor government’s $10.4 billion pre-Christmas "jobs protection" economic stimulus package.
The Rudd Labor government claims that saving workers’ jobs from the impact of the deepening global economic recession is its top priority. However, its April 2 announcement halving the number of not-for-profit job placement contractors across Australia, forcing up to 2000 workers employed by these job agencies to join their "clients" on the dole queues, demonstrates that the government’s real aim is to defend bosses’ profits. The announcement was part of a "streamlining" of the $4 billion out-sourced employment service set up by the Howard Coalition government in 1998.
At a December 13-14 summit in Havana of the representatives of the nine countries that make up the Bolivarian Alliance For the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), Cuban President Raul Castro correctly predicted that the UN-organised climate change conference in Copenhagen would be a failure. Castro said that, although the December 6-18 Copenhagen conference should end with "concrete, verifiable steps to confront the effects of climate change, we already know there will be no agreement".
The first issue of the Socialist Alliance’s Green Left Weekly for this year, dated January 20, carried an article headlined "New period of left unity and struggle launched". The article quoted SA member Dave Kerin as saying that the seventh national conference of the SA, held January 2-5, with some 220 participants, signified that "the Socialist Alliance becoming a true alliance of a very broad cross-section of views that are of the historic left".
"The ultimate reason for all real crises", Karl Marx argued in Capital, his seminal work on the laws of motion of the capitalist system, "always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as opposed to the drive of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as though only the absolute consuming power of society constituted their outer limit".
Fears that the US economy is sliding into a new recession or into a period of protracted near stagnation have been heightened by new data released at the end of August. Real US gross domestic product (GDP) increased at a sluggish annualised 1.6% rate in the April-June quarter of 2010 after increasing by 3.7% in the first quarter, the US Commerce Department announced on August 27. A month earlier the department had estimated US GDP growth in the second quarter would be 2.4%.
French trade unions estimated that 2.9 million people participated in strikes and protest marches across France on September 23 in opposition to a push by centre-right President Nicholas Sarkozy to impose cuts to the country’s pension system. The government claimed that just under 1 million participated in the protests. However, most of France’s corporate media reported protest numbers consistent with union estimates.
The following is an abridged version of a talk presented to a Sydney Direct Action forum on November 6. Doug Lorimer is a member of the national executive of the Revolutionary Socialist Party.
On January 27, the lower house of the Irish Parliament approved by a vote of 81 to 76 legislation imposing savage austerity measures on working people. The Finance Bill 2011 was supported by the conservative Fianna Fail government of PM Brian Cowen as a condition for a €85 billion rescue package provided by the European Union and the Washington-based International Monetary Fund.
British Judge Howard Riddle ruled on February 24 that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden to be questioned about allegations of sexual assault. This is despite the fact that Assange has not been charged with any criminal act. The verdict marks a new stage in efforts undertaken by Washington to silence Wikileaks’ disclosure of the criminal actions undertaken by the US government across the world.
Faced with opinion polls showing that the 16-year-old NSW Labor government is facing electoral wipe-out in the March 26 state election, Premier Kristina Keneally unveiled a phoney "fairness for families" package as her main campaign platform at a gathering of 400 party supporters and candidates in Sydney’s western suburbs on February 6. Keneally claimed that the measures, costing $913 million, would shield working people from soaring electricity, water, public transport and other government fees and charges.
As was predicted by opinion polls, the Labor Party was routed in the March 26 NSW state elections, garnering only 34% of the popular vote on a two-party preferred basis to the Liberal-National Coalition’s 66%. Labor is likely to retain at most 21 out of the 93 seats in the NSW lower house of parliament.
The federal Labor government and the Greens announced on February 24 that they had agreed to sell carbon pollution permits at a fixed price from July 1, 2012, as an interim measure. After that, a carbon emissions permit trading scheme will be introduced within three to five years.
British government memos obtained under freedom of information requests by oil industry researcher Greg Muttitt have revealed the oil profits were a key motivator of the UK’s participation in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. On April 19, the British Independent daily published a major story about these disclosures
"Europe’s debt crisis returned to haunt markets Monday as investors fretted over a possible Greek default", Associated Press reported April 23. Reuters reported two days earlier that the "emerging consensus in the markets [is] that Greece will have to restructure its 327 billion euros in sovereign debt, in spite of the European Union/International Monetary Fund rescue [of €110 billion] it secured one year ago".
After a rowdy three-hour meeting attended by about 70 banner-wielding observers, the 12-member Marrickville municipal council in Sydney’s inner-west voted on April 19 to rescind a motion originally adopted by 10-2 on December 14 to support the international campaign to boycott, sanctions and disinvestment (BDS) of Israel. The council passed a motion – with the support of three Greens, four Labor and two independent councillors – that resolved not to pursue the BDS "in any form".
In January 1992, Deng Xiaoping, the then "paramount leader" of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) made a tour of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone in China’s southern Guangdong province, situated immediately north of Hong Kong. During his tour, Deng praised Guangdong as a model to be emulated by the rest of China. According to the Communist Party’s People’s Daily, during his tour Deng also declared that the "Singaporean social order is good, because the country put it under strict control, we should learn from its experiences and should exercise better management of society".
In September 2010 the UN General Assembly was devoted to a discussion on ending global poverty, to the fulfilment of the so-called Millennium Goals first adopted in 2000. A decade after the adoption of these goals, UN agencies reported that while 830 million people lived on the brink of starvation when the goals were first adopted, this number had soared to more than 1 billion a decade later, even though there was enough food produced in 2010 to provide everyone in the world with at least 2720 kilocalories per day.
The six-months-long military stalemate between the 42-year regime of Libyan despot Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and the imperialist-backed forces of the Benghazi-based National Transition Council was broken by the rapid advance of the NTC forces into Tripoli last month. The NTC’s military successes were overwhelmingly due to the bombing campaign conducted by the air forces of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
The two largest organisations of the British radical left – the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the UK Socialist Party – have responded inconsistently to the wave of rioting, looting and arson that swept across English cities for four days in the wake of the police killing of Tottenham (London) resident Mark Duggan on August 4. As a result of the riots, five people were killed, about 100 homes were burned and 48,000 shops, pubs, clubs and restaurants were damaged. By August 15, the police had arrested 3100 people and charged more than a thousand.
A day after BlueScope Steel Ltd. announced on August 22 that it planned to close a blast furnace at Port Kembla (in the Illawarra region of NSW) and its Western Port (Victoria) hot strip mill, shedding 1000 jobs, the Socialist Alliance issued a public statement on its website and publishing it in the August 24 edition of the SA’s paper Green Left Weekly.
On September 29 the European Financial Stability Facility cleared a major hurdle when German MPs voted to ratify an increase in its size and scope, including enabling it to buy government bonds from eurozone nations facing bankruptcy. The expansion of the bailout fund from 440 billion to 780 billion euros almost doubles Germany’s contribution – to €211 billion.
At least 35,000 NSW public sector workers rallied in the Sydney Domain and then marched past the NSW parliament in Macquarie Street on September 8 to protest against the attacks on public sector jobs, wages and conditions announced by state Coalition government of Premier Barry O’Farrell, which includes a decision to axe at least 5000 public sector jobs.
Across the developed capitalist world, the Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired similar protests by thousands of people angered at the government bailouts of the banks and big corporations while the rest of us are forced to endure attacks on our living standards through government-imposed austerity. It has also attracted some weird hangers-on.
After 11 hours of talks in Brussels throughout the night of October 27, the 17 leaders of the states that share the euro as their currency announced a package of measures they hoped would be regarded by international financial markets as a "comprehensive" solution to the eurozone debt crisis.
The December 8-9 European Union summit meeting did little to end the continuing eurozone debt crisis. Instead, with the exception of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, all the rest of the 26 EU leaders accepted German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s push to impose a fiscal austerity compact that was simply a souped-up version of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which on paper on paper committed all EU member states to limit their annual budget deficits to 3% of GDP and their accumulated government debt to 60% of GDP.
Tunisian President Ben Ali’s ignominious flight into exile in Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011, after a month of strikes and street protests throughout Tunisia, set in motion a cascade of popular anti-despotic revolts across the Arab world that culminated in the ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011.
Barry Sheppard was a member of the US Socialist Workers Party for 28 years, from 1960 to 1988, and a central leader for most of that time. The Party is a two-volume recounting of Sheppard’s involvement in the SWP, which was formed in 1938 by the followers of exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. After Lenin’s death in 1924, Trotsky led the defence of the 1917 Russian Revolution’s goals of soviet democracy and commitment to a liberating revolution worldwide against the establishment of a bureaucratic dictatorship under Josef Stalin with its nationalist "socialism-in-one-country" orientation.
"Final results released Tuesday placed a liberal alliance ahead of other parties in Libya’s first free nationwide vote in half a century, leaving Islamists far behind, but each side is already trying to build a coalition with independents. It appeared to be a rare Arab Spring setback for Islamists, who won elections in Egypt and Tunisia – but the structure of the parliament, heavy with independent members, left the final outcome uncertain."
For a second time, Greek working people on June 17 voted against the austerity measures imposed on them by the Greek bankers, the International Monetary Fund and the European capitalist establishment. While the corporate media presented the election result as a "victory for the euro", that is, for the pro-austerity parties, a clear majority of voters, 53%, voted for candidates opposed to the pro-austerity "memorandum", including 27% for the candidates of the Coalition of the Radical Left, known by its acronym SYRIZA in Greek.