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Inspired by the unfolding socialist revolution in Venezuela, as well as the continuing example of socialist Cuba, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is a journal for "Socialism of the 21st century", and the discussions and debates flowing from that powerful example of socialist renewal.
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February 6, 2010, is the first anniversary of the day I had to leave Thailand and seek political exile in Britain. I left Thailand because it had become a dictatorship with no regard to international standards of justice, democracy or human rights. I was charged with lese majeste for writing a book which criticised the illegal military coup in 2006.
In the book I questioned the role of the king and the relationship between the army and the monarchy. I asked whether the monarchy should have defended the constitution and democracy. The perverse thing about the lese majeste law is that a person can still be “guilty” for telling the truth. It is a law which tries to prevent open discussion. Court cases are heard in camera in a kangaroo court. Human rights activist Da Torpedo was sentenced in such a court to 18 years in prison.
The Thai government has failed to show how I made any untrue statements in my book. Yet it accuses me of “avoiding justice”. The same accusation is made against Jakrapop Penkare. Yet, who are the real criminals in Thailand who avoid justice? They are the military and conservative elites who use bully-boy tactics to destroy justice.
Representatives of New Zealand left organisations attended the Australian Socialist Alliance's recent national conference. In the following interviews, conducted by the Australian socialist newspaper Green Left Weekly, they explain the political situation in New Zealand and talk about the key campaigns they are involved in.
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By Paola Harvey
January 30, 2010 -- Although New Zealand, like Australia, has not been as badly affected by the global economic crisis as the US or Europe, workers are facing hardship. Bronwen Beechey, an activist from Socialist Worker New Zealand (SWNZ), told Green Left Weekly: “There have been a lot of redundancies, places have been closed down.”
Beechey and SWNZ activist Peter Hughes were in Sydney to attend the January 3-6 Socialist Alliance national conference. They spoke to GLW about the SWNZ’s “bad banks” campaign, which takes aim at the cause of the global financial crisis — neoliberal capitalism.
By Mike Treen
Official data on wage movements in New Zealand point to a real wage decline of around 25% between 1982 and the mid-1990s that has never been recovered.
There have been two series measuring wages in the period – the Prevailing Weekly Wage Index (discontinued in June 1993) and its replacement the Labour Cost Index. I have created a continuous series based on the LCI series back to 1982 (by adjusting the PWWI numbers before December 1992 when PWWI at 1000 was equivalent to the LCI at 868). These numbers are in turn deflated by the CPI index covering the whole period.
What is revealed is that by the mid-1990s real wages had declined at least 25%. There has been no recovery since then and real wages remain 25% below their 1982 peak. This result can be directly attributed to the combination of the massive deunionisation as a result of the anti-union employment laws and the recession that accompanied it in the early 1990s.
By Roger Annis
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada -- Socialist Voice -- On February 12, 2010, the corporate sporting behemoth known as the 21st Winter Olympic Games will open to great fanfare here. In a time of economic hardship and government cuts to social programs across Canada, huge sums of public money have been spent to stage this uber spectacle.
Billions of dollars have been spent constructing venues, a new convention centre and airport terminal; widening and paving untold kilometres of roads and highways; building a hugely expensive rapid transit line connecting the city’s airport to its downtown; and erecting new hotels to serve the influx of corporate sponsors and spectators.
The hotel, travel, restaurant and real estate industries hope to make a killing off the influx of out-of-town spectators and partygoers. Construction companies have already earned hundreds of millions of dollars during the years of preparation furiously pouring concrete and asphalt. The official line says there will also be lots of long-term tourism dollars to be made, though this has not happened in other host cities.
By Paul Kellogg
The Slovenian cultural theorist Slavoj žižek – most centrally in his Revolution At The Gates – has made it his business to reintroduce the Russian Marxist Vladimir Lenin to a new generation of activists. This in itself is a worthwhile project. Most believe that in building a new left we have to “leave the Leninist legacy behind” and greet any attempt to resurrect Lenin with “sarcastic laughter ... Doesn’t Lenin stand precisely for the failure to put Marxism into practice, for the big catastrophe which left its mark on the whole twentieth-century world politics, for the Real Socialist experiment which culminated in an economically inefficient dictatorship?”.[i]
By Olivier Besancenot, translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (MRZine)
February 3, 2010 -- Le Figaro caricatured my words regarding the candidacy of Ilham Moussaïd, who is on our list in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur regional elections. After a serious and complex debate, the Vaucluse chapter of the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) made a choice to include on its feminist, anti-capitalist and internationalist lists an NPA member who believes in wearing a headscarf on account of her religious convictions.
[See French capitalist press report below.]
By Regan Boychuk
January 26, 2010 -- Haitians’ incredible plight has always been difficult to fully appreciate. Then the earthquake struck: hundreds of thousands dead, hundreds of thousands more hurt, a million homeless, and two million in need of food. It defies imagination.
And according to a journalist just returned from Haiti, even the heart-rending footage we’ve seen here on television fails to “portray the magnitude of the tragedy that has happened – and the degree to which the Haitian people are suffering. When looking at images from the disaster,” writes Steven Edwards, “we need to multiply by ten times our reaction of horror – only doing that can give you a true picture of what is going on in a place that has become hell not far from our shores.”[i]
Interview with William I. Robinson, professor of sociology, University of California at Santa Barbara, by Chronis Polychroniou, editor of the Greek daily newspaper Eleftherotypia
February 1, 2010 -- ZNet
Chronis Polychroniou: There are scare stories coming from Venezuela. The border is heating up, infiltration is taking place, a new Colombian military base near the border, US access to several new bases on Colombia and constant subversion. Is the regime concerned about a possible invasion? If yes, who is going to intervene?
Alberto Muller Rojas interviewed by Vladimir Villegas
February 2, 2010 -- This interview was first published at Indymedia Venezuela on November 24, 2009. Vladamir Villegas is the former president of the state-owned Corporación Venezolana de Televisión (Venezuelan Television Corporation, VTV) network based in Caracas, and ex-Venezuelan ambassador to Mexico. Alberto Muller Rojas is the vice-president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). It was translated by Sean Seymour-Jones and Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com.
* * *
Villegas: [You have said] 21st century socialism is a revision, a rectification of the socialist approach and that it isn’t trying to copy what happened in the Soviet Union. You believe that the Soviet model distorted itself because, among other reasons, it constructed a type of state capitalism. A public bureaucracy emerged, equivalent to that of any capitalist country and that bureaucracy totally disconnected itself from the masses. And that isn’t happening here?
Introduction and translation by Felipe Stuart Cournoyer
February 1, 2010 -- Below is a translation of a news report that appeared in the January 31, 2010, issue of the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo. One of the most vexing issues in Latin America’s relations with Haiti is the grievous lack of understanding on the part of anti-imperialist forces about the nature of the repeated imperialist occupations of the former French colony, and of the crushing of the Lavalas movement, including the ouster of the country's democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
I understand that at least some currents on the Brazilian left -- for example the PSOL -- understand that the UN occupation of Haiti was really a US-NATO occupation. This became clear when the US put an end to the pretense and used the January 12, 2010, earthquake devastation and catastrophe as a pretext to directly occupy Haiti with US troops.
However, to my knowledge, Brazil's Workers Party (PT) government has been silent on this issue. Its military has the lead role in the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), misnamed to be sure.
Bolivia also has troops in the same UN police force.
By Ian Angus
January 31, 2010 -- Climate and Capitalism -- For more than two centuries, the idea that the world’s ills are caused by poor people having too many babies has been remarkably successful at diverting attention from the complex social causes of poverty and injustice.
Forty years ago, Paul Ehrlich’s bestseller The Population Bomb applied the idea to environmental problems:
The causal chain of deterioration is easily followed to its source. Too many cars, too many factories, too much detergent, too much pesticide, multiplying contrails. Inadequate sewage treatment plants, too little water, too much carbon dioxide – all can be traced easily to too many people.
Ehrlich’s book convinced many environmentalists, and led to the formation of a variety of groups that focused solely on the supposed evils of overpopulation.
Today, as women’s rights activist Betsy Hartmann warns in a recent article, populationist arguments are back – but now groups such as the US-based Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth) and the UK’s Optimum Population Trust have added a “faux feminist twist” to their attacks on the reproductive rights of Third World women.
Luis Bilbao, translated by Janet Duckworth for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal
February 2, 2010 -- The first step has been taken. It has extraordinary strategic implications. It will shake up the left and right, the West and the East. It will blow in like a whirlwind through every political organisation, trade union or social, in every corner of the planet. On the evening of November 20, 2009, the day before the opening of the first extraordinary PSUV [United Socialist Party of Venezuela] congress, a feeling of vertigo swept over tens of thousands of people who heard Hugo Chávez, either on TV or on the internet, speak before delegates of parties from 30 or so countries, and launch a proposal that was as long desired as it was unexpected: to set to work to build the Fifth Socialist International.
By Anna Ochkina, translated by Renfrey Clarke for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal
[Rabkor.ru published this reply by Anna Ochkina to a polemical article, “Masculine and Feminine”, by Dmitry Zhvaniya. Anna Ochkina is deputy director of Institute for Globalisation Studies and Social Movements (IGSO) and deputy editor of Levaya politika (Left Politics) journal. She is a sociologist based in Penza, where she teaches at the university. Dmitry Zhvaniya is a journalist, based in St. Petersburg and a founding member of Dvizheniye soprotivleniya imeni Petra Alekseyeva (the Piotr Alekseyev Resistance Movement). Zhvaniya's article "Muzhskoe i zhenskoe" ("Masculine and Feminine") is available (in Russian) at http://www.rabkor.ru/debate/3933.html.]
* * *
By Farooq Tariq
February 1, 2010 -- An historic gathering took place at Faisalabad, the third largest city in Pakistan, on January 29, 2010. The event was jointly organised by the Labour Qaumi (National) Movement (LQM) and the Anjuman Mozareen Punjab (AMP -- Punjab Tenants' Association), two movements of workers and peasants that, by their defiant activities in several Punjabi districts, have caught the imagination of thousands. For the first time, these two important movements of workers and peasants in Punjab shared a common platform.
The famous Dhobi Ghat parade ground was a sea of red flags that caught the attention of the incoming crowd. Several bookstalls by left-wing organisations and publishers reminded me of the 1960s. Many hundreds visited the stalls.
The high point of the conference was the arrival of peasants from areas including Lahore, Okara, Depalpur, Renala Khurd and Kulyana Military Estate. After travelling from different areas of the country, more than 3000 peasants joined one procession. They wore their traditional dress and carried Dhool Damaka (drums).
Professor of sociology and editor of Monthly Review, John Bellamy Foster, talks about the triple crises in the economy, the environment, and the imperial wars and occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond..
By Simon Butler
January 22, 2010 -- For decades, there was no socialist party of significance in Malaysia. But in 2009, the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) made some impressive gains. The party more than doubled in size and had members elected to state and national parliament for the first time. PSM activist Sivaranjani Manickam attended the Socialist Alliance national conference, held in Sydney in early January, 2010. She told Green Left Weekly that the recent growth in support for the party helped force the Malaysian government to finally grant it legal recognition after a 10-year battle.
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Photos by Ulfa Ilyas (above) and PRP International (below)
Jakarta, Indonesia -- January 28, 2010 -- Thousands of Indonesians staged a mass protest in front of the presidential palace. The protesters criticised the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's neoliberal policies and corruption on its 100th day in office.
Twenty years ago, Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, South Africa, on February 11, 1990. That historic victory was the product of the long and courageous struggle of the oppressed people of South Africa. It was also a victory for the international movement against apartheid. Revolutionary Cuba played a vital role in the international movement against white minority rule in South Africa, as the following article describes. (See also "Cuito Cuanavale: How Cuba fought for Africa’s freedom".)
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By Nicole Sarmiento
January 21, 2010 -- Pambazuka News -- Cuba's relations with African liberation movements began as early as the 1960s, and shortly after the triumph of the struggle against the Batista dictatorship in Cuba. Members of the Cuban leadership travelled to Algiers to build formal relations with the Algerian National Liberation Front (Gleijeses, 1996a). Che Guevara's trip around the African continent in 1963 was a significant turning point in strengthening Cuba's relationship with liberation movements around the continent.
January 29, 2010 -- Alistair Hulett died at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow on Thursday evening, January 28, 2010. Alistair's partner Fatima thanks all those who wrote in with messages of support in the past week since news of Alistair's illness became public. The response was overwhelming, and shows just how many people cared about Alistair and his music.
* * *
Alistair, a truly great singer, songwriter, activist and socialist, will be greatly missed by us all.
Alistair Hulett was born in Glasgow and discovered traditional music in his early teens. In 1968 he and his family moved to New Zealand where he established a reputation on the folk circuit with his large repertoire of songs and his interpretation of the big narrative ballads.
By Billy Wharton
January 27, 2010 -- From the start, Barack Obama’s presidency has seemed like one big public relations campaign. Tonight’s State of the Union address did little to dissuade one from this view. Sagging under the weight of depressed dreams of hope and change, he desperately needed to appear as though he was doing something to address the growing needs of the US people. Emphasis was on “appearances”, since Obama’s speech delivered more of the same from his first year in office: high rhetoric with little substance.
The clear emphasis of the speech was the US economy. This was a double-edged sword. In the first part, Obama presented his bank bailout as an unpopular, but necessary measure – “We all hated the bank bailout… I hated it… promised I wouldn’t just do what was popular, I would do what is necessary.” Yet, brushing off the bailout as a necessary evil misses important points.