Monday, December 24, 2012

Vale Gavin Mooney and Del Weston: Gentle, tireless advocates for human freedom and dignity

The members and supporters of Socialist Alliance join progressive minded people across Australia and around the world in mourning the heart wrenching and tragically unexpected loss of Gavin Mooney and Del Weston.

Del and Gavin were as kind and loving in their personal dealings with everyone they met as they were committed to the liberation and freedom of all humanity. They were strong supporters of Green Left Weekly; making regular donations, hosting fund-raisers and recently making a significant contribution to the new Green Left TV project.

Gavin and Del were also keen to share their areas of professional academic expertise with activists. We remember the presentations at our 2010 Socialist Ideas seminar; Gavin on the campaign for properly funded and managed public health care, and Del on the impact of global warming on the poor in Africa.

They are well known to and will be sorely missed by campaigners for Aboriginal health, against privatisation, for refugee rights and against global warming just to name a few. We convey our deepest love and condolences to their families and many, many friends.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why the MUA is right to strike at Fremantle

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) began an eight-day strike at the Fremantle Port Authority on December 17. The strike was forced on the union as a result of intransigence by the Port Authority and the state government. Over 14 months of negotiations only one issue remains unresolved: that the workers deserve a guarantee that jobs and conditions will be maintained in the event that the Port Authority is privatised.

The state government says they don't intend to privatise the port but refuse to sign off on that final condition. This is therefore a dispute about job security and an early warning to the state government that the MUA is prepared to stand strong against privatisation.

This is the latest video by Green Left TV.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sam Wainwright: How to change a destructive system

Sam Wainwright
It's pretty obvious for anyone that cares to look that capitalism is a socially destructive and ecologically unsustainable system.

Based on the unequal distribution of wealth, it condemns billions to living in poverty worldwide.

In more wealthy places like Australia, where workers have much higher incomes, capitalism invents products for us to spend money on just as quickly as we win a wage increase. That we have one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world is but one proof that it doesn't provide people with a meaningful existence.

Now the worsening climate crisis -- caused by capitalism’s endless accumulation of profit and wealth -- threatens the very basis of life on earth.

Paradoxically the solutions lie around unused. The Beyond Zero Emissions team have estimated that Australia could shift to 100% renewable energy for all its electricity production by 2020 for less than the cost of one cup of coffee per day per Australian.

It's not a lack of technology or knowledge that blocks meaningful action on climate change, but the very system of capitalist ownership which profits from misery and destruction. Socialists are often painted as naïve day-dreamers. But the mirage of green capitalism is our living nightmare.

If we had democratic control over strategic economic decision making - a socialist society - we could already be on the road to a clean energy. But how to wrest control of our society out of the hands of big business? In abstract it's easy, “One solution. Revolution”.

The workers and farmers of the world produce its wealth. If one day they could seize control of the land, factories, banks, mines, transportation and telecommunications systems. If they could brush aside the governments and state machines that rule on behalf of the super-rich, and replace them with new democratic systems that represented the majority, then we could really begin the task of creating a society based on human need and sustainability.

While this simplified “instant coffee” vision of revolution makes it easy to describe, it makes it harder to imagine it ever happening, especially in Australia.

So many working people are influenced by pro-capitalist ideas. Others agree that the system sucks, but can't imagine it being any different. The democratic and revolutionary transformation of society is a nice but unlikely fantasy.

Capitalism doesn't require enthusiastic consent - pessimistic resignation is fine. So how do we convince people to get involved in the struggle for a better world?

It's the very economic, social and political crises of capitalism itself that will draw large numbers of people into action against it. Because of this we try to encourage and develop any and every struggle against the injustices of capitalism, whether it’s a campaign to stop coal seam gas or win equal pay for women.

It's only through such struggles that most people will come to see capitalism for what it is and get a taste of their potential power for change. The majority of people will not be won to socialism in the abstract, it must become a practical question.

But it's not enough just to be involved in immediate struggles. Armed with the experience of history and tested political ideas, socialists seek to respond to capitalism's crises with solutions that point to the need for a different kind of society and economy.

A struggle for socialism is a struggle for more democracy. This includes democratic control over the economy.

Marx and Lenin were spot on when they described the political regime we live under as a “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.” However they were writing at a time when most working men, let alone women, had not even won the right to vote. So the language socialists use needs to acknowledge this and champion the democratic rights we do enjoy, no matter how incomplete and fragile they are. After all they were won through hard and bitter struggle.

We need more representation, citizen participation, participatory budgeting, elected but recallable officials, freedom of information, proportional representation, referenda and democracy in the workplace. It's the extension of democracy, most especially in the workplace and economic decision making that is incompatible with capitalism.

Society cannot be transformed through purely legal parliamentary means without a decisive and revolutionary rupture with capitalism. The capitalists will never peacefully surrender their power and privilege no matter the legalities. The long blood-stained list of democratically elected governments overthrown with the help of the CIA is proof of that.

But the struggle for more democratic reforms, serious wealth redistribution and to defend a popular pro-worker government against sabotage and coup plotting by the capitalists may very well be the terrain where such a decisive struggle over political and economic power comes to a head. This has been the experience of Venezuela. The coup plotters have been stopped, repeatedly, by the massive mobilisation of the country's poor in the streets and in the workplaces.

In the 2013 federal election Socialist Alliance will be campaigning for policies to nationalise the banks and mining companies, to bring them under democratic community ownership and control. We want to get people thinking about the need to break the power of big business over our political, economic and social life. There is just no possibility of enduring social justice or environmental sustainability without it. It's something we' all have to fight for.

[This talk was presented by Fremantle councillor Sam Wainwright to a Socialist Ideas Conference in Melbourne. It was published in Green Left Weekly on December 9, 2012. Wainwright is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Willagee.]

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Refugee Rights action for human rights day

The photos above are from the December 9 Refugee Rights Action Network action for human rights day (December 10).

Socialist Allliance announces candidates for March state election

Farida Iqbal, candidate for Perth
Socialist Alliance will run three candidates in the March 9 elections in Western Australia. The main message of the campaign is that the state government should take steps to bring the big mining companies operating in the state into public ownership. This will make it possible to fund urgent social justice and environmental projects in WA.

“The mining boom has brought tremendous wealth to the Gina Rineharts of the world,'' Socialist Alliance candidate for Perth, Farida Iqbal, told Green Left Weekly. “But while the 1% are counting their profits, a lot of people in WA are doing it tough.'

“Perth faces a rising homelessness problem and all over the state people are suffering from high rents or mortgage stress. We need more public housing and the money should come from the mining billionaires.''

Fremantle Councillor and candidate for Willagee Sam Wainwright said: “It is not just housing. “We need a big expansion of public transport, the beginnings of serious work to build renewable energy infrastructure and to reverse the petty cost-cutting of the Barnett government, which is imposing cuts on social services across the board.'

“Labor and Liberal governments have written the rules for the big mining companies, which means their activities are not genuinely accountable to the community and they get away with paying woefully inadequate royalties and minimal tax.”

Iqbal also points to the fact that the mining industry is already the target of several campaigns. “WA farmers, environmentalists and Aboriginal communities are already forced to fight the mining industry tooth and nail to protect the state's farmland, water supply and indigenous heritage,'' she said.

“This is notable in the case of gas 'fracking', which is just starting up in WA despite growing concern. Previously, the Margaret River community had to fight a major campaign against coalmining. The ultimate success of the Margaret River campaign proves that the mining industry is not invincible when people mobilise against them.''

Sam Wainwright, candidate for Willagee
Wainwright says there is a critical issue of democracy involved in the campaign to bring the mines under public ownership. “You can't control what you don't own,” said Wainwright. “Since the people need control of the mining industry, the people should own it.'

“Our first plan would be to immediately close down the Toro uranium mine and any other uranium mines that get approved by the current government.

“Second, we'd develop a plan for a rapid phasing out of coal, oil and gas extraction in favour of renewable alternative.

“Third, we'd use the wealth from the rest of the mining industry to boost social services like public housing, education, health and public transport.''

All the Socialist Alliance candidates have long records as social justice campaigners. Iqbal is a long -term campaigner for equal marriage rights and also plays a big role in the campaign against gas “fracking''. She has been working as an anthropology tutor at the University of Western Australia.

Wainwright is a long time unionist who is now working as a disability support worker. Previously he was the editor of the Maritime Union's Rank and File newspaper. He is also the first Socialist Alliance member to have been elected to the Fremantle Council.

Sanna Andrew is the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Fremantle. She is a social worker and an activist in the Australian Services Union. She played an active role in the successful ASU campaign for Equal Pay and has also been a long time supporter of Aboriginal rights.

Gas Free Kimberley protest

Protest actions took place in Perth, Broome and around the country on December 8 to stop the James Price Point gas development.

Video above by Green Left TV's Zeb Parkes in Broome. Photo to the left from Hands Off Country blogsite.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Free Speech 'tongue-lashing'

The Perth Voice has reported the court case involving Kamala Emanuel and the right to protest on the front cover of its December 8 issue (after the advertising wrap-around).

"On Wednesday [November 28] medical doctor Kamala Emanuel fronted court charged with failing to obey a move-on notice," the paper reported.

"It had been issued during an April protest by the Socialist Alliance [actually No Fracking Way], at which 160 protesters turned up to oppose hydraulic fracturing in the Perth basin."

"During the protest Perth City Council rangers cracked down on 'unauthorised signs'."

"They called in the police who confiscated signs. Video shows one officer taking a petition from protestors and standing on it to prevent them retrieving it."

"Dr Emanuel refused to hand over her banner and was charged with failing to comply with a move-on notice," the paper said.

The paper quoted local activist Victoria Martin-Iverson as saying that it was "disgusting for the PCC to pass laws to say people cannot stand in the streets of this city and communicate with the public".

Solidarity protest, 28 November.
Socialist Alliance co-convenor Alex Bainbridge was also quoted saying that Emanuel "had the temerity to hold a banner which police tried to seize, a banner that incidentally opposed the social and environmental damage of the gas industry."

After one day of evidence, Emanuel's trial was adjourned until January 24. Another solidarity protest will be held outside the Perth Magistrate's Court at 9am on the day.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Socialist Alliance end of year BBQ

Relax and toast another year of campaigning for social justice at this end-of-year event for Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly.

$15/$8 for all-you-can-eat BBQ and salad spread

3pm Sunday 16 December

21a Jarvis Street, O'Connor

Attend on Facebook:

Ph 0412 751 508