Twenty years ago on Monday, February 18, 1991, the first issue of Green Left Weekly was produced. Its full-colour poster cover expressed the opposition to the “Gulf War”, the precursor to the 2003 US-led war of invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Many of us involved in this new publication project had been busy in the streets organising and participating in anti-war protests. We were waiting desperately for the first issue of Green Left Weekly because the movement needed a publication that would report on the progress of the movement, expose the truth about the war-makers and help activists network. And when it came out, activists all around the country snapped copies up at a rate not enjoyed by any progressive publication in this country for a long time.
And this is the role that Green Left Weekly has played consistently ever since. It has been a voice against war and oppression and a voice for the movement for an ecological sustainable world. It has remained fiercely committed to exposing the truth. And it has been a powerful instrument to link up and help empower, network and organise people fighting for change.
What has changed and what has not, since those days?
End of history?
Much of the first decade of Green Left’s life was amidst a wave of capitalist triumphalism. The Soviet Union and the Eastern European “communist” states collapsed and Professor Francis Fukuyama famously declared neo-liberal capitalism to be the “end of history”.
Since then the course of history has forced Fukuyama to retreat from this arrogant boast. Neo-liberalism (also called “economic rationalism”, “capitalist globalisation” or “free market capitalism”) has become a dirty word.
And in November-December 1999, this rejection of the idea that freeing up the world’s richest corporations to ruthlessly exploit every corner of the earth exploded in the legendary anti-globalisation protest in the US city of Seattle which was hosting a summit of the World Trade Organisation.
Seattle wasn’t the first large demonstration against the global capitalist neo-liberalism; there had been earlier protests in Europe against G8 summits, and there were dramatic popular revolts against neo-liberalism in Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina. But Seattle was the first major mass mobilisation against corporate globalisation that could claim a global victory—the postponement of a new round of trade negotiations that was being demanded by the imperialist states.
Many people around the world eagerly read reports in Green Left about this new movement that captured the imagination not just of a generation of young activists but also inspired and re-energised older generations.
This new movement swept Australia a year later in September 2000 when some 20,000 people participated in a three-day blockade of a of the World Economic Forum.
As one of the activists helping orgaise this “S11” blockade , I reflected on the meaning of this new movement. It seemed to me that while the new movement takes its name from Seattle, its ideological heart is solidarity with the oppressed and exploited masses in the Third World. The great moral issue at the heart of this movement is solidarity with the global “South”, where the 80% of the world’s population live who do not share any benefits of neo-liberal globalisation.
For 20 years Green Left Weekly has continued the great tradition of anti-capitalist journalism, by consistently telling the truth about this anti-human system and the global fight for a better world. There really isn’t a better socialist newspaper anywhere, and activists around the world owe GLW a huge debt of gratitude for its immeasurable contributions to the international movement for human liberation. United, we will win! – Ian Angus, Editor, ClimateAndCapitalism.com
Over the course of the last twenty years, The Green Left Weekly has emerged as a focal point of the world green left movement, its leading weekly guide to theory and practice. Long may its flag fly! – John Bellamy Foster, editor of Monthly Review
Keep up the vital and necessary work in providing alternative information. You can count on my help in whatever way I can. Fraternal greetings from the Island of Dignity (Cuba) — Marta Harnecker.
This global movement arose out of the growing moral crisis of capitalism, which was captured succinctly by the Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in his message to the September 1999 G77 ministerial meeting:
“Globalisation is an irreversible reality characterised by the growing interaction of all countries in the world, their economies and peoples. The major scientific and technical advances have shortened distances and allowed for direct communication and transmission of information among countries located anywhere on the planet.
“With its impressive technological achievements, globalisation holds tremendous potential for development, the eradication of poverty and fostering well-being in conditions of social equality for all humanity. Never before has the world commanded today’s technological resources.
“However, the world is still very far from materialising the potential of globalisation. It develops today under the aegis of neo-liberal policies that impose unregulated markets and unbridled privatisation.
“Far from promoting the expansion of development throughout an increasingly interdependent world badly in need of sharing the progresses achieved, neo-liberal globalisation has aggravated existing inequalities and raised to inordinate heights social inequities and the most disturbing contrasts between extreme wealth and extreme poverty.”
In the second decade of Green Left‘s existence, the Western anti-globalisation movement ebbed away but an even mightier revolutionary movement against neo-liberal capitalism began to sweep Latin America. First Venezuela, then Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, and on it went.
Green Left has probably been in the forefront on systematic and detailed English-language reporting on the Venezuelan Revolution and its political global reverberations. We maintained a reporting bureau in Caracas for most of the last decade and our team of correspondents have won world-wide respect for their work.
Starting a publication 20 years ago with the title, Green Left Weekly, was an inspired and politically critical decision. Now, 20 years later, it is hard to imagine thinking about Left without thinking Green at the same time. Keep up your important work– it will help bring about the point when it is hard to imagine thinking about Green without thinking Left at the same time. – Michael Lebowitz (from Havana)
Congratulations to Green Left Weekly on its 20th anniversary – this represents a lot of hard work from a large number of dedicated and decent people. GLW is simply the best paper in Australia on anything to do with international poliitics and solidarity movements – here’s to the next 20 years! – Tim Anderson (from Caracas)
However, once again Green Left‘s role was not restricted to informing its reader. Our coverage inspired and empowered many people to jump back into the struggle for change or step up their efforts. And of course, Green Left has helped build the movement in solidarity with the new revolutions in Latin America among other things reporting on and promoting the political study brigades to Venezuela organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network.
Activists, trade unionists and scholars from many other countries have joined the Australians on these brigades. It has made a powerful impression on every participant in these brigades. I was fortunate to join a brigade in November 2008 and my experiences add fire and confidence to my activism today.
The giant rebellion in the third world against the global dictatorship of the corporate rich continues to expand beyond the continent of Latin America. And as each new front of resistance opens up Green Left has risen to the same challenge of championing, informing, organising and empowering solidarity. We have been enthusiastically with the movements for democracy and liberation in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Timor Leste and many more countries. And now Egypt is exploding and dictators all around the world are shivering in their boots!
End of history? Not.
But not just victories
However, if we look back over the last twenty years we can see that it hasn’t been all forward motion for those fighting for a better world. The rich and powerful inflicted incredible pain and suffering on millions of people. It has been estimated that many as 1.5 million civilians were killed just from the economic sanctions imposed by the West on Iraq as a prelude to invasion – most of them children. The US-based Just Foreign Policy estimates that 1.32 million Iraqis have been killed as a result of the US invasion of Iraq. There is no official count of the total Afghan casualties since the US-led invasion a decade ago but Dr Gideon Polya calculates the total the human cost of the Afghan War about 4.9 million violent deaths or non-violent avoidable deaths from occupier-imposed deprivation. In addition, Polya reports there are 3.2 million (comprising 2.7 million in Iran and Pakistan and 0.4 million internally-displaced persons in Afghanistan). Another holocaust has played out in the war against the Tamil national liberation movement in Sri Lanka creating another army of refugees.
One of the despairs of our time is a corporate media that speaks for authority and power, rarely for its readers and viewers. One of the excitements of our time is the means by which we can now circumvent the old gatekeepers. WikiLeaks is a new creation, but Green Left Weekly has been a pathfinder for 20 years, no less. Congratulations! – John Pilger, journalist, writer and film-maker
Green Left is a newspaper, of true, sincere information and news – bot biased like the corporate media. It reflects the interests of the Australian working class, and of the ethnic minority communities struggling against racism. Green Left is also is in the front-line of defence against capitalist globalisation. It is a great honor to be a reader of this newspaper and co-editor of its Arabic supplement, The Flame. Let us continue to work together to make our continent an ideal place to live in, without fear of contamination of the environment, or of racism – and for total liberation of all humankind. Victory to freedom fighters all around the world! – Soubhi Iskander, Editor of the The Flame
Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) congratulates Green Left Weekly for its 20th year of publication! For years Green Left Weekly has provided readers with news and analysis on the development of people’s struggles in Australia as well as all over the world. We hope comrades who have worked hard in publishing Green Left Weekly for the last 20 years, to continue the publication of the weekly in order to spread revolutionary messages and inspire our struggle against capitalism. Best wishes and keep up the great work. – Choo Chon Kai, International Relations Officer PSM
Green Left Weekly now marks twenty years of continuous publication: a truly historic achievement! The paper has marked the various turning points in the Philippines struggle to end elite rule: the peoples upsurges against the Estrada and Arroyo regimes; the key campaigns in the anti-imperialist and workers movements; the debates, developments and renewals in the Philippine left. It has educated the international movement about the our struggle and has educated us about the struggles of Australian workers and struggles of the working class movement worldwide. We salute you for this tremendous effort and achievement. Mabuhay Green Left Weekly! Mabuhay Sosyalismo! – Sonny Melencio, Chairperson, Partido Lakas ng Masa (Philippines)
I got to know Green Left Weekly about 14 years ago when a few copies would reach Labour Party Pakistan’s office in Lahore. Since we did not have an access to Internet yet hence GLW was a window to the world outside. It was keenly awaited and some of the GLW articles were translated into Urdu for our weekly Workers Struggle. Since 2001 onwards when I moved to Europe, reading GLW online, has been a daily habit. It is one of the best left-wing weekly internationaly. I am hardly aware of any other English-language left paper as effectively published as GLW. My heartiest congratulations to GLW staff and supporters. I wish to see GLW becoming a daily broadsheet. – Farooq Sulehria, member Labour Party Pakistan and freelance journalist
Only a tiny fraction of this ocean of war-caused displacement comes to Australia’s shores as refugees. Yet more than 6000 refugees are imprisoned in Australian immigration detention centres. More than 1000 of them are children.
This is a crime that politicians from the Labor and Coalition parties seek to justify by cynically fueling racism. Today this racism is focused most strongly against people of Middle Eastern or Muslim background but it build on a long history of racism in this country that has its origins in the colonial theft of this land from its Indigenous peoples.
The ruling elites in post-colonial Australia have used racism not just to justify the stealing of this land and genocidal practices against the Indigenous Australians but they have also turned to racism as a justification for waging imperial war. The enemy had to be vilified as “wogs”, “gooks” or “Mussies” all the better to sell the idea that killing these people was acceptable.
More insiduously it has been used by the rulers and their politicians and their mass media to prevent many ordinary Australian from grasping the full horror of the system. The ugly message that the life of a single “Aussie” is supposedly worth more than that of thousands of people in the Third World is drummed out through the twisted “news” reporting of the corporate media.
Green Left has been a powerful antidote to this lie and this publication has a record as a consistent fighter against racism. If you peruse the covers of past issues of Green Left Weekly you will see this confirmed. Whether it was championing the rights of Indigenous Australians, the battle against the crude racism of Pauline Hanson or the more effective racist drives of the mainstream politicians who have subsequently continued her campaign, Green Left was out there fighting racism.
Unity is strength
This ongoing struggle against racism is a reminder that our biggest challenge is to unite in struggle all the layers of our society that face oppression and exploitation. And Green Left was founded on an acknowledgment that this challenge of unity building was central.
Our publication’s name expresses one aspect of this challenge. It declares on every masthead the strategic necessity to unite those coming into the movements for change from the left and the “green” movements. It is not that the two are mutually exclusive or separate movements. Indeed looking back over the last 20 years we can see that the two movements are more closely entwined than before.
For the right-wing radio “shock jocks” and commentators, this is often painted as some kind of sinister red-green conspiracy. But it is an entirely natural and necessary process. These two strands in the movements of change confront a capitalist system facing serious ecological, economic and political crises. All three of these crisis are interlinked.
As we have told the story of the movements through the pages of Green Left Weekly, the interlinkages between these three crises of capitalism come up over and over again. For example, we cannot for instance contemplate a global solution to climate change without advocating measures to end the division of the world into rich and poor nations, between exploiter and exploited nations.
But the process of winning ever more people in the movements for change to and understanding of these interlinkages – and consequently what solutions our movements should campaigned for – is not simply a matter of preaching the “correct” political program.
From the beginning Green Left recognised and embraced the need to develop unity around what to do (and ultimately how we can most effectively organise) through a process of open dialogue between greens and lefts, but also among different elements in the both the green and left traditions. So Green Left has also sought build a platform for constructive discussion and debate. As we mark Green Left‘s 20th birthday we pledge to continue this approach.
While the Green Left project was initiated by one organisation in the left, the Democratic Socialist Party (which has since merged into the Socialist Alliance) the publication was a publication for the broader progressive movements. The unification of this movements remains one of our major objectives.
As the Egyptian revolution approaches the point of possible victory, the people who make up this movement are sharply aware of the great strength that comes from unity. That comes through in many interviews and reports. Unity has become urgent and indeed the victory of this movement now depends on it.
The importance of independent media cannot be over-estimated. Living in such corporate-infested times, Green Left Weekly challenges the so-called accepted truths of our age, from Palestine to Egypt and privatisation to climate change. I salute this 20 year anniversary and look forward to decades more of truth-telling. – Antony Loewenstein, independent journalist and author
There are lots of stories and perspectives that corporate media and even public media always downplay or ignore. Social justice, economic exploitation and the limitations of our democracy are issues which should be at the heart of our news agenda but struggle to find their place on story lists. Green Left Weekly and its workers have worked to bring these perspectives to us. When I am looking for an under covered story, I often go through Green Left Weekly. Congratulations on being there! — Wendy Bacon, Professor of Journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney and Independent Journalist.
Like a 20-year-old, Green Left Weekly is robust and youthful. And as an alternative to the media showbiz, it’s role has been well ratified over time. Congratulations for the 20th anniversary of Green Left Weekly. – Sombat Boonngamanong, Red Sunday Group Thailand
Back in relatively conservative and wealthy countries like Australia the impetus for unity may not be felt as urgently today as it is in Egypt, for instance. The political movements in this country will have to go through more common experiences and common evaluations to become more unified. This is why Green Left has sought contributions from a wide range of progressive activists and writers and it has hosted and sponsored numerous conferences that have brought activists from different backgrounds together to exchange experiences and discuss how we can move forward together.
One such gathering will be the second Climate Change Social Change conference that will be held in September this year at Melbourne University. Green Left Weekly will be cosponsoring this conference together with the Melbourne University’s Office for Environmental Programs.
The power of the truth
Tyrants and dictators cannot abide truth. It is not just inconvenient but subversive to their regimes build on lies, intimidation, persecution, terror, torture and exploitation.
That’s why Green Left is a strong defender of WikiLeaks. We are defending the truth and the power it gives all who are fighting tyranny.
One of the contradictions of capitalist globalisation is that is has also spread new information technologies that have opened up the internet and mobile telecommunications as new fronts of struggle for democratic movements around the world. WikiLeaks is just one expression of this.
Green Left embraced the internet from its first issue. We beat most of the commercial publications in making all our content available free and permanently on the internet. The Green Left internet archive is now a resource used by activists and scholars around the world.
Knowledge is power and the brave people in Tahrir Square and other parts of Egypt well and truly appreciate this.
But our commitment here is much more than just to spreading the truth and to exposing exploitation, oppression and social and ecological irresponsibility. Movements of resistance and liberation can learn and be greatly strengthened by knowing their history, and the history of other movements for change. So that’s one of Green Left‘s role. We help keep alive and share this knowledge of the history of the movements and the skills and traditions of social activism.
Over the last two years we have also seen the great potential of the working people of Australia to become a force for change. We were probably the best reporters of the wave of militancy that stood up to the thuggery of the bosses their Liberal government during the maritime struggle in 1998 and later went on to fight the Howard Liberal government’s “Work Choices” anti-union laws and eventually threw that government out in 2007.
Congratulations to all the comrades that have worked on Green Left Weekly over the last 20 years. Through thick and thin Green Left has been there with our struggle and hundreds of wonderful volunteers work every week to get the paper on the streets and around the world – this is a great effort. The paper is still the best paper for getting news about workers struggles around Australia and from around the world. It is even more important for workers solidarity today that we have a paper like Green Left. The main stream media never gives workers a fair shake and we need our own voice and our own independent media. Here’s to another successful 20 years of the paper. Cheers! – Craig Johnston, CFMEU member, Victoria
Congratulations to Green Left Weekly on your 20th birthday. In these days of so much media bias , it is so good to have Green Left Weekly reporting and commenting from a left wing perspective. I always know that I can find stories in the GLW that will not be reported anywhere else in the media and read informed comment by progressive thinkers who would never get space in a Murdoch publication. Happy Birthday, and may the next 20 years be as productive and active as the first 20 years. – Jenny Haines, trade unionist and activist
This paper is the finest and most consistant organising tool Australia has today and for 20 years it has kept all progressive people linked and informed. Politics and the world we live in is not a simple proccess and changing things to make them better is not a straight line. You can’t discuss and learn about these things in a txt message or a facebook twitter whatever. It take space, time and a lot of hard work. Green Left Weekly provides this platform. It can’t be blocked, filtered or turned off like it was recently in Egypt. Green Left Weekly is here to stay. Yours in Unity – Tim Gooden, Secretary Geelong Regional Trades & Labour Council
But we’ve also cataloged the serial betrayals by bureaucratic trade union leaderships doing the bidding of conservative Labor governments. It is in the interest of these conservatives to stop the workers movement from this country from studying and understanding its own history and so Green left was happy to promote and build the inaugural Union and Community Summer School held in the Victoria Trades Hall in Melbourne on December 10-11, 2010. Hopefully this will become an ongoing project of the militant trade union movement.
The work of many
Twenty years ago, the first issue of Green Left Weekly was introduced with these words:
“This is the first issue of Green Left. Many individuals made this issue possible by writing articles, letters, poems, drawing cartoons, taking photographs, designing graphics and layout. But there is room for many more people to become part of the GL team. And there is room for you too!
“The broader the range of people who contribute to GL, the better it will be. This is a paper by and for the green and progressive movement. We would like it to reflect the movement in action and in discussion. We want to reflect the controversies and the concerns as well as the achievements and celebrations. Your input could help us do this better.”
Since then a very large number of people — from all around the world — have made valuable contributions to the Green Left project and their efforts have made Green Left one of the respected progressive English-language publications. Green Left articles are translated into many other languages and now has a regular Arabic and Spanish-language supplement.
We cannot thank these people all by name. They are too numerous. But we say a big thank you to you all.
My time working in the GL office was a highlight of my life so far… So happy it’s been such a resilient campaigning news source. Warmest comradely congrats to all! – Karen Fredericks
Green Left needs its army of volunteers to keep growing. It needs to constantly replenish the ranks of its activist-journalists, photographers, cartoonists, story tellers and poets.
We also need help distributing GL. We need people to help grow and widen our precious subscription base. Think hard please today if there is anyone you know to whom you can introduce Green Left too with a gift subscription.
Also get in touch if you can take a small bundle or know of a good outlet.
Finally, our project also needs regular donations to keep going and one of my duties is to campaign through a regular column in this paper for your continuing financial support.
Year after year our supporters have supported our Fighting Fund. This years we have a target of $250,000. Our supporters have raised $22,620 so far. If you would like to help us grow that with a 20th birthday present you can donate online today at Greenleft.org.au/donate.php. Direct deposits can be made to Green Left Weekly, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 00901992.
Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or phone in a donation on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).