Archive for July, 2011

July 22, 2011

Support the people-power media!

Our volunteers distributing Green Left Weekly last week in Perth. Photo by Alex Bainbridge.

Media moghul Rupert Murdoch described his appearance before the British parliamentary hearing into News Of The World‘s phone hacking as the “most humble day” of his life. His son, James, added: “It’s a matter of great regret … these actions do not live up to the standards that our company aspires to around the round.”

Really? Even as these two billionaires did their sorry act (and blamed all wrongdoing on their underlings), their media empire around the world continued their standard dirty work: telling lies, manipulating fear,prejudice and hatred and intimidating those who challenge the rule of the rich and powerful.

The Murdoch’s apology is an empty and just part of their strategy to minimise their losses from this latest scandal. An army of spin doctors, lawyers and yet undiscovered practitioners of darker arts will also be doing their bit to minimise the damage to their empire.

All who are disgusted at this gross abuse of power should reflect that it is a consequence of the even more gross concentration of power and wealth in the world today. The billionaires who rule this world routinely use and abuse their tremendous power through a thousand golden chains that shackle all the institutions of formal power even under the most democratic capitalist countries.

This is why even as Rupert and James Murdoch refused to own up to any of the gross abuses perpetrated by NOTW, they considered this “humbling” – they are used to exercising tremendous power, usually without hindrance or question.

If we want to see an end ongoing abuse of power to this we need to build up movements and new institutions of people power, including the alternative, people-power media like Green Left Weekly.

Alternative media projects like ours only suggest with the continuing financial support of many ordinary folk. They help us raise money for and/or donate to our Fighting Fund.

Donate online today. Or direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, 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 through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

July 19, 2011

Burn Murdoch, burn!

The Spectator's cover.

The headline on the final issue of Rupert Murdoch’s News Of The World, “Thank You & Goodbye” provoked speculation of suitable rejoinders like “Piss Off & Good Riddance!” and more colourful expressions of the same sentiment.

There’s a global celebration at the political storm that continues to beset the Murdoch corporate media empire. And there seems no end in sight with former NOTW editor Rebekah Brooks arrested for alleged phone hacking and bribery of police officers – even though there is speculation that this arrest  is a device to minimise the flack for the the British polic.

Of course we know that Murdoch’s empire is still alive, powerful and malignant but it is good to know that the empire is not invincible. In 2010, Forbes listed Rupert Murdoch as the 13th most powerful person in the world. And he certainly behaved like he was, routinely granting audiences to prime ministerial hopefuls from Australia to Britain who believed that rather the electors held the key to winning government.

People like Rupert Murdoch really think they rule the world and there is an objective basis to this because never before in human history has there been such a concentration of wealth and power in the hands of such a small minority.

As an article “The Internationalization of Monopoly Capital” by John Bellamy Foster, Robert W. McChesney and R. Jamil Jonna in the June 2011 Monthly Review noted:

“Inequality, in all its ugliness, is, if anything, deeper and more entrenched. Today the richest 2 percent of adult individuals own more than half of global wealth, with the richest 1 percent accounting for 40 percent of total global assets.60 If, in the “golden age” of monopoly capitalism in the 1960s, the gap in per capita income between the richest and poorest regions of the world fell from 15:1 to 13:1—by the end of the twentieth century, the gap had widened to 19:1.61 From 1970 to 2009, the per capita GDP of developing countries (excluding China) averaged a mere 6.3 percent of the per capita GDP of the G8 countries (the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, and Russia). From 2000 to 2006 (just prior to the Great Financial Crisis), this was only slightly higher, at 6.6 percent. Meanwhile, the average GDP per capita of the fifty-eight or so Least Developed Countries (a UN-designated subset of developing countries) as a share of average G8 GDP per capita declined from 1.8 percent in 1970, to 1.3 percent in 2006.62 The opening decade of the twenty-first century has seen waves of food crises, with hundreds of millions of people chronically food-deprived, in an era of rising food prices and widespread speculation.63

The Murdoch empire controls a massive 70% of print media in Australia and if Foxtel’s $2 billion bid for Austar is successful, this will create a pay-TV monopoly in Australia under the management control of News Corp.

In Britain, even with the closing down of of NOTW, it still controls The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times and 39%  television network British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), the International Business Times website reported.

In the US, Murdoch owns Dow Jones, Wall Street Journal, the rabidly reactionary Fox News Network and the New York Post, among many other smaller media outlets.

With media domination like this it is no wonder that many people believed Murdoch’s empire to be invincible. But it is not. Every one of these corporate empires depends on the workers it employs – and exploits – to get anything done. Without the daily slog of their employers these corporate emperors can do ZILCH.

We saw a little revolt even from the NOTW staff as its last issue was being prepared, as this Melbourne Age report explained:

“Sacked News of the World staff appear to have fired a parting shot at their former editor Rebekah Brooks, disguising mocking messages in the crossword of the tabloid’s final edition.

“Brooks, now the chief executive of News International, reportedly brought in two loyal proofreaders to sanitise Sunday’s final edition of any jibes directed at her following the newspaper’s spectacular demise during the phone hacking scandal.

“But they failed to detect the not-so-cryptic clues that appear to savage her in the crosswords on page 47.

“Among the clues in the paper’s Quickie puzzle were: ‘Brook’, ‘stink’, ‘catastrophe’ and ‘digital protection’.

“The Cryptic Crossword appears to go even further, including the hints ‘criminal enterprise’, ‘mix in prison’, ‘string of recordings’, and ‘will fear new security measure’.

“Another clue was ‘woman stares wildly at calamity’, with suggestions it refers to a photograph of Mrs Brooks as she left the News International HQ in east London on Thursday after staff were told the paper would be shut down.”

A small and belated protest, perhaps, but it is a reminder of real potential power of the workers to bring down even the biggest of corporate empires that rule the world today.
July 15, 2011

Reality check

A dirty not-so-secret: coal industry expects to boom under Labor's "carbon tax".

There’s been so much political spin around the Gillard government’s carbon tax announcement. Of course, there’s the predictable hysterical hollering from the Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and the climate change denialists’ camp but there is also tons of bullshit from the Gillard Labor government.

However, a couple of developments have provided a much-needed reality check.

On July 12, the ABC News reported:

“Coal mining giant Peabody Energy has teamed with steelmaker ArcelorMittal to launch a $4.7 billion bid for Australian miner Macarthur Coal.”

This was the biggest-ever bid for a coal mining company in Australia and the bid was well above market expectations.

Peabody’s bid made nonsense of the opposition’s shrill warning’s that Gillard’s announced “carbon tax” (which will morph into a carbon pollution trading scheme) spelt the end of Australia’s massive and growing coal industry.

Gillard’s spin merchants were quick to crow about the Peabody bid but all it really proved was that Gillard’s carbon tax was not a genuine or serious atttempt to address the climate change emergency. The coal mining boom will continue (coal production will rise 109-150% by 2050, according to the government’s modelling of its “carbon tax” impact) and there will be no serious imvestment – public or private – into the needed radical transition to a 100% renewable energy-based economy (gas-fired electricity generation is projected to increase by over 200% by 2050).

Chart from Chapter 5 of "Modelling A Carbon Price".

Gas-fired electricity generation is projected to increase over 200% by 2050

And if more proof of the fakery of Gillard Labor’s scheme, there was this other telling news report. Peter Martin wrote in the July 14 Sydney Morning Herald:

“If Australia’s economists had the vote, Julia Gillard’s carbon tax would win a landslide.

“A survey of 145 delegates attending the Australian Conference of Economists in Canberra finds 59 per cent think the tax is ‘good economic policy’…”

These economists were overwhelmingly economic rationalists – true believers in the corporate profits-first orthodoxy that has hegemonised that profession since the 1970s. What they see as “good economic policy” is good for big business profits and not for our common good or good for the environment.

Unfortunately, some very influential voices in the Australian environment movement have jumped on the Gillard Labor carbon tax bandwagon and regurgitated (or at least endorsed through lack of criticism) the deceitful spin Gillard’s salespeople have been generating.

What brought these people – who know or should know better – to go along with the government’s spin? Was it desperation to win some sort of “mainstream” hearing? Was it political expediency? Or was it lowered expectations of how much change is possible?

It was probably a combination of all these.

The movement for action on global climate change has grown rapidly but it has a serious weakness. Many in the movement don’t understand or refuse to acknowledge the fact that we leave in a society dominated by powerful corporations, which are objectively by their need to put profits above everything else.  It actually doesn’t matter what this or that corporate CEO thinks about climate change. It doesn’t matter whether some corporations have pretensions to practice a greener capitalism, they are all locked in a battle for which company makes the biggest profit.

This is the death dance that grips the global economy. Any measures that really address the climate change crisis will must make serious inroads to corporate profitability. There are no win-win solutions. That’s a foolish fantasy the world really cannot afford.

The truth will out, if painfully. Green Left Weekly has refused to go along with the cheer squad for Gillard’s climate change scam. We’ve refused to be bullied into the “groupthink” that has pretty much paralysed the environment movement from speaking the truth on this matter over the last two years.

Green Left Weekly is committed to the truth and to advocating the radical climate change response that the science demands.

If you support our approach then now is a good time to give generously to our Fighting Fund.

Donate online today. Or direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, 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 through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

July 12, 2011

Malaysia: Free the PSM detainees!

Six Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) members, including federal Member of Parliament for Sungai Siput Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, are still being detained without trial even though the popular Bersih 2.0 democracy mobilisation is over. They are being held under an Emergency Ordinance (EO) that allows 60-day renewable detentions – even though the country is not under a declared emergency.

The six were among 30 PSM activists detained under another draconian law on June 24 when they were participating in a peaceful national bus tour campaign for the government to step down. The 30 were then ridiculously accused of “waging war against the king”. After seven days, 24 were released on bail but Dr Jeyakumar and with five other activists – PSM deputy president M Saraswathy, central committee members Choo Chon Kai and M Sugumaran, Youth chief R Sarathbabu and Sungai Siput branch secretary A Letchumanan – were re-arrested as soon as they were on July 2 under the EO.

Petitions signed by 4000 people and some 40 NGOs – calling for the immediate release of the six – have been delivered to the Barisan Nasional government and for the last few days candlelight vigils (see pics below) have been held out side the federal police HQ at Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur.

The campaign for the release of the PSM detainees needs your urgent help. So if you can make a donation to the campaign please send it to:

Please transfer to our party account as follows
Account name : PSM CENTRE
Account No: 0061 – 10 -003237-7
Branch : Brickfields ( Tun Sambanthan ) Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia

Swift Code: EOBBMYKL

July 9, 2011

‘Malaysian politics has become more dangerous’

Socialist MP Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj. Photo by Peter Boyle.

Dr Jeyakumar Deveraj a federal member of parliament in Malaysian was one of 30 activists of the Socialist Party of Malaysia detained without trial on June 25 as they travelled the country campaigning against the repressive and corrupt Barisan Nasional government headed by PM Najib Razak.

The detention of these socialists was scapegoating to intimidate people away from supporting a broad mass rally for free and fair elections that was called for July 9 by civil society groups united in the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih, which means “clean”).

PSM secretary-general S. Arutchelvan wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. Arrestable offence? Photo by Peter Boyle.

At first the PSM members were accused of the ridiculous charge of “waging war against the king” on the basis that some of them were alleged to have t-shirts with the images of “communist leaders” on them. PSM secretary-general S. Arutchelvan wore a Che Guevara t-shirt (widely and legally sold in markets) to his press release condemning the June 25 detentions to underline how ridiculous these charges were.

When the seven-day detention of the PSM 30 was nearly up, six of these activists, including MP Jeyakumar were re-arrested and detained an Emergency Ordinance. The government was forced to reveal its real target. The detentions were justified by police claims that the PSM members had in possession and were distributing leaflets for the Bersih 2.0 rally (the first Bersih rally, in 2007, drew thousands and was violently dispersed by police) on July 9 which they declared illegal.

The Najib government claimed that the Bersih 2.0 rally had to be banned because there could be clashes between pro-democracy protesters and members of the right-wing, Malay chauvinist, Perkasa movement.

“Politics in Malaysia has become more dangerous,” Jeyakumar explained to Green Left Weekly in an interview conducted a couple of weeks before his political detention.

* * *

What are the main features of politics in Malaysia today?

In earlier times, UMNO (the United Malay National Organisation, the party that dominates the ruling Barisan Nasional government coalition) could claim that it was developing the economy, uplifting the Malay poor,etc. But now it backfires on them.

Now when the UMNO politicians are on thin ice because a lot of the benefits accruing to the Malays has been cornered by a small group of Malay elites who have lavish lifestyles. A lot of shares are given to them as well as business opportunities. So they can’t claim to be acting for the Malay poor who could ask them: “What’s happened to the money you have taken?”

So all that is left to the ruling party now is race and religion.

A new racialist movement built around “Malay rights”, Perkasa, has been getting more prominent of late, threatening violence against other groups and yet seems to be allowed to organise freely while opposition movements continue to be denied even the right of assembly. What is behind this development?

Basically the ruling party has always depended on racialist politics. Now it is trying to outsource the racialist posturing to the Perkasa group, a group that is nominally outside the ruling party. So the PM can claim to be for “One Malaysia” and seem to be for everyone but at the same time the appeal to racial chauvinism is raised by groups like Perkasa.

Perkasa originated from the Malay contractor class which fears that the special contracts and favours it gets from the government may be cut down if there is a change in government.

But the Malaysian economy is still growing at a faster rate than most other economies in the world, so where is the pressure coming from?

The economy is growing but it depends on remaining a low-wage economy. There are two million super-exploited foreign workers in our labour force of only ten million so this depresses the wages and working conditions of most workers.

The Malays were 80% rural peasants at the time of independence but they are 70% urban today. So they are also part of this low-wage labour. This is a massive class transformation.

There is no minimum wage. Factories workers in my electorate get about M$500 a month (without overtime). Our party estimates that it requires at least M$2000 a month to be out of poverty.

On the other hand, the Malay elite have taken over the economy in a major way through domination of the government.

The national budget is about one-third of GDP and this does not take into account all the government-linked companies (GLCs) that own the large plantation companies, the banks, the hospital chains, etc. There are some 15-20 such large GLCs that account for another 20-25% of GDP. In this way, about 55-60% of the economy is controlled by the Malay UMNO ruling elite.

So there is a stratum of super-rich Malays in power while at the bottom there are very poor, working-class Malays who are pressured by the privatisation of education and health care, by rising house prices, stagnant wages and competition from migrant workers. So class contradictions within the Malays is sharpening.

What is the PSM’s policy towards the poor Malays?

There is a longstanding fear in the Malay community of being swamped by the other ethinic groups. It is the thing that still holds many poor Malays to the ruling party today. They are afraid that many of the scholarships and other opportunities that they enjoy today will be taken away from them if there is a change in government.

We are for affirmative action. we think the state should provide help to poor groups. You can’t say leave it to the “free market”.

Our message to the Malay poor is: Whatever you are getting now, we will maintain. In fact we will make sure that you will get these benefits properly. What we want to cut is the large amounts of money that is wasted making the Malay elite even richer.

Affirmative action should not be defined by race but by class so the poor Chinese, the poor Indians, the poor Orang Asli [indigenous people] should get help too. The poor Malays will get what theynow get in affirmative action and more.

Message from behind bars

By Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, MP for Sg Siput (narrated to Edmund Bon and Mohd Redzuan Yusoff on July 5 at Jinjang police station):

I would like to thank everyone who is supporting us by their letters, prayers and urgent appeals, etc.

The  six of us currently being detained under the Emergency Ordinance have not broken any laws and our crime is that we are socialists, and we are attempting to put the issues affecting the poorer 60% of Malaysians on the national agenda. For example, issues of hospital privatisation, and decent and minimum wages.

Our detention is totally unwarranted as we have been working within the democratic framework.

The Udahlah tu … Bersaralah Campaign through the distribution of pamphlets calls on the people to think and vote properly in the next national General Election. Our actions and activities are conducted totally within the democratic space allowed to us by the Federal Constitution.

It is however sad to see that the “higher-ups” in the police force are unable to differentiate nation from the party of power.

To the people – stand up for democratic rights and let us not allow this kind of intimidation hold us back!

July 8, 2011

Malaysian activists picket Australian corporate polluter’s HQ

Protest outside Lynas corporate HQ in Sydney. Photo by Peter Boyle

SYDNEY July 5 – It took a dozen resident activists from Kuantan, Malaysia a journey all the way to Sydney to launch a protest outside the headquarters of Lynas Corp, an Australian mining company building a radioactive waste producing rare earth refinery in their coastal city of 700,000, before they could have a face-to-face meeting with the company.

Lynas intends to export concentrated ore from its Mount Weld mine in Western Australia through the port of Fremantle Malaysia and a powerful movement of local residents and environmental activists is opposing the operation because they fear the highly toxic and radioactive waste that will be left behind will poison the local people and their environment. (See “Malaysians resist Oz company’s toxic plan” ).

“This refinery is very harmful to the people and the environment”, Kuantan resident Haji Ismail Abu Bakar told Green Left Weekly at the protest.

“The 12 of us came here to get the sympathy of the people of Australia and to urge the government of Australia to stop Lynas operations in Gebeng, Kuantan.”

He said that residents feared that toxic and radioactive would escape from the refinery into the river and then into the sea. Because the wast would remain dangerously radioactive for millions of years, Haji Abu Bakar added, it would “affect generations to come”.

Delegation leader Professor Chee-Khoon Chan, an award-winning epidemiologist and health expert at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Malaya, told GLW that while the short meeting they had with Lynas CEO Nick Curtis and other company officials after their protest was not very fruitful, it was the first meeting the company has had with concerned local residents.

Earlier requests for community consultation had been met with offers from Lynas for a closed door meeting with the local MP Fuziah Salleh – an offer she has rebuffed.

Professor Chee said that he had reviewed the scientific studies about the effects of the radioactive waste that the rare earths refinery will produce and they indicated that workers and local residents significantly increased cancer risks as a result.

“The people of Kuantan don’t want to be experimental rats,” he said.

The issue had become entwined with global politics, Professor Chee added. Mitsubishi, the Japanese company which had operated an earlier rare earths refinery in Bukit Merah, Malaysia which was closed down after a 12-year fight by local residents, has bought a significant stake in Lynas while China, which currently has a 95% monopoly in rare earths production was also buying up Lynas shares.

The delegation met with Greens Senators Scott Ludlam and Lee Rhiannon as well as Labor Senator Doug Cameron in Canberra.

July 8, 2011

We’ve moved!

If you are reading this column, then Green Left has successfully moved to its new home in Sydney. In the process, we have missed only a week of publication – thanks to the volunteers who joined the ant army that carried all we needed down those flights of stairs in our old home, loaded the hire truck and emptied into the new. Over and over again.

Our sparkling new premises are wheelchair friendly and accessible through a shiny new lift. So moving in was a lot easier than moving out… and the latter is far from over.

Over the decades we spent in the old Resistance centre at 23 Abercrombie St, we accumulated a lot of stuff than we once used (or once thought we would use some day!). So now that we’ve moved there is still a big job ahead to empty the old premises and throw out or find suitable homes for all that is left.

Back in our old home are still some remnants from the time when newspaper layout was done on light tables, when paper galleys of typeset text were waxed and pasted on to pages. What was once a dark room for developing photos, is now a graveyard for bits and pieces of old computers which we kept alive well beyond their “use by” date by scavenging and patching up.

At the back of a shelf, a couple of cans of soup that are more fitting for an episode of The Collectors than anyone’s lunch were unearthed as well as boxes of stuff that could fit in that program’s “Mystery Item” section. And amidst the “collectables”, some real treasure: an unopened bottle of Cuban rum!

A big thank you to the supporters who sent in generous donations over the last two weeks to assist us move. We received more than two thousand dollars. If you would like to make a contribution towards the move or our project please  make a donation this week to the Green Left Fighting fund.

Donate online today. Or direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, 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 through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

And finally, if you are in Sydney then, please come along to the grand opening of the new Resistance Centre at Saturday July 16, 4pm at 22-36 Mountain St, Ultimo. It is a block from Broadway and the Broadway Shopping Centre and less than 10 minutes walk from Central Station.