International Workers’ Memorial Day – 28 April

At Trades Hall - the march forming up

At Trades Hall - the march forming up

“Rights on Site”

A meeting of shop stewards earlier this month called for mass rally of building and construction workers on this day, coinciding with international observance of Workers’ Memorial Day. The weather was wretched, and employers threatened reprisals, but the turnout was tremendous – between ten and fifteen thousand in Melbourne, and thousands more around the country. Apart from paying respect to the memory of workers who had lost their lives on the job the focus of the rally was opposition to the extreme anti-union laws introduced by the previous government particularly aimed at the building industry and taking the form of the hated ABCC. Speakers condemned the attacks on worker’s rights and civil liberties, stressing the impact on safety in the workplace. In the background was the current dispute at the West Gate Bridge, where workers were sacked for refusing to put up with unsafe conditions.

There is a report on the website of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, by Brian Boyd, who was MC on the day; at the end of the march, when workers massed outside the headquarters of the Master Builders’ Association, Brian Boyd read out a resolution from the shop stewards’ meeting and invited the rally to endorse it. Which was done unanimously:
“This meeting of shop stewards/delegates condemns the use of the coercive powers by the ABCC.

“We call on all Union officials and construction workers to refuse to participate in such interrogations.

“In event of any person being imprisoned or otherwise penalised for refusing to co-operate with the ABCC we pledge our full support and call for a national industrial response from the construction unions, the ACTU and all affiliates”.

See also the Rights on Site website and the websites of the CFMEU, the MUA; there was also a report in The Australian.

Correction – in this video, the name of the CFMEU member who spoke at the end of the march is incorrectly captioned as “Tony”. It should be “Toby”. The mistake was caused by mishearing; I trust he will accept my apologies.

There are extracts from some of the speeches and footage from the march in the YouTube video above; here are some stills taken at the same time:

Father Peter Norden of Melbourne University Law School led a minute's silence

Father Peter Norden of Melbourne University Law School led a minute's silence

Dave Noonan, National Secretary of the CFMEU Construction Division

Dave Noonan, National Secretary of the CFMEU Construction Division

Dean Mighell, Victorian State Secretary of the ETU

Dean Mighell, Victorian State Secretary of the ETU

Anti-ABCC placard

Anti-ABCC placard

Angry workers on the march

Angry workers on the march

Bill Oliver, Victorian Secretary of CFMEU Construction Division, declares the start of the industrial campaign

Bill Oliver, Victorian Secretary of CFMEU Construction Division, declares the start of the industrial campaign

Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the MUA

Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the MUA

Toby, OHS rep at the West Gate Bridge - sacked

Toby, OHS rep at the West Gate Bridge - sacked

Workers defiant at the MBA

Workers defiant at the MBA

Anzac Day anti-militarist action – 25 April

Poster outside the former IWW headquarters

Poster outside the former IWW headquarters

As in past years, while tens of thousands at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance and elsewhere around the country did what they thought appropriate, others, numbering hardly more than ten, met outside the former headquarters of the Melbourne branch of the Industrial Workers of the World in a commemoration with a different flavour.

As a speaker recalled, it was the IWW that spearheaded the anti-conscription campaign during WWI without which Australia’s already appalling tally of dead and wounded would undoubtedly have been far greater. It may be worth reproducing here a post on Melbourne Indymedia in January 2007 which set out some of the reasons for this gathering:

“One of the greatest popular victories in Australian history was the defeat of conscription in World War One in a campaign spearheaded by the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) The Australian union movement owes much to the IWW and the traditions it created; this despite its brief existence as a largish organization. (The IWW survives as a smallish organization)

“Just an example taken at random: the IWW was resolutely non-racist and at a time when conventional wisdom would have us believe that the Australian labour movement was very much whites only. Yet the IWW was influential enough to lead the labour movement opposition to the war and to conscription……and to actually defeat conscription.

“The IWW deserves to be remembered, and so does its anti-conscription victory. I hope that this year we can organize a more large scale event than in previous years. (For info on previous years, fact sheet, and discussion see the links below)

“We can still learn from the history of the IWW and from its greatest victory in Australia.

“The purpose of the IWW commemoration is _not_ a publicity stunt; more to “honour those to whom honour is due”, and to start creating a healthy tradition. With a largish turnout the event could also be very useful for networking of course. The event is _not_ intended to physically confront or tangle with the other thing happening that day …”
(http://www.melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2007/01/138371.php)

Centrepiece of the event was a “War-Tree”, based on a famous cartoon of the period:


"War-tree"  - roots in profit, fruits of death and destruction

Here is how the tree’s maker explained the background in a report of a previous year’s action:

“The “war tree” at the iww celebration was based on [a] famous wobbly cartoon … That capitalist is telling the soldier/worker tending the tree that he can keep its fruit, ie Death etc, for his wages; the cappo only wants the roots…..

“The cartoon in turn was presumably inspired by an old and widespread folk tale about a devil (or troll, or djinn etc) who demands half of a farmers crop…the farmer offers to give the devil everything that grows above the ground and the devil agrees to accept this (and like all magical beings its word is binding). The farmer of course grows carrots or turnips. Next time the devil insists on having everything below the ground, so the farmer grows wheat or barley etc. The folktale tells of a shrewd peasant tricking a powerful but stupid oppressor… sadly, as the cartoon shows, the reality tends to be the other way around…”
(from http://melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2005/04/91104_comment.php#144343 ).


Setting up the "tree"

As can be seen from the following photo, the street corner is now on the edge of Melbourne’s Chinatown, and its history is probably not widely known (though anyone interested could take a look at the relevant chapters of “Radical Melbourne – A Secret History” by Jeff Sparrow and Jill Sparrow, The vulgar press 2001), but next year there was talk of making use of the conveniently situated ‘dustbin of history’ …

The street corner today

The street corner today

Here is the text of a leaflet handed out at the action:
[quote]
DOWN WITH MILITARISM

A Turkish Beach

On 25 April 1915, Australian and other troops of the British Empire attempted an invasion of Turkey. It was designed to knock the Ottoman Empire out of World War I and free the Russian Empire to send more troops to fight Germany. Tens of thousands of young men were sacrificed in this sideline to the larger war. The soldiers were told they were fighting for “God, King and country” and that it was “the war to end all wars”. In reality, they were pawns in the clash of two rival imperialist alliances – and the imperialists would be back again for an even bloodier war barely twenty years later.

An Imperialist Army

Before the WWI, Australian troops had been used to support the British Empire in its frontier wars in the Sudan and South Africa. After WWI, the Australian capitalists grew more ambitious on their own behalf, grasping for control in New Guinea and elsewhere in the South Pacific. Since the United States supplanted Britain as Australian imperialism’s senior partner, Australian troops have been sent to kill and die to uphold the power of the US. In return, Australian governments are given a free hand in their traditional South Pacific “back yard” and, more recently, East Timor as well.

Home and Abroad

Today, the Australian military are stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor, the Solomon Islands – and the Northern Territory. In Iraq and Afghanistan, they assist the subjugation of countries the United States wishes to dominate. Iraqi and Afghan blood pays Australian imperialism’s licence fee in the South Pacific. In East Timor and the Solomon Islands, the military mission is more directly useful to Australian capitalism. Governments are installed and manipulated, while local clients are instructed in how to ensure the poor endure their poverty compliantly – and, in East Timor, watch their oil reserves looted. Finally, in the Northern Territory, the deployment of the military is a token of the determination of the Australian capitalists to complete the as-yet-unfinished theft of the land from its indigenous inhabitants. Australian soldiers have a dirty job, at home and abroad.

Down with Militarism

The military, as well as being the vehicle for waging external war, are the last line of defence against a population determined to change social institutions. They have no place in a just and peaceful society. The Australian military, imperialist enforcers at home and abroad, are no exception. To eliminate war and militarism forever, we must sweep away all armies, with a workers’ revolution that abolishes the State and capitalism across the world and establishes libertarian communism. It will take nothing less – but we need nothing less, as well.

END AUSTRALIAN IMPERIALISM

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group

macg1984@yahoo.com.au http://melbourneanarchistcommunistgroup.org/
PO Box 2120 Lygon St North
East Brunswick 3057 25 April 2009

[end quote]

Some links:

http://www.iww.org.au/

http://www.iww.org/culture/antiwar

http://melbourneanarchistcommunistgroup.org/

For previous actions there are reports on Sydney and Melbourne Indymedia sites:

http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/node/50732

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2007/04/143843.php

and already mentioned http://melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2005/04/91104_comment.php#144343

For a brief history of the IWW in Australia, see http://www.takver.com/history/iwwinoz.htm

International Day of the Peasant Struggle – 17 April

MST(Brazil Landless Workers Movement) t-shirt

MST(Brazil Landless Workers Movement) t-shirt

There were more than a hundred actions across the world to mark the anniversary of the massacre of Eldorado de Carajás – see Via Campesina website and the information kit available there.

The action in Melbourne was organised by LASNET (Latin American Solidarity Network) with Friends of the Earth and support from the Melbourne Social Forum.

Banners on the GPO steps

Banners on the GPO steps


From the callout:
[Quote]
Some Background:

Why April 17?

The massacre of Eldorado de Carajás

Because they had been evicted from their land more than two years earlier and because all their attempts to get the right to settle down on an unproductive land had failed, around 1,500 landless peasants and their families, members of MST, the Brazil’s Landless Peasants Movement, decided to march to the state capital of Pará, to present their demands.
The march stopped on the highway at Eldorado de Carajás, as pregnant women and children were tired and needed to rest.
At about 4pm on 17 April 1996, 68 military police from the Paraupebas Platoon arrived and at 4.30pm 87 police arrived from the other direction of Marabá. The peasants were then caught between two platoons of police. After firing tear-gas, the police raised their machine guns to body level and began firing into the crowd. The crowd dispersed as people began to realise they were being shot at with live ammunition.
The first to fall and die was Amâncio Dos Santos Silva, known as “Surdo-Mudo” (“deaf-mute”). Unable to hear the shots, he took longer than the others to understand what was happening.
In total, 19 peasants were killed, 69 were severely injured. Among the victims, at least 10 of the peasants were extrajudicially executed after they had been overpowered. Others, although killed from a distance, were shot in the head or thorax.
[End quote]

More information:
http://www.mst.org.br

http://www.viacampesina.org

http://www.latinamericansolidaritynetwork.org

Lucho speaking

Lucho speaking

Apart from the opening address, which took the form of an account of the massacre and of the ongoing struggles of peasants and Indigenous peoples around the world, the action took the form of an open mic; extracts from the various speeches can be found in the accompanying video, although the sound is regrettably poor. Part of the video is in Spanish, as was appropriate.

It was only a small gathering, but la lucha continúa …

A speaker gives the background to the day

A speaker gives the background to the day

Palm Sunday Peace Rally and March – 5 April

Head of march down Elizabeth Street

Head of march down Elizabeth Street

Last year Palm Sunday fell on 16 March, and the temperature was over 40 degrees; this year the mercury struggled in the high teens, and prayers for rain were perhaps untimely answered. However, there were still many sufficiently committed to the cause of peace and the related issue of abolishing nuclear weapons to make the effort, and the shopping crowds in Elizabeth Street and the Bourke Street Mall were obviously impressed by the message.
This year the rally proper was preceded by an ecumenical service outside the State Library, focussing on the present-day relevance of the original Palm Sunday – the event was sponsored by the Victorian Council of Churches and the Campaign for International Cooperation and Disarmament:

The ecumenical service before the rally and march

The ecumenical service before the rally and march

During the service

During the service

A short break between the service and the rally was the cue for hiphop artists the Ringwood Boiz:

Ringwood Boiz in action

Ringwood Boiz in action

MC for the day was Jessica Morrison of the Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia) (http://www.mapw.org.au/media-profile/ms-jessica-morrison):

Jessica Morrison was MC

Jessica Morrison was MC

Among the speakers she introduced were Reem Yunis from Palestine:

Speaker representing the people of Palestine

Speaker representing the people of Palestine

Rahmat Amiri from Afghanistan:

Speaker representing the people of Afghanistan

Speaker representing the people of Afghanistan

Chip Henriss, Australian Army veteran:

Army veteran condemning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Army veteran condemning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan


(There is a YouTube video of Chip speaking – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vlhJBkUrgY)

Finally, from ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) Dr Ruth Mitchell:

Dr Ruth Mitchell of ICAN

Dr Ruth Mitchell of ICAN


(There is a YouTube video of Dr Mitchell’s speech – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-s4-qZsMb8)

In the crowd there were representatives of Japanese for Peace:

Banner of Japanese for Peace

Banner of Japanese for Peace

A flyer being distributed advertised upcoming events – an Australia-Japan Peace forum on 23 May, and a Peace Concert on 8 August. Details are promised soon on the JfP website: http://www.jfp.or.au, email info [at] jfp.org.au

Also spotted in the crowd:

"Hearts" in the crowd

After the speeches the rally set off along LaTrobe Street:

March in LaTrobe Street

March in LaTrobe Street

MAPW in LaTrobe Street

MAPW in LaTrobe Street

Bringing up the rear in LaTrobe Street

Bringing up the rear in LaTrobe Street

The march ended in the Bourke Street Mall, where Jessica read through a list of current conflicts where people are dying, and members of the rally successively lay down in a symbolic “die-in” as each war was called:

"Die-in" - beginning

"Die-in" - continued



"Die-in" - completed

There is a report with links by Takver on Sydney Indymedia.

More information:
MAPW
ICAN