Thousands of anti-war activists and trade unionists marched through Port Kembla in the NSW Illawarra region demanding peace not war on Saturday 6 May. The South Coast May Day Committee held its annual rally in Port Kembla to oppose any plans to house the AUKUS nuclear submarine base in the harbour just south of Wollongong. A nuclear submarine base would be a disaster for people in the area and represents another escalatory step towards a war with China.
A contingent from Wollongong Against War and Nukes (WAWAN) marched alongside broader activist networks. “The people of Wollongong know how to fight nuclear and the war industry”, said WAWAN activist Alexander Brown in a speech. Working class anti-war activism has a long history in the Illawarra. In the 1930s, wharfies in Port Kembla harbour went on strike to oppose pig iron being shipped to Japan for military use. When anti-Vietnam war activist Lou Christofides was imprisoned in 1969 for refusing to register for the draft, wharfies here struck demanding his release.
“We must demand that the government rule out the subs base here in Port Kembla, anywhere on the eastern seaboard and tear up the AUKUS agreement”, Alexander said.
Unions ranging from the Maritime Union of Australia to the NSW Teachers Federation and the Australian Services Unions marched in the demonstration. Allen Hicks, national secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, spoke to recommit the union to its policy of “opposition to the mining and export of uranium and the use of nuclear fuel”.
Several speakers attacked the cost of the nuclear submarines. The Labor government is planning to spend $368 billion on weapons of mass destruction whilst claiming that there’s not enough money to offer serious cost-of-living relief. And the cost could rise even higher, potentially towards half a trillion dollars. (It would cost only $100 billion to fully transition to a renewable energy grid.)
“They want to conscript our region into their war machine, but we will not have a bar of it”, Arthur Rorris, secretary of the South Coast Labour Council, insisted in another rally speech. With the mainstream press lining up to support the Labor government’s war drive, opposition from the trade union movement is important. It was positive to see a large rally organised by the unions against the submarine base.
Opinion polls demonstrate that the majority of people reject a potential war with China. More protests and union opposition, in the Illawarra and beyond, will be vital to turn this sentiment into an anti-war movement in the future.
“You’re just a performing fucking monkey”. A racist barb, and one of many pointed moments in Jacky, a Melbourne Theatre Company production currently playing at the Arts Centre. Jacky is about the politics of performing monkeys. It is about racism and exploitation, hypocrisy and resistance.
Academic workers at Rutgers University in New Jersey have achieved a stunning victory with a serious campaign of industrial action, centred on an open-ended strike. Their approach is a model for unionists in Australia.
The South Australian government has followed New South Wales and Victoria to undermine democratic rights. A bi-partisan bill has been rushed through parliament’s lower house, which proposes fines up to $50,000 or three months in jail if protesters “intentionally or recklessly obstruct the public place”.
NTEU Fightback, a rank-and-file union group of the National Tertiary Education Union at the University of Sydney, is calling on staff to vote No in the upcoming ballot on the proposed enterprise agreement. The campaign was launched at a forum on 25 May, attended by over 50 people. A members’ meeting on 13 June will consider the agreement. This week will probably be the first time that members are provided with a full list of proposed changes to our working conditions.
A recent NBC News poll found that 70 percent of US voters don’t want Joe Biden to recontest the presidency next year. Sixty percent feel likewise about Donald Trump. Yet the two men are currently odds-on to face each other in a 2024 re-run of the 2020 presidential election.
Allyship presents itself as a way that people can show support for the rights of an oppressed group that they themselves are not a part of without “taking the space” of those who are oppressed. Marxists, conversely, argue that solidarity is the key way we can win reforms for, and ultimately liberate, the oppressed. Allyship and solidarity might sound like much the same thing, but there are important differences in these strategies for social change.