[Marxism] Green Left - Conference builds left alliances and international solidarity

glparramatta glparramatta at greenleft.org.au
Mon Oct 22 17:28:33 MDT 2007


  Conference builds left alliances and international solidarity

Lisa Macdonald, Melbourne
20 October 2007

More than 400 people participated in around 65 workshops and 10 plenary 
sessions to discuss a myriad of national and international campaigns 
against imperialism and neoliberalism at the Latin America and Asia 
Pacific International Solidarity Forum held at Victorian Trades Hall and 
the RMIT on October 11-14. The participants included 33 activists and 
leaders from people’s movements and political parties in 20 countries, 
the most diverse left gathering hosted in Australia for years.

Presentations by panels of international guest speakers in the plenary 
sessions, in particular those on “War and neoliberalism” and “Workers’ 
struggle, global fight”, exposed the strikingly common consequences of 
imperialism and neoliberalism for the mass of ordinary people around the 
world. Whether factory workers in South Korea, rural workers in Colombia 
or indigenous people in Chile, the increasing exploitation, 
impoverishment and repression that accompany neoliberal globalisation 
are shared. Privatisation, deteriorating health and education services, 
environmental destruction and the removal of basic democratic rights in 
the name of “fighting terrorism” were themes common to all the 

A stronger theme in all the discussions, however, was the rising popular 
resistance to repression and injustice. The plenary panels on “Rebellion 
and liberation in Latin America”, “Indigenous struggles and resistance” 
and “Movements of resistance in the Asia Pacific” provided numerous 
detailed examples of how the rulers’ escalating assault on the living 
conditions of the majority of people is generating campaigns and 
struggles on many fronts.

The presentations by the impressive range of activists from the 
Asia-Pacific provided many insights into new campaigns and movements 
that are on the rise in this region in response to the declining 
legitimacy of neoliberal governments. Presentations on the Pakistani 
lawyers’ militant protests against the military dictatorship of General 
Pervez Musharraf, the formation of new, united left organisations such 
as Papernas in Indonesia and Laban ng Masa in the Philippines, and the 
development of cross-national workers’ rights campaigns in Asia, all 
underlined the increasing vulnerability of the neoliberal status quo in 
our region.

The role of Australian imperialism was the focus of a major session in 
which speakers from Papua New Guinea and East Timor demanded their 
peoples’ right to own and manage all of their countries’ abundant 
natural resources, and called for the control or expulsion of Australian 
mining corporations.

In Latin America, resistance to the brutalities of capitalism has 
developed into open rebellion across the continent, dealing some severe 
blows to US imperialism. Speakers from Colombia, Bolivia, Mexico, Cuba 
and Venezuela contributed to a discussion that wove throughout the 
conference about the huge impact of the Venezuelan revolution on Latin 
American and world politics, and how the Venezuelan idea of “socialism 
of the 21st Century” has given new hope and energy to other struggles 
for liberation.

The announcement by Venezuelan Charge d’Affairs Nelson Davila that 
President Hugo Chavez is planning to visit Australia in 2008 drew loud 

While many of the presentations and discussions at the conference 
focused on the immediate issues confronting the majority of people 
living under capitalist rule, a sizeable chunk of the program was 
devoted to addressing experiences of constructing alternatives to 
neoliberalism and capitalism, especially in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and 
Vietnam. A range of quite different strategies for creating societies 
based on equality and justice were presented, generating interesting 
discussions and debates about the nature of participatory democracy and 
“popular power”, many of these taking place in the dozen or so workshops 
that examined different aspects of the Venezuelan revolution.

Jody Betzien, one of the conference organisers for the 
Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, explained to Green Left Weekly: 
“When the Democratic Socialist Perspective [DSP] first approached the 
AVSN late last year about combining its planned 2007 Asia Pacific 
International Solidarity Conference with AVSN’s annual Latin America 
solidarity conference, it was clear that bringing together Latin 
American, Asia-Pacific, Australian and other activists to discuss and 
learn from each other and, crucially, extend practical solidarity to 
each other, was one way we could support and extend the Venezuelan 
revolution’s profound internationalism.

“The Venezuelan revolution is unquestionably at the centre of world 
politics today. It has shifted the power balance between the haves and 
the have-nots much more in favour of the oppressed. This conference has 
affirmed and practically strengthened what the Venezuelans are showing 
in practice: that international solidarity of the oppressed is the 
indispensable weapon in all of our struggles for liberation from 

Another feature of the conference was the strong labour movement stream, 
which included a plenary panel on workers’ rights addressed by labour 
movement activists from six countries, workshops on topics ranging from 
“Unions and the environment” to “Stop the race to the bottom”, and a 
two-day labour movement exposure tour on October 9-10 in which union 
activists attending the conference from overseas visited a variety of 
workplaces in Melbourne and regional Victoria and met with some 
Australian trade unions.

Manrico Moro from Australia Asia Worker Links told GLW: “This year, the 
international solidarity forum replaced the AAWL Open Day conference. 
The labour movement tour to Morwell and Melbourne was great, and the 
meetings with ACTU [the Australian Council of Trade Unions], VTHC 
[Victorian Trades Hall Council], and a number of unions and union 
councils were important.

“AAWL workshops at the forum … developed some new proposals concerning a 
global minimum wage campaign, and for global campaigns for occupational 
health and safety and full residence and organising rights for migrant 
workers. Our international guests and AAWL were pleased with the results 
of the conference.”

Reflecting the diverse participation and discussions at the forum, the 
final session of the conference passed resolutions in support of migrant 
workers’ rights; condemning the Howard government’s invasion of 
Aboriginal lands in the Northern Territory; for the closure of all 
immigration detention centres and full rights for refugees; in 
solidarity with the Basque people who are currently suffering escalated 
repression by the Spanish state; and in support of Burma’s democracy 

Resolutions arising from workshops addressed issues including freedom 
for the Cuba Five and lifting the blockade against Cuba; the need for 
international coordination to ensure that the “Troops out!” rallies next 
March — the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq — are as large as 
possible; mass mobilisations around demands to halt global warming on 
World Environment Day next year; and opposition to the Colombian 
government’s brutal repression (visit http://www.solidarityforum2007.org 
for more).

The conference undoubtedly achieved its main aim of facilitating the 
sharing of ideas and experiences between Latin American, Asia-Pacific 
and Australian social movements, political organisations and activists 
in order to strengthen international networks, campaign coordination and 
solidarity. Jorge Jorquera, one of the conference organisers from the 
Bolivarian Circle (now the Centre for Latin America Solidarity and 
Studies — CLASS), told GLW: “The forum proved a great framework for new 
and renewed collaborations. It was not only an opportunity to discuss 
and learn from the experiences of others, but also to establish more 
links and work together on new projects.

“As a result of the forum, CLASS is now working with others on a new 
journal aimed at bringing to our Asia-Pacific region some of the 
theoretical debate and revival of theory now taking place in Latin 
American movements and left organisations. We are also working with 
other comrades on a new internet radio project, radiovenceremos.org. In 
addition, our projects and links with Colombia and Venezuela have been 

The organising of the conference was in itself an important contribution 
to strengthening united left activity in Australia, being jointly 
organised by the DSP/Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conferences 
(APISC), the AVSN, AAWL, CLASS, the Latin American Solidarity Network 
and Unity for Peace. More than 20 other Latin American solidarity 
groups, left parties, community media, and environmental and other 
social movement organisations sponsored the conference.

The conference was also strongly supported by the trade union movement, 
including participation and assistance from the Australasian Meat 
Industry Employees Union; the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union; 
the Australian Services Union (services division); the Australian 
Workers Union; the Communication, Electrical and Plumbing Union 
(plumbers and telecommunications divisions); the Construction, Forestry, 
Mining and Energy Union (construction and mining divisions); the 
Electrical Trades Union; the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance; the 
Maritime Union of Australia (Victoria and WA branches, and national); 
the Rail Tram and Bus Union; the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union; 
and the United Firefighters Union; as well as the ACTU; Geelong and 
Gippsland trades and labour councils; and the VTHC’s occupational health 
and safety unit and Trades Hall Literary Institute.

[Lisa Macdonald was one of the conference organisers, representing the 

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