Pope Francis pauses in front of a sculpture of Junípero Serra, the Saint of Genocide, in the US Capitol. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/dpa/Corbis

Pope Francis pauses in front of a sculpture of Junípero Serra, the Saint of Genocide, in the US Capitol. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/dpa/Corbis

by The Spark

The Pope is being lauded as a champion of the poor for speaking out against poverty and inequality, the destruction of the environment and the plight of migrants fleeing war-torn areas of the world.

Many American Indian activists and supporters have a different view due to the Pope’s recent choice for sainthood, the 18thcentury Spanish missionary Junipero Serra. As “Father Presidente,” Serra oversaw the founding of at least 10 Spanish missions in the area from San Jose to Los Angeles, California between 1769 and 1784. Approximately 150,000 Indians died in the Read the rest of this entry »

eye-of-god-weeping1“God weeps” for the sexual abuse of children, Pope Francis said last Sunday in Philadelphia, after meeting with victims of sexual abuse.

by Don Franks

while it was going on his eyes were dry
up in the sky
while it was still a secret issue
God didn’t need a tissue
when the kids wept
God’s tear ducts didn’t function
now its out there, the Pope says
He feels compunction
What was God up to when
there was more urgency to cry?
I must make sure and ask the bastard
when i die

Alexis Tsipras: left social democrat does a better job of imposing austerity than the right

Alexis Tsipras: left social democrat does a better job of imposing austerity than the right

by Daniel Harvey

In the end Syriza managed to avoid losing the snap election called by Alexis Tsipras in the wake of his surrender to the institutions in June. He got 35.46% of the vote, as against 28.10% for his conservative rivals in New Democracy. At the same time, his coalition partner in the last government, the rightwing and xenophobic Independent Greeks (Anel) also managed to maintain its representation in the Hellenic parliament, winning 10 seats. Altogether Syriza will be able to keep its old coalition, despite emerging with four seats fewer: thanks to the undemocratic 50-seat top-up for the winning party, it now has 145 MPs in the 300-seat parliament.

This is a far better result than Tsipras must have expected. Opinion polls on the eve of the election showed the two main parties neck and neck on 31% apiece. However, Syriza has lost its entire youth wing, which decamped en masse in response to Tsipras’s complete failure to honour the pledges he made before the January election to oppose austerity. At the same time, the Left Platform also abandoned ship when it became clear that its MPs would be deselected and driven out by the Tsipras leadership. They formed a new party, Popular Unity, led by Panagiotis Lafazanis.

In practice, the Left Platform had at best only ever offered token opposition to Tsipras’s capitulation, and at worst actively colluded with it. Half of its MPs voted for the Read the rest of this entry »

Syrian refugee children. Photo: The Guardian

Syrian refugee children. Photo: The Guardian

by The Spark

Almost 11 million people have fled their homes in Syria, driven out by the bombing and butchery of a terrible war. This is almost one half the whole Syrian population, children, women and men.

CNN put it in terms such that no one in this country could miss its significance: “Imagine every man, woman and child leaving home in 29 states in the U.S. West and Midwest – everyone west of Ohio and Kentucky and north of Texas, all the way to California. The 158 million people living in those 29 states make up the same share of the U.S. population – 49% – as the proportion of Syrians that have fled the carnage there.”

Every sanctimonious politician – including many of those bigots who regularly carry on an anti-immigrant crusade – rushed to get their sound-bite TV minute or Tweet, lamenting the fate of those refugees, but then recoiled at the suggestion that the U.S. open its borders wide.

But nowhere in official discourse has there been any admission of the role the U.S. has played in this disaster. No admission, no discussion.

The US, nonetheless, is at the center of Read the rest of this entry »


by Ben Hillier

Never has it been easier for a human being to get from one side of the world to the other; yet in some ways it has never been harder.

The trip from England to Australia took 250 days in the late 1700s. Now it takes less than 24 hours. British and Australian citizens can make the journey with ease, if we have the means to pay for a ticket. But for the vast majority of the planet getting to either destination is all but impossible. The complex rules governing human movement – who can and can’t travel, where they can travel, the issuance of documents and permissions that are required to travel etc. – are an interminable barrier.

Take the trip from Kabul to Darwin. It’s about 12 hours by air. For an Afghan acquaintance of mine, it took around three months. First, two days’ travel to Lahore, Pakistan. A two-week wait for a passport to be “arranged”. A flight to Singapore, a bribe to get through customs. A three-week wait for a smuggler to arrange a visa for Indonesia.

Another bribe, this time to police. A day in Jakarta. Then south-east to the stretches of the archipelago, perhaps Sumbawa. One and a half to two months’ wait for a boat to be organised by another smuggler. Several days to Ashmore Reef. A week on the fringes of the Indian Ocean and the Timor Sea before a two-day sail aboard an Australian customs vessel.

After Darwin came the horrors of Read the rest of this entry »

NZ nationalism binds all classes together and acts to block workers' class consciousness

NZ nationalism binds all classes together and acts to block workers’ class consciousness

The article below first appeared in the left-wing fortnightly paper Socialist Action, vol 7, #16, 1975.  While 40 years old, it certainly retains its relevance as ‘kiwi nationalism’ remains hegemonic on the NZ left – even the author of this excellent critique of it eventually succumbed himself.  While Keith is now a Green liberal-nationalist, his 40-year-old article remains a solid critique of NZ left-nationalism in its political and economic forms.

by Keith Locke

The question of nationalism has traditionally caused a great deal of confusion in the radical movement, and it is easy to see why this is so.  Almost from birth we are bombarded with NZ chauvinism.  We are taught to look up to the flag, sing songs like ‘God Defend New Zealand’, and to identify with other New Zealanders (be they businessmen, farmers or workers) as opposed to people from other lands.  And if it comes to war, we are automatically expected to fight on the same side as the NZ government.  NZ is a great little country, our rulers tell us; an egalitarian country where the economy functions for the benefit of all.  Building it is a team effort, they say, and we should all pull together and think twice about goibng on strike.  We are brainwashed that pakeha New Zealand culture and ways are superior to those of other ethnic groups in NZ – be they Maoris, Pacific Islanders, Chinese, Indians or British.

NZ radicals have generally learnt enough about the true state of affairs to reject at least some of this chauvinism, and to understand to some degree its function as an ideological prop for the privileged rulers of this country.  But most radicals still retain some nationalism, particularly in the form of a feeling that something is wrong with foreign capital; that it is somehow worse than New Zealand capital.  This inclination has been reinforced by the example of Read the rest of this entry »

Hifikepunye Pohamba

Hifikepunye Pohamba

by Nizar K Visram

MARCH this year African people, and the world at large, were informed that the outgoing president of Namibia, Hifikepunye Pohamba, 79, is the winner of the Mo Ibrahim award for 2014. It comes with a lump sum of US$5 million and after ten years a lifelong ‘allowance’ of US$200,000 per year.

The award was founded by Mohammed “Mo” Ibrahim, a British billionaire of Sudanese origin, in order to encourage African leaders to hand over power peacefully and constitutionally. It is given to a former African executive head of state or government who ‘steps down willingly’ after two terms and for their ‘exemplary’ leadership in fighting poverty and upholding national integrity. It is the biggest award of its kind in the world, larger than the Nobel Peace Prize, for example, that is worth around US$1.5 million.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation previously awarded the prize to the presidents of Cape Verde (Pedro Pires in 2011) and Botswana (Festus Mogae in 2008). Former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano was the first laureate of the prize in 2007. Former South African President Nelson Mandela was also made the inaugural honorary winner in 2007.

Pohamba is a founder of the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) liberation movement that successfully fought the South African apartheid regime’s occupation of Namibia. He was first elected in 2004 and again in 2009 and stepped down at the end of March after his successor, prime minister Hage Geingob, won the November 2014 elections.

Chairman of the award committee, former Organisation of African Unity (OAU) secretary general Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, described Pohamba as someone who “bettered the lives of his people.”

At the press conference in Nairobi, Kenya, where the winner was announced, the prize committee said Pohamba is rewarded for the “important socio-economic gains made in his country, for assuring national cohesion and reconciliation, and for stepping down after two terms.”

Dr Salim described Pohamba’s leadership as ‘exemplary’ and said he was someone who respected the rule of law, especially when it came to term limits.

Yet Namibia is a young nation facing many challenges, including Read the rest of this entry »


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