Global Events, the United Nations, and Disease
RT: BRICS holds talks on reserve currency – diplomat
The BRICS countries are working on establishing a new reserve currency to better serve their economic interests, ambassador at large of Russia’s Foreign Ministry Pavel Knyazev said this week. It will be based on a basket of the currencies of the five-nation bloc.
“The possibility and prospects of setting up a common single currency based on a basket of currencies of the BRICS countries is being discussed,” Knyazev said during a discussion about expanding BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
According to the diplomat, member states are “actively studying mechanisms” to exchange financial information to develop a reliable alternative for international payments.
Al Jazeera: Global gas markets to remain tight well into 2023, IEA says
Global natural gas markets will likely remain tight well into 2023 as Russia restricts supplies and Europe cuts usage amid high prices and energy saving measures, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said.
Global gas consumption is expected to drop by 0.8 percent in 2022 – the result of a record 10 percent contraction in Europe and static demand in the Asia-Pacific – and grow just 0.4 percent next year, the IEA said in its quarterly gas market report on Monday.
RT: OPEC mulls output cut amid slowing global growth – media
OPEC and allies are expected to cut production at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, according to media reports.
Banks such as JPMorgan Chase told Bloomberg that the organization needs to lower output by least 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) to stabilize global oil prices. According to Reuters, however, the group may take a more aggressive approach and slash output by more than 1 million bpd.
The upcoming meeting at the OPEC headquarters in Vienna will be the first in-person gathering of the group since March 2020, and market experts say OPEC+ would not have ventured to convene in-person unless a large cut was on the table.
“I suspect that they might not want to go in person for a minor move… We certainly see a significant chance that the producer group will opt for a substantial cut to try to signal that there is indeed an effective circuit breaker in the market,” Helima Croft, chief commodities strategist at RBC Capital Markets, told Bloomberg.
The Guardian: Covid has left a third of young people feeling life is out of control – study
More than a third of young people feel their life is spiralling out of control, according to findings released to the Guardian ahead of a nationwide campaign that highlights Covid’s impact on the younger generation.
The Prince’s Trust Class of Covid research also found that more than 60% of 16-25-year-olds said they were scared about their generation’s future, having lived through a pandemic only to face a cost-of-living crisis.One in three think their job prospects will never recover from the pandemic.
“Young people today are facing unique challenges which threaten the futures and aspirations of an entire generation if we don’t act,” said Jonathan Townsend, the charity’s UK chief executive.
“Their education, employment and key formative years have already suffered, leaving many feeling uncertain and scared about a future which appears to be spiralling out of their control,” he said. “Despite high vacancies, young people remain worried about their future career prospects.”
RT: Scientists warn of cold winter in Europe
European countries may be about to face a colder than usual winter, the head of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) predicted on Sunday. This forecast comes as the continent is struggling with an energy crunch spurred by the sanctions the West has slapped on Russia over the Ukraine conflict.
Speaking to the Financial Times, ECMWF Director-General Florence Rabier said that early data suggest that in November and December Western Europe may face a period of high pressure. This, she noted, may bring in colder weather with less wind and rainfall, which may reduce the amount of power generated by renewable power sources.
“If we have this pattern then for the energy it is quite demanding because not only is it a bit colder but also you have less wind for wind power and less precipitation for hydro power,” Rabier told the outlet.
The ECMWF chief went on to say that while in the short term Europe may experience milder weather due to the recent hurricanes in the Atlantic, an atmospheric phenomenon called La Nina may bring in colder weather later on. This usually occurs due to periodic cooling of the Pacific Ocean, which triggers ripple effects on weather across the globe and can change wind and precipitation patterns.
Inquirer: Euro zone factory activity declined again in Sept as energy bills bite -PMI
Manufacturing activity across the euro zone declined further last month as a growing cost of living crisis kept consumers wary while soaring energy bills limited production, a survey showed on Monday.
S&P Global’s final manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to a 27-month low of 48.4 in September from August’s 49.6, just below a preliminary reading of 48.5 and further below the 50 mark separating growth from contraction.
An index measuring output, which feeds into a composite PMI due on Wednesday and seen as a good guide to economic health, dropped to 46.3 from 46.5, marking its fourth month of sub-50 readings.
Responsible Statecraft: Poll: Europeans from NATO countries embrace US defense
The publics in most NATO member countries foresee a sharp decline in the influence exerted by the United States in global affairs over the next five years and have little or no appetite for confrontation with China over Taiwan, according to Transatlantic Trends 2022, a detailed report on a new poll released Friday by the German Marshall Fund.
The poll, which interviewed respondents in 14 NATO countries, including the United States, also found stronger support for both NATO and the European Union as key protectors of their respective nations’ national security compared to previous years.
The survey, which included more than 21,000 respondents altogether, was conducted between late June and early July. This is about mid-way between the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February and the present, and thus doesn’t account for the latest developments in that conflict, such as Ukraine’s recent counter-offensives in the northeastern part of the country or Friday’s annexation announcement by Putin.
But it is clear from the results that, at least as of last summer, concern about Moscow’s ambitions was running high, particularly among publics geographically closest to Russia (with the exception of Turkey) and support for NATO was running rather strong too, according to the survey.
Similarly, asked to rank the “most important security challenges,” pluralities of respondents in most of the 14 countries rated Russia, along with “war between countries” and climate change, as the greatest threats, with both immigration and pandemics, which respondents last year rated as the number one challenge, now seen as lesser priorities.
The survey found some relatively wide differences of opinion on a number of key issues between and, in some cases, within the publics of the 14 countries, which included Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States and Turkey. For example, younger respondents tended to be more skeptical of both U.S. influence and its beneficial effects on the world order than older respondents.
Among the major findings, the survey found that, while an average of 64 percent of all respondents called the United States the world’s most influential actor today, an average of only 37 percent said it would retain that position just five years from now. China is likely to be the biggest gainer, with an average of 25 percent of respondents believing it will rise to exert the greatest influence by 2027, an increase from 13 percent today. Respondents in France and Italy, in particular, believe that Beijing will have overtaken Washington’s influence by a significant margin by that year.
An average of 57 percent of respondents described U.S. influence on global affairs as either “very” or “generally positive,” with Poland, Lithuania, and Portugal expressing the most positive views. Two thirds of Turkish respondents, on the other hand, described U.S. influence as either “very” or “generally negative.”
On the other hand, the EU’s influence on global affairs, while not near as great (an average of 17 percent) as Washington’s, was considered more positive at 65 percent. By contrast, an average of only 27 percent of respondents said they viewed China’s influence as positive, while 57 percent said they saw it as negative, although there were significant differences between and within the countries. Perceptions of Russia were even worse: an average of 15 percent positive and 73 percent negative.
Likely due in major part to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the survey found increased support for NATO in this year’s survey. While an average of two thirds of respondents last year said that the Atlantic Alliance played either a “very” or “somewhat important role in the security of their country,” that percentage rose to 78 percent this year. The desire for U.S. involvement in Europe’s defense also increased, with an average of 72 percent saying they wanted Washington to be either “somewhat” or “very involved” in Europe’s defense, an increase of 12 percentage points over 2021, with the greatest increase coming from Swedish respondents.
Remarkably, a slightly higher average of 81 percent of respondents (not including U.S. or Canadian respondents) said they saw the EU as “important” for the national security of their country, including two thirds of British respondents despite their country’s exit from the group just two years ago.
Similarly, pluralities and majorities of respondents across the European countries covered by the survey said they prefer to manage their countries’ relations with Russia and China through the EU rather than through cooperation with the United States or through an independent bilateral approach (although Turkey was once again the exception).
And the vast majority of respondents in most countries have become increasingly negative about Russia, the survey found much greater ambiguity about perceptions of China, particularly whether Beijing should be regarded as a “partner,” a “competitor,” or a “rival.” Two thirds of U.S. respondents put China in the “competitor” or “rival” category, but that was far significantly more than the average of 47 percent of all 14 countries — a suggestion that the U.S. public is considerably more hawkish toward Beijing than its counterparts in the rest of NATO.
An average of 29 percent of respondents said they “don’t know” how to characterize their country’s relations with China. At the same time, the survey found that pluralities of respondents favored a tougher approach toward Beijing on a range of issues, from human rights to technology transfer to climate change.
But when asked what action their country should take if China invades Taiwan, strong majorities in all countries were split between either “work(ing) only diplomatically to end the conflict” (an average of 35 percent) or “join other countries in imposing sanctions on China” (an average of 32 percent).
As to other options, there was very little support (between six percent in Turkey and 24 percent in Romania, an outlier) for “tak(ing) no action,” much less support (between one percent and eight percent) for “send(ing) arms to Taiwan,” and even less support (one percent to seven percent) for “send(ing) troops to Taiwan,” as U.S. President Joe Biden has suggested he may be inclined to do. For both of the latter two options, the highest level of support (eight and seven percent, respectively) was voiced by U.S. respondents.
BBC: Record avian flu outbreak sees 48m birds culled in UK and EU
Around 48m birds have been culled across the UK and the EU in the last year as a result of the largest outbreak of avian flu on record.
In the UK, 161 cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) were detected in poultry and captive birds, leading to the culling of 3.2m birds.
That compared to the previous record of 26 cases in 2020/21.
The UK government said the culled birds were a “small proportion” of total production - about 20m birds a week.
There have also been 1,727 cases of avian flu in the UK’s wild bird population, in 406 locations involving 59 bird species.
RT: Nord Stream pipelines can be restored – Moscow
Russia may be able to fix the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which were damaged earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak said on Sunday.
“There are technical possibilities to restore the infrastructure, it requires time and appropriate funds. I am sure that appropriate opportunities will be found,” Novak told Russia 1 TV.
According to the official, however, the first step should be to determine who is behind the incident.
“As of today, we proceed from the fact that it is necessary, first of all, to figure out who did it, and we are sure that certain countries, which had expressed their positions before, were interested in it. Both the US and Ukraine, as well as Poland at one time said that this infrastructure is not going to work, that they will do everything to make sure of it, so, of course, it is necessary to seriously look into it,” Novak stated.
RT: Russia bans cargo transit from ‘unfriendly countries’
Russia has banned cargo transportation by road for companies from countries that placed similar restrictions on Russia. The decree was signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and published on the country’s official internet portal for legal information on Saturday.
According to the document, companies from EU countries, Norway, Ukraine, and the UK will no longer be able to transport goods through Russia by road. The document states that the ban is in response to restrictions imposed by these countries for Russian truckers as part of the sanctions on Moscow earlier this year.
The decree comes into force on October 10 and will be valid until December 31, 2022. The document states that the ban applies to both bilateral and transit goods transportation, as well as cargo transportation to or from the territory of a third state.
Inquirer: Russian factory activity expands at fastest rate in Sept since 2019 – PMI
Russian manufacturing activity grew at its fastest rate in 3-1/2 years in September, driven by rises in production, new orders and client demand, a business survey showed on Monday, though Western sanctions continued to weigh on export business.
The S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose in September to 52.0 from 51.7 in the previous month, climbing higher above the 50.0 mark that separates expansion from contraction to its highest point since March 2019.
“Client demand was focused on domestic customers, however, as new export orders declined steeply,” S&P Global said in a monthly survey. “The decrease in foreign client demand was attributed to the loss of customers and the impact of sanctions.”
RT: Putin introduces bills on accession of new Russian regions to Parliament
President Vladimir Putin forwarded, on Sunday, treaties on the accession to Russia of four formerly Ukrainian regions to the State Duma for ratification. Voters in Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, overwhelmingly chose to join Russia in referendums, last week.
Earlier in the day, the four documents were approved by the Russian Constitutional Court. They must now be passed by both chambers of the Russian parliament, the State Duma and the Federation Council. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the treaties on Monday.
Putin has also provided Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his deputy Evgeny Ivanov with special powers for the period of accession of the new territories. The two officials have been designated special presidential envoys to the country’s parliament for this period, according to a new presidential decree.
RT: Ruble will become official currency in former Ukrainian regions
The Russian ruble is set to become the official currency for the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as well as Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions, the former Ukrainian territories that voted to join Russia in a referendum earlier this week.
According to the press service of Russia’s State Duma Committee on State Construction and Legislation, the Ukrainian hryvnia will be accepted for payments in the regions until December 31. However, starting January 1, the ruble will be the only currency accepted.
“The ruble will be the monetary unit on the territories of the new [Russian] regions. Until December 31, 2022, the Ukrainian hryvnia will be accepted for cash and non-cash payments. The Bank of Russia will be empowered to establish the specifics of credit and non-credit financial institutions operation,” the press service said in a statement on Sunday.
WSWS: Where to now for the UK and global financial system?
Following the Bank of England’s intervention into the UK bond market to prevent a financial crash, centred on pension funds, the big question hanging over the British and global financial markets is what happens when the emergency program ends.
The BoE committed itself to spending £65 billion—£5 billion a day for 13 days until October 14—on long-dated UK government debt, that is, 10-year and particularly 30-year bonds, so-called gilts.
Over the weekend, the Financial Times (FT) reported that regulatory authorities responsible for the £1.5 trillion pensions sector, which came close to imploding, “have been holding daily talks with asset managers to stave off a fresh crisis” when the emergency bond-buying finishes.
The crisis erupted when pension funds, which match their income and asset holdings with their liabilities and make heavy investments in gilts to do so, were met with “margin calls”—demands for increased collateral to back the loans they had taken out to buy derivatives to balance their books as bond prices fell.
The pension funds started selling bonds, lowering their price, to raise cash to meet the margin calls. This threatened to set in motion a “doom loop,” with the fall in bond prices leading to a demand for further collateral, prompting more selling, lowering prices still further, and a demand for yet more collateral.
Had the crisis continued, an estimated 90 percent of pension funds could have become insolvent.
The BoE issued a statement that the “scale and speed” of the shift “far exceeded historical moves.”
WSWS: 170,000 UK rail, post and port workers strike in largest mobilisation this year
Saturday’s day of action, billed by unions as a “megastrike”, brought the UK’s rail, postal system and much of the nation’s container traffic to a halt.
The strikes were held alongside demonstrations organised by Enough is Enough (EiE), the pressure group founded by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and Labour MPs allied to former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Tens of thousands rallied collectively in major cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow.
They were the first coordinated strikes since the start of a summer strike wave that has seen workers in key sectors fight for higher pay to combat record inflation and oppose the tearing up of jobs, conditions and pension rights.
Postal workers struck for 48-hours starting on Friday. Strike action by Unite union members in Liverpool and Felixstowe ports hit 60 percent of the UK’s container traffic.
Around 170,000 workers were involved in Saturday’s strikes all told. This included 115,000 postal workers, 54,000 rail workers and 2,600 port workers. The strikes were called by the CWU, RMT, Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) and Unite the Union.
Rail strikes hit the Network Rail infrastructure group and 14 train operating companies (TOCs). Around 40,000 RMT member were out, as were 9,000 ASLEF drivers at 12 TOCs, while 5,000 TSSA members were mobilised. Unite’s few hundred rail industry members were also striking.
No trains ran between the UK’s major cities, with only 11 percent of scheduled services operating nationally. The strike hit Transport for London, with no services running on the London Overground. The action had a knock-on effect Sunday, with service disrupted for the opening day of the ruling Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
The main Enough is Enough rally was held outside London’s King’s Cross station, joined by an estimated 4,000 people.
RT: Truss already less popular than disgraced Johnson – poll
British Prime Minister Liz Truss’ personal approval rating is lower than that of her predecessor Boris Johnson’s right before he was forced to resign this year, a recent Opinium/Observer poll has shown.
According to the survey of 2,000 people, which was conducted between September 28 and 30 and released on Saturday, only 18% of Britons approve of the job Truss is doing, and 55% disapprove.
This places her net approval at -37, down from -9 a week ago, which is worse than the -28 that Johnson had in the final Opinium poll before he stepped down as Tory leader in July.
RT: UK forced to reverse tax cut for highest earners
The UK government will drop its plan to cut the tax rate for the highest earners, which was the least popular measure in the newly announced ‘mini-budget’, following a public backlash and market upheaval. The move was announced on Monday by Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng.
“It is clear that the abolition of the 45% tax rate has become a distraction from our overriding mission to tackle the challenges facing our economy. As a result, I’m announcing we are not proceeding with the abolition of the 45% tax rate. We get it, and we have listened,” Kwarteng said in a statement.
WSWS: 7 million workers in contract struggles in Germany: Build independent action committees!
The end of September marked the second round of contract bargaining for Germany’s 3.8 million workers in metal and electrical industries. According to German labour law, strikes are banned as long as a contract has been agreed. In response to the imminent expiration of the current contract, short-term “warning strikes” are already being prepared in many companies.
The German Chemical Workers Union, the IG BCE, is also conducting contract bargaining for 580,000 workers in the chemical industry. Such bargaining, due to be held last spring, was postponed until autumn due to the economic crisis and will now be continued in October. In addition, the contract agreement for about 2.3 million public sector workers expires at the end of the year. On October 11, the main public workers union, Verdi, is due to announce its wage demands.
This means that officially almost 7 million workers are involved in wage disputes this autumn and winter.
Reuters: Italy’s economy to shrink for three quarters, Treasury says
Italy’s economy probably shrank in the third quarter and will continue to contract for the following two quarters, according to the latest Treasury forecasts.
The forecasts indicate the euro zone’s third largest economy, hit by soaring energy costs and record high inflation, is heading for a technical recession, defined by economists as two consecutive quarters of declining gross domestic product.
The economy held up better than expected in the first half of the year and GDP jumped 1.1% in the second quarter from the previous three months, but the Treasury’s Economic and Financial Document (DEF) published late on Friday said a downturn has already begun.
Reuters: Italy’s Meloni vows government action to tackle soaring energy prices
Italy’s next government will direct its efforts to trying to tame soaring energy prices, Giorgia Meloni, who is widely expected to be named prime minister, said on Saturday.
Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party and allies Forza Italia and the League face a daunting list of challenges, including the spike in energy prices largely caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I still think this is a primary responsibility of the new government, and we are obviously committed to working on this,” said Meloni, who was speaking in Milan at an event held by Italy’s biggest agriculture lobby Coldiretti in her first public appearance since the election night.
The Guardian: Afghans left in legal limbo in Greece while ‘real refugees’ helped to settle
A year after Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban, Greece continues to be the first port of call for thousands of people fleeing the country’s worsening humanitarian crisis. After Ukrainians, Afghans account for the second-largest group of asylum applicants in the EU and by far the biggest in Greece, where more than 37,000 – more than a third of the total number registered nationwide – have filed asylum claims.
In a recent report, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) chronicled Afghan refugees’ difficulties in Greece and the serious impact on their physical and mental health.
Of the 192 Afghans monitored by the organisation’s mental health teams between April 2021 and March 2022, about 97% had reported symptoms of depression, while 50% had considered suicide, the IRC report said.
“Many Afghans fleeing conflict and persecution in their own country think their troubles will be over once they reach Europe … This is simply not the case,” says Dimitra Kalogeropoulou, the IRC’s Greece director.
“Instead, people face the stark reality of violent pushbacks from Greek borders, months or years living in fear of being sent back to Turkey or Afghanistan, where they could face untold horrors, extended periods trapped in prison-like reception conditions, far from towns and cities and an alarming lack of support to begin rebuilding their lives,” she says.
For the estimated 70,000 Ukrainians who have sought refuge in Greece, it has been a different story. After Russia’s invasion on 24 February, the EU moved quickly to issue a temporary protection directive to safeguard the rights of people desperate to leave the war-torn country.
Although relatively few Ukrainians have headed to Greece, the reception they have received there has been unusually warm, with senior officials often referring to the newcomers as “real refugees”.
TeleSUR: Pro-NATO Party Wins Latvian Elections
The elections were marked by the influence of the Ukrainian conflict in local expectations.
On Saturday, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins' center-right party New Unity won the parliamentary elections, an exit poll conducted by the research center SKDS showed.
As of noon on Sunday, authorities had counted 1,019 out of 1,055 polling stations. The New Unity Party had obtained 18.9 percent of the votes, which represents an increase of 6.7 percent with respect to the 2018 elections.
Although this result will allow Karins to have a majority of seats in parliament, he will have to start his administration facing the possible loss of two members of the outgoing coalition. The next parliament will be highly fragmented as various parties will have seats in it.
The parliament will include the social democratic “Greens & Farmers Union” (12.66 percent), the coalition of regional parties “United List” (10.98 percent), and the centrist “National Union” (9.31 percent). The vote count could also give seats to the organization Attistibai/Par! and the social democratic party “Progressives”.
Stability!, an organization supported by the Russian-speaking minority, won 6.75 percent of the vote, which would give it some representation in Parliament. However, another historical Russian-speaking party like “Harmonie” will not have seats.
East Asia and Oceania
Reuters: Asia’s factory activity weakens on global slowdown, cost pressures
Asia’s factory output mostly weakened in September as slowing demand in China and advanced economies added to the pain from persistent cost pressures, surveys showed on Monday, clouding the region’s economic recovery prospects.
Manufacturing activity shrank in Taiwan and Malaysia, and grew at a slower pace in September compared with August in Japan and Vietnam, as rising raw material costs and the darkening global outlook weighed on corporate sentiment.
Inquirer: US defense chief vows to help Taiwan defend itself
The United States will help Taiwan “develop the capability to defend itself” from a Chinese invasion, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Sunday, stopping short of President Joe Biden’s vow to send troops to the island.
“We’re committed to helping Taiwan develop the capability to defend itself,” Austin said in an interview with CNN.
China Daily: China’s manufacturing PMI up in September
The purchasing managers' index (PMI) for China’s manufacturing sector came in at 50.1 in September, up from 49.4 in August, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed Friday.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below reflects contraction.
“As policies and measures to stabilize the economy continue to take effect this month, and the negative effects of heat waves wane, the manufacturing PMI has bounced back to the expansion territory,” the bureau’s senior statistician Zhao Qinghe said.
Financial Times: China property shares rally on policy support
Shares in Chinese property companies jumped on Monday following a series of supportive policy announcements, as regulators stepped up efforts to curb property sector turmoil weighing on the world’s second-largest economy.
The Hong Kong-listed shares in the service unit of Country Garden rose as much as 14 per cent in the morning session, while its listed parent company and Longfor Properties rose as much as 6 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively. The Hang Seng Mainland Properties index was up 5.4 per cent as of noon in Hong Kong.
Policymakers have accelerated tweaks to stabilise the sagging housing market in recent weeks, including launching bailout funds and special loans to help developers complete unfinished homes, which had sparked a countrywide mortgage boycott.
The People’s Bank of China said on Friday that it would lower the interest rate for housing provident fund loans by 0.15 percentage points for first-time homebuyers starting from October, the first cut in such loans since 2015. Loans with a term of more than five years borrowed from the government’s housing provident fund will be lowered to 3.1 per cent, according to a statement from PBoC.
The Ministry of Finance also on Friday unveiled a rare tax incentive for homebuyers, which allows individuals who buy new homes within one year of selling their previous homes to enjoy a refund on income taxes, a move intended to encourage property purchases.
On Thursday, the banking and insurance regulator and the PBoC relaxed a floor on mortgage rates for some first-time buyers. In some cities, banks can scrap the lower limit of home loan rates and offer cheaper loans to support demand based on their own profitability conditions.
“The three measures . . . will remarkably shore up the housing market momentum in the fourth quarter,” said Yan Yuejin, research director of E-house China Research and Development Institute. “They will help lower the replacement cost on houses and offer burden reliefs for homebuyers.”
Inquirer: Battered Hong Kong’s stocks hit 11-year low
Hong Kong’s flailing stock market tumbled Monday to its lowest point in more than a decade as fears for China’s economy deepens this year’s investor rout.
The Hang Seng Index shed 0.83 percent, or 143.32 points, to close at 17,079.51.
But crucially it crossed below the 17,000 level in the afternoon, touching a nadir not seen since October 2011 and the aftermath of the global financial crash and during the eurozone debt crisis.
Laotian Times: Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Visits Laos
The Cuban PM and his delegation arrived at Wattay International Airport in Vientiane Capital on Sunday afternoon, welcomed by Lao Minister of Education and Sports, Mr. Phout Simmalavong.
The visit, from 2 – 4 October, comes in response to the invitation of Prime Minister of Laos, Mr. Phankham Viphavanh, and is aimed at strengthening the long-standing friendship and ties between Laos and Cuba.
Inquirer: Indonesia inflation hits new 7-year high after fuel price hike
Indonesia’s inflation rate in September accelerated to its highest since October 2015 due to higher transportation costs following a fuel price hike, statistics bureau data showed on Monday.
The headline annual inflation rate rose to 5.95 percent in September, up from 4.69 percent in August, but came in slightly lower than a 6 percent rate expected in a Reuters poll.
The annual core inflation rate, which excludes government-controlled prices and volatile food prices, picked up pace in September to 3.21 percent, compared with 3.04 percent in August and 3.6 percent forecast by analysts.
Inquirer: Philippines, US kick off naval exercises amid China tension
The armed forces of the United States and Philippines launched two weeks of joint naval exercises on Monday, reinforcing a close military alliance at a time of regional uncertainty over tensions between Washington and Beijing.
KAMANDAG, an acronym in Filipino for “Cooperation of the warriors of the sea”, runs until Oct. 14, will involve 2,550 American and 530 Filipino troops and include island-based exercises in amphibious landings, live fire and humanitarian assistance.
U.S. allies Japan and South Korea are joining the exercises as observers. The Philippines and United States, which are bound by a 70-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty, have been holding exercises for decades.
Central Asia and the Middle East
Inquirer: Turkey inflation at new 24-year high of 83% after rate cuts
Turkish annual inflation climbed to a new 24-year high of 83.45 percent in September, below forecast according to official data on Monday, after the central bank surprised markets by cutting rates twice in the last two months.
Inflation has surged since autumn last year, when the lira slumped after the central bank gradually cut its policy rate in an unorthodox easing cycle long sought by President Tayyip Erdogan.
TeleSUR: Israel Welcomes US Proposal on Maritime Border With Lebanon
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed a U.S.-brokered proposal for demarcating a maritime border with Lebanon, saying it could increase profits for both countries from natural gas production.
Lapid told his weekly cabinet meeting that Israel and Lebanon received the U.S. Energy Envoy Amos Hochstein’s proposal for an agreement on a maritime line between the two countries over the weekend.
The dispute concerns an area of some 860 square km of the Mediterranean Sea. He said the proposal is undergoing legal review, adding the approval of the deal would be decided in a cabinet vote and a first cabinet discussion was scheduled for Thursday.
“The proposal safeguards Israel’s full security-diplomatic interests, as well as our economic interests,” the Israeli leader said. The U.S.-proposed deal grants Lebanon the rights to the Qana natural gas field, located partially in the disputed area, with Israel receiving some of the revenues.
“We do not oppose the development of an additional Lebanese gas field, from which we will receive the share we deserve,” Lapid said, adding that “such a field will weaken Lebanon’s dependence on Iran, restrain Hezbollah and promote regional stability.”
Reuters: Pakistani hospital overwhelmed as water-borne illnesses spread
The emergency ward at the main government hospital in Sehwan, a small town in southern Pakistan, is overwhelmed.
On a recent visit, Reuters witnessed hundreds of people crammed into rooms and corridors, desperately seeking treatment for malaria and other illnesses that are spreading fast after the country’s worst floods in decades.
Ahmed is on the frontline of the battle to limit sickness and death across southern Pakistan, where hundreds of towns and villages were cut off by rising waters. The deluge has affected around 33 million people in a country of 220 million.
Most of the estimated 300-400 patients arriving at his clinic each morning, many of them children, are suffering from malaria and diarrhoea, although with winter approaching, Ahmed fears other illnesses will become more common.
“I hope people displaced by the floods can get back to their homes before winter; (if not) they will be exposed to respiratory illnesses and pneumonia living in tents,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who fled their homes are living in government camps set up to accommodate them, or simply out in the open.
Stagnant floodwaters, spread over hundreds of square kilometres (miles), may take two to six months to recede in some places, and have already led to widespread cases of skin and eye infections, diarrhoea, malaria, typhoid and dengue fever.
Al Jazeera: Yemen’s warring sides fail to agree extension to UN-backed truce
Yemen’s warring sides have failed to reach an agreement to extend a nationwide ceasefire, the United Nations has said.
In a statement, the UN’s envoy to Yemen called on all sides to refrain from acts of provocation as the talks continue, after an October 2 deadline for extending the agreement expired.
RT: Yemen’s Houthis issue warning to oil ‘looters’
As efforts to extend a six-month ceasefire between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led military coalition failed, the Houthis warned that they could launch attacks on oil companies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The United Nations confirmed on Sunday that negotiations between the Houthis and the Saudi coalition had broken down, and that a ceasefire set to expire the same day would not be extended. The fragile truce had been in place since April, and saw fighting cease for the longest time since the outbreak of civil war in Yemen in 2014.
United Arab Emirates: UAE prince accused of helping Russian oligarchs evade sanctions
The billionaire deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, faces the prospect of an investigation over allegations that he helped wealthy Russian oligarchs evade sanctions.
Sheikh Mansour, who also owns Manchester City Football Club, could be investigated by the British foreign office on charges that he helped former Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich and other Russian billionaires skirt sanctions implemented over their close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
At the instigation of a Ukrainian activist, international criminal lawyers Rhys Davies and Ben Keith have presented to the British foreign secretary, James Cleverly, information that Sheikh Mansour is “central” to the flow of sanctioned money to the UAE.
TeleSUR: UN Secretary Voices Concern Over New Coup in Burkina Faso
On Saturday, the United Nations Secretary Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern over the situation in Burkina Faso following a coup that ousted President Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.
The UN Secretary “strongly condemns any attempt to seize power by the force of arms and calls on all actors to refrain from violence and seek dialogue,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres in a statement.
“The Secretary-general expresses his full support for regional efforts toward a swift return to constitutional order in the country. Burkina Faso needs peace, stability and unity to fight terrorist groups and criminal networks operating in parts of the country.”
Al Jazeera: Burkina Faso coup: Ousted military leader Damiba ‘resigns’
Burkina Faso’s overthrown military chief agreed to step down two days after army officers announced his deposition in the country’s second coup in a year.
Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba “offered his resignation in order to avoid confrontations with serious human and material consequences”, according to a statement on Sunday by mediators.
Influential religious and community leaders held mediation talks between Damiba and the new self-proclaimed leader, Captain Ibrahim Traore, to resolve the crisis.
“President Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba proposed his own resignation in order to avoid clashes,” said Hamidou Yameogo, a spokesman for the mediation efforts.
Reuters: Junta set to stay in power after Chad delays elections by two years
Chad has adopted resolutions that push back democratic elections by two years and allow interim leader Mahamat Idriss Deby to stay in power and be eligible to run for president in the eventual vote.
The decisions have dismayed some opposition forces and defy repeated warnings from the African Union, the United States and other foreign powers that the junta must not monopolise power by extending the transition or fielding presidential candidates.
The military authorities originally promised an 18-month transition to elections when Deby seized power in April 2021 after his father, President Idriss Deby, was killed on the battlefield during a conflict with insurgents.
Under the new plan, approved on Saturday, the transition that was due to end this October has been extended by two years, meaning elections would take place around October 2024.
WSWS: Trump issues death threat targeting Republican Senator Mitch McConnell
This past Friday on his social media platform, ex-president Donald Trump issued an explicit death threat targeting current Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
In his online message, which quickly spread throughout the far-right media sphere, Trump wondered if McConnell was “approving all of these Trillions of Dollars worth of Democrat sponsored Bills, without even the slightest bit of negotiation, because he hates Donald J. Trump, and he knows I am strongly opposed to them, or is he doing it because he believes in the Fake and Highly Destructive Green New Deal, and is willing to take the Country down with him?”
“In any event,” Trump continued, “either reason is unacceptable. He has a DEATH WISH.”
The all-caps “DEATH WISH” message was sent out to his roughly four million followers on the Truth Social media platform, Trump’s Twitter knock-off.
The MAGA assassins have been activated. They work in the dark to serve the light.
WSWS: Biden, Democrats approve spending bill with no funds for pandemic, $12 billion for Ukraine war
The Democratic-controlled Congress completed voting on a bill to authorize federal spending through December 16 and President Joe Biden signed it into law. The measure provides an additional $12.3 billion for the war against Russia in Ukraine, but nothing for public health measures against an impending fall and winter surge of the coronavirus pandemic.
There was bipartisan support for the bill, which passed the Senate by 72–25, well over the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster. However, it passed the House by a much narrower margin of 230–201, with only 10 Republicans joining all the Democrats in approving it.
Biden signed the bill into law late Friday night, just before the midnight deadline when federal government spending authority would have ended with the ending of the old fiscal year. Federal agencies had already begun activating plans for limited weekend shutdowns and then a full-scale shutdown on Monday, October 3, affecting all agencies except the vast military-intelligence apparatus.
So the important part was still intact.
WSWS: Death toll from Hurricane Ian continues to climb as tens of thousands are left ruined and neglected by state and federal governments
The death toll from Hurricane Ian after barreling into Florida and the Carolinas has risen to more than 80 amid reports that the number of dead is expected to climb higher in the coming days, serving as an indictment of state and federal officials who refused to safely evacuate residents as Ian bulldozed inland.
As of this writing the death toll stands at 79 in Florida and 4 in North Carolina, as only remnants of the storm remain after traversing up the southeast United States. The cities that bore the most impact from Ian’s destructive path, those in southwest Florida’s Lee County, have seen deaths rise exponentially. Lee County has confirmed at least 49 deaths total and that more bodies are likely to be found as rescue crews sift through the rubble from destroyed buildings.
Inquirer: Biden heads to storm-hit Puerto Rico
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden head to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico on Monday, in a bid to show solidarity with a US territory whose people have complained of neglect after past natural disasters.
The high-profile trip will be the first of two this week for the Bidens, who head on Wednesday to Florida to assess the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Ian.
Inside Climate News: Championing Its Heritage, Canada Inches Toward Its Goal of Planting 2 Billion Trees
This summer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who made the challenge part of his Liberal Party’s election platform, traveled 300 miles northwest of the capital city of Ottawa to get down on his knees and plant the 10 millionth new tree in Sudbury, Ontario, a one-time nickel-mining center. “Planting trees is not about planting seedlings,” he said that day. “It’s about planting hope, it’s about planting a future.”
If the country meets its 2 billion tree goal, projections suggest, it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 12 megatons of carbon dioxide. The government says that would amount to taking more than 2 million gasoline-powered automobiles off the road each year. What is more, it might help counter the die-off of trees in some North American regions as a result of climate change, insect infestations and diseases.
But the effort is lagging. Two years in, Canada has planted 40 million trees, an impressive figure on the surface. But that means it still has 1,999,960,000 tree plantings to go, or 99.9 percent of the distance. And scientists and environmentalists are asking whether tree-planting in the Americas should be a major policy focus, given the potential threat to water supplies in some locales, the possibility of more wildfires and the effects on food security and on biodiversity.
I’m pretty sure that math is wrong? 40 million divided by 2 billion is 0.02, or 2%. That’s still not good, though.
Critics also worry that a supply-chain problem of an entirely different sort—whether the flow of money will coincide with various elements of the planting and growing season—could stymie the effort. Some say that the government’s financial support is insufficient, and planters report that funds are not being released at the proper time in the growing season.
Naturalists argue that to assure longevity, seed harvesters will need to target a wider variety of species than those customarily provided to the forestry companies doing the planting. Executives of those companies worry about how quickly seedlings can be produced.
Caribbean and South America
Reuters: Blinken to woo Latin America’s new leftist leaders, reassert U.S. commitment
Secretary of State Antony Blinken heads to Latin America on Monday to reassert Washington’s commitment to the region and meet with three new leftist leaders, amid concerns that neglect of the hemisphere has let China make economic inroads.
During his week-long trip to Colombia, Chile and Peru the top U.S. diplomat will also attend a ministerial summit and hold talks on regional challenges including migration, drug-trafficking, post-pandemic recovery, climate change and the Venezuelan crisis.
U.S. officials acknowledge privately the need to show the United States' southern neighbors they remain a policy priority despite the focus on big geopolitical issues such as Russia’s war in Ukraine and China’s threat to Taiwan.
Officials remain hopeful that Latin America’s new leftist leaders will not govern as ideological firebrands and instead continue to maintain a free-enterprise-friendly approach and nurture U.S. ties.
TeleSUR: Leftist Lula Wins 1st Round of Brazil’s Presidential Elections
With 99.74 percent of the votes counted, Lula has won the first round with 48.36 percent in this Sunday’s elections, leaving behind Bolsonaro, who obtained 43.65 percent, according to Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court (TSE). There will be a runoff election between Lula and Bolsonaro.
Lula says that he will win the runoff on October 30
Merco Press: Fernandez upgrades Falklands strategic position; promises to reinforce military presence in southern Argentina
Argentine president Alberto Fernández again claimed sovereignty over the Falklands and other South Atlantic Islands, “usurped” by the United Kingdom, asking London to comply with international resolutions, since “this occupation could limit the flow of vessels between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the access to Antarctica.”
Speaking at the annual comradeship dinner with the top brass of the Argentine Armed Forces, head of state Fernandez said “our Malvinas, Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and the surrounding maritime spaces, are illegitimately occupied by one of the world’s leading military powers”.
“The British usurpation of our territory not only affects the effective exercise of our sovereignty over our Islands, but also the geopolitical position of the South Atlantic, and the capacity for the Islands to act as an operational center to obstruct access to Antarctica, and limit the flow of vessels from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans”
The president also promised the generals and admirals that Argentina will continue with its policy of modernizing military equipment and better remuneration for the armed forces, “a process which will be accomplished during 2023”.
The Ukraine Proxy Conflict
Ukraine has taken Liman. Tomorrow, the four oblasts will legally and irreversibly become part of Russian territory, thus forcing Russia to fight for territory rather than just retreating all the time.
RT: Only nine members voice support for Ukraine’s NATO bid
The presidents of nine NATO countries came together on Sunday to express their support for Ukraine’s membership bid and also to urge all allies to “substantially increase” their military support to Kiev.
The statement came two days after Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky announced his country’s intention to apply for fast-track NATO membership.
“We firmly stand behind the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit decision concerning Ukraine’s future membership,” the presidents of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia said.
At the Bucharest summit, the alliance members welcomed the “aspirations for membership in NATO” of Ukraine and Georgia but didn’t provide any time frame for these countries’ accession.
“We support Ukraine in its defence against Russia’s invasion, demand Russia to immediately withdraw from all the occupied territories and encourage all Allies to substantially increase their military aid to Ukraine,” the statement said.
BBC: Ukraine war: Questions over France’s weapons supply to Kyiv
If France wants to lead Europe to a new era of military self-reliance, how come its contribution to the war effort in Ukraine is so small?
That is the awkward question being posed by some of the country’s top strategic thinkers, who are pushing President Emmanuel Macron to make an urgent decision on more arms to Kyiv.
Recent analysis conducted on the ground in Poland and Ukraine shows that the French share of foreign arms deliveries is less than 2%, way behind the US on 49%, but also behind Poland (22%) and Germany (9%).
“I was concerned about the reliability of the statistics which showed France low on the list of contributing countries,” says François Heisbourg, who is perhaps France’s most influential defence analyst.
“So I went out to the main distribution hub in Poland to see how much in tonnage was actually being delivered, rather than just promised.
“Unfortunately the figures bore out my fears. France is way down the list - in ninth position.”
The official reaction to this in Paris is: “Yes, but…”
Yes, the aid statistics are unflattering, but there are other factors at work.
First, defence officials say the true measure of military help is quality not quantity. Some countries are delivering masses of outdated equipment. France has given 18 Caesar self-propelled artillery units, which are now celebrated along the Ukrainian front-line.
France, they add, is like other Western countries in having run down military stocks as part of the post-Cold War peace dividend.
Ukraine’s Caesars are fully one quarter of France’s entire mobile artillery. It cannot offer much more without making itself vulnerable in regions where it is already committed, like the Sahel and the Indo-Pacific.
“It might look like we are behind other countries, but France has every intention of playing its part,” says Gen Jérome Pellistrandi, editor of the National Defence Review.
Reuters: Germany, Denmark, Norway to give Ukraine 16 Slovak Zuzana-2 howitzers
Germany, Denmark and Norway will buy 16 Slovak Zuzana-2 howitzers for Ukraine, the German Defence Ministry said on Sunday, with delivery to begin next year.
The guns, which can fire six projectiles a minute over a distance of 40 km, will be built in Slovakia, the ministry said. The three countries will spend 92 million euros on the systems.
Analysis and Retrospectives
Inside the Imperial Core
Counterpunch: We Will See More Shocking Cruelty to Mental Health Patients Under Liz Truss’ Cuts
An article about the mental health situation in the United Kingdom, and how it’s expected to get worse as the bare bones of what remains of healthcare in the UK are ground to dust under austerity.
Common Dreams: Britannia Unhinged: UK’s Return to Trickle Down Economy is Suicide
“The Queen’s final act of service to the nation was to selflessly buy the economy one last fortnight,” said one tweet when all four wheels finally came off the British economy.
The Queen’s death and funeral took up the first twelve days of Liz Truss’s tenure, so the new prime minister’s work of destruction could not get properly underway until last Friday. Then, however, Truss and her faithful sidekick Kwasi Kwarteng, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister), got to work with amazing speed.
Kwarteng’s ‘mini-Budget’ on Friday was a suicide note that virtually guarantees defeat for the Conservative Party at the next election, two years from now. There is growing doubt that Truss’s government can even survive that long.
She is the fourth Conservative prime minister in the past six years, and at each turn of the wheel the party she currently leads has grown more mutinous. Moreover, it did not choose her as its leader.
That choice was made not by her fellow Conservative members of parliament but by the party’s 160,000 paid-up members, who tend to be old, white, non-urban and very ideological.
What drew them to her was her fanatical devotion to the cause of lower taxes and a smaller state, as exemplified in a book she and Kwarteng co-authored ten years ago called ‘Britannia Unchained’.
So as soon as the Queen’s obsequies were safely past, she and Kwarteng gave them what they longed for: a Budget that is the political equivalent of asset-stripping. It contains unfunded tax cuts, mostly to the benefit of the rich, of around $50 billion a year.
Where will the money come from to make up the lost tax income, plus an extra £65 billion to help voters cover horrendously high energy costs this winter due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine?
Why, they’ll just borrow it all. All that extra spending will allegedly boost the growth rate of the British economy from an average of 1.5% a year to 2.5%, and the extra tax revenue will easily cover that.
At least that’s what Liz Truss believes, in the firm belief that she is walking in the footsteps of her heroine, sainted former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. She is not.
The Blessed Margaret cut taxes, but she also cut government spending. The Truss-Kwarteng partnership is spending like a drunken sailor on shore leave. It’s not ‘Britannia Unchained’; it’s ‘Britannia Unhinged’.
Nobody believes this will work except a few right-wing think tanks that try to justify low taxes for the rich by touting the old ‘trickle-down’ model, also known as the ‘horse and sparrow’ theory: feed the horses enough oats, and eventually there will be lots of horse-poop for the sparrows to eat.
The sad news for Truss and Kwarteng is that the ‘free market’ they so revere isn’t stupid. The value of the British pound is already collapsing. Former US Treasury secretary Larry Summers says: “My guess is that the pound will find its way below parity with both the dollar and the euro.”
Meanwhile, investors look at Truss and Kwarteng’s business model, do the math, and flee. In the words of Paul Donovan, chief economist at UBS Global Wealth Management, they now see the Conservative Party as a ‘doomsday cult’.
And as interest rates soar to fight runaway inflation, millions of Britons find they cannot afford to pay their mortgages. The poor cannot even afford to feed their children. The strikes and protests proliferate.
It’s probably around this time – midwinter, say – that the next rebellion occurs in the Conservatives’ parliamentary party. However, changing horses would make little difference unless the policy changes. It wouldn’t.
The next prime minister would be chosen by the same tiny band of Conservative Party members, no matter who the MPs want – and the members’ mindset favors the ideological purist over the pragmatic realist. As one MP said: “You can have as many leadership elections as you like. You are only going to end up with the nutter winning.”
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already issued its first warning to the United Kingdom to get its house in order. Larry Summers accuses the British government of “behaving like an emerging market turning itself into a submerging market,” but Truss is not shifting.
It’s a bit like the slow-motion car crash that brought the Sri Lankan government and economy down, which took more than six months from start to finish. Liz Truss’s government will not last a year, and the Conservative Party may then split, leading to an early election (due anyway by 2024).
The Labour party is already seventeen points ahead in the polls, and its lead may even widen. It will be a wild ride, but the next British government will be led by Labour, which will rapidly reverse everything that Truss aspires to do.
Jacobin: Neoliberal Disaster Management Is Forcing Puerto Ricans to Create Their Own Recovery
Darkness enfolds the US colony of Puerto Rico once again. Large regions of the Puerto Rican archipelago are still without power and water, well over a week after Hurricane Fiona, a Category 1 storm, hit the Antilles. On the ground, Puerto Ricans are grappling with a relief effort marred by privatization and neoliberalism.
Government officials no longer inspire much hope. Instead, ordinary Puerto Ricans are taking it upon themselves to clear paths, rescue families trapped by extreme flooding, share extension cords with those lacking power, and distribute water.
Many have been disillusioned since 2017, when they saw the post–Hurricane Maria cleanup plagued by inefficiencies and inequalities. In their eyes, establishment politicians are quick to celebrate aid allocations and slow to actually disburse it — or, even worse, simply channel aid to those who help get them elected.
The last time this happened, Puerto Ricans took their rage straight to the governor’s mansion to demand his exit. They succeeded.
Puerto Rico’s ruling class is once again playing with fire.
Jacobin: In 1946, Aboriginal Workers in Western Australia Struck Against Racist Hyperexploitation
On May 1, 1946, several hundred Aboriginal stockmen stopped work across two dozen sheep and cattle stations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA). It marked the beginning of the Pilbara strike — also known as the Pilbara walk-off — which continued for three years. The strike was so well organized and coordinated that it stunned and infuriated white pastoralists and the WA state government. Indeed, it was also the first strike organized by Aboriginal people, and both marked a turning point in their struggle for labor and land rights and laid a foundation for decades of indigenous organizing and resistance.
Many different Aboriginal nations and language groups took part in the strike, including the Ngarla, Nyamal, and Kariyarra traditional owners of the Port Hedland and Marble Bar areas, as well as Nyangumarta, Mangarla, Warnman, and Western Desert speakers. As Nyangumarta has become a lingua franca in the region, Aboriginal people in the Pilbara refer to themselves as marrngu, the Nyangumarta word for person.
Coerced Aboriginal labor was integral to the development of pastoralism in WA, which was the result of the state’s immense size, sparse population, and the limited supply of convict labor. This fact was never concealed. For example, in 1888, pastoralist and future WA premier Sir John Forrest stated:
Our Northern Territory [has] been settled and developed largely through the instrumentality of the native population; and many of us, including myself, would not be in the position we are today, if we had not been able to avail ourselves of native labour on our stations.
Although some in London and Australia’s urban centers voiced concerns over the working conditions forced upon Aboriginal people in remote WA, pastoralists and the colonial government ignored them. Instead, WA came to depend more on forced Aboriginal labor in the early twentieth century, transforming reserves set up by the 1905 Aborigines Act into depots that allocated Aboriginal workers as pastoralists required. Frontier violence accelerated this process by driving people off their lands and denying them traditional sources of food and shelter.
The 1907 laws governing minimum wages and conditions did not apply to Aboriginal workers and consequently, when Aboriginal workers received wages, they were vastly lower than those paid to non-Aboriginal workers. The Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) — the main union covering mining and pastoral workers — was an enthusiastic supporter of the White Australia Policy. It frequently negotiated deals with pastoralists locking in lower wages for Aboriginal workers. Some marrngu received as little as $1 per week in today’s currency.
Mostly, however, marrngu station workers received rations. Initially distributed by police officers, government officials, and church missions, by the end of the nineteenth century, the authorities had outsourced this task to station management. This suited the pastoralists who used their control over rations to force Aboriginal people to settle in camps close to station homesteads, creating pools of resident laborers. Unsurprisingly, the rations were very poor in quality. Indigenous workers and their families were often given rotten meat. One item of clothing was to last the whole year.
The pastoralists of WA cast themselves as protectors of Aboriginal people, treating them as dependents rather than employees. To entrench their power and control, pastoralists often used physical punishment and formed agreements between themselves not to employ Aboriginal workers from other stations. When marrngu left to look for work elsewhere, the police would escort them back.
The wives of station managers enforced a similar regime of physical and economic coercion over marrngu domestic servants. Station managers and the authorities defended this with a specific type of racism that denigrated Aboriginal women as laughably incompeten and as requiring constant training and supervision. By casting Aboriginal women as children and presenting their employment as an act of compassion, the white wives of station managers justified paying them vastly lower wages — or not paying them at all.
In addition to this, station managers’ wives kept marrngu families fearful by threatening that their children would be taken under the authority of the commissioner for Native Affairs, the official legal guardian for all Aboriginal children under twenty-one. Perversely, this also gave pastoralists the power to prevent the removal of children, further reinforcing their power over marrngu families.
The decision to conduct a strike grew out of discussions between marrngu and a non-Aboriginal prospector, Don McLeod. McLeod was a member of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), and the authorities were convinced that he was the strike’s instigator. However, as oral histories have revealed, the idea originated among marrngu themselves, who had discussed it as far back as 1942. Nyamal man Clancy McKenna and Nyangumarta man Dooley Binbin were among the marrngu’s strike leaders. McLeod helped to organize support and solidarity for the marrngu people among the labor movement and the Left.
Eventually, the marrngu chose May 1, 1946, as the date to begin striking. In addition to the date’s symbolism, the first of May also marked the beginning of the shearing season, when demand for Aboriginal labor was highest. To prepare for the strike, McKenna and Binbin traveled to stations across the Pilbara, distributing calendars written on food tin labels marking the number of weeks until the strike.
The strike demanded a minimum wage of thirty shillings per week for Aboriginal station hands, roughly equivalent to $111 in today’s currency. Marrngu also demanded that McLeod be appointed as their representative to the government. Pastoralists and station managers responded cynically, claiming that if they had to pay the minimum wage, they would be unable to provide rations or clothing. The WA government refused to recognize McLeod as an official spokesman and effectively denied marrngu the right to strike.
Although accounts claim that eight hundred Aboriginal people walked off Pilbara stations on May 1, in fact, the strike began as a sit-down strike. It also begun far more tentatively than its mythology suggests, partly because of surveillance by station owners and the authorities. For example, on April 29, the manager of a large station contacted Constable Gordon Marshall to inform him that workers had given notice of their intention to strike. Marshall and other policemen traveled to various stations warning marrngu not to cease work. The isolated conditions in the region meant workers had no way of determining whether other workers were striking.
Despite its slow start, the strike sent the commissioner of Native Affairs, Francis Bray, into an immediate panic. On May 3, Bray sent a telegram to the native inspector for Fitzroy Crossing, Laurie O’Neill, that read: “Proceed First Plane Port Hedland Native Labour Situation Now Very Disturbed and Strikes Taking Place Because of McLeod’s Insidious Anti Fascist Communistic Activities Cooperate With Police. . . . Press For Full Term Imprisonment.”
After a hesitant beginning, organizers planned a meeting for May 25 bringing together delegates from each station to report on the strike’s progress. Before the meeting could be held, however, the authorities arrested McKenna and Binbin. The pair were charged with a breach of Section 47 of the Native Administration Act, which made it illegal to entice or persuade a “native” to leave their place of employment.
The courts found McKenna and Binbin guilty and sentenced them to three months in prison with hard labor. However, the authorities remitted their sentences after laying the blame on McLeod who was convicted of three counts of “enticement.” After paying a substantial fine, McLeod was later released.
After these setbacks, the marrngu adapted their tactics. The opportunity to continue the strike presented itself at the end of July, when people across the Pilbara region gathered in Port Hedland for annual horse races. Among the attendees were 150 marrngu. In a show of strength, all but seven of them agreed to walk from Port Hedland to Two Mile Creek, a trip of over eight hundred kilometers, where they established a camp.
Over the following months, the number of strikers grew steadily to four hundred. To sustain themselves and reduce their reliance on rations, they formed working parties to fish, hunt kangaroos, and dry shell beans. Self-taught strikers Tommy Sampie and Gordon McKay established schools for marrngu children. Later, marrngu established additional camps at Twelve Mile and Moolyella, allowing the strikers to support themselves by mining alluvial tin.
For many marrngu, establishing independent communities away from the control of pastoralists was a victory in and of itself. This, however, led to a debate among the strikers. Some marrngu saw their action as a temporary withdrawal of labor and became frustrated as the dispute dragged on. They pushed for more direct negotiations as a way to win. Others hpped to establish economically independent communities, to free themselves from the ration system, and to live in accordance with Aboriginal legal and cultural practices. They wanted to hold out. Even when wages and conditions on stations began to improve thanks to the strike, many showed little interest in returning.
By 1947, the strike had settled into a war of attrition. Parties of strikers risked imprisonment by traveling to other stations to bring more workers to their camps. Whenever the police arrived to try to shut down the camp, however, marrngu would crowd around, preventing arrests with their strength in numbers. As striker Sam Coppin recalled, “Police come every day, want us to go back; they reckon they’re gonna put us in jail, we keep telling them we’re not going back.”
It wasn’t just Pilbara stockmen who struck in 1946. When the strike created an opportunity to escape to self-managed communities, many Aboriginal domestic workers took it gladly. For example, Nyungumarta woman and unpaid “housegirl” Daisy Bindi was one of many domestic workers who joined the strike camps. She didn’t go alone — Bindi lead almost a hundred people from Roy Hill station to join the strike camps.
When indigenous domestic workers joined the strike, it had a profound effect on station managers’ wives who found themselves obliged to carry out chores usually performed by their servants. Benja Sherlock, for example, wrote to her sister to complain.
Just another short note as I am so tired I can hardly sit up and my back and feet ache! I’ve been on my feet since 6 AM, and it’s now 8:30 PM. Well, the natives are on strike again, and this time for two pounds a week!
Convinced by their own maternalistic racism, many white mistresses believed their domestic servants had been misled by communist agitators. On the contrary, marrngu women joined the strike both in solidarity with the stockmen and to demand payment for their own labor.
This bolstered the strike’s impact considerably. Station managers were sometimes able to replace striking stockmen with jackaroos: young, inexperienced white workers brought up from the south. By contrast, housemaid work in the remote North West was extremely unattractive to white working-class women from urban centers.
Thanks to McLeod’s involvement, the strike quickly gained the attention and support of parts of the labor movement in Perth. Alec Jolly and Katharine Susannah Prichard — prominent local members of the Communist Party of Australia — formed a Committee for the Defence of Native Rights to raise strike funds. Although its most active participants were members of the Communist Party of Australia, other groups, like temperance societies and the Tramway Union, also sent members and expressed their solidarity. Solidarity also spread beyond the labor movement. For example, the University of Western Australia student guild staged a march in support of the strikers.
By 1947, the station owners’ resolve had already begun to falter. As the new shearing season approached, the pastoralists sent a delegation to the minister for native affairs admitting that without Aboriginal workers, they would be unable to muster sheep. By the beginning of the 1949 shearing season, stations at Mount Edgar and Limestone buckled first and agreed to extend legal minimum wages and conditions to Aboriginal workers. Other pastoralists, however, attempted to hold out.
To break the station managers’ resolve, the strikers sought to apply pressure in other ways. They appealed to the Seamen’s Union to place a ban on handling wool shorn at the stations that were still holding out. The secretary of the Fremantle branch of the union was a prominent local communist named Ron Hurd. He had no trouble convincing members to impose the ban. The union also demanded that authorities release strikers imprisoned for “enticement.” Shipping agents tried to circumvent the bans, including by lying to waterside workers, claiming that the wool they were supposed to load came from the Mount Edgar and Limestone stations, where the strike was over. The Seamen’s Union, however, was not so easily duped.
The prospect of communists and Aboriginal workers coming together was the WA state government’s worst nightmare, and both Labor and Liberal administrations shared these fears. Indeed, the response of Labor premier Frank Wise was so hostile that McLeod often claimed the movement received better treatment from Liberal governments.
By late 1949, the remaining station owners and the state government were unable to hold out. The deputy commissioner for native affairs gave McLeod an assurance that the wages and conditions negotiated at Mount Edgar and Limestone would be applied throughout the Pilbara. In response to this concession, the strike came to an official end, and many workers returned to their stations.
Other strikers, including Binbin, refused to go back to station work. Some of them joined with McLeod to establish the mining cooperative Nomads Pty Ltd. As a result, for decades after 1949, some of the original Pilbara strikers claimed they were still on strike.
Once the 1949’s shearing season was over, it became clear that the station owners had no intention of honoring the deal and that the government had no intention of enforcing it. The government also refused to recognize the right of Aboriginal workers to appoint their own representatives or negotiate their own labor conditions.
Consequently, the Pilbara strike did not end hyperexploitation of marrngu workers in WA. It did, however, limit the extent to which they could be taken for granted. For example, following the strike, the manager of the large Corunna Downs station Mr K. Bligh conceded that a “mild form of slavery” had existed in the North West and insisted that wages and living conditions were now improving.
Marrngu workers remained indispensable to WA’s pastoral industry until 1968, when new struggles for equal rights forced the Arbitration Commission to remove racially discriminatory clauses from the Federal Pastoral Industry Award. Pastoralists responded to this decision by firing Aboriginal laborers and driving them out of the industry.
Shamefully, Western Australia’s debt to the marrngu community remains enormous. The state and corporate groups still owe the traditional owners of the land vast sums in stolen wages. These are still the subject of ongoing class actions.
Ultimately, however, the most enduring achievement of the Pilbara strike was that it created a tradition of organizing and resistance. Powerful echoes of the Pilbara strike could be heard in the 1966 Gurindji walk-off which, after nine years, won the first major victory for the Aboriginal land rights movement. Although the Gurindji walk-off was the first land rights struggle to attract widespread attention in Australia, it built on a foundation laid by the Pilbara strike.
The Pilbara strike is a powerful example for today’s Aboriginal sovereignty movement. By establishing self-sufficient, self-managed strike camps, marrngu challenged the doctrine of “terra nullius” that denied the law and culture of First Nations people as well as the ways they cultivated the land to sustain themselves. And by building solidarity with the radical wing of the labor movement, marrngu adapted the most powerful weapon in workers’ struggle — the strike — and proved that it could be used to win both equal rights for Aboriginal people and self-determination.