Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Inspiration of Stalin

In a recent post on his Seek the Truth-Serve the People blog, Cde Haisanlu has an extensive quote from a book by a soldier who participated in the German attack on Soviet Russia during WW2. There is a link to this blog from here, so check it out. The unnamed and unknown Soviet soldier represents the best qualities of a Communist: steadfast optimism in the future despite his own perilous circumstances, and an unshakeable conviction in the justness of the cause he supports.

As a complement to this wartime memoir, I am putting up an excerpt from Curzio Malaparte’s The Volga Rises in Europe. Malaparte was an Italian journalist who accompanied German and Romanian troops in the invasion of the Ukraine through to the outskirts of Leningrad, from June 1941 to November 1942. On August 7, 1941, Malaparte writes of an "enemy, who is not fleeing in disorder but is retreating slowly, disputing every yard and punctuating his withdrawal with frequent counter-offensive thrusts by strong rearguards." He notes that the Soviet army leaves nothing on the battlefield in its retreat, taking everything from the corpses of its troops to abandoned helmets, strips of gauze bandages, pieces of paper – anything that may provide the Nazis with clues as to its organisational framework and combat circumstances.

It is only on the following day that Malaparte come across a mile-wide battlefield on which the Soviet soldiers had been hit by Messerchmitts and artillery, and had conducted a battle against German infantry from ten in the morning until sunset, and where the dead and mortally wounded and the detritus of their encampment were still in place. Malaparte notices a copy of Pravda, dated June 24, crumpled and mud-stained, its headlines announcing the outbreak of war. A little further along, he comes across a note-book and a large album illustrating the Third Five Year Plan "formulated by Stalin and still in course of realisation." He flicks through the album, and is interrupted by a German soldier who has noticed something in a tree: a loudspeaker, with wires trailing to the ground.

"A few yards from the tree, in a hole in the ground, we come upon the crumpled body of a Russian soldier. The dead man is leaning forward, covering with his chest a large metal box – a radiogram. Scattered all around in the grass are fragments of gramophone records. I try to piece together the fragments, to read the titles on the labels: The Internationale, the March of Budenny, the March of the Black Sea Fleet, the marches of the sailors of Kronstadt and of the Red Air Force. There are also some educational records dealing with social, political and military subjects.

"On the red label of one record I read the following words printed in black letters: "Na Podmogu Aghitatoru – Vidannaya Ts.K kp/6/U/No. 5 - 1941". It is a kind of phonographic catechism, a sort of manual of the perfect "agitator". The articles of this catechism were repeated by the deep, imperious voice of the loudspeaker with the aim of inspiring the soldiers to do their duty to the end. On another record are the words Poyasnityelni Text. This is undoubtedly another species of catechism, a kind of vade-mecum of the Communist soldier. A third record bears the inscription "Teche Ryechka Nyevyelicjka". It is the title of a "factory song", one of those songs to which the Bolsheviks have given the name tsavod.

"But my most interesting discovery is an album of twenty-four records, the cover of which bears this title: "Doclad Tovarshcha Stalina na Chrezvichainom VIII Vsyesoyuzom Syesdye Sovyetov 25 Noyabrya 1936 G. O Proyektye Konstitutsii Soyuza SSR." On the forty-eight sides of the twenty-four records is recorded the whole of the marathon speech delivered by Stalin in the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, on the occasion of the promulgation of the Soviet Constitution in 1936. The German soldier, who has been helping me to collect the fragments of the records, gazes at me in silence. Then he looks up and sees the loudspeaker hanging from the branches of the tree. He stares at the body of the Russian soldier, slumped over the metal casing of the radiogram. The German soldier’s face is serious, almost sad, with the sadness that in simple men is the companion of bewilderment and incomprehension. He is a peasant, this German soldier, not a worker - a Bavarian peasant from the Augsburg district. He does not possess what I would call "industrial morale", still less that of its principles, its abstractions, its violent and fanatical realism. (During the fighting, the words of Stalin, magnified to gigantic proportions by the loudspeaker, rain down upon the men kneeling in holes behind the tripods of their machine-guns, din in the ears of the soldiers lying amid the shrubs, of the wounded writhing in agony on the ground. The loudspeaker imbues that voice with a harsh, brutal, metallic quality. There is something diabolical, and at the same time terribly naïve, about these soldiers who fight to the death, spurred on by Stalin’s speech on the Soviet Constitution, by the slow, deliberate recital of the moral, social, political, and military precepts of the "agitators"; about these soldiers who never surrender; about these dead, scattered all around me; about the final gestures, the stubborn, violent gestures of these men who died so terribly lonely a death on this battlefield, amid the deafening roar of the cannon and the ceaseless braying of the loudspeaker.)"
(NB - the second poster ,embedded in the text, celebrates the release, in 1936, of the Stalin Constitution - then the world's most democratic and progressive national constitution.)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Chinese Marxist-Leninists Oppose the Sale of Xu Gong

Chinese Marxist-Leninists want to protect state-owned industries and fight the restorationists’ plans to hand core state assets to foreign and local capitalists. The Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group (Xu Gong) is a major player in China’s construction and civil engineering industries.
Instead of defending the socialist ownership of a core state industry, the restorationists placed Xu Gong on the market, inviting tenders from home and abroad. The two main contenders were a private Chinese market rival, the Sany Group, and the US private equity giant Carlyle Group. Carlyle offered to pay US$375 million for 85% of Xu Gong in October 2005. Sany countered with what they said was an offer to pay 30% over and above the Carlyle bid. Apparently this offer was not favourably received, so in June of this year, Sany Executive Xiang Wenbo put the details on his blog, drawing attention to the dangers of "selling a big and important company like Xu Gong to a foreign company." Of course, he didn’t say anything about the dangers of selling Xu Gong to a private Chinese company! The issue was then taken up in November on the Chinese-language website (see image from main page above) which provides a forum for Marxist-Leninists in China to discuss issues of importance to the working class and its allies.I have translated the lead article on this issue, and a selection of responses, so that comrades internationally can see the issues facing Chinese Marxist-Leninists, the enthusiasm for engaging the restorationists in struggle, and the difficulties of organisation and practical activity. Whether it was related to this wave of opposition from the Left, or not, the restorationists revised the sale terms and it has now been announced that the sale of a 50% stake in Xu Gong has been approved by the Congress of Employees, as well as the Xuzhou City Government (the nominal owners of Xu Gong) and the Government of China’s East Jiangsu Province. Chairmanship of the new company’s board will remain with Xu Gong. The Carlyle acquisition is believed to be China's first leveraged buyout (i.e. financed by loans).
Final approval from China’s Ministry of Commerce is being awaited.
The voice of the Chinese proletariat follows:

Defend the Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group, Protect the Constitution, Take the Socialist Road

"A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of Communism".
In 1848, Marx and Engels published the "Communist Manifesto" and solemnly announced to the world: the Communist Party can summarise its theory in one sentence – the elimination of the private ownership of the means of production. The "Communist Manifesto" opened the way for the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production, for the establishment of public ownership of the means of production, for the liberation and development of the productive forces, for an end to social polarisation and the elimination of exploitation, for the realisation of prosperity for all, and finally, for the realisation of the grand era of the liberation of the proletariat of the whole world by Communism.
From the first salvoes of the October Revolution, Lenin led the Russian people to carry out the October Revolution. The spectre of Communism produced an historical giant who opened up the great era of the transition from capitalism to socialism. After Lenin’s death, Stalin led the people of the Soviet Union to establish the Soviet socialist system, and established the pattern of Soviet socialism suited to conditions of war and to the revolutionary times. He opened the way for the October Revolution to advance from capitalism to socialism, and for the improvement and development of socialism.

In 1949, Mao Zedong led the Chinese people to carry out the New Democratic Revolution and founded New China. After that, according to the actual conditions and at the right time, he introduced the socialist transformation and the socialist industrialisation of the whole nation, established the socialist system in China, brought about the first stages of China’s socialist industrialisation and made a powerful display of the superiority of the socialist system of public ownership in its initial stage.

Since the Third Plenary Session of the 11th National Party Congress, Deng Xiaoping, practicing the theme of an era of peace and development, put forward the reform and opening up of socialism, emphasising persisting in the system of public ownership as the main part, comprising more than 75% of the national economy, and implementing the unity of the planned and market economies. However, under the influence of the wrong trend in international and domestic ideology, since the 90s, much Government-led large-scale privatisation has been carried out, social polarisation has accelerated so that Deng Xiaoping’s serious warning of September 1993, "We propose that we must prevent polarisation, and in reality, the natural emergence of polarisation." In his "Selected Works", Deng Xiaoping stressed time and again, that if polarisation occurred, our reforms could be counted as a failure. Therefore, in 1993, Deng Xiaoping was already clear about the success or failure of the reforms and had concluded: Our reforms have failed. The failure to maintain the majority portion of the system of public ownership has caused polarisation, and the reality of the polarisation indicates that there is nothing left of majority public ownership. All the regulations in the Chinese Constitution regarding the system of the public ownership of the means of production entered an unprecedented crisis. This has produced for our country’s working class a great ideological weapon in knowing about the reform and the carrying out of the reform.

However, since 1993, Deng Xiaoping’s warning and conclusion certainly have not played the role that they should have. The transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership, and the moves for selling off to foreign investors has proceeded vigorously and rapidly and the evil consequences of this polarisation grow more and more rotten. This clearly indicates that the Party’s basic line of socialism in the initial stages is in danger, the basic system of socialist public ownership is in danger, the socialist Constitution of China is in danger, and the future and the fate of the Chinese nation and people is in danger!

At the present time, incidents of the transformation of state-owned enterprises to private ownership, including sale to foreign investors, are occurring one after the other without let-up. What is shocking is the large-scale foreign purchase of state-owned enterprises, namely, the purchase of the Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group (Xu Gong - see Xu Gong bucket lift trucks at a trade display above). This incident is the logical conclusion and ultimate outcome.

The experience of the privatisation reform is the disintegration of China’s equipment industry. Xu Gong was the well-spring of China’s engineering machinery industry and underpins this industry, and even China’s industrial and economic independence, as well as its strategic position. If Xu Gong is sold to foreign investors, it will definitely lead to a series of large-scale privatisations of state-owned enterprises that will tremendously damage Chinese economic and national independence. This is unconstitutional and in violation of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory, is contrary to the concept of scientific development, contrary to the Party’s basic line, contrary to the strategic goal of a harmonious society. It is a foolish move bringing disaster on the people and the nation. The whole nation must come to understand this, unite, raise high the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, protect Xu Gong, defend the Constitution, get active and take this opportunity to open up the whole nation’s struggle to restore majority public ownership of the means of production, and to firmly take the socialist road.

The Chinese nation has once again reached its most dangerous time! Therefore, I solemnly propose: rise up, unite. The Chinese proletariat and working people and all advanced people, jointly defend the Xuzhou Construction Materials Company, protect the Constitution, and take the socialist road!

The Marxist scholar,
Author of "New Socialist Theory"
Ceng Zhaoyu


1. I support you, but can’t do anything about it. Power is not in the hands of real Marxist-Leninists.

2. I’m a Marxist-Leninist, and I’m also worried about the current situation in China. The change from public to private ownership indicates that we’ve been shaken from the road to socialism, and our Party’s ruling status has been shaken. Ours is a Party of the workers and peasants. The privatisation of state-owned enterprises threatens the interests of the workers and also threatens the class and mass foundations of our Party. Capitalist development is proceeding apace and a capitalist clique has emerged within our Party. They are corroding our Party, wishing to usurp the Party’s leading position. We must be careful. The National People’s Congress is no longer the people’s but the capitalists’. The NPC has lost its original character. It is the rich who occupy the General Assembly rather than the workers and peasants. We must resolutely eliminate capitalism, support the Communist Party, and take the socialist road.

3. I agree. We must unite. We must establish a "defending socialism" group and continue to struggle against capitalism. We must rally around the Party and respond to the Party’s call. Although the Old Man Chairman Mao has gone, I must hold high his flag and enter the struggle. Compatriots unite! For our country and people, for our Party, and for our Communist cause!
Respectful greetings to Comrade Ceng Zhaoyu!!! I’m willing to take part! Please inform me of the arrangements. (NB The Chinese term "laorenjia", or "Old Man", is a respectful term frequently applied to Chairman Mao". Mike-servethepeople).

4. Elder Brother Zhaoyu: I support your "Defend Xu Gong, Protect the Constitution". However, I think your article is too flattering towards the Great Deng and Deng Theory. Can those dirty things be compared to Chairman Mao and Mao Zedong Thought? Can they be equated?

5. "The Chinese nation has once again reached its most dangerous time! Therefore, I solemnly propose: rise up, unite. The Chinese proletariat and working people and all advanced people, jointly defend Xu Gong, protect the Constitution, and take the socialist road!"

6. A great initiative! I support you!

7. Unite! Struggle! Struggle! Destroy capitalism!!! Overthrow the capitalist- roaders!! Take the socialist road of Chairman Mao!!!!!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lei Feng 雷锋

(Sorry to be a smart arse, but this one's for any Chinese
readers who stumble across my blog)

"Learn from the good example of Lei Feng.
Wholeheartedly serve the people."

昨天,我陪我妻子去阿德莱德中心市场买菜。买菜以后我们去了市场东边的一家小服装店看新来的衣服。服装点是我朋友的,她是上海人。当我们俩进去了,她是通电话对朋友。 她一看我,就对她朋友说:“一个外国人进来了,穿着雷锋汗衫“。 打完电话, 她对我笑着说:“雷锋。。。?” 我说“对,雷锋精神!” 她还笑着,半英文,半中文地说: You know, these days we think Lei Feng is a 傻瓜!“
“知道, 知道, 可是我还喜欢雷锋精神, 是 “为人民服务”的。”
我想了一会儿, 就说: “全世界人民都需要雷锋精神,要不资本主义会使他们很自私,很小气的。只有很少人能当大款,多数人民无法受益于资本主义。”
我们出门时, 我对中国朋友叫了:“下一次见”
"Learn from Comrade Lei Feng
Develop the moral character of Communism"

Monday, December 04, 2006

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

My previous post on Bob Dylan’s Senor (see "Chavez Tells Us Where We’re Heading" in the September archive) brought an interesting response from Lucien in the Czech Republic. Where I saw a political and anti-imperialist landscape, he saw one of drugs and dependence.
It’s an interesting phenomenon that different people will interpret the same thing in different ways.

The Soviet philosopher Vygotsky created a school of learning called Constructivism, according to which a learner constructs his or her own meanings based on the whole of their prior experiences and understandings.

As a gross over-simplification, and by way of a pretty poor example, if a teacher walks into a class of 25 students and hopes to impart a certain body of information, it is possible that there will be 26 different sets of understandings in the room: the teacher’s original understanding, and each student’s own interpretation of that meaning.

In this simple scenario, the teacher is like a jug of water, hoping to pour a particular understanding into 25 little glasses, but these little glasses bring with them a little cordial mixture of prior understandings, prior cultural development, so that around the room we have not 25 little glasses of water, but a mixture of orange, lime, lemon etc flavoured waters.

Am I getting off the point?

OK, so Dylan’s jug of Senor gets poured into Lucien and me, and what we each end up with is a different, but for each of each, perfectly reasonable, interpretation of the song. By the way, I still prefer mine, but I can see where Lucien is coming from.

With that in mind, I want to have a look now at another Dylan song that I’ll probably have interpreted differently to Lucien, and any one else, for that matter.

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue is the last song on 1965’s Bringing It All Back Home album.
The conventional wisdom is that the song is addressed to either Paul Clayton, David Blue or Joan Baez. Others say it is Dylan "saying goodbye to his old self" (The Rough Guide to Bob Dylan, p 270).

I’m not going to argue against any of that. Dylan’s writing is so layered, so replete with wheels within wheels, that any or all of the above interpretations might be true.

But the little residue of cordial inside the glass of my mind has produced an understanding that resonates more with the politics that I imagine to be in Senor.

Now, Dylan may have decided by 1965 that he did not want to be the "spokesman of a generation", but he did want to speak, and the fact that his language was so surreal, and that he was in the process of adopting different masks and disguises through which to speak, is what makes his lyrics so intriguing and so open to a variety of constructions of meaning.

To me, Dylan is addressing the United States of the 1960s and singing its death knell.
He warns that its doom is fast approaching, that it "must leave now", grabbing whatever it thinks it will need. This is followed by a gesture in the direction of "your orphan with his gun, Crying like a fire in the sun".

Dylan sees orphans as those whom the US of the 60s had turned its back on, as those whom it had made outcasts and had disenfranchised. There is even an echo of this on his most recent album, Modern Times:

Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches
I’ll recruit my army from the orphanages

(Thunder on the Mountain)

The orphans of It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue could have been Afro-Americans, youth, labour unions and anyone else whose rights were being trampled by the US ruling class, but the reference to crying like a fire in the sun evoked for me at the time, and still does today, those nightly news shots of Vietnamese villages, and Vietnamese villagers, burning with napalm.
Napalm was synonymous with the US war of aggression against Vietnam, and in our anti-war leaflets we always pointed out that napalm burnt at 3060 degrees fahrenheit, or half the surface temperature of the sun. (I’m not sure if that was true, but it was pretty bloody hot all the same, and, after 1972, the image of that little naked girl running down the street from her village, her skin burning from napalm and her crying face distorted in pain, was clear enough for me to see it over and over again in Dylan’s lyric).

Dylan’s next line is "Look out the saints are comin’ through" followed by "And it’s all over now, Baby Blue". Whilst this references the old jazz standard When The Saints Come Marching In, the saints for those on the Left in the mid-60s were clearly the Vietnamese National Liberation Front soldiers. We marched with their red, blue and yellow flags and chanted "Victory to the Viet Cong" and "Ho, Ho. Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese Are Gonna Win".

And if the Vietnamese were going to win, it would be all over for US imperialism, in that conflict at least.

But the Vietnamese were not the US imperialists’ only problem. At home, a counterculture had developed out of the youth movement. Rejecting the materialism and consumerism of their parents, young kids were tuning in and dropping out. Dylan captured this further threat to the establishment, singing:

The empty-handed painter from your streets
Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets.

The psychedelic culture of the times was particularly characterised by crazily patterned album covers, concert posters, clothing and other paraphernalia. Everytime a current rock music magazine indulges in a bout of 60s nostalgia, it covers itself in the swirling patterns of psychedelic 60s artwork. It truly seemed at the time that "This sky too, is folding under you, And it’s all over now, Baby Blue".

Some nice alliteration follows:

All your seasick sailors, they are rowing home.
All your reindeer armies, are all going home.

It doesn’t take much to see this as a reference to the US soldiers, who were beginning to become disillusioned with the Vietnam War. By the late 60s, this would develop into the phenomenon of "fragging" . "Reindeer armies" works as a really surreal image: GIs being flown across the sky to supposedly deliver the benefits of US imperialism to the childish Vietnamese. Works for me, anyway….

The lover who just walked out your door
Has taken all his blankets from the floor.

The founding ideal of the US state combined anti-colonialism, freedom and democracy. Dylan’s symbol of this founding ideal is the lover who has rejected what the US state has become: the world’s most oppressive and aggressive imperialist power. Why would it stay around? "The carpet, too, is moving under you, And it’s all over now, Baby Blue".

The fourth and last verse begins with the warning that it’s too late for US imperialism to retrieve the situation. Something is calling out to it. Dylan mysteriously identifies it as follows:

The vagabond who’s rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore.

Like the orphan, the vagabond is the Other, the realisation of all those whom US imperialism makes into outcasts, the rejected, and now, in the context of the war, the enemy. But this enemy, strangely, is dressed in the US’s own discarded clothing.

This is perhaps Dylan’s greatest and most cryptic (until Senor) endorsement of those in the Third World who stand opposed to US imperialism. Dylan had been closely associated in the early 60s with some staunchly Leftist intellectuals and activists in New York, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he woud have heard how Ho Chi Minh had travelled in his youth through the US, and how he had been inspired by the US example of fighting for independence from the British. Like many of us who grew up in the 60s, he would probably have appreciated the irony of the US going to war against a leader who had modelled his own country’s Declaration of Independence on that of the United States. Standing in your old clothes, indeed!

This is a challenge that many of us felt that US imperialism could not recover from: externally, the anti-imperialist movement with its centre in the Vietnamese people’s struggle for independence and freedom; internally, the emerging counterculture with its rejection of all that the US then stood for.

No wonder Dylan closed the song by giving US imperialism no choice other than to

Strike another match, go start anew
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue
Postscript: In a recent (Jan 2011) comment on Dylan's contract to publish up to six new books with Simon and Schuster, one commentator threw in this interesting little titbit which feeds into my claim that Dylan knew of Ho Chi Minh's experiences in the US:

At one point, Dylan said he was working on a book entitled Ho Chi Minh in Harlem:

"A while back I started writing a novel called Ho Chi Minh in Harlem. He was a shortorder cook there in the '20s before he went back to Viet Nam--it's a documented fact. That excited me there for a minute."

That book was never published either.

Very interesting!!

Continue reading on Bob Dylan's new book deal - What does it mean ? - National Bob Dylan

Rock On, Timrod!

This piece of nonsense was an earlier post that I had inadvertently deleted. Sorry if you've seen it before...

So poor old Bob has been hauled over the coals for pinching a few key phrases from the Confederate poet Timrod and various blues singers on his new CD Modern Times. And I thought we Aussies did the tall poppy syndrome the best!

Dylan has always taken lyrics and melodies from whatever suits him. That’s part of the creative process. For my part I regard it as icing on the cake when I hear an echo of a Robert Johnson line in a Dylan song. And in the history of literature, is Dylan the only person to have used a phrase or two from the Bible?

For me it’s not theft if the word or phrase is re-presented in a new or different way, if it’s used entertainingly and differently. I wrote a poem once for a comrade who had died. He was an older comrade who had come through the Depression and the War Against Fascism, and he loved Paul Robeson. I used the line "Old man river" in relation to him, and thought that it suited the context, and that he would have been flattered by the metaphor. I didn’t feel like a cheat or a thief for using someone else’s phrase.

The scholarship on Dylan is impressive and the annotation of his lyrics has resulted in many of us getting new insights into old Dylan favourites courtesy of the research of others.
I was looking through one website, in the wake of the Timrod controversy, and read an annotation of the song "Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat) from the Street Legal album. This song contains the phrase "bathed in a stream of pure heat". It had not been annotated. It was mine! The perfect vehicle from which to launch myself into the world of Dylanology!

I Googled the phrase and got 277,000 results. Most were links to a bootleg of the same name. Pages of them. But then I hit pay dirt!

Udâna - VIII. Patalagami
This stream, whose waters etc. [as above] is now pure, lucent and untainted. ... stream, and when he arrived there, he entered the stream and bathed and - 38k - Cached - Similar pages

This was it! The source! A Buddhist text…how cool was that! The only problem was that it was a bit too cool. No heat. Could there be something better out there?

I returned to the search.

English Works! Literature: Guide to Fiction
If the rose is white, the love is pure. If the rose is damaged, ... and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in his - 32k - Cached - Similar pages

This was more like it. Dylan delving into the world of English literature. This was much better than the Buddhist source, although you wouldn’t put it past Dylan to have read both of them somewhere on his travels. But that raised the question: could there be yet other sources feeding into his great brain? On went the search….

Greek Mythology: BOREAS God of the North Wind & Winter ( also ...
... and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that ... They came to the generous Troad and hit the pure, and a huge inhuman - 66k - Cached - Similar pages

Well, Dylan did spend some time in Greece. Did some drinking, and probably read this in the original ancient Greek. So what if the word order was wrong? "Heat bathed in a stream pure…" has a certain ring to it anyway. May have even gone into the first draft like that.
By now my mind was racing. How clever you are Bob to have researched so thoroughly for the said phrase.

Was there more? Could Dylan have found yet other sources? I plunged back into the search…

Culex -- Appendix Vergiliana
And whether Arna bathed with Xanthus stream ... And pleasure pure and free available, With simple cares. ... O'th'air doth echo feed, and in the heat - 35k - Cached - Similar pages

Wow!! Still Greek, but this time the word order is right! Had to be the one.
But wait! There was more….

File Format: PDF/Adobe AcrobatIf room air contained only pure air--with no water vapor at all--the ... each tube is bathed in the stream of stale air and receives heat that vaporizes - Similar pages

At last, the jewel in the crown of my research! For not only are the words all here, but there is an ethereality, an ambience that transports me into that "room where the heat pipes just cough". Here was Dylan, genius poet of our Age, recycling sources like a madman, old "Viper eyes" with heat that just vaporizes so there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off.

Well, I had done it. Joined the world of literary scholarship, added to the list of annotations, brought glory on myself and my research, and all thanks to Bob and his inability to create a wonderful turn of phrase by himself.

Rock on, Timrod!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Freedom on the Wallaby

This is the text of Henry Lawson's poem, Freedom on the Wallaby, written in 1891 when the Great Strikes were in full swing. The poem is written in the Australian vernacular of the time.

"Humping bluey" meant carrying a swag, a roll of blankets used for sleeping outdoors. "On the wallaby" (or "on the wallaby track") meant to be on the move. "Cooey" was a loud call used to get attention out in the bush, or outback. A "billy" was a tin can used for boiling water on a camp fire. The wattle is Australia's national flower.

Australia’s a big country
An’ Freedom’s humping bluey,
An’ Freedom’s on the wallaby
Oh! Don’t you hear ‘er cooey?
She’s just begun to boomerang,
She’ll knock the tyrants silly,
She’s goin’ to light another fire
And boil another billy.
Our fathers fought for bitter bread
While loafers thrived beside ‘em,
But food to eat and clothes to wear,
Their native land denied ‘em.
An’ so they left their native land
In spite of their devotion,
An’ so they came, or if they stole,
Were sent across the ocean.
Then Freedom couldn’t stand the glare
O’ Royalties regalia,
She left the loafers where they were,
An’ came out to Australia.
But now across the mighty main
The chains have come ter bind her –
She little thought to see again
The wrongs she left behind her.
Our parents toil’d to make a home –
Hard grubbin’ ‘twas an’ clearin’ –
They wasn’t crowded much with lords
When they was pioneering.
But now that we have made the land
A garden full of promise,
Old Greed must crook ‘is dirty hand
And come ter take it from us.
So we must fly a rebel flag,
As others did before us,
And we must sing a rebel song
And join in rebel chorus.
We’ll make the tyrants feel the sting
O’ those that they would throttle;
They needn’t say the fault is ours
If blood should stain the wattle!
Henry Lawson
Brisbane Worker

Eureka: Rebellion Beneath the Southern Cross

Today marks the 152nd anniversary of the heroic Eureka Stockade on the Ballarat goldfields in the then British colony of Victoria.

Armed miners gathered beneath a rebel flag comprising the stars of the Southern Cross, visible only in the night skies of the Southern Hemisphere, linked by firm white bars indicating the strength of unity.

They knelt together and repeated this oath: "We swear by Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties".

Although the colonial authorities stormed the Stockade and killed 22 miners, the Eureka rebellion has engraved itself on the collective memory of progressive Australians.

What then is the contemporary significance of the Eureka flag?

In the first place, there is the tradition of Eureka. A strong sense of the past, and of the continuity between past and present, adds enormously to its impact as a contemporary symbol.

It is true that the original flag was trampled in the dust of the defeated stockade and taken home by trooper John King, with whose family it remained until 1895;thereafter being kept in a back room of the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery until its formal presentation as a display item in 1973 by Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

However, the events at Eureka were remembered at the founding of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association in 1874 and of the Amalgamated Shearers Union in 1886. Francis Adams, who linked the labour struggle to the Eureka rebellion, celebrated the formation of the Australian Federation of Labour (1889) in a passionate verse:

"Fling out the Flag! And let friends and foe behold for gain or loss,
The sign of our faith and the fight we fight,
The Stars of the Southern Cross!"

On 29 August, 1890, at the beginning of the maritime strike, 30,000 people gathered at a mass meeting on the Yarra bank in Melbourne and roared with approval at the speakers standing on a platform "decorated with the Eureka flag and the Eight Hours Banner".

A year later, a thousand armed shearers drilled at their Barcaldine, Queensland strike camp, wearing "blue bannerets with the Southern Cross". The Eureka flag flew high over their camp. Henry Lawson was inspired to write his immortal "Freedom on the Wallaby" (see post above) and he and other nationalist writers of the nineties drew strength from Eureka’s anti-colonialism.

During the fight against conscription in the First World War, 86-year old labour activist Monty Miller toured Australia, his rallies being promoted thus: "Eureka 1854 to IWW 1917: Sixty Three Years Fighting For You!"

At the height of the pig iron dispute in 1939, Pt Kembla wharfies burnt their Register cards and swore the Eureka diggers’ oath of loyalty.

In 1951, campaigners against Liberal PM Menzies’ anti-Communist referendum used the Eureka flag as the mast head on their paper "Liberty". In 1954, 20,000 people attended the Centennial Celebrations at Ballarat, celebrating the democratic and labour causes.

The initial stages of the anti-Vietnam and anti-conscription struggles of the 1960s saw little reference to the Eureka flag. Instead the symbolism was drawn from pacifist, and increasingly, socialist and revolutionary sources.

It was during the anti-US bases movement in 1973 that the Eureka symbolism was revived. The "Long March" protesters arriving at the North West Cape base in Western Australia burnt the US flag and scaled communications towers outside the perimeter of the base, using these as flag poles for the Southern Cross.

Sympathetic US marines at the base, who reported having been fed stories that Whitlam was a communist who was going to nationalise the supermarkets, smuggled a Eureka flag inside the base and had it flying over their headquarters the next day.

Not long afterwards, the militant Builders Laborers Federation (now the CFMEU) adopted the flag, carrying it with them on strikes and demonstrations and using it in all their literature.

Organisations of the Worker-Student Alliance, then active in factories and universities in Adelaide and Melbourne, also adopted the flag and it became a regular sight at a wide rage of protests and demonstrations.

The biggest boost to the use of the Eureka flag was the CIA-engineered dismissal of the Whitlam Government in 1975. Recognising that Australia was still enmeshed in the web of imperialism, organisations calling for genuine Australian independence proliferated and the wave of subsequent protest engulfed tens of thousands across the political spectrum.

Writing of those times, republican small-l liberal Donald Horne remarked "I had never before worn a political badge – "Independence for Australia", it said, with the Eureka flag on it… It was a coming out occasion, a declaration".

As demonstrations against Governor-General Kerr and new Prime Minister Fraser continued, the Eureka flag grew in popularity. Some newspaper reports talked of protests "wondrously covered with a canopy of Eureka flags" and a fascinating assortment of posters, bumper bar stickers and clothing, featuring the Eureka flag, appeared throughout the country.

Indeed the very popularity of the flag caused some problems, with right wing racist and anti-immigrant organisations attempting to capitalise on the flag’s uniquely Australian character to promote a racist chauvinism.

In reality the flag was the first truly multicultural symbol in Australia’s history. Coming from all quarters of the globe in search of gold, the Eureka rebels comprised a wide cross-section of nationalities and ethnicities. The dead included Irish, Prussians and Canadians, whilst among the thirteen rebel leaders put on trial by the colonial authorities were an Italian, a black Jamaican and a black American.

Nevertheless, this unity of peoples against oppression was incomplete, reflecting the immaturity of the proletariat in Australia. Large numbers of Chinese had also come to the goldfields. They were potential allies of the miners and had good cause to sympathise with rebellion against British colonialism in Australia, having seen how their own country had suffered at the hands of the British during the First Opium War (1839-42). However, little attempt was made to communicate in a constructive fashion with the Chinese.

Today, the Eureka flag is synonymous with anti-imperialism, republicanism, and working class solidarity and struggle. In a country with a large and growing immigrant population striving to realise the ideal of "many peoples, one nation", this flag has more to commend it than the official national flag which still carries the Union Jack in the top left corner.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Workers Rally Against Federal IR Laws

Waiting for the rally to begin, with his family next to him, this construction workers proudly wears a t-shirt emblazoned with a cobra, and the militant challenge "If provoked...will strike..."

More than 100,000 workers rallied yesterday throughout Australia against the Federal Government's Industrial Relations laws.

The essence of the laws has been the shift from collective bargaining and union representation in the workplace to individual un-Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs), resulting in loss of many hard-won working conditions and entitlements. 

The ruling class has particularly singled out building workers, who have been in the forefront of the class battle for many years. One hundred and seven building workers in Western Australia have been individually fined $28,000 for taking what would have once been regarded as legitimate and protected industrial action. Many face the prospect of gaol for being unable or unwilling to pay the fine.

These are Australian families that are being attacked by an Australian Prime Minister. As Henry Lawson, Australia's finest poet wrote: "When they gaol a man for striking, it's a rich man's country yet!"

Here in Adelaide we didn't quite get the numbers of the big Kathmandu rally (see post below), but a respectable 10,000 still left their workplaces to show their opposition to the IR laws. The massive rally at the MCG in Melbourne was beamed into the Adelaide rally, and into other rallies around the country in cities and regional centres.

Community-based organisations are emerging in this struggle to stand alongside the unions. One such, the Southern Workers Defence Committee, based in the southern Adelaide suburbs, carried a banner commemorating the late John Cummins, a solid Marxist-Leninist and leader of the construction workers union in Melbourne.

The nationwide rallies, organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, could have been a gift for the Labor Party had not its various factions decided to renew their public brawling. Labor leader Kim Beazely looked supremely confident as he addressed the Melbourne rally, pledging to "rip these laws up" if elected to office next year, but many must have wondered if this was something of a swan song on his part. Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes, resplendent in a Eureka t-shirt, fittingly closed the Melbourne rally with an exuberant version of his anthemic "Working Class Man".

At the end of the Adelaide rally, participants held a march through the city.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


300,000 CPN (M) supporters
at June 2 Kathmandu rally

Momentous events have unfolded in Nepal over the last six months.

The democratic movement in the cities, and the armed struggle waged by the People’s Liberation Army, led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), has resulted in a major defeat for the reactionary monarch King Gyendra.

Gyendra has been forced to hand executive powers back to the House of Representatives following an agreement between the Maoists and the parliamentary Seven Party Alliance (SPA) to coordinate their activities in a mass anti-monarchy uprising.

This occurred in April. To advance the aims of the anti-monarchist united front, the Maoists and the SPA agreed to a ceasefire and for CPN (M) participation in elections for the House of Representatives.

On June 2, a mass rally of 300,000 supporters of the CPN (M) was held in Kathmandu to celebrate developments (see picture above).

Details of arms accountability had to be worked out. In layman’s terms, troops of the former Royal Nepalese Army and of the PLA will each place their arms into storerooms under UN supervision, with each side effectively retaining the key and able to access its own arms at any time. Soldiers in both armies will likewise be housed in separate barracks (or designated villages in the case of the PLA), again under UN supervision.

This allows the CPN (M) to exercise independence and initiative within the united front on the basis that political power has come from the barrel of the gun, and can and will be maintained by it if and when circumstances warrant.

The culmination of this series of developments has been the signing on November 21 of a formal peace treaty between the CPN (M) and the SPA, and the entry of the CPN (M) into an interim government.

This should not be seen as a surrender to parliamentarism on the part of the CPA (M). Like the Bolsheviks and the Communist Party of China before it, it has had to seize the moment for a change in its tactical direction. The Bolsheviks opted at one stage for participation in the Duma. The CPC went through three stages of cooperation with the Guomindang, and in the course of the anti-Japanese War, the Red Army was reorganised by the CCP into the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army to serve the aims of the United Front against Japan. At the end of the War, the CCP put forward proposals for a Coalition Government that were scuttled by the GMD and the US imperialists, and so the armed struggle was resumed.

An excellent analysis of the Nepalese revolution in its current stage can be found here in the Indian publication Revolutionary Democracy (Rajesh Tyagi, Sept 2006 edition). Although it predates the arms accountability agreement, it is incisive and thorough in its analysis.

For keeping up with the most recent developments in Nepal, the most helpful website is Comrade Haisanlu’s Reason and Revolution. There is a link to his site in the list opposite.

Backpacker at Maoist checkpoint in PLA-controlled countryside

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Values in Schools

First it was Australian Prime Minister John Howard saying that public schools should appoint chaplains, and then it was South Australian Independent MP Bob Such proposing that state primary schools needed to have a religious education program.

It seems as though for some, it is the absence of the guiding hand of the Church that best explains the decline in standards of behaviour of young people.

The fact of their continual immersion in a culture shaped by US imperialism is hardly acknowledged.

There is good and bad in the culture of the United States, but overwhelmingly it is saturated with racism, with violence, with a mentality of blaming the victim and despising the weak.
Hollywood, TV and rap all contribute their share of this at the level of popular culture. US foreign policy acts it all out in real life.

In fundamental ways, traditional Aussie values were different to those of the contemporary United States.

We stuck up for the underdog and thought that two onto one was gutless. We didn’t like bullies and told them to pick on someone their own size. We stood by our mates.
We cut down tall poppies and thought that Jack was as good as his master.

We had our bad points, but got over the worst of them. We accepted that a woman’s place wasn’t necessarily at home, we got rid of the White Australia Policy and we gave indigenous Australians the vote.

But all along we remained enmeshed in the economic, cultural, social, political, military and diplomatic web of imperialism. We had the cultural cringe, the Queen, the butcher’s apron on our national flag, multinationals, ANZUS, SEATO, British atomic weapons tests, US military bases, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.

We had Aussie Rules, but the Yanks had their own little Aussie Gurkhas whenever they wanted them.

So why this push for religious values in public schools?

In the first place it represents a failure on the part of conservatives to understand what it’s like to be young in a family that is not wealthy, and that may not be particularly stable for various reasons. When these conservatives see kids behaving badly they think of what shaped their own social values and behaviour. They don’t see it in terms of privilege and wealth but in terms of values and example. They think of Family and they think of Church. They think: it worked for me, and it will work for them. We gotta put chaplains in schools so they have some healthy influences, and get religion back on the curriculum so that they are taught good values again.
This is essentially a deficit view of teachers and public schools. And they label teachers as "trendies" or "leftists" who just want to teach kids to experiment with gay lifestyles and to question all authority.

It’s a double-dose of "blame the victim": blame the kids for their behaviour, and blame the teachers for encouraging it.

And because the conservatives are so enmeshed in reliance upon their special relationship with the United States, they dare not make critical analysis of it, nor do they promote independence from it. They certainly would never think of blaming our national servility to the US for anything to do with the values and behaviours of young people.

So John Howard makes available $90 million a year for the appointment of chaplains to schools. The same John Howard who axed programs supporting the teaching of Asian languages in schools, worth only $30 million a year.

These chaplains of Howard’s should not be confused with Christian volunteers, who already have a presence in many Government schools, and who are often referred to as "chaplains". The Christian volunteers make friends with the kids, talk to them, help them sort out personal problems, run fun activities at lunch time, recruit kids for Church youth groups and create a profile for the local Christian Churches. Some of this is legitimate, and some of it infringes on the secular atmosphere of public schooling. Some parents are happy with it, some are not, believing that it is a parent’s right to decide when, and how, and through whom their children will be involved with religious groups and religious activists.

What Howard’s proposal does is of a different order of magnitude. It puts chaplains into schools as chaplains, as officials of Government schools, on the Government payroll.

In one move it ends the historical separation of Church and State and overthrows the basic premise of a secular system of public education. It creates the impression that some religions are "more Australian" than others by virtue of their officially sanctioned presence in State schools. It will inevitably favour some religions over others, and within religions, of some denominations over others. Whilst it is theoretically possible for chaplains representing religions other than Christianity to be appointed, these will be the exception rather than the rule.

And it may not even be the exception if some people in our community, such as Ian Clarkson, Chairman of the Schools Ministry of Tea Tree Gully have their way. In a letter to the editor of the Advertiser (17/11/06), Clarkson states that "Chaplains are Christians. This is how it ought to be."

This claim to ownership of chaplaincy by the Christians is justified by saying: "Christianity is the source of the ideas from which has emerged the open, ordered, free, democratic, multicultural society that we all enjoy…"

The only problem with this is that the history of chaplaincy is multi-faith. The Jews used priests attached to their armies in a role similar to that of today’s military chaplains in Old Testament Times. Jewish chaplains have traditionally been a part of the British Armed Services, whilst in recent times both the British and US armed forces have appointed Islamic and Buddhist chaplains. Likewise, the Japanese Imperial Army that carried the enlightened philosophies of Emperor Hirohito into Eastern Asian from 1931 to 1945, also had Buddhist chaplains appointed - for all the good they did.

And the sad thing is that the same kids who are anti-social, violent, disrespectful and rude now, will be anti-social, violent, disrespectful and rude in the future because they will remain locked out of the wealth, the success, the self-assured lifestyles of those who do well in our capitalist democracy dominated, as it is, by US imperialism.

We only have to look at the behaviour of kids in private schools to see the flaws in the argument. Sure, working class kids get involved in street gangs, and that’s not a good thing. But there are gangs (let’s not be polite about it) of private school kids who hang out at certain pubs and bars and whose behaviour is also aggressive and selfish.

Even the "best" schools have their dark side, although they are better at hushing it up than public schools. Remember when rival gangs from St Peters College and Prince Alfred College (Anglican and Uniting Church schools respectively) bashed the crap out of each other at the Adelaide Cup a few years ago?

And what about the report of this year’s "muck-up day" activities at St Peters?

A gang of about a dozen Year 12 boys went on a rampage of offensive behaviour destroying school property, in the course of which one lad was videotaped by others defecating in a school washbasin.

The poor lad may only have been doing to the washbasin what the US has been doing to the world for years, but it was hardly a good advertisement for "the values which many parents want their children to have" and which, according to Bob Such, Independent Member of Parliament, State schools can’t deliver because they don’t have religious education!

So it all comes down to this. Putting chaplains and religious education back into State schools is a recipe for no significant change in kids’ behaviour at all. Kids respond to their social environment and the opportunities for escapism and/or acting out their frustrations that are afforded through the popular media.

Trained school counsellors, who may or may not privately be Christians, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Maoists or followers of any other set of beliefs best serve the social and emotional needs of students. They are trained teachers whose educational qualifications support their counselling role, making them better suited to dealing with student problems in an educational setting than lay chaplains with religious agendas.

Rupert Murdoch pleaded with us, in the wake of the anti-Bush vote in the US mid-term Congressional elections, "to reject the facile, reflexive, unthinking anti-Americanism that has gripped much of Europe".

The reality is, that unless we do some intelligent, reflective thinking about the grip that the US has on us, we’re going to slide down further along the path of aping their lifestyle and their atrocious behaviour.

And the kids will keep behaving badly.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mississippi Meadowlark

He sat at the feet of a black blues man
Tappin’ his toes and clappin’ his hands
Got a job drivin’ trucks, but he had another plan
Cut an Arthur Crudup record and that’s how it all
Hark, hark, let the truckie make his mark
Singin’ like a Mississippi meadowlark

The racists hated him "singin’ like a nigger"
But he didn’t give a damn he just got bigger and bigger
When his left leg moved it made the old folks snigger
But the young kids thought he cut a right royal figure
Hark, hark, let that hound dog bark
Listening to the Mississippi meadowlark
Hark, hark, let that hound dog bark,
Listening to the Mississippi meadowlark

Well there’s never been a singer like the King
But they took that stallion and they broke him in
The Colonel, the Army and everything
Just took that bird and broke its wing
Hark, hark, lovers in the dark
Listening for the Mississippi meadowlark
Hark, hark, lovers in the dark
Listening for a Mississippi meadowlark
Hark, hark, lovers in the dark
Listening for another Mississippi meadowlark

In one of my earlier blogs I mentioned how I grew up listening to Elvis and became a huge fan. But just as I was getting into Elvis, he was getting into the US Army and even I could see that songs like G.I. Blues had nothing I common with the blues music that Elvis appropriated and made his own at the start of his career.

Elvis was a white working class kid in the deeply racist South. He was fascinated by the sounds of black music coming from Church gospel choirs at one end of town and from boozy juke joints at the other.

"Down in Tupelo, Mississippi," he said, "I used to hear old Arthur Crudup bang his box the way I do now, and I said if I ever got to the place where I could feel like old Arthur felt, I’d be a music man like nobody ever saw."

Elvis’ first hit record was his version of Crudup’s That’s All Right, Mama. He was immediately criticised by racists, and banned from performing in some places, for crossing the divide and singing "nigger music".

But he remained drawn to it, going down to Memphis’ Beale Street to catch acts by artists such as B.B. King (pictured with Elvis in a 1956 radio station Goodwill Revue).

The young ex-truckie also recorded Crudup’s My Baby Left Me and So Glad You’re Mine before the Colonel came along and made him clean his act up.

Crudup, (1905-1974) never saw any royalty payments from these recordings. Speaking prophetically, he once said, "I was born poor, I live poor, and I’m going to die poor."

Elvis died a multi-millionaire, bloated by the excesses of the capitalist system, a tragic testament to the old Biblical rhetoric: "What profiteth it a man that he gain the whole world yet lose his soul?"

I honour the talent of the man in this song, and try to describe, in a nutshell, where it all went wrong.

Perhaps one day a socialist Shakespeare will write a tragedy, King Elvis. As he takes his final gasps of air on the cold toilet floor, the dying singer remembers the sound of Arthur Crudup’s voice and laments, "That place, that place, all my wealth and fame for that place…"

Friday, November 10, 2006

More Mao Badges Up

If anyone's interested, I've now got 60 badges of Chairman Mao up on Flickr. Each is annotated in terms of the size, materials used (Plastic and paper, like this one, or ceramic, aluminium, bamboo etc) and the inscription on the reverse side, if there is one. Just click on the link to Mike's Mao Badges in the column opposite and you'll be taken there.

Good to see that Nazi death's head SS swine Rumsfeld has got the bullet (only metaphorically, though, more's the pity!) It's good to see him gone, but the imperialist system remains and the task for us is to continue finding appropriate ways to further develop the people's forces.

Monday, October 30, 2006



Like Nazis marching
into Poland
comes this convoy
from the city:
snake of chrome

with snake-evil task,
the trucks of Amax,
going to Noonkanbah,
place of the goanna,
to rip and tear.

In this time and place
a Nazi raid
into the lands of those who
with sacredness and gentility
uphold civilisation
against the perfidious
god of profit.

With conqueror’s sneer
at the roadside few
the police drive straight
at the camera crew

Superiority – so base, so low,
as on the trucks of Amax

In my dull routine
far from the jellied
heat of the road,
an aching to fight:

to swoop from the skies
in wedgetail glory
leaving the trucks of Amax

But police stand guard
with batons hard
along the road
to Noonkanbah…

Under the banner of plunder
the Nazis march today
all through the great
Down Under
if Amax has its way.

And a fight it shall be,
for in these things -

Compassion and the greed of the plunderer
Respect and the superior man’s contempt
Understanding and the arrogance of the profiteer
Independence and prostitution to the foreign dollar
Freedom and police in the pay of traitors
No - there are no
swastikas, only dollar signs
but like Nazis
marching into Poland
go the trucks of Amax

I wrote the poem above in 1980. This is the background:

Australia is a nation created by British colonialism, which seized the southern continent from its indigenous owners in 1788 and succeeding years. Ruling class historians describe this as "discovery" and "settlement" and even today try to deny that the process was one by which one group of people, the colonialists, used violence and the threat of violence to overturn the traditional rights of another people, the tribal communities of Aboriginal Australia.

As a Second World country, Australia is denied its full rights to independence by imperialism. The injustice of this is visited many times over on the indigenous peoples, many of whom live in worse than Third World conditions.

Twenty-six years ago, the Texas-based multinational Amax decided that it wanted to drill for oil on the Noonkanbah pastoral lease near Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia. The traditional Aboriginal owners saw themselves as custodians of the land and it’s Dreaming sites and resisted this encroachment on their land. The labour movement swung into action behind them.

The right wing Premier of Western Australia mobilised the state forces behind Amax and a vicious police presence was used to guard a convoy of 49 Amax trucks on their journey from Perth to Noonkanbah, 3000 kilometre to the north.

The arrogance of the reactionaries and their contempt for indigenous culture is seen in the cartoon.
Twenty-five years later, in December 2004, the Noonkanbah community won a native land title claim to 1811 square kilometres of their traditional land.
The "place of the goanna" refers to an indigenous belief about a part of the mining lease being sacred to the large Australian lizard called the goanna.
The wedgetail eagle is a magnificent and majestic bird, the largest of Australia’s birds of prey.
(For a history of indigenous struggle in the 70’s and 80’s, see here)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Ted Hill

Comrade Haisanlu referred to Comrade E. F. (Ted) Hill, late former Chairman of the CPA(M-L) in his reply to my blog on North Korea.

I remember Ted Hill well. He was an older generation of communist to most of my contemporaries, but he was the undisputed leader of the CPA (M-L) and had a thorough grasp of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. He provided active leadership over many years politically, ideologically and organisationally. I still go to his writings for guidance.

Ted Hill and Mao Zedong had many discussions over the years. This is an early photo of the two.

I mentioned Charlie McCaffrey in an earlier blog. Here, he and Ted meet with Comrade Enver Hoxha.

Great servants of the people, all of them!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hands Off North Korea!

This then is the insomniac’s nightmare:
The monster’s claw above the face
The black emptiness of terror
The mind’s frantic paralysis
The pounding of the rigid body
The frozen palpitations
The shivering warmth of sweat
The sleepless fear
Of the eternal second
When, with undue haste
To beat the morning sun
The world is bathed
In the final light
Of the megaton

I am no lover of nuclear weapons.

I wrote the poem above in 1990, when it still seemed possible that nuclear conflict might occur.

Why then do I salute the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for conducting an underground nuclear test on October 9, 2006?

Because this tests was done in revolutionary defiance of threats from US imperialism.

Defiance of imperialism is not a bad thing, but a good thing, even when it means a proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world.

My view is that we should continue to call for the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of all nuclear weapons. The onus must be on the biggest nuclear powers to destroy their stockpiles first to a level at which a general process of destruction in all nuclear weapons possessing states can occur.

Only twice used in conflict, the massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the world have long been used as a means to bully and oppress small nations striving for independence from imperialism.

Nations not wanting to be controlled by US imperialism are inevitably designated "rogue nation" status, or are declared to be part of an "Axis of Evil". They are subjected to every form of threat and sanction from US imperialism and its followers.

They are told that it is the right of US imperialism to initiate "pre-emptive first strikes" against sovereign nations so as to effect "regime change". They are openly told that they are on the US imperialist hit-list.

When they offer to talk on a one-to-one basis with US imperialism or to sign pacts of mutual non-aggression with US imperialism they are spurned.

North Korea would willingly sign a "no first use" of nuclear weapons clause with US imperialism, but the latter will not agree.

The response of Australia’s politicians, who are out and out lickspittles of US imperialism, has been to spur the US on to retaliation against North Korea. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has upgraded North Korea from "rogue state" to "outlaw rogue state" status. One wonders how much worse they can get! Prime Minister Howard declares North Korea to be a "seriously crazy regime" and warns that a military strike against it may be necessary!

Meanwhile, the common sense of the people rises to the surface. Nearly all letters to the editor of the local capitalist press blame the US for provoking North Korea into conducting a nuclear test. Many direct ridicule and scorn at Bush and Co.

We need to state quite clearly:

Hands off North Korea!

For the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of all nuclear weapons!

Monday, September 25, 2006


In the song Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) on his 1978 Street Legal album, Bob Dylan asks an unidentified "senor" if he "knows where we’re headin’?"

This is one of the most overtly political songs of a writer who has spent most of his creative life trying to escape from the "protest singer/ spokesman of a generation" label that was placed upon him early in his career.

And it’s an interesting one, because the words in parentheses, which do not appear in the song, yell out for this to be read politically.

I’ll return to the song in a minute.

But first of all, Hugo Chavez.

The Venezuelan President made two speeches at the United Nations in recent days. The first was a strong denunciation of US imperialism which "echoed his mentor Fidel Castro's historic 1960 debut address before the General Assembly". It was well-received by many delegates and "generated the loudest burst of applause for a world leader at the summit".

In my little corner of the US empire (South Australia), it was completely ignored by all branches of the capitalist media. (What do you expect given that this is the home of former Aussie Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation?)

However, the second speech, on September 20 was a media sensation.

Aussies will know what I mean when I say that Chavez was as game as Ned Kelly, and that his speech was a latter-day Jerilderie Letter.

"The devil came here yesterday," Chavez said, referring to Bush, who addressed the world body during its annual meeting Tuesday. "And it smells of sulphur still today."

"As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world. An Alfred Hitchcock movie could use it as a scenario. I would even propose a title: 'The Devil's Recipe.' "

Chavez held up a book by Noam Chomsky on imperialism and said it encapsulated his arguments: "The American empire is doing all it can to consolidate its hegemonistic system of domination, and we cannot allow him to do that. We cannot allow world dictatorship to be consolidated."

Chavez was audacious, irreverent and defiant. I loved it and I’m pleased that Chomsky’s book sales skyrocketed in the aftermath.

But back now to Dylan.

In the song Senor, Dylan addresses a series of questions to an unidentified Hispanic male. He is seeking direction and guidance, confused and bewildered by the reactionary orientation of the US ruling class.

I’m expressing it in those terms. Dylan probably wouldn’t. He’s not a Marxist nor even consciously anti-imperialist.

In his youth, he referenced Castro for shock effect ("I like Fidel Castro and his beard" yelled the protagonist in Motorpsycho Nightmare). And he cited the ban on boxing in Cuba approvingly in Who Killed Davey Moore?

In Senor, the first question he asks is:

…do you know where we’re headin’
Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?

The reference to "Lincoln" in the first of the two choices works for me as a reminder of early American values of democracy and equality as personified by Abraham Lincoln, although Lincoln County was also the site of a murderous frontier conflict between two factions of white settlers. William Bonney, later known as Billy the Kid, had a part in this.

So, on another level, maybe the choice is no choice at all. Violence and destruction, or the violent destruction of the world?

I think I still prefer the first interpretation.

In the second verse, Dylan asks about a woman who is hiding somewhere, and there are flashes of Wild West cinema in the images. Dylan locates the song geographically in those open spaces where the rich industrialised North meets the poor agrarian South.

In the third verse, it seems as though the "she" might be the spirit of the real America that Dylan has conjured with his reference to Lincoln. I feel pretty confident about this because the verse contains references to the upper layer of society and its orientation towards wickedness, to an "iron cross" (symbol of Prussian and German militarism in particular, but of fascism and reaction in general), and to a marching band (in my mind I see it leading a military parade and arousing pro-war enthusiasm amongst the observers):

There’s a wicked wind still blowin’ on that upper deck
There’s an iron cross still hanging down from around her neck.
There’s a marchin’ band still playin’ in that vacant lot
Where she held me in her arms one time and said "Forget me not".

The fourth verse is ominous, threatening:

…I can see that painted wagon
Smell the tail of the dragon.

The painted wagon continues to build the Wild West landscape, but the" tail of the dragon" suggests something evil. This is the medieval European dragon, not the friendlier Chinese version.

This is how the symbolism of the European dragon is explained:

"The Devil is likened to a dragon because he is the worst of all serpents. As the dragon makes the air shine, so the Devil makes himself appear as the angel of light to deceive the foolish. The crest of the dragon represents the Devil crowned with pride. As the dragon's strength is not in its teeth but in its tail, the Devil, deprived of his strength, deceives with lies."

Those who are reactionaries (‘their hearts is as hard as leather") and those who are swayed by them ("trainload of fools") seem so set in their ways that Dylan is ready to leave with his South American guide. But it’s no passive withdrawal:

Senor, senor, let’s disconnect these cables
Overturn these tables.
This place don’t make sense to me no more.
Can you tell me what we’re waiting for, senor?

This is revolutionary. Dylan’s response to reaction in the US is a righteous anger, and he sees himself in an act of justifiable defiance and overthrow. He’s not threatening socialist revolution, however, but recreating that scene in the Bible where Jesus "entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple...." (Mark 11:15-16).
Nevertheless, Dylan’s sentiment is Chavez’s. Reactionary abuse of power by the US ruling class should be defied. It is right to rebel.

Chavez, in his speeches as the United Nations, has answered Dylan’s appeal for guidance and direction.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


In a previous post, I mentioned having written a poem for a comrade who had died. This was back in 1987, but that comrade still influences my attitude towards political work and activity. His name was Charlie McCaffrey. This was the poem:

We stand like red gums
at the river’s edge;
witness to his silent passing.
branched arms outstretched…
unable to touch.

old man river.
no shallow traps.
no hidden snags,
no currents of treachery,
only life flowing strongly,
but flowing…

Oh, we saw his anger –
like a torrent in flood;
satisfaction –
like a pond at dusk;
laughter –
like a morning stream.

With the river’s passing
the bed is dry.
Dry and waiting,
waiting for younger waters,
already poised,
taking up where he left off,
anticipating the distant promise of thunder
and the cleansing of the rain.