Saturday, April 14, 2007

Remembering Alex

For S., with thanks

Last night, more than 50 comrades gathered to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the passing of a mate and comrade.

That mate was Comrade Alex, who was shot and killed on the Cooper Pedy opal fields on April 14, 1982.

Alex was one of the first of our generation of youthful Marxist-Leninists who, in the late 1960’s, rallied to the call of the Party and united to fight capitalism and imperialism.

Alex stood out. For a start, he was a tall bloke (first from right in photo above, looking at camera), but his presence went beyond his height. He could light up a room with his dry sense of humour, his famous one-liners and ascerbic wit.

Alex was a practical bloke and made the smoke bombs for demos, handing out recipes for molotovs and generally looking for ways to push the envelope against the coppers. If they were there taking photos of marchers, Alex was there taking photos of them.

One of the coppers who specialised in harassing young left-wing opponents of the US imperialist war of aggression against Vietnam was "Curly" Marshall. "Curly" wasn’t big for a copper, but he let us know that he was on our tail night and day, often brushing past us in a pub and asking casually about something we had said or done the previous day.

One of those at the commemoration recalled how he had been helping Alex with an offset printer one day when "Curly" and another Special Branch copper arrived and started niggling Alex, trying to bait him into saying or doing something to warrant an arrest. For over half an hour this kept up, with Alex keeping his cool throughout, defusing their antagonism with his humour until they left.

When the situation was in his favour, Alex wasn’t quite the gentleman as far as the cops went. A number of them wore bruises that corresponded to the shape of Alex’s big knuckles after having rashly waded into lines of anti-war demonstrators.

Unfortunately for Alex, he was very much influenced by one particular friend who had a dominant personality and a tendency to commit a few too many political mistakes. One of those mistakes was not taking the women’s movement seriously. But there were other major errors on this friend’s part too. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when the friend arrived a day late for a conference of the Worker-Student Alliance, entered disruptively, refused to heed warnings of the Chair, and responded to a female comrade with "I think you might find the dictatorship of the proletariat a bit too physical". In the end it was decided that the friend and Alex should be expelled from a particular organisation which expected a higher level of discipline and understanding. To the friend, this was water off a duck’s back; to Alex, it was devastating. He had not thought that silly behaviour could carry such consequences, and he wept as the decision was delivered.

Within WSA, it was only the friend who was expelled. Alex bounced back and continued to make his valuable contributions to the revolutionary socialist movement.

However, it was clear that Alex was a marked man in Adelaide and that the cops would make it difficult for him to keep a job and provide for the family that he was building.

So Alex left for Cooper Pedy, a frontier town in the outback where law and order was pretty much provided by the miners themselves.

Alex had some success and started building a small business. Despite the remoteness of Cooper Pedy from Adelaide, Alex remained devoted to the cause of the people. I remember when WSA members at the big Chrysler plant in Adelaide were involved in a rank and file dispute with the management. There had been a strike, an occupation, and several arrests. Alex sent down two thousand dollars to the rank and file to help see them through the dispute, a characteristically selfless act of genuine commitment.

Those of us who met yesterday to remember Alex – and there were some from interstate and overseas – did so with great love and respect for the man.

He died too young in a lawless town.

He left a gap in all of our lives, and it was fitting that Henry Lawson’s poem "The Glass on the Bar" should have been read in his memory:

Three bushmen one morning rode up to an inn,
And one of them called for the drinks with a grin;
They’d only returned from a trip to the North,
And, eager to greet them, the landlord came forth.
He absently poured out a glass of Three Star,
And set down that drink with the rest on the bar.

"There, that is for Harry," he said, "and it’s queer,
‘Tis the very same glass that he drank from last year;
His name’s on the glass, you can read it like print,
He scratched it himself with an old piece of flint;
I remember his drink – it was always Three Star" –
And the landlord looked out through the door of the bar.

He looked at the horses, and counted but three:
"You were always together - where’s Harry?" cried he.
Oh, sadly they looked at the glass as they said,
"You may put it away, for our old mate is dead;"
But one, gazing out o’er the ridges afar,
Said, "We owe him a shout – leave the glass on the bar.

They thought of the far-away grave on the plain,
They thought of the comrade who came not again,
They lifted their glasses, and sadly they said:
"We drink to the name of the mate who is dead."
And the sunlight streamed in, and a light like a star
Seemed to glow in the depth of the glass on the bar.

And still in that shanty a tumbler is seen,
It stands by the clock, ever polished and clean;
And often the strangers will read as they pass
The name of a bushman engraved on the glass;
And though on the shelf but a dozen there are,
That glass never stands with the rest on the bar.


DUSTBOWL - Environment vs Capitalism

April 14 1935 is the day, so Woody Guthrie reminds us, that the Great Duststorm swept over Kansas and Oklahoma as the dustbowl took its vengeance on capitalist farming in the United States.

John Steinbeck chronicled that double disaster - the disaster of nature and the disaster of capitalism -in his powerful novel The Grapes of Wrath; Guthrie captured both disasters and the sweep and import of the novel in his Dustbowl Ballads, some of which namechecked Preacher Casey and Tom Joad, characters from the novel.

Woody was a communist who never joined the Party. He is famous for the slogan "This machine kills fascists!" that he emblazoned on his guitar.

On this day we commemorate Woody and the tragedy of the Dustbowl by reprinting the lyrics to The Great Duststorm (Great Storm Disaster).

Dust Storm Disaster(The Great Dust Storm)

On the 14th day of April of 1935,
There struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky.
You could see that dust storm comin', the cloud looked deathlike black,
And through our mighty nation, it left a dreadful track.
From Oklahoma City to the Arizona line,
Dakota and Nebraska to the lazy Rio Grande,
It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down,
We thought it was our judgement, we thought it was our doom.
The radio reported, we listened with alarm,
The wild and windy actions of this great mysterious storm;
From Albuquerque and Clovis, and all New Mexico,
They said it was the blackest that ever they had saw.
From old Dodge City, Kansas, the dust had rung their knell,
And a few more comrades sleeping on top of old Boot Hill.
From Denver, Colorado, they said it blew so strong,
They thought that they could hold out, but they didn't know how long.

Our relatives were huddled into their oil boom shacks,
And the children they was cryin' as it whistled through the cracks.
And the family it was crowded into their little room,
They thought the world had ended, and they thought it was their doom.

The storm took place at sundown, it lasted through the night,
When we looked out next morning, we saw a terrible sight.
We saw outside our window where wheat fields they had grown
Was now a rippling ocean of dust the wind had blown.

It covered up our fences, it covered up our barns,
It covered up our tractors in this wild and dusty storm.
We loaded our jalopies and piled our families in,
We rattled down that highway to never come back again.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Support the Struggle of the Nandigram Peasants

The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) has recently released its report on the second wave of killings of peasants in the Nandigram region. Nandigram is approximately 150 kilometres south of Kolkata (Calcutta), the state capital of West Bengal.

The killings have been carried out by thugs organised by the revisionist CPI (Marxist)-led Left Front Government, which has sought to create a series of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) as a means of attracting foreign investment capital into West Bengal.

The Nandigram area was previously very pro-CPI(M). The only reason why this very strong mass base suddenly turned against the CPI(M) was the proposed land acquisition for an SEZ to built by the Indonesian MNC Salem International.

The founder of the Salim Group is Liem Sioe Liong. Reportedly the richest man in Indonesia, Liem owes much of his fortune to privileges granted him by the fascist dictator Suharto, whom he befriended in the 1940s.

It was precisely because Nandigram was emerging as a model for anti-SEZ, anti-corporate-land grab resistance that it invited such horrible repression. It had become a sore spot and a source of concern and anxiety, not just for local CPI(M) leaders or the LF Government, but for all Governments all over the country.

The repression started with a massacre of villagers on January 7, 2007. In Singur, police arrested nearly 500 Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation activists at a January 8 solidarity protest.

Then the goons came back on March 14 and conducted a further massacre over a three-day period. On March 23, the CPI(ML) launched a nationwide campaign in solidarity with the Singur and Nandigram struggles.

An excellent in-depth analysis of this struggle can be found here on the Marxist-Leninist Lists website.

The Right to Food website has asked all concerned people to write letters of protest to the national and state authorities in India and West Bengal:

Recipient of letter:

Shri Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
Chief Minister
Government of West Bengal
Writers' Building,
Kolkata 700001

Shri Abdur Rezzak Mollab
Minister In Charge
Land and Land Reforms Department,
Government of West Bengal
Writer's Building
Kolkata - 700001

Hon'ble Justice Shri Shyamal Kumar Sen
West Bengal Human Rights CommissionIndia

Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India
South BlockRoom No. 152
New Delhi- 110001

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I know it is the prerogative of editorial cartoonists to caricature their subjects, but surely this depiction of the Australian Prime Minister as a rat goes too far. My son had a pet rat which was decent and clean, and to compare it to the Prime Minister is most unfair.
Howard is Australia's worst Prime Monster.
Couldn't say "Sorry" to the Stolen Generation (indigenous children stolen from their parents by Government "welfare" officers mid-last century).
Wouldn't say "Welcome" to asylum seekers (demonising them as illegal immigrants, placing them in concentration camps for years on end, depriving them of all rights).
Didn't ask "Why?" - just said "how high?" when told to join Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq.
Attacked the working class by legislating for "unAustralian Workplace Agreements" that have stripped workers of defence against unfair dismissal, slashed overtime and penalty rates, and taken away holiday and sick leave.
Was the originator of the racist policies of Pauline Hanson's "One Nation Party" with his "one nation, one people" bullshit.
Grovelled to Dick Cheney for the early trial of David Hicks, held for five years at Guantanamo, when it became evident that Australian public opinion was strongly behind Hicks being given a "fair go"; achieved that and an order that will see Hicks in goal in Australia until just after this year's Federal election, and unable to comment to the media for a year. What a gift from the US overlords!
Even members of his own Government have allegedly described him as a "lying rodent":

Mr Galt told Channel 9 that Senator Brandis said Mr Howard was a "lying rodent" and that the party would have to "cover his arse" again over the children overboard affair. Mr Galt has given the network a signed statutory declaration of his version of events at the meeting.
It quotes Senator Brandis as saying of Mr Howard: "He is a lying rodent" and "we’ve got to go off and cover his arse again on this".
But then, I've never heard a rodent lie, have you?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Eternal Mao Zedong

(Reverence for Comrade Mao Zedong still runs high in China despite, or perhaps because, of the activities of the restorationists to deny his proletarian revolutionary legacy. I have translated the poem below from the "maoflag" website. My Chinese is not too good, but I think I've got the gist of it)

By Ren Ping

No military strategist can
Compare to you in courage:
You led an army of 30,000
And walked the most difficult 25,000 li
From then on
The Long March became
The eternal motif of the Chinese Revolution

"On Protracted War"
Showed how a small force
Can defeat a strong,
Became a marvel of military matters,
Winning the admiration of foreigners.
From then on
Asian, African and Latin American peoples
Began to raise the curtain
On their independence and liberation.

No leader can
Compare to you as a thinker.
Your family sacrificed
Six young lives for the revolution,
Your lovely wife
Even your beloved son.
Your tears flowed
Your grief lying quietly in
The depths of your heart.

No ancient Chinese emperor can
Compare to your lofty dignity.
You are a leader of a nation
Keeping in your mind
From beginning to end
The broad masses of the people.
The power and strength of the nation
The sufferings of the people
Down to the final moment of your life
You were still pondering deeply.

Who can be rated as a great person?
Inspiration in the waving hands.
No explanation is necessary
In the hearts of the people
You are the eternal leader.


"Your lovely wife": Yáng Kāihuì (Traditional Chinese: 楊開慧; Simplified Chinese: 杨开慧; courtesy name: Yúnjǐn 云锦; 1901November 14, 1930) was the second wife of Mao Zedong from 1920 to 1927. She was born in Bancang village, Changsha, Hunan and was the daughter of Yang Changji, head of the Hunan First Normal School and one of Mao's favorite teachers. She joined the Communist Party of China in 1921. In October 1930, the Kuomintang captured her with her son, Anying. The KMT put them in prison. Anying, then 8, was forced to watch as the KMT tortured and killed her. (Source: Wikipedia)

"Even your beloved son": Mao Anying (Chinese: 毛岸英, Pinyin: Máo Ànyīng) (October 24, 1922November 25, 1950) was the eldest son of Mao Zedong and Yang Kaihui. Educated in Moscow, he was killed in action by an air attack during the Korean War. (Source: Wikipedia)

Photo L-R: Mao Zedong, daughter Li Na, son Mao Anying and his wife Liu Songlin