Monday, July 30, 2007

Support the Esselte workers!

Why isn't Barbara Bennett, head of the Workplace Authority, down at the gates of Esselte in Sydney, explaining to the workers that no-one's trying to force them onto un-Australian Workplace Agreements? She can smile and say "No they can't!" just like she does in those repetitive tax-payer funded full page newspaper ads in which she's lent herself , as a senior public servant, out to Howard and his gang of union-busting thugs.

Esselte Australia, which is owned by the giant US-based J W Childs Corporation and has an annual turnover of US$1.5 billion, has proposed individual contracts (AWAs) to their employees during negotiations for a new union Collective Agreement.

The AWAs severely cut back the conditions, allowances and penalties of Esselte workers.
Gone are Rostered Days Off, union picnic days, meal allowances and paid meal breaks. Workers will be required to work 38 hours per week averaged over 12 months (which will end any over-time) and a productivity “incentive” scheme will be introduced.

According to one worker at Esselte, in June 2006 when the workers first decided to reject the AWAs, “The company took us, one by one, down to the Campbelltown Art Gallery and sat us down in front of a government official. It was interrogation. “They tried to get me to answer questions like ‘Why didn’t you sign an AWA?’ for seven hours. They were very intimidating. The interrogator banged his hand on the table and yelled ‘Stop mollycoddling me!’”

In the latest development, union officials have accused the company of planting a secret listening device near where they meet the striking workers.

The bizarre discovery comes amid admissions from the employer that he was video-taping the strikers and claims he had warned them that they would be bashed by their colleagues.

Esselte boss Barry Starr denied management had planted the device, (which could instead be an RFID type tag used by some security firms whose patrolman has to get near or touch this tag with his equipment as he is doing his round); nevertheless Starr admitted he was keeping the workers under video surveillance "to stop them breaking the law".

Starr also admitted he warned the workers there would be consequences for their actions and that they were angering their workmates.

"I said they were creating problems for themselves and there were a lot of angry people in there," he said.

Three of the workers have signed statutory declarations stating Starr went further.

They claim Starr told them words to the effect of: "If you get back in there to work, there are some angry people. When you are in the corner they will bash you up or they will damage your car and the company won't be responsible."

National Union of Workers NSW State Secretary Derrick Belan said “This company is run by a bunch of industrial vandals who just can’t wait to attack their workers with Howard’s horrible IR laws. Esselte’s US-style of corporate bullying will harm the workers and their families. However, we will fight to protect our members at the warehouse.”

Just like the Radio rentals workers in Adelaide who had to withstand a similar campaign of thuggery and disinformation, the Esselte workers will win if they stand firm and remain united.

Hear Sohaila Speak for RAWA

Sohaila, a representative of the Revolutionary Association for the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), will be speaking in Adelaide on August 8.

Reprinted below is the text of an interview given to Satya magazine.

What are the major issues facing women in Afghanistan today?

The problems of women in Afghanistan are not so simple as to be solved overnight by the removal of the Taliban. The main cause for pain in our country is the existence of Islamic fundamentalism as a military and political force. They are misogynist to the marrow of their bones.

Though the Taliban government was removed by the U.S. invasion in October 2001, by reinstalling the Northern Alliance warlords to power the U.S. government replaced one fundamentalist regime with another. In fact, the Northern Alliance is a more treacherous rapist and murderer than the Taliban, and now they are ruling most of the country and are backed by the U.S.!

Our women still do not have very basic rights. When Malalai Joya [a candidate in September’s parliamentary election] raised her voice, they suppressed her. And because of her few words against warlords in the Grand Assembly, she is now being protected by six bodyguards, due to threats from warlords who are seeking any opportunity to eliminate her. The Chief Justice of Afghanistan is a medieval-minded fundamentalist who opposes women. And he has opposed the appearance of women on TV a number of times. Last year, he sacked a woman judge from her job because she was filmed shaking hands with Mr. Bush during her visit to the U.S.
This is just the tip of the iceberg about the plight of our women today. You can feel the blunder of the Western mainstream media who frequently trumpet, “Afghan women are free now.” Afghan women are not free at all and we have a long way to go to achieve our rights with a staunch struggle against fundamentalists.

And these are the leaders the U.S. appointed as part of your interim government?

Some of the most evil men have key positions in the government of [President] Hamid Karzai and are not targets of anyone's justice. They include men who were leaders in repressing women by throwing acid in their faces and should be tried in courts for their crimes against women. They are now the reactionary forces who are trying to silence any voice of democracy and justice in Afghanistan. And Mr. Karzai is collaborating with them. In a 133-page report published in July by Human Rights Watch under the title Blood-Stained Hands: Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanistan's Legacy of Impunity, most of these men were accused of war crimes against the Afghan people, with facts and figures. Amnesty International and some other human rights groups have published the same remarks, but no one cares because these people have weapons, money and power.

Though the Taliban were defeated as a military force, their ideology is in place and they are still supported by some foreign groups. Even the U.S.-supported Afghan government has started negotiations with some very infamous Taliban leaders to bring them to power. For example, the Taliban Foreign Minister, Abdul Wakil Muttawakil has been allowed to run in the election, and some other Taliban leaders are freely roaming and have their office in Kabul! While [RAWA] still can't open our office and are forced to work underground because of grave security threats.

The U.S. doesn't care about what happens to the Afghan women, the children, the people. They want to control the oil pipeline, which is only possible by giving support to the fundamentalists. The U.S. government still distributes money among warlords to keep them under their control and turn their backs on their involvement in drug trafficking.

Drugs and warlords have not been eliminated. There is no peace, nor has there been any relief for women. How do RAWA and Afghan women view the U.S. today?

Well, in the beginning there was a different reaction. People were deceived because they were really tired of the Taliban and all the miseries, the restrictions, the terrible life they had. So people thought maybe there will be change with the U.S. intervention. But now after these years, they see that the U.S. has failed in all its promises and nothing has really changed. We [RAWA] believe that freedom and democracy can’t be donated; it is the duty of the people of a country to fight and achieve these values. The U.S.-supported government have gripped their claws over our country in attempt to bring their religious fascism on our people.

While we criticize the U.S. government for its support of the most dirty and criminal elements and groups in our country, we are of course thankful to the generous help and support of the U.S. people. There is a huge difference between the U.S. people and its government.

Have things improved at all for Afghan women since the U.S. invasion?

There is an improvement for women in certain limited parts of big cities—girls go to school and some women are allowed to work outside the home in the capital, Kabul. But the situation for women is worsening in the rest of the country. In most areas, rape and forced marriage are on the rise, women continue to wear the burqa out of fear, and are being traded in the settlement of debts. Women face discrimination from all society. Violence against women is accepted by the community and not addressed by the government.

The U.S has not removed religious fundamentalism, which is the main cause of all our fear and suffering. A lot of women hoped things would change for the better after the overthrow of the Taliban, so there is a great sense of disappointment.

It was on April 23, 2005 that Amina, a 29 year-old woman was publicly stoned to death on the basis of a district court's decision in the northern province of Badakhshan for committing adultery. It is horrible. Also, three Afghan women were raped, strangled and their bodies dumped as a warning for women not to become aid workers in Afghanistan. And in some areas they are arresting women who do not have anyone to feed or take care of them—women who have lost their husbands and are forced into participation in smuggling, begging and prostitution. These women have no food!

What about the children, your families and friends? This must have an effect on them.

Yes, it does. In April, health minister Dr. Sayed Amin Fatimi said Afghanistan is facing a disaster worse than the tsunami. According to him, around 700 children under the age of five die every day in Afghanistan due to preventable diseases and one woman dies every 20 minutes due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth. The facts speak by themselves. In Kabul, an estimated 500,000 people are homeless or living in makeshift accommodations. Only 40 percent of Afghan children are vaccinated against major diseases, and just 25 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. There is just one doctor per 6,000 people, and one nurse per 2,500 people. Some 72,000 new cases of tuberculosis are reported every year. Women account for most TB deaths. Up to 100 people are killed or wounded by mines and unexploded ordnance every month. Every year an estimated 400,000 Afghans are affected by natural disasters. In Kabul alone there are over 60,000 child workers.

How is this impacting women's participation in the elections?

Women who have been outspoken on women's rights issues, such as human trafficking or violence against women, have continually received death threats, visits to their homes by gunmen, and dismissals from their jobs. This causes fear and insecurity, and endangers women's participation in the presidential elections and parliamentary and local elections.

Many democratic-minded women candidates are being threatened. We just heard that the warlords have published and distributed anti-Malalai Joya posters in Farah province to stop people from voting for her.

No wonder cases of suicide and depression are rising among Afghan women…

Yes, girls are burning themselves to death because they have no other option in life to escape violence. There are many cases of women burning themselves in the villages, in the city, in some of the provinces. But we can't give any estimates on how many, partly because they never reach the hospital or because they die in their villages or city. These are the cases that never come to the attention of any public authorities.

The Afghan judicial system is extremely corrupt and under the control of the fundamentalists, so women are not supported by laws although our Constitution clearly says that men and women are equal. When women do not find any source of help in the male-chauvinistic society, they easily decide to kill themselves. According to surveys, over 90 percent of Afghan women suffer from some sort of depression.

What has the role of the United Nations been in all of this?

Unfortunately the UN is not effective in its programs in Afghanistan and most of its offices in the country are suffering from deep corruption. They have huge administration costs, but the outcome of their work for Afghanistan is limited.

The UN has not been able to address the problems properly. If the UN can send a large number of peace-keeping forces to places like Cambodia and Bosnia, why should it not be adopting a similar policy in Afghanistan? It is all the more important to have large peace-keeping forces in Afghanistan, not only in Kabul but in other provinces too, to control the warlords.

We advocate that the UN view Afghanistan as the homeland of the Afghan people, and not as the property of a few armed militias. The UN should take into account the will of the people and must not proceed according to the whims of the fundamentalists.

Many Afghans are suspicious about the activities of the UN and other humanitarian organizations in Afghanistan. They think that these organizations receive huge funds but do little for people. In the past four years, there have been very few reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The only widespread reconstruction projects you can see are those of the warlords who build luxury buildings and palaces for themselves.

Can you talk a bit about RAWA's programs?

As a social/political organization, RAWA's work has two sides. We run schools, orphanages, hospitals, handicraft centers for widows and other such projects to help women and girls. We also have mobile health teams in eight provinces, mainly treating women who cannot go to doctors because of their financial problems. Our teams are also running first aid courses for young girls and women.

We also contact women who have been victimized by the fundamentalists. We publish their stories in our magazine Payam-e-Zan (Women's Message), alerting groups such as Amnesty International. We also provide psycho-social support. We transfer victims to Pakistan for medical treatment or children of traumatized families to Pakistan for rehabilitation and a better chance of education. We trace missing females and/or their family members. We assist families in evacuating from battlefields and areas affected by natural calamities and resettle them in safer places, supplying such families with basic living needs and—in extreme cases—identifying sponsors for ‘family adoptions’ of uprooted families or individuals and facilitating their integration. We also distribute food among needy families in drought/war/earthquake-stricken villages.

We organize functions, events, demonstrations, and other propaganda programs to raise awareness among Afghan women and give them political consciousness. We are of the opinion that by mobilizing and organizing Afghan women, we can fight for women's rights in Afghanistan. For this purpose, education is the key and power by which women can fight for their rights.

In the past few months our members inside Afghanistan have been actively working for the parliamentary election. We have candidates in some provinces and support a large number of democratic-minded and anti-fundamentalist women and men. Our aim is to form a secularist and anti-fundamentalist progressive group within the Parliament to be a force to oppose colonialist and anti-democratic legislation and disclose wrong policies of the government.

What are your hopes for the future?

We in RAWA dream of a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan based on secularist values where men and women have equal rights and jointly participate in the reconstruction and development of the country.

For establishment of such a society, we must make many sacrifices and fight some strong dark-minded elements and groups. It is indeed a long process but we are quite sure that the future of Afghanistan will be in the hands of its people.

To learn more or to support the work of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, visit To learn more about the candidate Malalai Joya, see

Friday, July 27, 2007

Haneef Victory!

The Australian people have forced the dropping of anti-terrorism charges against Dr Mohamed Haneef.

The injustice of the case was clear to all, and reflected in a daily outpouring of anger and shame in letters to the editors of capitalist newspapers.

Howard has attempted to wash his hands of the affair, saying that it was up to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police to explain what had gone wrong.

This won't wash.

As a Communist I freely acknowledge that Keelty, head of the AFP, has been quite circumspect in his public comments on the “war on terror”; that he has more than once cautioned against demonising the Australian Muslim community; and that he has at least once been in quite open conflict with the Howard Government over its pursuit of the “war on terror”.

The position of Bugg, the Director of Public Prosecutions, is less clear, or less well-known, but his brother as head of the Law Council of Australia, has been openly critical of the Government decision to strip Haneef of his Section 247 visa.

What is certain, obvious to all, is that Howard has done more than anyone to create an atmosphere in which anything less than an unquestioning acceptance of the US-inspired “war on terror” is an act of national betrayal.

His Cabinet met and discussed the case, and the Minister for Immigration, the silver-spooned Mr Andrews, subsequently cancelled Haneef's visa on the basis of his having failed the “character test”.

This ensured that he remained in detention despite a Brisbane magistrate ordering his release on bail.

Howard must go before he does any further damage to our international reputation and our domestic rights and freedoms.

Andrews must resign for reckless abuse of ministerial authority and for rushing to political interference in the judicial process.

Haneef has been placed into “residential detention” because of the Government's cancellation of his visa. But he cannot return to his residence because it was so thoroughly trashed by the police following his arrest.

Restore Haneef's visa now! No threat of deportation!

Let him work he if he wishes, or let him go home to his family in India, with proper compensation for his sufferings.

But don't bullshit to Australians again!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

John Howard: Today's Sacred Text

John Howard, recorded in Hansard, Australian Federal Parliament, May 14, 2003:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Joint Statement: Malcolm Fraser and Barry Jones

In the current struggle to defend bourgeois rights and freedoms, the term “parliamentary cretinism”, used by Lenin, comes readily to mind. By the term parliamentary cretinism Lenin characterised the opportunists' view that the parliamentary system of government was all-powerful and parliamentary struggle the sole and, under all conditions, the principal form of political struggle. It was an epithet thrown mainly at those reformist politicians who constantly subordinated the principles and ideals of their followers to the goal of obtaining parliamentary office.

With a federal election due before the end of the year, the Labor Party smells victory in the air.

Wary of falling into the trap of Howard’s “wedge politics”, it is parroting his every pronouncement in the lead-up to the polls.

Many are calling for an Opposition in clear rejection of Labor leader Rudd’s opportunism.

The Queensland Premier yesterday said he would not be silenced in relation to his “Keystone Cops” criticism of the Australian Federal Police performance in the case of Dr Haneef. Tellingly, he not only bagged the Prime Minister – he also had to criticise the Leader of the Opposition. “I am not going to be silenced by the Prime Minister or by Kevin Rudd,” he declared.

Writers of letters to the editors of daily newspapers express dismay and shame at the Labor leader’s refusal to engage the Prime Minister on fundamental issues of principle. Unlike the Labor leader, the people are not afraid to defend Haneef’s rights or to question what the Government is doing to him.

Former political enemies come together in defence of the fundamentals of bourgeois democracy and freedom because they sense the outrage of the people and are aware of the challenge to the whole system of an awakened people.

The statement below is from the Australians All website initiated by former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. It is issued jointly with former National President of the Labor Party, Barry Jones (1992-2000, 2005-2006).

Their coming together indicates the growing gap between the Howards and the Rudds on the one hand, and key members and supporters of the Liberal and Labor parties respectively.

It is essentially a rejection of parliamentary cretinism and a call for principled action.

The statement follows:

The political revocation of Dr Mohamed Haneef’s visa is an attack on the fundamental rights of every Australian.

Haneef allegedly gave an unused SIM card to a cousin around a year ago as he was leaving England, the card being of no further use to him. There is no suggestion the card was used in any way in relation to, or in support of, a terrorist incident.

A Brisbane magistrate granted bail. The Minister pushed the legal process aside, revoked his visa and placed him in Villawood Detention Centre, far from his legal counsel and defence team. Under the powers available to the Government, he could stay in that jail for the term of his natural life.

The suggestion that the Government had available to it information not available to the Magistrate is not credible. If there is such sensitive information, it could have been given to the Magistrate in closed session.

We call on every Member of Federal Parliament to condemn this outrageous and destructive abuse of executive power. This is another step too far. The Government and those who support this action have demonstrated in the clearest terms that the basic concept of the Rule of Law is of no consequence to them.

What the Government has done, what all those who have supported this action have done, strikes at the heart of the basic freedom of every person in Australia.

About Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser and Hon Barry O Jones

Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser was Prime Minister of Australia from 1975 to 1983. He had previously served in various junior and senior Ministerial portfolios after entering the Federal Parliament in 1955.

As Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser welcomed refugees from Vietnam and elsewhere, led international condemnation of the apartheid regime in South Africa, moved to recognize aboriginal land rights, championed the cause of multi-culturalism (including the establishment of SBS Broadcasting) and developed significant strategic relationships with Asian and sub-continent nations.

He remains a prominent member of the InterAction Council. He was Chairman of CARE Australia from 1987 to 2001, President of CARE International from 1990 to 1995. In 2000

Malcolm Fraser was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal.

He is a prolific writer, columnist and speaker on human rights issues.

Hon. Barry Jones is a significant figure in contemporary Australian life.

He is a former teacher, lawyer, State and Federal politician, writer, broadcaster and academic.

Millions of Australians would remember him as a radio and television quiz champion.

Barry is the only person to have been elected as Fellow of the four Australian Academies.

In 1998 he was Deputy Chair of the Constitutional Convention, and chaired the Victorian Schools Innovation Commission from 2001-2005. He is a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at Melbourne University and remains a much-read and loved author.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sustaining the Environment in China

“China’s environment is unsustainable.”

This controversial assessment was put forward on July 17 by Pan Yue, deputy director of China’s State Environmental Protection Administration on the bilingual China Dialogue website (

“One-third of China’s land mass is affected by acid rain. Over 300 million rural residents have no access to clean drinking water. One-third of urban residents breathe heavily polluted air,” he said.

Even more controversially, he went on to say that “Our current society is unsustainable.” He quoted the World Bank as saying that “no other country has seen such a large income disparity emerge in just 15 years.”

Pan Yue called for a fair and sustainable model of growth, but despaired of this ever being achieved. He said the problems were easily seen - the addiction to development at all cost, and corruption and failure to administer environmental law.

His despair arose from what he saw as a lack of idealism in modern Chinese youth.

“The problem of the environment may not be your fault, but it is your responsibility to solve it. If you fail, you will pay the price. If you succeed, the credit will be all yours.

“In doing this, you will need a measure of idealism. What do I mean by idealism? I mean the spirit of trying to do things that seem impossible.”

Pan Yue recounted how he faced great difficulty communicating with his own son, a fact that made him sad.

The current generation of Chinese youth, he said, “have an excessive passion for the future, yet almost no interest in history. You have hardly any of the constraints of tradition, and you lack any real beliefs. To put it simply, idealism is rare in your generation. Pragmatism and individualism have won out.”

But Pan Yue was not despondent for long.

“Although we are older than you, age is a state of mind, not a number. Our hearts are still young and we will fight with you….The answers to these questions are in your hands. Only your generation can complete the task of building a sustainable, fair, democratic, harmonious and socialist green China.”

Didn't some wise man once say to the youth of China "The world is yours, as well as it is ours, but in the final analysis it is yours...our hopes are placed on you"? Pan Yue is right to encourage the young to act in accordance with ideals against selfish and greedy developers if development itself is to be saved. Do we want growth? Then we – Australians and Chinese - must restrict it and make it environmentally and socially sustainable, in both our countries. Otherwise unrestricted growth will become its own gravedigger, with the earth as the grave.

Free Haneef!

There is currently no case against Dr Haneef.

That’s just my opinion, but on the basis of what we know, I’ll stick to it.

I can’t understand the minority of writers of letters to the media who think we should “trust” our government, who believe that the Government must have more information on Haneef that they can’t put in the public domain. On such trust were the innocent marched to fascism in the 1930s.

Already it’s been revealed that:

- Haneef had a perfectly logical reason for traveling to India and had sought a week’s leave from his employer. Why would he publicly seek leave to return to India if he wanted to “do a runner”? Wouldn’t he have just got a ticket and left?

- Haneef had a perfectly logical reason for accepting his father-in-law’s offer to purchase a ticket to India. He told police he had two Australian bank accounts, with the ANZ and the Commonwealth. After meeting his financial commitments here, he sent remaining monies to his family. He did not have the money for an international fare when he decided to visit his wife and child, who had been returned to hospital with complications following its birth. However, when his next pay came through, he would have had the money to purchase a ticket back to Australia. Sure, a return ticket would have been cheaper, but that was the offer made by the father-in-law.

- Haneef’s SIM card had expired nearly a year ago. Haneef left England in July 2006. He still had one month’s charge left on his card. Dr. Sabile asked if he could use the free minutes on the card and so Haneef gave it to him. (Throughout the interview there are numerous references to family members and people in the Indian community indulging in small acts of generosity towards each other.)

- Haneef’s SIM card wasn’t even in the jeep at Glasgow Airport! Despite initial media reports to the contrary, the SIM card was not in the burning jeep, but hundreds of miles away at Liverpool. Whether Dr Sabile had extended the contract for the card in his own name or not is not clear at this stage, but neither is Sabile charged with committing an act of terrorism.
Haneef was not sharing accommodation in England with anyone involved in the incidents in Glasgow and London. This was clearly established in the transcript but was one of the reasons provided by the AFP to Immigration Minister Andrews as a reason why Haneef should fail the insidious “character test”. Bush, Chaney and Rumsfeld have all been allowed into Australia and they are killers. They are men of failed character. False grounds were used to revoke Haneef’s Section 457 visa and place him in detention.

- Haneef was not plotting a terrorist attack on a Queensland tourist site. He did not have “photos of the building’s foundations” as alleged in various Sunday papers out of the Murdoch stable. He had family photos taken during a visit by his wife and a publicly distributed brochure about Queensland’s tallest building. Full credit to Keelty for quickly denying that Haneef was facing such charges. It’s not the first time he’s had to put some distance between himself and the views or the actions of the Howard Government.

- Haneef did not have the contact names and addresses of terrorists in his diary. In Questions 1395 to 1400, Haneef was asked by Sgt Simms to identify some names and addresses in the back of his diary. Haneef denied that it was his handwriting. Simms realizes something is wrong and asks to be excused “for a second”. He returns and says “Okay. Thought that might have been the case. The person, the Police Officer that’s given me this, incorrectly told me that that was a copy of your diary. In fact it’s not, this is what has been written by Police. So it’s not your handwriting at all.” What the hell are the police doing tampering with evidence? Planting evidence???

Maybe there will be more to come out about the Haneef case, but for mine, the guy should be out on bail and allowed to develop, with his lawyers, a defence against what look like very flimsy, pathetic charges. He should not be in detention because a Government Minister decides to deprive him of his visa on false grounds.

One last thought. Detective Sergeant Adam Simms (assisted by Federal Agent Neil Thompson) began their questioning of Haneef at around 11pm on July 2 when he was arrested at Brisbane Airport. The questioning resumed as a formal first interview at 11am on July 3 and that session ended at 5.31pm that day. Sixteen hundred questions were asked. On seven or eight occasions, after each rest break or after each change of tape, Simms detailed Haneef’s rights, including the right to be silent, and to have a lawyer or a friend or relative present. On each occasion, Haneef expressed his willingness to proceed with the interview. Now I’m not suggesting that an accused person wishing to remain silent or to have a lawyer present should be taken as feeling guilty, but surely this naïve faith that the Federal Police questioning will be over shortly and that he has nothing to hide (“If it’s straight forward questions I would rather answer it myself,” says Haneef to Simms) can be taken as a sign that Haneef was feeling innocent.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stop the Growth of Fascism: The Case of Dr Haneef

I travel to China every now and then, and have bought a local SIM card for my mobile. On one occasion a family member stayed on in China when it came time for me to return to Australia. I gave him the SIM card as I had not yet exhausted its credit. In fact, if a perfect stranger, knowing that I was going home, had asked me for my SIM card, I would have been more than happy to hand it over, no questions asked.

An Indian doctor working in Brisbane on a Section 457 visa has been held, without charge until recently, for two weeks of Federal Police questioning for apparently doing no more than I would have done. He had been in England, and on leaving for Australia, had given an unexpired SIM card to his cousin.

The SIM card was found in a blazing vehicle that his cousin had allegedly used in an effort to destroy part of Glasgow Airport in a terrorist attack. Whether there was still any credit on the card has not been made public, nor has it been revealed whether the card was used as part of a device to trigger the explosion in the vehicle.

Dr Haneef gave his card to his cousin a year ago.

After two weeks of intensive questioning, held without charge under Australia’s new anti-terrorist laws, Haneef was charged with “recklessly giving support to a terrorist organization.”

Having been charged, his lawyers then sought bail although, contrary to the requirements of criminal law that the police should have to show why bail should not be granted, it is a requirement of the anti-terrorist laws that the defense should have to show why bail should be granted.

Haneef’s lawyers won their case. Haneef was released on $10,000 bail after a Brisbane magistrate found that he posed no threat to society and could be released on strict conditions.

Moments later, Haneef was seized by police and taken back into custody when Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, notorious for his role in introducing anti-worker un-Australian Workplace Agreements, ruled that Haneef had violated Section 501 of the Migration Act. This is the so-called “character test” according to which it is illegal to have “an association” with someone the Minister suspects is involved in a criminal act.

Thus, Haneef has had his visa revoked and will be transferred to Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney pending deportation should he be found not guilty of the flimsy charge brought against him.

What has this got to do with fascism?

There is a continual struggle in capitalist societies between a tiny handful of monopoly capitalists (in Australia’s case, the core of these are imperialist multinational corporations), and the vast mass of the people.

People rightfully talk of living in a democracy, because the people have won significant democratic rights and freedoms from the ruling class through arduous struggle.

But the democracy we enjoy is proscribed by the dominant power of the monopoly capitalists. We have freedom of the press, but only a tiny handful can effectively utilize the freedom to own and operate the mass media. We have Mum and Dad shareholders, but the majority shareholdings are owned by giant corporations and super-wealthy individuals.

The rich compete with each other and are driven by the reality of that competition to restrict the people’s rights so as to more effectively extract the surplus value that comes from their exploitation.

When critical challenges are mounted to the ruling class, either by other competing capitalist interests, external enemies (and these days that incudes the various groups of Muslim theofacists and terrorists), or from below, by the people, then there is resort to fascism.

The important façade of democracy is dispensed with in favour of direct use of the violence of state institutions and authorities such as the police (open and secret), the prisons, and the army.

Fascism does not need to come marching in at midnight wearing the crooked cross and a pretentious little square of moustache before it can be identified as fascism. The fascist experience of the Thirties was conditioned by the time and place of its emergence. It does not need the suspension of Parliament and the declaration of a personal dictatorship before measures that deprive the people of their rights can be denounced as moves towards, or acts of, a fascist nature.

It is this concern that has prompted many in the legal profession and the wider community to denounce as “a flagrant abuse of the criminal justice system, a trampling of human rights, and ugly pre-election opportunism” the actions of Minister Andrews in using the “character test” to keep Haneef in detention despite the ruling of the Brisbane magistrate that he should be released on bail. According to one journalist, “Having failed to get the result it wanted from the courts, even after toughening the rules to provide a judicial presumption against bail, the Government resorted to executive power…It has spoken of the presumption of innocence while acting with what appears to be anything but that in mind” (Mark Kenny, The Advertiser July 17).

Another sign of fascism is the slurring of the integrity of those who have crossed the Government, and the use of the race card to further denigrate them. In this case, there has been character assassination of Jacqui Payne, the Brisbane magistrate who ordered Haneef’s release.

Murdoch’s national newspaper The Australian has led the way, detailing a “record” of disputation between her and the police and quoting the Queensland Police Union’s attacks on her as “totally anti-police”. Her lawyer husband’s defense of murderer Ivan Milat (are the accused not to have lawyers now?) is cited as evidence, as is his work for Palm Island aborigines who have long been in conflict with racist cops in North Queensland. And just to make sure we get the picture, it is pointed out that Ms Payne “was the first indigenous person to be admitted as a solicitor in Queensland, and later became the state’s first indigenous magistrate.”

The intimidation and co-option of the Parliamentary Opposition also characterizes a drift to fascism. The German Social Democrats failed to stand up to Hitler. Their Australian counterparts are failing to stand up to Howard. On every significant issue – AWA’s, the funding of private schools at the expense of public schools, Howard’s grab for indigenous land in the Northern Territory, abuse and vilification of genuine trade union leaders, groveling before the US overlords – the Rudd-led ALP is failing to distinguish itself from the Liberals. It seems to be a case of “anything you can do, I can do better”. Hence the loyal Opposition’s support for the use of the “character test” to keep Haneef in detention.

The NineMSN website helps the manipulation of public opinion along by upgrading Haneef to a “terror suspect” in framing a question for an online poll: “Should terror suspect Dr Haneef have been put into detention?” Not surprisingly, the votes have been running at just above 70% in favour all day. Who wouldn’t want a “terror suspect” off the streets?

Dr Haneef may or may not turn out to be a willing accomplice of terrorists. If it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law that he knowingly assisted in the Glasgow Airport car bombing, then he should face the full force of the law as a consequence.

However, democratic rights that protect all of us from the exploiters and oppressors of our own society, the writ of habeus corpus and the presumption of innocence among them - must be protected from the arbitrary whim of Government.

They must be defended in the face of moves characteristic of fascism.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Review: Alexis Wright, Carpentaria

"I want our people to have books, their own books, in their own communties, and written by our own people. I want the truth to be told, our truths, so, first and foremost, I hold my pen for the suffering in our communties. Let it not be mistaken: suffering is widespread in our communities."

Alexis Wright

I have this strange feeling when I drive through Port Augusta. I feel like I'm about to finally leave the bland, suburban world in which I live (Adelaide) behind, and enter Australia.

It had never occurred to me that if I drove far enough north east of Port Augusta I might finally reach a place where Australia stopped and some strange, surreal other world began - the mud flats of the coastal Gulf of Carpentaria.

Actually, I didn't find that out by driving there at all.

Instead, comfortably ensconced in my Adelaide house, I've just read Alexis Wright's (right) superb new novel Carpentaria.

It is another world about which she writes, a world where highways of the sea are as familiar to those who know them as roads on dry land, and where an Aboriginal activist can emerge from communities of despair to challenge the murderous might of a big mining company.

Alexis Wright is an indigenous writer, and the first Aboriginal author to win outright Australia's prestigious Miles Franklin Award for Literature. (Kim Scott, whose Benang shared the 2000 award with Thea Astley's Drylands is also an indigenous writer).

She is from the Waanji people from the highlands of the southern Gulf of Carpentaria.

“I set my writing in my own traditional country which is the Gulf of Carpentaria,” she told an audience in Tasmania in 1998. “This is where I believe I belong and the place I know best; it is the place I carry in my heart and learnt from a very early age from my grandmother's memories.”

She has worked extensively in government departments and Aboriginal agencies across four states and territories as a professional manager, educator, researcher and writer. She was coordinator of the NT Aboriginal Constitutional Convention in 1993 and wrote "Aboriginal Self Government" for Land Rights News, later quoted in full in Henry Reynold's 'Aboriginal Sovereignty', 1996.

“We have very little land rights over our traditional country,” she told her Tasmanian audience. “The pastoral properties over our traditional domain are owned by a mining company and subleased to the previous owner, an absentee, overseas landlord. The gates to the pastoral property remain locked. Most of our people have to live outside….”

Wright's Award was announced at the same time as Howard's decision to use concern generated by the Little Children Are Sacred report to attack land rights in the Northern Territory. She says the Federal Government has ignored the recommendation of Indigenous conventions in the Territory, and is instead planning to impose its will on the people.

"The plans and the ideas that were discussed there never went anywhere," she said.
"Now we find this terrible situation where the Government's riding roughshod yet again, tramping heavily, bringing down the sledgehammer approach, without understanding that we need greater dialogue and a move towards the future.

"This is going to just create enormous difficulties and problems for us.”

Capricornia is set in a fictional Gulf township called Desperance. “Desperance is Australia really at the moment,” Wright explained to ABC radio journalist Phillip Adams on July 3, “a really desperate place at the moment. We see it every day as indigenous Australians.”

Desperance is divided into its white Uptown community and two mobs of pricklebush dwellers, Norm Phantom's Westside mob and Joseph Midnight's Eastside mob. The pricklebush communities are at war with each other, and Uptown wants to put the bulldozers through the lot of them. Outside of town is the mine, inflaming and dividing the community so as to pursue its commercial venture without opposition.

Wright has dedicated Capricornia to two indigenous men, Doomadgee's recently sacked Mayor Clarence Walden and Gulf country activist Murrandoo Yanner.

Walden was one of the first to alert the indigenous community to the dangers of the Brough discussion paper on permit rights to Aboriginal land (see my post Mining Companies Behind Howard’s “Emergency” Action) . He said: “We can't let this happen. That's the reason that we asked for this permit system in the first place - so that we could have a bit of protection over ourselves. There's too much disrespect to the people who belong to the place. They're disrespecting us, full stop. You know, when is it going to stop? When are they going to draw the line in the sand and say, "Well let's walk together for a change "instead of me trying to stand over you?"

For links to Walden, see here and here.

Yanner (left) is a prominent activist and is famous for the “Yanner decision” on native title hunting rights. He also tirelessly opposed CRA's Century zinc mine (see here and here) and is a fighter against police oppression of Aboriginal people, especially in Gulf and Torres Strait Islander communties.

Wright told the ABC's Kerry O'Brien recently that Yanner is a “hero, he's our hero in the Gulf of Carpentaria. He's one of the strongest young men I've come across. He's fighting for land rights, for people's rights every single day…he's just growing stronger every day.”

Yanner inspired the character Will Phantom in Capricornia.

This is a great novel and a major addition to the storehouse of progressive Australian literature.

(For Kerry O'Brien's interview between Alexis Wright, see here. Two exerpts from her book follow below.)

Inscription, above: "Dare to Struggle and Win, Alex Wright, 17 August 2007"

Alexis Wright, Carpentaria, Excerpt 1

Mozzie saw visions when he drifted off with the hot temperatures or the silence and began speaking to himself. The men would overhear him saying things like ‘The skies have become a sea of hands.’ ‘There are too many, everything moving too fast and thick like a nest of worms twisting, hands turning, convulsing hands, attacking the place like missiles.’ Nobody claimed they ever saw what the Fishman was watching, while looking where he looked, following his eyes glinting in the sun. Some old wise men moved closer behind the Fishman in case, they said, ‘We might capture his line of vision.’ They were determined people the old wise men. There was also a lot of nervousness in the convoy. But the more inquisitive wanted to know what he saw. So, Fishman explained. He said it was hard to keep up with all the hands sliding everywhere, created by a special luminance caught in the fractures of light. He described how he saw hands touching everything in the community. ‘Hands too many,’ he whispered, coughing, ‘running like mice all over every dwelling, trying to reshape, push, mould, trying to make things different. White hands.’…Sometimes he could see thousands of these hands at work. He could see them killing Aboriginal people…

P. 126-127

Alexis Wright, Carpentaria, Excerpt 2

And now, all it took was a simple flick. A flick, flick here and there with a dirt-cheap cigarette lighter, and we could have left the rich white people who owned Gurfurritt mine, destitute and dispossessed of all they owned.

Straight out we should have been asking ourselves – Why are you not hanging your head in shame to the white man? We were supposed to say, Oh! No! You can’t do things like that to the, umm, beg your pardon, please and thankyou, to the arr, em, WHITE MAN.

Somehow though, everyone got carried along the humpteen tide of events, like, we must have swallowed one too many sour pills that morning for breakfast….It was finale time. Hands up. Who we got to follow? The white man or the Fishman? This was the ultimatum. Well! He made us that wild. Of course, we got no choice – we got to go with culture every time. We should have known he was leading up to all this destruction. But we? We were like following dogs, and we were happy to do it, not think, because we were acting solely and simply on pure rage.

P. 408-409

Monday, July 09, 2007

Canada's Aboriginal Peoples Face Similar Struggle

(The banner above was carried by Canadian Aboriginal activists on the June 29 Aboriginal Day of Action.)
The monopoly capitalist rulers of Canada are pushing for greater access to the hereditary lands of the traditional owners of Canada, in much the same way and for exactly the same reasons that the mining companies are trying to expedite their access to Aboriginal lands here.

In Australia, the latest offensive against the indigenous population comes in the form of the Trojan Horse that is Howard's professed concern for victims of child sexual abuse in remote Aboriginal communities. Howard's aim is to use the degraded circumstances of many indigenous Australians - poverty, lack of housing, unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, and child molestation - against the traditional land owners whose rights are currently enshrined in various State and Territory Land Rights Acts, by using federal law to resume control over the lands and abolish the permit system that grants the traditional owners some control over who enters their lands.

Canadian Prime Monster Stephen Harper is leading the offensive against the Six Nations of Turtle Island (Northern America). He has openly declared that our Prime Monster Howard is an inspiration! Harper is proposing a "new land claims process" and a "new form of identification for Natives living in Canada". No doubt this latter will be picked up by Howard to stop people here self-identifying as Aboriginal people. The ruling classes around the world constantly share experience in suppressing the people.

Our comrades in the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) released a statement on June 28, the eve of this year's Aboriginal Day of Action in Canada, entitled Let Us Together Defeat the Ideology and Practices of Colonialism. For anyone vaguely interested in Aboriginal rights in Australia, it is well worth accessing this article here, and sharing the experiences of our Canadian brothers and sisters in relation to indigenous issues.

What do we really know about the US?

It is difficult for Australians to really get a handle on what is happening in the US today.

Sure, we know that Bush is on the nose, that Pelosi has let down the anti-war movement, and that Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton are competing for the most US dollars raised for a Presidential campaign. But Citizen Murdoch does not give us much more than that - the rest is all froth and bubble, tits and bums, bread and circuses.

The Ray O. Light Group is a small Marxist-Leninist organization in the US that has just released its 2007 Country Report – USA.

It provides thoughtful analysis of the current situation facing US imperialism, analyses the desperation of the US ruling class beset with problems at home and abroad, and looks at current trends within the US working class and anti-war movements. It analyses the breakaway of the Change to Win Coalition from the AFL-CIO trade union structure and looks at the situation facing immigrant workers in the US.

I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to cut through the crap in order to really know about the situation of the US today.

Access it by hitting here, then taking the link internal "What's New" on the left hand side of the home page.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Democratic Socialism is Capitalism Pt 5

(This is part 5 of Wu Bing's rebuttal of Xie Tao, who advocates a full-scale restoration of capitalism in China. I am translating it from the original which was posted on the website, so any mistakes are mine. For the Introduction and earlier parts, go to the May Archive. Because of the length of Part 5, I am putting it in a smaller font than usual. While we assume that the class struggle has been won in China, by the restorationists, we should not turn our back on comrades fighting for the realisation of Mao's vision. They have our support. There is much to learn from them! )

5. Antagonism between socialist and capitalist systems of distribution

From each according to his ability, to each according to his work is one of the main characteristics of socialism, and its opposite is the capitalist system of distribution according to wealth. Distribution according to work is, after making social deductions from the social product, and taking work as the criterion, the distribution of consumer goods to the labourers, with the greatest reward going to those who contribute more labour, and less going to those who do less, and with those who don’t work getting nothing to eat. Implementing this principle is the foundation of the socialist system of public ownership, and is a thoroughgoing revolution in the old system of distribution, of the exploitation of man by man. The working people will no longer be working for the landlords, sweating and working themselves to the bone for the capitalists, but working for themselves, creating beautiful life and work for society, and stimulating the enormous enthusiasm of the labouring masses and promoting the development of production. Lenin said that the principle of distribution according to work “contained the basis of socialism and was the inexhaustible source of the strength of socialism, and the indestructible safeguard of the final victory of socialism” (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 3 p 560-561 Ch. Ed). On this major question of principle, Mr Xie Tao has also spread much confusion.

(1) He believes that exploitation and disparity are the “levers promoting social progress”. Xie Tao says “The basic principle of Marxism is that the development of the productive forces is the foundation on which the entire society progresses. Disparity and inequality and social differentiation are the result of the development of the productive forces and of the increase in social wealth, and therefore this is, generally speaking, social progress; however, at the same time, it also embodies regression, giving rise to exploitation, oppression and class struggle. In this way, society is a contradictory entity; this is a form of development of humanity farewelling the era of barbarism and entering the civilised threshold of social existence. The basic starting point of Marxism is the former, this is the cornerstone of historical materialism; to overemphasise the latter is the starting point of the utopian socialist school. If the distribution of social wealth is not equal, it is a lever to bring into play the enthusiasm of the members of society and to push forward social progress. There is a reasonable “degree” operating this lever (contemporary economic scientists call it the ‘Gini coefficient’ [used as an aggregate measure of inequality, the Gini coefficient varies from zero, when wealth is equally distributed among all people, to 1 when one person holds all the wealth. For example, in Australia, it was 0.86 in 1915 when there was a large concentration of wealth, to 0.52 in 1967, when there was a more equal distribution, to 0.64 in 1998 following a move back to a more concentrated holding of wealth – Trans.]), and exceeding this “degree” will lead to a social explosion; eliminating this “degree” will lead society to lose its vigour and its impetus for advance. The result of this is a bursting of the contradictory entity, giving way to a new dynasty or to a new system. The sum total of the skill of leaders is to grasp this, to regulate this “degree”. Communists have fought for several decades for an ideal society, and the biggest mistake in their policies has been to attempt to eliminate this “degree”, to use the method of “everyone eating from the same big pot” to achieve “equality”, believing that so long as things are fair then there is no need for efficiency, even to the extent of being proud of their poverty.” Mr Xie Tao beats around the bush in this passage, but his central meaning is to protect the system of private ownership and exploitation and in the main embodies this type of implication.

Firstly, he believes that “overemphasizing” “exploitation, oppression and class struggle” is “utopian socialism”. This is deliberately confusing the difference in principle between “utopian” and “scientific” socialism. What is utopian socialism? What are the differences between utopian socialism and scientific socialism? This was answered early on in the classical works of Marxism. Marxists believe that although utopian socialism had many important ideas that later became a direct source of the scientific socialism of Marx and Engels, there were differences of principle between utopian socialism and scientific socialism, and that it is not hard to identify these differences. Utopian socialism therefore is “utopian” precisely because it has not promulgated the essence and the root of capitalist “exploitation” and “oppression” that class struggle inevitably results in the law of the development of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They can’t see the great historical function of the proletariat, can’t find the correct path for transforming the capitalist system, and imagine that by means of “experiment” and by “setting an example” to the man of property that they will realize the unrealizable beautiful society of eternal justice. These things fully indicate the immaturity and limitations of this theory. Therefore, how are we able to say that Marxism’s stress on opposing “exploitation, oppression and class struggle” has turned into the “school of utopian socialism”? You can’t fit donkey’s lips on a horse’s jaw (i.e. what he says is irrelevant - Trans.).

It follows that the real intention behind Mr Xie Tao’s so-called “overemphasizing” “exploitation, oppression and class struggle” is in fact that the working class should not “emphasize” “exploitation, oppression and class struggle”. In this way, Mr Xie Tao is being a bit unfair, since the capitalist class can “overly” “emphasize” its exploitation and oppression of the working class, so why can’t the working class “overly” “emphasize” this type of exploitation and oppression? But the mistake and the lesson of utopian socialism is precisely that it does not “emphasise” violent revolution – believed by Mr Xie Tao to be an “excessive” measure – to destroy the exploitation of the bourgeoisie and the state apparatus used to oppress the people!

Whether to emphasise the elimination of private ownership, the elimination of exploitation and class oppression, emphasise class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat, is also to distinguish Marxism and revisionism and the touchstone for being differentiated from the democratic socialism promoted by Mr Xie Tao. Said like this, democratic socialism falls far short of utopian socialism! We know that when all is said and done, the utopian socialism of the three main utopians Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen, was a significantly progressive theory of early proletarian opposition to capitalist exploitation and oppression. Before the birth of Marxism, many expressed the heartfelt wishes of the proletariat of that time. But democratic socialism does not do any of this. As Engels pointed out: “Although the nature of the doctrines of these three thinkers was extremely unreal and utopian, in the end they belong to the ranks of those with the greatest wisdom of all times, for with their talent they had indicated the boundless truth that we now have already scientifically proven” (“Collected Works of Marx and Engels”, Vol 2, p, 301 Ch. Ed.). Let us also look at the utopian communist Weitling ((right). In 1841 he pointed out in “Guarantees of Harmony and Freedom” that “Private property is the root of all evil”. In 1844, when praising this book of Weitling, Marx wrote: if one compares these halting but gigantic first steps of the proletariat with the mincing gait of the full-grown German bourgeoisie, one cannot help predicting that the proletarian Cinderella will develop into a prodigy of strength" (“Collected Works of Marx and Engels” Vol 4, p. 189 Ch ed.).The gentlemen of democratic socialism don’t have any of the “giant steps” of Weitling and some only have the “mincing gait” of the bourgeoisie!

Once again, the so-called “Disparity and inequality and social differentiation are the result of the development of the productive forces and of the increase in social wealth" is just a denial of the Marxist theory of surplus value, a denial of the historical fact of bourgeois exploitation and oppression of the working class and labouring people. In the final analysis, it is opposition to the replacement of capitalism with socialism, opposition to distribution according to work, and maintaining forever the exploitation of capitalism. This is a rerun of new and old revisionism’s “exploitation has merit” and “exploitation is reasonable”.

(2) The welfare system conceals the essence of capitalist exploitation. “The Preface” quotes from “A General Plan for the Operation of Capital” (Reform Publishing House, 1997, p. 227): The capitalist countries “Drew on the experiences of the socialist system of welfare and implemented a guaranteed birth to death welfare capitalism which we are used to calling the Western nations’ developed capitalism, for all of them have turned into the new capitalism and have to varying degrees become democratic socialist.” “America… active nationalisation, implementing medical insurance for all the people, having the government run the schools, reduction of taxes for the poor, a raising of the level of welfare and of minimum wages, paying great attention to the marginalised in society.” And again: “Common prosperity is not getting those with property to become propertyless, but getting the propertyless to become propertied; it is not getting the wealthy to become poor, but getting the poor to become wealthy. This is the general train of thought of social democrats in government. This completely new train of thought is one hundred times superior to Mao Zedong’s “class struggle” mentality of robbing the rich and giving to the poor; the former is common prosperity whilst the latter is common poverty. While violent socialism has run its race, democratic socialism in north western Europe has obtained outstanding success.”

What Mr Xie Tao means is that because the capitalist countries have become ‘democratically socialised” and implemented a welfare system of “common prosperity”, this type of “common prosperity” makes the “propertyless into the propertied”, however, he attacks the socialism of Mao Zedong as “robbing the rich to help the poor”, as “common poverty”, as “turning those with property into the propertyless”. This is nothing more than things being repeatedly turned upside down by Mr Xie Tao.

In relation to the question of the so-called “welfare system” and “common prosperity” of the capitalist countries, we have no alternative but to clear up several points below.

Firstly, the bourgeoisie of the main capitalist countries, for the sake of alleviating the class contradictions between themselves and the working class, have in fact at the same time as developing state monopoly capitalism, borrowed from the experiences of socialism, and in relation to the aspect of the welfare of the working class, has made some adjustments for improvement. For example, in some countries (e.g. Japan, West Germany) certain enterprises have adopted such measures as co-opting workers into administration, luring workers to go all out and to obtain a bigger profit for the enterprise. The bourgeoisie has adopted the deceptive measure of “making a bigger cake”, and from within the super profits which it seizes, takes out a little bit with which to improve and enhance workers’ wages and welfare, enabling class contradictions in the post-war period to temporarily relax. However, these improvements have not changed the basis of the exploitation of the working class and its being ruled over by the capitalist system, has not eliminated the basic contradictions of capitalism, and have not changed the basic condition under which capitalism gas already entered its dying stages.

In the post-war period, and after the implementation of the welfare system, the rate of domestic surplus value in each main capitalist country did not reduce, but rose greatly. In 1947, the rate of surplus value in the US manufacturing industry was 146%, whilst in 1975 it rose to 263%; in Western Germany, the rate of surplus value in industry was 204% in 1950, whilst in 1974 it rose to 265%; the rate of surplus value in Japan rose from 275% in 1951 to 421% in 1960 and 431% in 1976. This indicates that the bourgeoisie had actually aggravated the exploitation of the working class. In addition, the expenditure of governments in the capitalist countries is mainly dependent on taxation revenue, the major portion of which is personal income tax but the burden of this personal income tax falls mainly on the workers. For example, before the war, in 1938, the income tax and social security burden borne by the working class accounted for 21% of US state revenue; after the war, by 1975, this had grown to 74.45%. At the present time, the tax paid by US workers accounts for 20% or more of their income. This indicates that the capitalist countries have not realized the impossible-to-realize “common prosperity” of “the propertyless becoming the propertied”. This proposition of Mr Xie Tao’s is fictitious. The so-called “democratic socialism in north western Europe has obtained outstanding success”, if we were to exchange views, is that the bourgeoisie of these countries have achieved “success” in exploiting the working class and other working people, and is on no account the “success” of the exploited and oppressed.

Secondly, the developed capitalist countries, while “improving” and “adjusting” the welfare policy of the working class, increased their plunder of the countries of the Third World, and increased the gap between the countries of monopoly capitalism and the Third World. After the war, on the one hand they retained as far as possible for themselves their privileges in their former colonies, and on the other hand they adopted the technique of neo-colonialism to strengthen their expansion and infiltration into the developing nations. They reaped huge profits from the export of capital from the developed countries. According to various sources, the total export of capital from the US, Britain, France and Germany in 1938 amounted to 39 billion US dollars. Direct investment by the US in the developing nations up to 1988 had accumulated to 76.837 billion US dollars, and the profit in the 39 years from 1950 to 1988 reached as high as 177.359 billion US dollars, or 2.3 times the amount of the investment. The multinational corporations of the major capitalist countries exploited the inexpensive labour force of the developing nations, and their profit margin must generally be more than twice as high as that of their own countries. In 1976, the net amount of capital exported from the US to developing nations was 1.7 billion US dollars from which they derived a profit of 6.9 billion US dollars, not counting that amount that was reinvested overseas. In the year to the end of 1972, the total amount of US direct investment in Middle Eastern petroleum was 1.8 billion US dollars; in the same year, this earned a net profit of 2.4 billion US dollars, a profit margin as high as 130%. The export of loan capital creates a heavy debt burden for developing countries. The outstanding debt of the developing countries was just under 100 billion US dollars at the start of the 1970s, rising to 1320 billion US dollars in 1988. In 1988, the developing nations took out loans worth 92.3 billion US dollars, but reimbursed 142.4 billion US dollars from their debt payment funds, or 1.54 times the amount of the loans. The plunder of the developing nations through such unequal exchanges by the developed capitalist countries has exceeded the pre-War levels. The prices for the large amounts of raw materials from the developing nations are pushed down, but the cost of their imports of finished products rises unceasingly. According to estimates by overseas economists, prior to the price rises by the oil producing nations of the Third World in 1973, the developed capitalist countries exploitation of the Third World was approximately 100 to 150 billion US dollars per year. An Iranian Government official pointed out that “A handful of industrial nations, in the long space of almost a quarter of a century, has used cheap oil prices as the main force in the day to day rapid growth of their economies, but the developing nations have no option other than to pay ever-increasing prices for their imports.” In international trade, the developed countries use of the “scissors gap” between the prices of primary products and finished products has caused the developing nations to suffer heavy losses. According to data, from 1951 to 1973 alone, owing to the “scissors gap” between these prices, the developing nations lost more than 130 billion US dollars. Since entering the 1980s, the developing nations of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific alone lost 150 billion US dollars because of the “scissors gap”. The developed capitalist countries use all means possible to pass the burden of crisis and difficulty onto the developing nations, forcing down the price of primary products on the world market, enhancing the interest rates on the world money market, in addition to adopting trade protectionism on certain commodities, causing a sharp decline in the export trade of the developing nations and a sudden expansion in their unfavourable balance of payments. A debt crisis has appeared in various countries.

Economically, the gap between the developing nations and the developed capitalist countries has further expanded. According to data released by the World Bank, the per capita GDP of the developed countries was 14 times that of the developing nations in 1965; by 1988, the former was 23.46 times that of the latter. In 1978, the 16.2% of the world’s population living in the developed countries had 81.5% of total GDP, whilst the 83.8% of the population living in the medium income countries (including a minority of non-developing nations) and the low income countries only had 18.5% of total GDP. The economic inequality between the developed capitalist countries and the developing nations widened even further. (Selections from “On the Summary of the Study of Certain Problems of Socialism” by the Central Propaganda Department.)

In addition, as indicated in the Human Development Report issued in 1999 by the United Nations Development Programme Bureau, the total wealth of the 225 richest people in the world had surpassed 1000 billion US dollars, which was equal to the sum total of the yearly income of 2.5 billion people (47% of the world’s population). Also, the Forbes magazine website, on March 10, 2007, announced the 2006 Forbes list of the “World’s Richest People”. In 2006, there were a record 793 billionaires, an increase of 102 since 1988, and their total wealth had increased by 18%, reaching 260 billion US dollars, and the three wealthiest – the US Microsoft Corporation president Bill Gates (50 billion US dollars), the Walton Family (48 billion US dollars) and Warren Buffett (33 billion US dollars) alone had surpassed the sum total of the wealth of 48 developing counties including Afghanistan, Yemen and Zambia. The Report also demonstrates that in 1998 total world consumption rose to 24000 billion US dollars which was 6 times that of 1950, but this consumption was still concentrated in the developed wealthy countries. Nearly one billion people still cannot obtain basic social security. One-fifth of the world’s wealthiest people consumed 81% of resources produced (“Information and Research”, State Planning Commission Macroscopic Economics research Institute, 1999, No. 27). The most recent research materials issued by the United Nations on Dec 5, 2006 disclosed that half of the world’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of the wealthiest 2%, and that the wealthiest 1% has 40% of the world’s wealth, while 50% of the world’s people have 1% of the world’s wealth (Spain’s “Revolt” newspaper, Dec 26, 2006). At present the average income of people in the wealthiest nations is 330 times that of people in the poorest nations; the total amount of foreign loans owed by the South to the North has already increased from 794 billion US dollars in 1991 to more than 3000 billion US dollars today, an increase in ten short years of more than 4 times (“Chinese Social Sciences Digest”, 2007, Vol 1, p. 13)

Facts overwhelmingly show that in the poor countries created by monopoly capitalism, the poor get poorer, whilst in the wealthy countries, the rich get richer.

(3) In the same way, the existence of a serious polarisation of capitalism itself still exists – it has certainly not vanished. Along with the development of science and technology, the accumulation and expanded production of capitalism has deepened the exploitation of the working class and working people. Its result is the inevitable creation of two poles, one of which is the accumulation of wealth and the other of which is the accumulation of poverty. The difficulties of the proletariat and other labouring people are not reduced, but increase. According to statistics in Forbes magazine in 1999, those living under the poverty line in the world’s richest countries total more than 100 million people, there are at least 37 million unemployed people, 100 million homeless, and nearly 200 million people have a life expectancy of less than 60 years.

At the same time as he spreads the lie of the capitalist countries “paying great attention to the marginalised in society” and “implementing common prosperity”, Mr Xie Tao has also further stated: “Through major developments in the productive forces and the regulation of distribution, the capitalist countries have basically eliminated the differences between town and country, between workers and peasants and between mental and manual labour, setting in place the magnificence of democratic socialism.” (According to the views of Mr Xin Ziling, author of “Mao Zedong: A Century of Merits and Faults”, the “greatest achievement of democratic socialism was to eliminate the three big differences under the premise of protecting the system of private ownership”, and “Western Europe has already entered communism”.) Mr Xie Tao’s so-called “by using the method of uniting with the bourgeoisie to develop the advanced productive forces, the Social Democrats have brought about a common prosperity of continual reduction of differences,” the so-called “reduction of the three big differences does not rely upon the thorough destruction of capitalism, but upon its development to a high degree”, the so-called “persisting in democratic socialism….is not provoking class conflict or intensifying social contradictions; rather it is uniting the social classes, promoting economic development, constantly increasing the total quantity of public wealth, regulating distribution and taking the path of common prosperity” etc etc. These things are all nonsense to deceive people.

History has proved long ago that owing to the existence of exploitation by capital and to class oppression, it is impossible to eliminate the “three big differences” in the capitalist countries, and that the achievement of “common prosperity” is impossible through the “regulation of distribution”. In “Reference News” (March 11, 2007) under the topic of “The Day by Day Growth of Differences between the City and the Countryside in Japan”, there was a report and explanation of this kind of “difference” in Japan. In relation to this, there are many facts and data, and there’s no need to list them here one by one.

Mr Xie Tao is single-minded about the U.S. He said, “Recent calculations of results…. The views of the U.S. Democratic Party on the economy are rooted in the ideas of Marx and Keynes, and advocate government guidance of the market economy, active nationalisation, implementing medical insurance for all the people, having the government run the schools, reduction of taxes for the poor, a raising of the level of welfare and of minimum wages, paying great attention to the marginalised in society, …nor when the Republican Party comes to power does it change the social policy of the Democrats. Democratic socialism has ‘communised’ the U.S.” But is this really the case? Let us have a look at the real circumstances of the U.S, which has been described as “already communized” by Mr Xie Tao. According to data provided by the US Census Bureau, the Gini Coefficient of residential household income increased from 0.403 in 1980 to 0.457 in 1999, a rise of 13.4%. Over the same period, the proportion of people with the lowest 20% of incomes to the total population of income-earners dropped from 4.3% to 3.6%, while the proportion of people with the highest 20% of incomes grew from 43.7% to 49.4%. In 30 years, the degree of inequality has obviously expanded. Again, according to a 1995 investigation by Forbes magazine, the richest 1% of residential households in the US had nearly 40% of the nation’s wealth, but 80% of residential households had only 16% of the wealth. Obviously, the wealth of the US is rapidly concentrating in the hands of the rich minority. In these twenty years, income disparity has also rapidly expanded. For example, the ratio of disparity between the wages of senior administrative personnel and workers in companies rose from 42:1 in 1980 to 419:1 in 1998. In the US, regardless of one’s material wealth or poverty, they all rank first in the world, they have the highest average individual income, but according to the index of poverty, those living in poverty account for 16.5% of the total population, 1/5 of people are functionally illiterate and 13% of people do not live to 60 years of age (“Chinese Social Sciences Digest”, 2007, Vol 1, No 53, p. 13). In addition, on July 28, 2006 an investigative report by the US government was released which demonstrated that every night in the US there are 750,000 homeless people who sleep out in the streets. This was the first observation and research report in 23 years by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development focussing on homeless people. In the ranks of these homeless, by age, 41% are 31-50 years old and 21% are minors; by ethnicity, 59% are minority peoples; the report also raises the issue that 1/5 are ex-servicemen. However, there is some dispute over these figures as there are some scholars in the US, who believe that the actual numbers of homeless may be closer to 1% of the total population, or 300,000 people “Labour News”, 2 March, 2007. This means that the growth in the profits of the monopoly capitalist class, and the status of the working class and working people as having been exploited and oppressed, together with the tendency towards the daily pauperisation, have certainly not changed.

The so-called “raising the minimum wage and caring for the marginalised”. In reality, under the contemporary capitalist system, the rate of increase of workers’ wages has fallen behind the rate of increase of capitalist profit. For example, the profits of the largest 500 companies in the US increased from 37.8 billion US dollars in 1975 to 52.5 billion US dollars in1977, an increase of 39%., but workers wages only rose by 5% from 1967-1976. In a special report on 23 February, 2007 titled “The Rich in the US Love Money”, the international channel on Chinese Central Television revealed that “The average income of US company chairmen 20 years ago was 22 times that of the average income of ordinary workers, but today that gap has grown to 224 times. Obviously therefore, more and more of the wealth created by the workers has flowed into the wallets of the capitalists. Agence France Presse on February 25, 2007 had a report that said that the McClatchy Group (a US media company - Trans.) after researching the 2005 US census data had found that for 2000 to 2005 the numbers of US citizens in deep or very deep poverty had increased by 26%. The research discovered that the time during which there was a large increase in those living in poverty was also a time of rapid growth in the US economy, but the unequal distribution of profits led to more and more US people becoming impoverished. The report said that during the temporary recession after 2001, there was a rapid rise in the productive efficiency of US workers, but the rate of increase in wages and employment opportunities had not kept pace. At the same time, the share of state revenue flowing to corporate profits has been excessively large and this has also influenced wage levels. The report pointed out that in the past 30 years and more, the numbers of impoverished people in the US was in a condition of stable growth (“Reference News” 3 March 2007). This is the so-called “communization of the US”! This is the so-called “common prosperity”!

(4) Changes in the structure of the industrial workers certainly have not changed the exploited status of the working class. Mr Xie Tao has proposed that “Along with the knowledge economy and the development of science and technology, and the unceasing upgrading of the industrial structure, the composition of the industrial ranks is also in change, and this is mainly manifested in the reduction of the numbers of physical labourers, primarily blue-collar workers, and the expansion of the numbers of mental labourers, and primarily white-collar workers. At the beginning of the 21st Century, blue-collar workers in Germany only constituted 6% of the salaried stratum. The working class, which served as the main revolutionary army and face-to-face opponent of the bourgeoisie in the “Communist Manifesto” has turned into a minority,” therefore “the working class doesn’t need to rise in revolution, but will be “liberated” along with the development of the advanced productive forces.” This conclusion of Mr Xie Tao’s is obviously untenable.

Indeed, the significant breakthroughs in atomic energy, electronic, chemistry and space technology after WW2, a rising sector of industry developed very rapidly. The revolution in science and technology has caused the economic structure of capitalism to undergo profound change and has also brought tremendous change to the employment structure and consumption patterns of the working class. In the post-war period, many economists in the capitalist countries have divided the various branches and sectors of the national economy into three main industries. Differentiating on the basis of their criteria, the first is primary industry (including agriculture, forestry, livestock and fisheries); the second is the industrial sector (including mining, manufacturing and construction); and the third is the service sector; everything not directly producing a physical product is included in the service sector, like the transportation and shipping industries, public utilities, commercial services, the financial and insurance industries, and even the sex services and gambling professions. In the post-war decades, the most remarkable change in the economic structure of the capitalist countries is the slow rate of growth of primary and secondary industry alongside the rapid growth rate of the tertiary sector, and in the gross national product, the proportion which the primary and secondary industries occupies obviously drops while the proportion occupied by the tertiary sector rapidly rises. There are three obvious aspects to these changes displayed by the data records. One is the sudden drop in the place occupied by agriculture in the gross national product and the national income. In 1950, the proportion occupied by agriculture in the national economies of the US, England, West Germany and Canada respectively was 7%, 6%, 10% and 13%. By 1968 these had reduced to 3%, 3%, 4% and 5%. In 1952, the agricultural populations of the US, England, West Germany and Japan respectively were 6.81 million, 1.11 million, 4.7 million and 17.19 million, but by 1970 these had dropped to 3.46 million, 780,000, 2.26 million and 8.86 million. In the developed capitalist countries, the decline in the proportion of agriculture in the gross national product is a universal phenomenon. This illustrates that owing to the development of the productive forces, fewer and fewer people are required for food production. The second aspect is that the proportion of all physical products in the GNP has declined while that of non-physical products has risen. This rise in the proportion of GNP is a concrete manifestation of the growth of the so-called “tertiary industry”. Starting just in the 1950s, in the seven main capitalist countries, only the US had a service industry which surpassed 50% of the proportion of GNP, reaching 55%. In England, France, West Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada, the proportion was 45%, 37%, 41%, 46%, 40% and 47% respectively. By 1968, the service industry’s proportion of US GNP rose to 60%, the Canadian and English proportions had rapidly risen to 62% and 57%, whilst the Japanese, West German, French and Italian proportions had risen to 48%, 43%, 46% and 49%. In the early 70s, the service industries in these 7 main capitalist countries had all passed 50% of GNP, and this tendency to grow is still present in all of them.

The tremendous changes in the economic structure of the capitalist countries inevitably affect the changes in the structure of the working class. From the 1950s onwards, there has been a big increase in the numbers of hired labourers in the developed capitalist countries, but this kind of increase mainly depends upon the increase in personnel in the so-called “tertiary industry”. For example, in the US, from 1950 to 1973, the proportion of personnel employed in the physical products sectors fell from 40.9% to 31.6%, whilst the proportion of personnel employed in the non-physical products sector increased from 59.1% to 68.4%. In the same way, between 1958 and 1968, the proportion of personnel employed in Western Europe’s non-physical products sector rose from 24.5% to 40.2%.

The shift of large numbers of workers from the physical products sector to the non-physical products sector in the developed capitalist countries and the daily enhancement of the status and function of the non-physical products sector in the national economy, resulting from the rapid launch of the revolution in science and technology, is a concrete manifestation of the day by day strengthening of the rule of monopoly capital. The revolution in science and technology has greatly enhanced labour productivity and this enabled the non-physical products sector to have the possibility of a massive increase in employees. For example, because the US has realised agricultural modernization, each unit of agricultural labour force can provide for a rapid increase in population. In 1950, each unit of agricultural labour force could support 15.5 people; in 1970 this rose to 42 people and in 1973 had reached 50 people, rising to 60 people by the end of the decade. In 1982, it could provide for 78 people. Precisely because labour productivity has been greatly enhanced, the US can in this situation of an absolute decline in the numbers of the agricultural working population, guarantee to increase agricultural production. For the same reason, there has been a big increase in the rate of labour productivity in the industrial sector, and the physical products sector has a relative reduction in labour force demand, and this is even, at certain times, a cause of an absolute decline. The widespread application of the achievements of science and technology in production, and more complex objective demands, and the substitution of a more skilled work for simple labour, in this way causes the proportion of personnel directly engaged in physical production to drop, and the proportion of engineers and technicians to grow. For example, from 1950 to 1973 those engaged in physical labour in the US increased from 23 million to 29 million, but as a proportion of those employed nationally, they fell from 39% to 35%. In the several decades after WW2, the numbers of so-called “white-collar” workers increased very quickly. In 1950, the number of office workers in the US was less than those engaged in physical labour, but by 1973 the number of office workers surpassed the former by approximately a third, occupying nearly one half of the numbers of those employed.

These changes that have occurred in the structures of the capitalist countries economies and in the working class have provided the false appearance for the propaganda of the bourgeois economists and sociologists. Long before Mr Xie Tao, bourgeois economists and sociologists had trumpeted the so-called “white-collar revolution” and covered over the class struggle under the conditions of modern capitalism, spouting the rubbish that “the working class had already disappeared”. In fact, along with the advancement of science and technology, the enhancement of the rate of labour productivity, the rise in the proportion of the non-physical sector in the national economy, and the rapid increase in the numbers of people employed in the “tertiary industry’s” various sectors, as well as the massive increase of skilled staff capable of grasping technology after specialist training, this is a kind of denial that a tendency for general development can be taken as a shift in the social system. Although, under the influence of the revolution in science and technology, the proportion of “white-collar” workers is increasing, and the proportion of unskilled physical labourers is decreasing, this is only a change in the structure of the working class and the “white-collar” workers are still a part of the working class. In modern capitalist society, all considered, the numbers in the working class have increased and the scope of the working class has expanded. Those engineering and technical personnel in the enterprises and research facilities operating electronic calculators and regulating automatic devices are all an inalienable part of the working class. Mr Xie Tao’s copying of the former monopoly capitalist class and its representatives with their so-called “sudden reduction in the blue-collar social stratum” that denies the existence of the working class, thus writing off the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the working class, is an effort in futility.