Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Government capitulates to private school lobby over My School

Today's launch of Version 2 of the My School website has been delayed, supposedly because the site is not yet “ready”.

My School is the lovechild of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the discredited former New York Chancellor of Schools Joel Klein.

Klein led the way with an “accountability” agenda that saw school performance in standardized tests made public. The idea was to spook parents in public schools into exercising an “informed” choice about where to send their children for schooling. It was an agenda for the privatisation of schooling and the intended beneficiaries were the corporate and financial elite behind the Charter school movement and the testing industry.

When the first version of My School went to air some 12 months ago, public school supporters were horrified at the inaccuracies and the misleading comparisons between so-called “statistically similar schools”.

They were also angry that promised disclosures about the funds available to schools had not been made. These were promised by the Government to be a feature of version 2.

The private school lobby has fought tooth and nail to prevent transparency around funding. The funding data that will be available is still skewed in favour of the privates. Their lobby has forced government schools to have included a portion of the cost for head office capital and recurrent costs – costs that never find their way into schools. By the same token, they have succeeded in preventing a requirement that private schools should disclose their total wealth, including share portfolios, bequests and bursaries.

All of this was meant to have been online as from today.

But the private Empire has struck back!

Now it is crying foul and claiming that there are major inaccuracies in the website’s data.

Melbourne's Age for example, front-paged the plight of the Beechworth Montessori School which, with some justification, vigorously disputes its ranking as Australia’s third richest school (see http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/uproar-over-my-school-rankings-20101201-18gmx.htm l )

The Sydney Morning Herald was less sympathetic to the lobby, leading one report with:

“STUDENTS at Sydney's private boarding schools are from even wealthier families than first thought. So much so, that many schools fear they will lose funding once the secret is out.

“Socio-economic scores given to every school on the federal government's My School website have been recalculated this year using enrolment information instead of the census district data used for last year's scores.

“Using the new measure, the scores for private boarding schools have risen by up to 15 per cent on the new version of the My School website, expected to be released by next week.

“The federal government, however, still uses census district data to distribute funding.”

In deciding to delay the online release of version 2 of My School, Federal Minister for Education Peter Garrett is caught in a stand-off between Gillard and the big privates over the outing they will get from the MySchool financial data, even with its in-built bias in their favour.

How can you get such a big hand-out from the Feds in $ support and have millions in bricks and mortar (including non-school), in security portfolios, in property development (here and overseas) including shopping centres and apartment blocks and be earning more interest (let alone profit) each year than most of the disadvantaged schools in the state put together get from the Feds?

And if your NAPLAN results are a bit suss too compared to local publics....!! Maybe it's time for a super profits tax on them?

They are fearful that with a review of Federal funding on at the moment, Gillard will reduce the bonus payments to the Catholics and Independents and elevate grants to the publics. Then they'd actually have to use their own $. That will reduce profits and maybe even cause an asset sell-off for some.....the balance sheets are shuddering.

Big privates are big business. Garrett's three girls went to an exclusive private girls’ school in Hornsby, NSW. Garrett came from Wahroonga (a posh exclusive suburb on the North Shore). He also went to exclusive Barker College in Hornsby. He is a lawyer. He is being lent on by the old school tie powerful lobbyists (also lawyers) whom the privates employ to cajole the Federal Government. He is a committed conservative Christian and is very active in the Uniting Church which owns many schools in Australia, including some of the wealthiest. After all, didn't they just spend $2 million trying to save Annesley College from closure in Adelaide?

Trevor Cobbold, from the public school lobby group Save Our Schools very appropriately sums up the situation:

"The delay in launching My School 2.0 exposes the hypocrisy and double standards of the Federal Government.

"When private schools complain about inaccuracies on My School, the Government caves in without a whimper. When government schools complain about inaccuracies, the Government ignores them.

"When My School 1.0 was launched a whole gamut of problems were identified which disadvantaged government schools, such as comparing the results of small low socio-economic status government schools with high SES private schools. Yet, the Government went ahead even though these criticisms were subsequently found to be justified.

"If the Government is serious about fixing inaccuracies on My School it would go back to the drawing board on like school comparisons because the new system to be used in My School 2.0 is still biased against government schools.

"My School has yet again been discredited as being unreliable and inaccurate. It should be abandonded."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hands off North Korea!

It is sometimes hard to defend North Korea.

The father-son-grandson line of succession is overtly feudal. I know that we have great Aussie Rules footballers who are the sons of formerly great Aussie Rules footballers, that Jacob Dylan is Bob Dylan’s son and that Charlie Sheen is the son of Martin Sheen. But I’m not convinced that the health of a proletarian dictatorship is established by creating a personal dynasty of the Kim family.

Leaving that aside, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (or North Korea) is entirely in the right in the current beating of imperialist war drums in that corner of the globe.

Before we go any further, just imagine how the US would react if the North Koreans declared that they were to hold annual war games with the Mexicans at Heroica Matamoros, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas. The very idea is preposterous, yet the Western world takes at face value the “normalcy” of the US imperialists leading war games exercises in waters that are claimed by both North and South Korea.

Technically, the North and South are still at war. The DPRK, which is demonized by the same media that promotes imperialism’s right to its war games, has consistently called for a formal Peace Treaty with the South, for direct talks with the US and for normalization of relations with the US.

The US response is the annual preparations for war that openly take the form of simulated invasions of the DPRK.

This is irrespective of whether US imperialism wears a human face (Obama, Clinton) or a death mask (Bush, Rumsfeld).

The western sea border between the North and the South, where the war games are being conducted, has never been agreed to by the North. The so-called Northern Limit Line (NLL) was unilaterally declared by the Commander of the United Nations Command in August 1953 after the matter had been left unresolved in the Korean Armistice Agreement signed a month earlier. The North had proposed that the terrestrial demarcation line (DML) which had been agreed by both sides be extended out to sea with provision for the South to access five islands it claimed through two 3-kilometre wide waterways.

This was unacceptable to the US which used the South’s claims to the islands to create an irregular maritime boundary close to the North Korean shoreline.

Common sense would dictate that both sides avoid any military activity in or around the disputed waters that fall within both boundary proposals.

But US imperialism sees only the opportunity for provocation, for bullying and interference.

It has four main aims.

Firstly it wishes to exacerbate tensions on the Korean peninsula in the hope of destabilizing North Korea.

Secondly, it wants to reassert its superpower military status in unequivocal terms so as to limit Chinese ambitions to emerge as an economic and political rival on the world stage.

Thirdly, it wants to create regional tension so as to justify the maintenance of its huge military base on Okinawa at a time when all political groups on the island want to see it shut down.

And fourthly, it suits the needs of the US military-industrial complex to extort further funds from a worried Congress for purposes of armaments research and production.

Both North Korea and China protested that the war games scheduled for the zone of disputed water was a provocation and should be cancelled.

They pointed out that the presence of a US nuclear “super carrier” the USS George Washington was clearly in violation of agreements to denuclearize the peninsula.

Indeed, the arrogance of the US imperialists knows no bounds. Singing from the hymn sheet of gunboat diplomacy, a US Defense Department spokesperson stated: “Where we exercise, when we exercise, with whom and how, using what assets and so forth, are determined by the US Navy, the Department of Defense, by the United States government.” (Agence France Presse, July 15, 2010).

So the games began as scheduled.

Initial reports in the capitalist press acknowledged that the South had fired first into the disputed zone, and that the North Koreans had responded with shelling of their own.

After this initial slip-up, the responsibility of the South for having fired first was simply disappeared from the media and the manufacturing of public opinion was set in motion with stories of North Korean “aggression”, of North Korean destruction of island villages, of North Korean murder of two marines and two civilians. Photographs and TV footage featured exclusively “evidence” of Northern “aggression” and “attacks”.

Fearlessly departing from their responsibility to provide informed background to the dispute, gutter journalists created “contexts” that placed all the blame on the North. The North, according to this rubbish, “attacked” because of an imminent leadership transfer and the need for the grandson of Kim Il-Sung to be “blooded” before being formally anointed as the new Dear Leader.

The ruling ideas about this conflict are those created to serve the needs and interests of the ruling US imperialists. The capitalist media lazily demonises the North instead of really investigating the incident.

Peace-loving and anti-imperialist forces must unite to condemn the US imperialists and the puppet regime in the South. It is they who must be held accountable for any further bloodshed.

Smash US imperialism!
Hands off North Korea!

Crony capitalism, an assault, and the Labor assault on workers' rights



At around 3am on the morning of Sunday Nov 28, the State Treasurer Kevin Foley was assaulted in an Adelaide city street.

There is no suggestion that there was any political motive behind the king hit that left him with broken glasses and a cut nose and forehead.

The previous morning, Foley had been the target of abuse emanating from more than 2000 traditional Labor supporters – mainly union and community organization members – who had rallied in rainy conditions from 8.30 am outside the South Australian Labor Party’s State Convention to demand that the government reverse its savage budget cuts and “return to true Labor values”.





Foley was a major target, both as the Treasurer responsible for cutting jobs and entitlements in the public sector, and for his arrogant dismissal of union objections. His description of unions as “dinosaurs” was responded to by unionists at huge rallies carrying inflatable Tyrannosaurus Rexes as a rebuff and a visible display of determination to take on Foley – often depicted as a Fred Flintstone-like character.




A report on the rally and whether or not the Labor Party can ever be expected to embrace the true values of working Australians can be found here

Under the leadership of Premier Mike Rann and Treasurer Kevin Foley the Labor brand has been rebadged as “pro-business, pro-mining and pro-growth” and a once reformist social democratic party changed into a grubby conservative outfit whose natural friends are now to be found amongst the corporate sector, the property developers, the miners and “defence” industries.

So high has the stench of crony capitalism risen in the fair air of the Athens of the South (a bit of hyperbole from the Dunstan era of the 70s when the ALP Premier of the day wore his pink shorts to Parliament and introduced homosexual law reform and land rights recognition for traditional Aboriginal owners of the land) that demands for an Independent Commission Against Corruption have been put forward from across the political spectrum. (See here for a Marxist-Leninist trifold leaflet on the issue).

How does this relate to the assault on Foley in the early hours of the following morning?

Foley had been at an end-of-year office party, letting off steam after surviving a call at the Convention for “generational change” or, less politely, for his sacking.

It has been suggested that the State Treasurer should not be wandering the streets of the city alone at 3am, and rumours circulated in the media about his attempts to befriend some girls half his age.

That’s his business. He’s an adult and doesn’t need to be Nanny-managed

What concerned me is that Foley was out drinking with two businessmen, one of whom has been identified as property developer Ross Makris, 40, who last year topped Business Review Weekly’s Young Rich List with an estimated wealth of $420 million. Makris is the son of the fabulously wealthy property developer Con Makris, whose influence on the ALP was covered in this blog here .

So here’s the Labor State Treasurer, who had to be escorted into his party’s State Convention by armed police just in case he was assaulted by any of the 2000 working people protesting at his betrayal of “Labor values”, in the preferred company of two businessmen, one of whom happens to be Australia’s richest “young Australian” and whose family is a major financial backer of the Government.

This, more than being out on the streets at 3am, is what should be the cause of public disquiet…even anger.

It is crony capitalism at its best, or worst. As the article in the first link, above, observes, the division between the ALP leaders and the ALP rank and file is sure to widen.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Clive Palmer’s Christmas Present



Ross Gwyther, November 2010

From the Surplus Value website: http://www.surplusvalue.org.au/index.html

“..The seed ye sow, another reaps;
The wealth ye find, another keeps..”
(Shelley’s Song to the Men of England)

You may have been struck by the news in November that millionaire businessman Clive Palmer bought some of his workers a Mercedes for Christmas!

What a turnaround for the books. This slightly overweight and usually dishevelled capitalist who disdains the trappings of the suited corporate world treats his employees so handsomely. Or does he?

The story was told in the Australian on November 20th. Palmer’s nickel processing factory north of Townsville had netted him $200 million this year. In return he paid for a holiday to Fiji for each of the 750 workers at the plant. As well as this, he bought for the 50 most valued workers a $50,000 Mercedes Benz. Quite a Christmas present – or so our national rag would have us believe.

In reality what Clive did, was to give back to these workers a little of the money they had made for him. It takes only a minute to work this out for yourself.
$200 million profit created by 800 workers – that amounts to $250,000 profit created by each worker on average. This is after the cost of the raw material (nickel) and the other processing materials. It is after the cost of the electricity to make the plant operate. It is after the cost of renting or buying the factory. It is after the cost of paying each worker their annual wage.




Where did all the money – the costs of the raw materials and power and wages, as well as the $200 million profits come from? Well a moment’s thought answers the question. It came from the added value which the work of those workers created – they took nickel ore, and turned it into ingots of nickel. Each worker- whether they pulled the furnace, fixed the electric cabling, added up the company’s books, or designed the marketing brochures for selling the nickel – all were essential to this transformation of rocks into metal that could be sold to the world.

In other words it was their labour which transformed those rocks – and created the extra value which ingots of nickel have over dusty rocks from the centre of Australia.




Palmers “magnanimous” action puts him in the long tradition of the philanthropists of capital – the Carnegies and Rockerfellers. In the short run their actions endear them to the working class. They are portrayed as kind and generous, rather than as robber barons.

In the long run we can only thank them for exposing the reality of capitalism. Their actions show up in stark reality the full extent to which they exploit those who work for them. They provide a nice lesson in what surplus value really means – or as George Bernard Shaw said, “behind every great fortune, there is a great crime”
------
Ross Gwyther (PhD) works in Brisbane as an organiser with the National Tertiary Education Union, after an earlier career of more than 20 years as a research geophysicist specialising in earthquake studies. His interests centre around strategies for labour movement renewal and union organisation, and the intersection of these with community movements around ecological and peace issues.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Victory for Ark Tribe

Adelaide construction worker Ark Tribe has had charges laid against him by the bosses' mongrel "watchdog" the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) dismissed.

Ark had attended a stop-work meeting on a worksite at Flinders University over safety issues on May 30, 2008. He subsequently refused to attend a secret interrogation as required by the ABCC where he would have been questioned about what his mates had said at the meeting.

For this heinous "crime" he faced a mandatory six-month jail sentence.

Every time Ark has faced the courts over a period spanning eighteen months, workers around the country have stopped work and held rallies of support. The rallies have been attended by the staff and members of heaps of other unions as well.

The ABCC was created by the conservative Howard Government to break Ark's union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU). The social democratic "Labor" Party of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, despite having promised to scrap the ABCC if elected, instead maintained it and have presided over its victimisation and intimidation of workers in the building industry.


Yesterday was the culmination of a mass campaign of support for Ark Tribe and for the defeat and repeal of the ABCC and its coercive powers. Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) national president Ged Kearney (above) spoke at a pre-hearing rally attended by several thousand workers and pledged Ark the continuing support of organised workers should he be sent to jail. She laughingly dismissed criticism of the CFMEU as a "rough and ready mob" and said that as President of the Australian Nursing Federation she had always found them to be the most reliable and supportive union.

CFMEU national president Dave Noonan (above) presented Ark a print-out of 2500 online messages of support. Messages of support had come in from friends around the world -from Asia, Europe and the United States.

SA Secretary of the CFMEU, Martin O'Malley (above left) drew parallels between the laws that had created and maintained the ABCC with the emergence of fascism in Nazi Germany and said the CFMEU would fight to "overturn the rotten laws that have spawned this evil situation".

Ark then introduced himself, as he always has at rallies, "as the proud father of Jake", acknowledging the teenage son who has stood at his side throughout. Thanking his workmates and his "family" at the Builders Labourers Federation Social Club for their support, he was embraced by SA Unions Secretary Janet Giles and then proceeded to recite the Oath of the Eureka Rebellion of 1854, saying "I swear to stand by by mates to defend our rights and liberties!"



With several thousand workers at his side, Ark took his final walk across the road to the Adelaide Magistrate's Court to hear the verdict on his case. Cheers broke out in the court as Magistrate David Whittle dismissed the charges on the grounds that they had not been laid by an authorised person!
Well, it was a technical knockout against the ABCC, but we were happy to take it!


"We got 'em!" said a jubilant Ark Tribe as he emerged from the court with both arms raised. "A victory for working Australians!"
Challenging the so-called "Labor Party" he added "To Julia Gillard and the Government - which side are you on???



SA Unions secretary Janet Giles welcomed Ark and the dismissal of charges against him on the steps of the Magistrates Court.
"However," she told the workers, "it doesn't change the fact that the laws which created this mess continue to exist, and other workers could face the same dreadful process that Ark tribe has just endured."
The ACTU's Kearney described the decision as "an important victory for the union movement in its fight against the ABCC".
"This is another nail in the coffin of the ABCC," she said, "another absolute step up in our campaign to have it abolished."




Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sadly Ordinary Dishonesty - Photographs and Lies

Many thanks for this small gem from Caleb Maupin from Cleveland, Ohio. There is a link to Caleb's blog at the left, or just click here.



A new anti-communist "history" book claims to tell of the horrors of Mao Zedong's "Great Leap Forward" and how it was not a bad economic policy, but an evil genocide against his own people. The cover photo is above. It features what is supposed to be a child starving under Mao's brutal famine.

Here's a closer look:



And this is the photo from Life Magazine, which was used. The photo in Life Magazine is dated in 1946. How did Mao starve this child, when he did not even come to power until 1949? How does this photograph have ANYTHING to do with the "Great Famine" of the early 1960s?



But remember, anyone who questions the narrative of "Mao was another Hitler" is just a lying Communist. Right?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Australian Parliament "debates" Afghanistan war

(Above, Malalai Joya speaking in Canada in 2009)

It is shameful that it has taken the Australian Parliament so long to “debate” Australian involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

I deliberately enclose the word “debate” in quotation marks because the bipartisan approach of the nearly indistinguishable Coalition and Labor parties renders any chance of real debate impossible.

The honourable exception of the Greens and certain independent politicians is recognised.

Australian troops are part of an occupation rabble that oppresses the people of Afghanistan and denies them their freedom and independence.

The Karzai regime comprises murderers, drug lords and fundamentalists. The so-called elections that justify this regime are a joke.

The calls for talks with the hated Taliban, resulting from the current military impasse, shows the moral bankruptcy of our commitment to this war.

I wonder if any Coalition (Liberal-National) or Labor parliamentarian has read the book Raising My Voice, by Malalai Joya?

Malalai Joya, now 32, was the youngest woman elected to the Afghan Parliament in 2005. Faced with threats of death, and expelled from the Parliament for speaking out against the regime’s continuing oppression of women, she declined to contest this year’s elections.

Her book is available in Australian bookstores. If you put "Joya" into the search engine above left, you will get to my review of it.

Speaking in Adelaide on March 13, 2007, Joya said that “no nation can donate liberation to another nation. Liberation is not money to be donated; it should be achieved in a country by the people themselves.”

In her book, she states that the “real purpose” behind the so-called war on terror is “for the United States and its allies to establish permanent bases to serve their strategic aims…They would like to stay in Afghanistan forever, so they can keep military bases and a presence in the region…to counteract China’s influence in particular. The superpowers would prefer to keep the situation unstable so they can stay indefinitely and use and occupy our country as part of a big chess game” (p. 237-8).

Sohaila, another young Afghan woman who spoke in Adelaide on August 8, 2007, and Suraya Pakzad, who spoke here earlier this year, have also condemned the anti-democratic, anti-women and corrupt Karzai regime.

Newspaper headlines depict us as somehow bravely refusing to “abandon” the people of Afghanistan by committing our troops for another ten years. We must reject the framing of the debate on Afghanistan in these terms.

Parliamentarians must have the courage to reject the simplistic nonsense of “staying the course”, of remaining “until the job is done”.

The people of Afghanistan want us out of their country. They have good leaders and great representatives who are more than capable of mobilising popular support for a democratic, secular and independent nation.

The efforts of those people are hindered by our presence as an unwanted army of occupation.

Politicians in this country must reject the easy populism of “We won’t abandon Afghans”.

Uphold the call of the Malalai Joyas of Afghanistan:

The emancipation of Afghan women is not attainable as long as the occupation, Taliban and “National Front” criminals are not sacked!

(Statement of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) on the International Women’s Day, March 8, 2010).

Monday, October 04, 2010

Community fights Labor budget cuts

SA public sector unions and community organisations are continuing their campaign to fight attacks on job security and conditions, including changes to long service leave and holiday leave loading. The video below shows a part of a rally called by the Public Service Association last week. Another rally is to be held this Friday, with yet another planned for October 14.

We reprint also an analysis of the SA Budget by Nick G in the October edition of Vanguard, organ of the CPA (M-L).



SA State Budget Report

Nick G

South Australian Labor’s experiment with outsourcing its Budget preparations has failed the test of community interest, according to SA public sector unions.

Treasurer Kevin Foley set up a Sustainable Budget Commission (SBC) in June 2009 to identify public sector programs and services that could be cut.

The Commission has been chaired by Geoff Carmody, a former Federal Treasury official who co-founded Access Economics and campaigned strongly against the Rudd Government’s abortive Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and in favour of a carbon consumption-based emissions trading scheme. The latter was designed to reduce carbon costs to Australian businesses by transferring costs, for example for coal, to places of consumption, largely offshore.

Carmody was assisted by Bruce Carter, Jennifer Westacott and the heads of the Departments of Premier and Treasury. Monsignor David Cappo, the state’s Social Inclusion Commissioner was thrown in to add a gloss of superficial decency to the process.

Who are Carter and Westacott? Carter was the head of WorkCover SA who presided over savage cuts to injured workers’ entitlements before becoming Chairman of the SA Economic Development Board and the Olympic Dam Task Force. He’s a bean counter and one of Rann’s favourite intermediaries between SA government and business.

Westacott is a senior partner at multinational giant KPMG which sells financial services and taxation advice to governments and the big end of town.

Foley: let private sector dictate public sector terms

Normally we would describe capitalist governments as mere executive committees of the bourgeoisie; in this case, government has created its own budgetary executive of bourgeois elements.

Normally we would see the social democratic variant of capitalist government protecting and extending wages and working conditions in the public sector to gain some leverage over private employers as a trade-off for the electoral support of the extended working class.

However, SA Treasurer Foley has inverted that relationship too, justifying the formation of the SBC in these terms: “Workers at big firms such as Holdens have seen their salaries cut as shifts are reduced, workers in other industries have seen their pay frozen and unfortunately other workers have lost their jobs. I don’t think it is unreasonable for the public sector to show restraint and reflect what is the reality for many South Australian workers.”

In other words, for Foley and the SBC, it is appropriate that the private sector dictates the terms and conditions for public sector employment. In so doing, it attacks private sector workers by depriving them of any comparative arguments for increases in wages and conditions.

One union official commented to Vanguard that “When Foley established the SBC, he linked it to the plight of workers at big firms like Holdens”.

“This was his justification for reducing services offered by the public sector and for attacking the wages and conditions of public service workers.

“However, SA has been a star performer in a strong and resilient Australian economy. Holdens, for example, is expanding production and adding shifts.

“By Foley’s own logic, we should be enjoying an expansionary and stimulus-oriented budget.

“Instead,” she said, “we have a budget in which the community coughs up to pay for further concessions to the big end of town.”

The Property Council of SA’s Justin Hazell, described the Budget as “a big win for the investment sector”. Business SA’s Peter Vaughan endorsed Foley’s strategy, saying “This is an essential move in reflecting the same conditions as those faced by the private sector.”

However, SA Council of Social Services’ Ross Womersley slammed the Budget for attacking low income earners generally. He pointed to motor vehicle licence and registration increases, rising public transport costs, a 25% increase in TAFE fees (already the highest in the country), and the abolition of adult re-entry to schools for persons 21 years of age and older.

And the Commissioner for Social Inclusion? He distanced himself from the SBC’s recommendations and the government’s budgetary decisions, saying that he could not support measures that reduce or diminish services available to vulnerable and disadvantaged persons or that diminish the social fabric of South Australia.

Just to completely endear themselves to South Aussie workers, politicians from both major parties spent budget day rushing through legislation that saw their own rate of superannuation increase from 9% to 15.4%!

Meanwhile, SA public sector unions arranged to meet to discuss a combined response to the issues of job security, long service leave and holiday leave loading for their members.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Bring the Australian Wheat Board back under the control of the government!


(The following article is from p. 4 of the September issue of the CPA (M-L)'s paper Vanguard)

Nick G

Australian grain growers, the purported “owners” of the Australian Wheat Board (AWB), are incensed that the company could soon be controlled by Canadian giant Agrium Inc.

This follows on from the Japanese Sumitomo Corporation’s 50% purchase of Australian grain trader, the Emerald group last March, and Canadian grain firm Viterra Inc’s takeover of South Australia’s ABB Grains Ltd last year.

The AWB was founded in the wake of the 1930s Depression to save grain growers from the anarchic ravages of the domestic and international markets for wheat.

As a government-owned and operated entity it ran the “single desk” system under which it was the sole marketer of wheat for the international grain trade and the domestic purchaser of “last resort” – meaning that it always stood ready to bail out struggling farmers when falling demand or prices threatened to leave them in ruin.

Ironically, given the source of the current threat to the Board, it served as a model for the Canadian Wheat Board.

Both the CWB and the AWB were opposed by US grain producers on the grounds that government purchase and sale was unfair in a free trade environment. This is despite the latter’s heavy subsidies from the US Government, which rather undermines the credibility of “free trade” arguments.

Nevertheless, conservative Canadian and Australian governments driven by neo-liberal ideology have worked to strengthen the US imperialists at the expense of the farmers of their own countries.

In 2007, the Canadian Harper government tried to end the CWB’s “single desk” but was defeated.

The AWB’s “single desk” was abolished under Kevin Rudd despite a pre-election pledge that it be retained.

But it was the government of John Howard that had set the wheels in motion with the 1999 privatisation of the AWB.

This was sold as a move to give wheat growers ownership of the Board; indeed, the 2009 AWB Annual Report opens with the question “Who is the AWB?” superimposed over a young cocky looking over his wheat crop.

However, as a publicly listed company, the AWB is actually in the grip of a small group of local and foreign investment banks, insurance companies and fund managers. The largest single shareholder, HSBC Custody Nominees (Aust) Ltd holds around the same number of shares as the bottom 41,000 retail (or “Mum and Dad”) investors.

The threat to the AWB from Canada’s Agrium follows an announced merger between AWB and GrainCorp. The latter emerged as a competitor following the demise of the single desk, and a merger of the two would have strengthened the international competitiveness of an Australian diversified agribusiness – hence the pre-emptive attack by the Canadians.

(Incidentally, GrainCorp and the AWB may be competitors, but four of the top five shareholders in each company are the same: HSBC Custody Nominees, JP Morgan Nominees Australia Ltd, National Nominees Ltd, and ANZ Nominees Ltd. They represent 32% and 36% respectively of the total shares in each company.)

Grower dissatisfaction is emerging around the country.

President of the SA Farmers Federation John Lush warned back in 2004: “The US dominates Australia in the trading environment and we cannot afford to lose any of our advantages such as collective bargaining and single desk marketing if we are to have any chance of competing internationally.”

On August 12 2010 Mark Harrison, chairman of the NSWFA grains committee told the Weekly Times “What we are left with is Australian wheat growers struggling to compete in a world market still corrupted by subsidies.” He called for the recreation of a single marketing desk.

The AWB provided economic stability for many small and medium-sized Australian farmers for half a century.

Imperialist-serving neo-liberal governments of both persuasions, having privatized the Board and removed its single desk status, are simply engaging in nation-wrecking and the undermining of economic sovereignty.

Stop nation-wrecking by multinationals – nationalise the AWB and bring back the “single desk”!

Reject the unequal “free trade” arrangements!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bureaucracy and its manifestations




I have a friend whose wife works for the South Australian Department for Education and Childhood Services (DECS). It is a large bureaucracy and a very poor employer - even the SA Industrial Relations Commission stated earlier this year that workloads for teachers and school leaders were "excessive and unsustainable". The DECS bureaucracy is very much driven by the State Treasury headed by Treasurer Kevin Foley. The lines below were penned by my friend, and reminded me of Mao Zedong's Twenty Manifestations of Bureaucracy, issued during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, in 1970. Mao's observations, which went to the heart of the contradiction between the proletarian state as a foundation of socialism on the one hand, and as an obstacle to continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat on the other, are printed below.

Thoughts on the education bureaucracy

Out of sight and out of touch;
hidden behind an automated
telephone system they sit;
mealy mouthed and tight
fisted they make decisions
about your life.

These phantoms of the department,
warriors of the corporate creed,
they rigidly apply poor and unfair
interpretations of the rules, to suit
their corporate masters
and their own career enhancement.

With weasel words they slither and slide.
Honesty is not one of the policies
they develop or make us implement.
It does not fit their skill set.

People are forgotten
as schools, teachers and students become
a ‘client’ to be avoided
a sacrificial lamb to slaughter
if it protects from Foley’s cuts, the empire built.

Flexibility never worked in a worker’s favour.



..................................................................................



Mao Zedong

Twenty Manifestations Of Bureaucracy
February, 1970

[SOURCE: Joint Publications Research Service, (Washington, DC)]


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1. At the highest level there is very little knowledge; they do not understand the opinion of the masses; they do not investigate and study; they do not grasp specific policies; they do not conduct political and ideological work; they are divorced from reality, from the masses, and from the leadership of the party; they always issue orders, and the orders are usually wrong, they certainly mislead the country and the people; at the least they obstruct the consistent adherence to the party line and policies; and they cannot meet with the people.

2. They are conceited, complacent, and they aimlessly discuss politics. They do not grasp their work, they are subjective and one-sided; they are careless; they do not listen to people; they are truculent and arbitrary; they force orders; they do not care about reality; they maintain blind control. This is authoritarian bureaucracy.

3. They are very busy from morning until evening, they labour the whole year long; they do not examine people and they do not investigate matters; they do not study policies; they do not rely upon the masses; they do not prepare their statements; they do not plan their work. This is brainless, misdirected bureaucracy. In other words, it is routinism.

4. Their bureaucratic attitude is immense; they cannot have any direction; they are egoistic; they beat their gongs to blaze the way; they cause people to become afraid just by looking at them; they repeatedly hurl all kinds of abuse at people; their work style is crude; they do not treat people equally. This is the bureaucracy of the overlords.

5. They are ignorant; they are ashamed to ask anything; they exaggerate and they lie; they are very false; they attribute errors to people; they attribute merit to themselves; they swindle the central government; they deceive those above them and fool those below them; they conceal faults and gloss over wrongs. This is the dishonest bureaucracy.

6. They do not understand politics; they do not do their work; they push things off onto others; they do not meet their responsibilities; they haggle; they put things off; they are insensitive; they lose their alertness. This is the irresponsible bureaucracy.

7. They are negligent about things; they subsist as best they can; they do not have anything to do with people; they always make mistakes; they offer themselves respectfully to those above them and are idle towards those below them; they are careful in every respect; they are eight-sided and slippery as eels. This is the bureaucracy of those who work as officials and barely make a living.

8. They do not completely learn politics; they do not advance in their work; their manner of speech is tasteless; they have no direction in their leadership; they neglect the duties of their office while taking the pay; they make up things for the sake of appearances. The idlers [e.g., landlord] do not begin any matters, but concentrate mainly upon their idleness; those who work hard, are virtuous, and do not act like the officials are treated poorly. This is the deceitful, talentless bureaucracy.

9. They are stupid; they are confused; they do not have a mind of their own; they are rotten sensualists; they glut themselves for days on end; they are not diligent at all, they are inconstant and they are ignorant. This is the stupid, useless bureaucracy.

10. They want others to read documents; the others read and they sleep; they criticize without looking at things; they criticize mistakes and blame people; they have nothing to do with mistakes; they do not discuss things; they push things aside and ignore it; they are yes men to those above them; they pretend to understand those below them, when they do not; they gesticulate; and they harbour disagreements with those on their same level. This is the lazy bureaucracy.

11. Government offices grow bigger and bigger; things are more confused; there are more people than there are jobs; they go around in circles; they quarrel and bicker; people are disinclined to do extra things; they do not fulfil their specific duties. This is the bureaucracy of government offices.

12. Documents are numerous; there is red tape; instructions proliferate; there are numerous unread reports that are not criticized; many tables and schedules are drawn up and are not used; meetings are numerous and nothing is passed on; and there are many close associations but nothing is learned. This is the bureaucracy of red tape and formalism.

13. They seek pleasure and fear hardships; they engage in back door deals; one person becomes an official and the entire family benefits; one person reaches nirvana and all his close associates rise up to heaven; there are parties and gifts are presented. . . This is the bureaucracy for the exceptional.

14. The greater an official becomes, the worse his temperament gets; his demands for supporting himself become higher and higher; his home and its furnishings become more and more luxurious; and his access to things becomes better and better. The upper strata gets the larger share while the lower gets high prices; there is extravagance and waste; the upper and lower and the left and right raise their hands. This is the bureaucracy of putting on official airs.

15. They are egotistical; they satisfy private ends by public means; there is embezzlement and speculation; the more they devour, the more they want; and they never step back or give in. This is egotistical bureaucracy.

16. They fight among themselves for power and money; they extend their hands into the Party; they want fame and fortune; they want positions and, if they do not get them, they are not satisfied; they choose to be fat and to be lean; they pay a great deal of attention to wages; they are cosy when it comes to their comrades but they care nothing about the masses. This is the bureaucracy that is fighting for power and money.

17. A plural leadership cannot be harmoniously united; they exert themselves in many directions, and their work is in a state of chaos; they try to crowd each other out; the top is divorced from the bottom and there is no centralization, nor is there any democracy. This is the disunited bureaucracy.

18. There is no organization; they employ personal friends; they engage in factionalism; they maintain feudal relationships; they form cliques to further their own private interest; they protect each other, the individual stands above everything else; these petty officials harm the masses. This is sectarian bureaucracy.

19. Their revolutionary will is weak; their politics has degenerated and changed its character; they act as if they are highly qualified; they put on official airs; they do not exercise their minds or their hands. They eat their fill every day; they easily avoid hard work; they call a doctor when they are not sick; they go on excursions to the mountains and to the seashore; they do things superficially; they worry about their individual interests, but they do not worry whatsoever about the national interest. This is degenerate bureaucracy.

20. They promote erroneous tendencies and a spirit of reaction; they connive with bad persons and tolerate bad situations; they engage in villainy and transgress the law; they engage in speculation; they are a threat to the Party and the state; they suppress democracy; they fight and take revenge, they violate laws and regulations; they protect the bad; they do not differentiate between the enemy and ourselves. This is the bureaucracy of erroneous tendencies and reaction.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More Falungong lies


The Falungong sect will do anything to blacken the image of the People's Republic of China.

The following expose is based on a report in the EastSouthWestNorth blog.

It reveals the lies and distortions to which the sect's newspaper, Epoch Times, is prepared to resort.

The paper seized on a terrible tragedy at the Nanjing Number 4 Plastic Factory on July 28 2010.
Workers had broken through a gas pipe, there was an explosion and 13 workers died. Another 120 were injured.

On the same day, Epoch Times published the article above titled "Disastrous explosion burned at least 100 persons to death in a terrifying day in Nanjing". The story was attributed to Epoch Times reporter Fang Xiao.

The photo had a caption, seen in the close-up below.

A translation of the caption reads: "On July 28, the scene at the Nanjing Waoshou Baijiang Liquefied Gas Factory was unbearable to watch! == In order to protect the person who provided the photo, this photo has been specially edited here!=="

But the fact is that this photo was not about the Nanjing gas explosion on July 28.

Instead, it was about an oil tanker explosion on July 2 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo!

Below is the photo that accompanied that news report:



The Epoch Times truthfully acknowledged that the original photo had been edited, but it was not to "protect the person who provided the photo" - with the implication that the nasty Communist authorities try to suppress the truth and persecute honest people.

A small portion at the bottom was cropped to remove the logo of the originating media outlet (to hide the origins of the photo) and the top third or so was cropped to remove the black-skinned onlookers whose presence would immediately expose the lie that about this having occurred at the Nanjing Factory.

The photo has now been purged from the Epoch Times website in an attempt to conceal their deceit.

The crude anti-Communism of Epoch Times has resulted in an unedifying display of contempt for the victims of one tragedy - those who died in Nanjing - and an equally contemptuous disregard for the victims of another - those who died in the Congo explosion. The multiplication of those contempts is the massive contempt reserved for the readers of Epoch Times.

For an organisation that promotes itself as cultivating "universal principles based on Truthfulness, Benevolence, and Forbearance", Falungong and its newspaper have a very poor track record.




Sunday, August 15, 2010

Raytheon set to capture another SA school



Rumour has it that US arms manufacturer Raytheon is about to move into yet another South Australian school.

Apparently staff at Hallett Cove R-12 School were told that the school was going to have a relationship with a “defence” company – Raytheon.

No further information was forthcoming.

Across the suburbs at Aberfoyle Park, home to one of three SA schools that host the government-funded IGNITE program for students with high intellectual potential, Raytheon entered into a 3 year partnership with the school worth $450,000.

In return for supplying the IGNITE students with personal laptops, the arms manufacturer was given access to students in order to mentor them towards maths and science studies, with a view to promoting engineering as a career path. (See previous post Masters of war invade the classroom).

According to an article on CNET News (At Raytheon, where engineering rules), engineering is “the lifeblood of the company”.

It’s a strange metaphor for a company that specialises in killing, or at least, in providing the means to do so.

The article points out that at Raytheon “more than 40,000 of the total 75,000 employees are engineers, and the company is hiring thousands more each year.”

On July 20, 2010 Raytheon announced that it had successfully tested a ship borne killer laser to knock four unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) out of the sky.



(Above, a "doctored" Raytheon photo showing the invisible infra-red ray intercepting the path of a UAV with white curving vapour trail.)

Unlike conventional weapons for which a weighty and space-consuming magazine of armaments has to be on hand, the laser weapon “offers the military a very cost-efficient and nearly unlimited ‘magazine’ for shooting down things like threatening UAVs, or perhaps airplanes.”

“Or perhaps”, indeed!

Things don’t get much better on land, either.

On July 25, 2010 middleeast.about.com reported that Raytheon had delivered three “Active Denial Systems” or heat-ray guns (see below) to the US military, which had deployed them for the first time in Afghanistan in June.



“The ray-gun is a joystick-operated computerized system linked to a large antenna that can be mounted on a Humvee or other large vehicles. It directs a focused, invisible 100,000-watt beam of energy at the speed of light across a range of up to 250 meters, or 750 feet, at human beings, burning them intolerably until they get out of the beam's way. The heat ray penetrates the skin to a depth of about 1/64th of an inch” according to the report.

Raytheon expects the technology to jump from the battlefield to civilian use. "Various commercial and military applications include law enforcement, checkpoint security, facility protection, force protection and peacekeeping missions," Raytheon's website says.

The article added: “The system was never used in Iraq because it was found to be politically risky. In light of the Abu Ghraib prison-torture scandal, the ray-gun was seen as too closely evoking a form of torture. Curiously, those issues were set aside when the weapon was shipped to Afghanistan, signaling a distance from the Abu Ghraib scandal that the military will now more likely exploit.”

In addition to pioneering the use of ray guns as weapons of modern warfare, Raytheon continues to manufacture such old technology weapons as Maverick, Sparrow, Sidewinder, Tomahawk, Hawk, Patriot and Sea Sparrow missiles.

It must surely be with an acute sense of irony that a Raytheon executive told journalist Daniel Terdiman “Our end customer is that kid in Iraq whose life may depend on what we build, so we want it to be 100 percent”.


It’s comforting to know that the kids of Australia are being groomed to work for a death merchant whose “end customer is that kid in Iraq”!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Indian tribals and Kashmiris: same enemy, same fight


During the British colonial era in India, Indian princes and rajahs joined their colonial masters to hunt tigers and deer in the forests and jungle lands.

Today the Indian big bourgeoisie scour the same areas for humans, for their fellow-citizens who have dared to struggle for basic rights and liberties. The photo above shows a murdered Maoist activist trussed up to a carrying pole as if she were just another dead animal put on display as a trophy.

The latter day hunters call their current campaign Operation Green Hunt, employing the sporting terminology without any trace of irony.

Despite the massive scale of the Indian state’s war on the people of India, few reports are found in the Western media because India is a “democratic ally” and must not be allowed to embarrass the constructed distortions of who comprise the good guys and who are demonised as the bad.

The festering occupation of Kashmir, a legacy of the 1947 Partition of India, has seen recent eruptions of violence by the Indian rulers, and expressions of mutual support and solidarity between the Kashmiris and the adivasis and dalits fighting under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Acting as a regional big chauvinist power, India is also seeking to interfere in the political changes embracing Nepal.

Updates on the struggle against Operation Green Hunt and other oppressive acts of the Indian big bourgeoisie can be found here .

Do you know?

• According to the Indian government, they have deployed 150,000 troops in India’s central and eastern states. Independent witnesses say the numbers are closer to 250,000. This is more than the number of US troops in Afghanistan. This is war on the Indian people.


• Recent statistics show 37% of the country’s people suffer from chronic malnutrition and 50% are undernourished.

• A nearly third of India is under army occupation with no democratic freedoms? All over India arrests, detentions, disappearances have increased to alarming levels since the people began resisting the corporate take over of India?

• On July 1, the Indian Maoist revolutionary Azad, a Political Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the spokesperson of its Central Committee along with a Delhi-based journalist Hem Chandra Pandey were killed by the Andhra state police.


• During the last few days at least 29 innocent Kashmiris have been killed.

• India has sent one of its ex-ambassador to Nepal to influence the election of the Prime Minister there.

The following is a brief report of the proceedings of the sit-in in Delhi on the evening of 7 August 2010 against the crimes on the people of Kashmir by the Indian State:

The evening of 7 August 2010 witnessed after a long, long time voices of freedom from the people of Kashmir. Despite the heavy repression and the draconian laws to maim and incarcerate the people of Kashmir, to subjugate their indomitable spirit for Azadi, the evening of August 7 at the heart of Delhi just half a kilometre away from the parliament witnessed unprecedented scenes of assertion of the political will, not to say genuine desire, of the Kashmiri people for freedom from the exploitative and oppressive rule of the Indian State. Around six to seven hundred people had gathered including people from various peoples organisations in Delhi to protest against the increasing repression of the Kashmiri people.




(Above: Azadi is a word known to all the peoples of the region and expresses alike the strvings for freedom of the Kashmiri people and the revolutionary women of Afghanistan. See also the link to an article in the Times of India at the bottom of this page).

Every Kashmiri—students, teachers, journalists, working people—who spoke in the meeting was unequivocal about their demand for Azadi which set the tone of the proceedings as the dharna cite reverberated with slogans against India’s occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and the demand for Azadi.

Various people’s organisations from Delhi which participated in the meeting expressed their unconditional solidarity to the struggle for freedom of the Kashmiri people. Revolutionary poet Vara Vara Rao ,who was also an emissary of the present CPI (Maoist) party in their early talks with the government of Andhra Pradesh, asserted that the people of Kashmir are not alone in their struggle against Indian occupation. He pointed out that the fighting masses of Dankaranya, Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand are with the struggle for freedom of the people of Kashmir. He said that the enemy of the both the oppressed people of Kashmir and the poorest and the wretched in India is the Indian ruling class which is a prop of US and other imperialist forces and the struggling people of Kashmir and India should join hands for the realisation of the freedom of both.

Noted film maker Sanjay Kak pointed out that the Kashmiris should stop looking at themselves as victims. While it was important for the Kashmiri people to be emotional in their struggles braving the repressive machine of the Indian State it was also necessary to have a political temperament to see the light at the end of the arduous struggle.

Mrigank from the Nav Jawan Bharat Sabha expressed his solidarity for the movement of the people of Kashmir. Narender from the Popular Front expressed his organisation’s support for what he termed as the “complete independence” of the people of Kashmir. Kavita Krishnan from the CPI (ML) (Liberation) talked about the scores of atrocities committed by the Indian army on the people of Kashmir as well as the need for a meaningful dialogue for which the Indian government should be made accountable. GN Saibaba of the Revolutionary Democratic Front pointed out that the rising struggle for freedom of the Kashmiri people will usher in the death knell of US imperialism. He also stressed that the liberation of the people of Kashmir is in the interest of the people of India who are also fighting for revolutionary transformation.

Sharmila Purkayastha from the PUDR, former Ambassador Madhu Bhaduri, Karen Gabriel from Delhi University, Banojyotsna Lahiri from DSU JNU, Om from AISA JNU, Tara Basumatary from DU also spoke expressing their solidarity for the struggle of the Kashmiri people for Azadi.
Members of the progressive cultural organisation Prathidhwani sang songs while some of the Kashmiri participants read out the poems of well known Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali. Later in the night at 10 the meeting ended at a high note amidst thundering slogans for Azadi, Demands to resolve the Kashmir issue, condemning the fake Indian Democracy, to stop the Genocide in Kashmir, when one of the young Kashmiri thundered: “The Indian government terms our struggle anti-national. They brand us anti-national. I want to ask: How can you call us anti-national. We are not part of your nation. We were never. We are Kashmiri nationalists fighting for our freedom. We want Azadi!”

Thursday, August 05, 2010

2010 federal election; reject the sham, develop the capacity to fight!


Some bloody choice: the openly reactionary nightmare (above) or the lies and deception (below) in pursuit of the same agenda!
















The Australian working class still maintains a social-democratic illusion that bourgeois parliamentarism is genuine democracy in action.

For this sin, candidates of the major parties are currently all over electors like a rash. Babies are being assaulted with kisses in shopping malls for the benefit of TV cameras. The neglected elderly have suddenly found their nursing homes infested by condescending candidates. Once there is enough footage for the evening news, the candidates are out quicker than a country cricketer at a Test match.

“As long as the elections are in progress,” said Stalin, the candidates will “flirt with the electors, fawn on them, swear fidelity and make heaps of promises of every kind. It would appear that the (candidates) are completely dependent on the electors.”

But once the elections are over, and a candidate has been confirmed as a Member of Parliament, “relations undergo a radical change”.

The elected politician now becomes “entirely independent” of the constituency.

For the next three years, as an MP, the politician feels quite free, quite independent of the electors. The electors have no right of recall before the expiration of the particular term of office and must put up in the meantime with whatever is done in their name, no matter how far that might deviate from the policies upon which the MP was elected.

For the next three years, the politician can turn somersaults with no accountability to electors.

It is just as Indian novelist Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things) says: in these allegedly democratic times, voters will get the governments they vote for, but not the governments they want (A. Roy, Public Power in the Age of Empire).

“In India this year,” she wrote in 2004, “we voted the Hindu nationalists out of office. But even as we celebrated, we knew that on nuclear bombs, neo-liberalism, privatisation, censorship, big dams – on every other issue than overt Hindu nationalism - the Congress and the BJP have no major ideological issues.”

Substitute for Congress and the BJP Australia’s Liberal and Labor parties and the same observation could be made.

Our celebration was for the defeat of Howard’s reactionary WorkChoices legislation that allowed employers to force workers into individually “negotiated” contracts called Australian Workplace Agreements.

But even was we celebrated the defeat of WorkChoices, we knew that on subservience to US imperialism, participation in its war in Afghanistan, continuation of the racist “intervention” into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and a host of other matters, that Liberals and Labor have no major ideological issues.
Labor did make its historical and welcome apology to the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

But then the backsliding began.

No, they wouldn’t get rid of Howard’s Australian Building and Construction Commission which imposes the draconian regime of anti-terror laws on construction workers, and we still have Ark Tribe (below) facing six months jail under Labor for refusing to testify before an ABCC secret interrogation.


No, they would not get rid of fines and the threat of jail for workers who planned, let alone engaged in, industrial action outside of formally declared bargaining periods. This was the threat directed at teachers when they announced that they would place a moratorium on the holding of national tests of literacy and numeracy in protest against school league tables.

This is still the threat faced by 1500 FIFO (fly-in, fly-out) Woodside-Burmah workers in Western Australia who collectively face more than $40 million in fines for taking industrial action against Woodside's "motelling" plans, under which they would lose their individual private accommodation and have to stay in different rooms on each work trip.

Woodside has taken the action before the Australian Building and Construction Commission over the eight-day strike in January at the $12 billion Pilbara project.

Union and non-union workers are being prosecuted individually and could face fines of $28,000 each.

"We think it's atrocious in a democracy like Australia that workers are prosecuted to this extent for taking any form of industrial action,” said Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) WA construction division secretary Kevin Reynolds.

"But that's the nature of the governments we live under today, be it Labor or Liberal, they're all the same," he said.

So is there an alternative?

Some point to the Greens, but like Labor, the Greens are a party of capitalism. Their demands do not go beyond the economic system of capitalism, and their actions do not go beyond the political institution of capitalism – parliament. A vote for the Greens, however, is one way in the current situation, for Australian working people to say to Labor, “Enough is enough! You take us for granted, and don’t do anything for us when we vote you in!”

The Labor Party essentially serves the ruling class of local and foreign monopolies, but maintains the pretence of speaking for the working people and the pretence of maintaining a more progressive stance on a variety of social, environmental, legal and foreign policy matters.

The real alternative for workers and their allies seeking a better way of life is to set aside the illusions around the nature and role of parliamentarism and build an independent capacity for unions, community organisations and alternative political groupings to struggle around key demands, regardless of which capitalist party is elected to office.

The CPA (M-L), a minority party but representative of the best interests of the workers and their allies, has put forward the following demands around which to build united struggle by wide sections of the people. The CPA (M-L) says “We urge all comrades and friends to promote and support these demands during and beyond the election period.”

……………………………..

Immediate Demands on current issues

Workers/union rights and democratic rights

Empower workers with the right to strike!
Scrap the ABCC – Stop criminalising workers demanding decent wages and conditions
Drop charges against Ark Tribe

Guarantee workplace rights!
Right to job security
Right to a safe workplace
Right to organise
Right to collective action
Right to union OH & S representatives
Right to full entitlements when companies fail

Environment

Make the polluters pay!
Cap and tax carbon emissions – no “market solutions”
No pollution reduction costs passed on to the people
Phase out coal!
Create clean power using renewable energy
Retrain workers for new clean, sustainable industries
Water belongs to all – it’s not for trade or sale!
No uranium mining – unsafe for workers, communities and humanity!

Manufacturing, jobs, resources tax

Stop nation-wrecking by multinationals – nationalise and build the nation for the people!
Regulate and control foreign investment - reject unequal “free trade” deals!
Tax the profits of the mining monopolies! Keep the wealth in Australia!
Develop renewable energy production!
Build clean, safe, sustainable manufacturing and value-adding industries
Improve services and amenities in mining communities and regional areas

Health, education, and livelihood

Serve the people – no privatisation!
More and better public schools
More and better public hospitals
More and better public housing – implement rent controls
More and better public transport
More and better affordable community-run childcare centres

Nationalise the banks!
Regulate interest rates
Cut bank fees
More affordable private housing!
Scrap Negative Gearing!
Increase pensions and entitlements!

Aboriginal sovereignty and the ‘intervention’

End the racist Intervention now - Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs!
Stop land grabbing by mining companies!
Unconditional restoration of the Racial Discrimination Act – scrap compulsory ‘Income Management’!
Leave Land Rights alone - recognise Aboriginal sovereignty!
A just Treaty with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples!

Foreign policy

For an independent and peaceful foreign policy!
No more support for American wars – get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines!
No US Alliance – no foreign military bases on Australian soil!
Nuclear free Australia!

Social issues

Equal rights for women!
Equal pay for work of equal value
Make equal opportunity a reality

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Chinese Honda workers blaze a new trail of struggle

Workers at Honda plants in the south of China recently took on the Japanese auto monopoly and won significant improvements in wages.

Like workers in many parts of the country’s socialist market economy, they are having to relearn the basic principles of workplace organisation and struggle.

The main Honda assembly plant is located at Nanhai county, Guangdong province.
Formerly a centre for the production of fish and rice, Nanhai has grown in the space of 20 years to become a major manufacturing centre with a total economy of over 150 billion RMB. And yet wages have remained more or less constant for the last ten years.

The significance of the strike at the assembly plant and two component manufacturing plants is that workers have articulated their independent demands for major wage increases and also for genuine union representation.

In line with the Communist Party’s vision of a “harmonious society” the Honda enterprise union has been led by company managers and limits its role to “providing a platform for discussion between employees and the company”.

During the course of the strike, one leader of the trade union fobbed off workers’ complaints about not doing enough to support their demand for a wage rise by saying “This is a matter between labour and employees. It is inappropriate for the trade union to intervene”.

In the course of a fortnight long strike which began on May 17, workers threw off the misleadership of the official union. On May 31 the union recruited 100 unemployed youth from local villages (in yellow hats below) who physically attacked striking workers who had defied the union on a return to work recommendation.


Hence, a demand for their enterprise unions to be elected by and accountable to the workers emerged as a key demand of the strike.

Most assembly workers had a monthly take home pay of around 1300 RMB (just over 200 Australian dollars) after deductions for the “three insurances and one fund” (old age pension, unemployment and medical insurance and the housing fund). Approximately one third of the workforce was trainees recruited from local vocational colleges. Their wages are only around 900 RMB.

These wages are one twentieth of their American and one twenty-fourth of Japanese counterparts.

The Honda plant was particularly vulnerable to workers’ actions in May. China was Honda’s only growth market in the world, and May was China’s peak sales season. Given that Chinese labour rarely engages in strike action, the company had only built the one assembly plant, so when it stopped so did the production of cars.

The workers eventually won a 24% wage rise – les than what they had sought, but significantly more than the contemptuous initial offer from the profit-hungry corporate bosses of a measly 55 RMB.

They also won a mealy-mouthed apology from the union for the violence directed at strikers and, with the support of a local delegate to the National People’s Congress, the right to elect their own chairperson of the factory union. However, there is yet no right of recall - all they have is the right to have the chair subjected to an annual “vote of confidence” failing which “they will have to improve”.

The three hundred million strong industrial working class of China has a glorious revolutionary history but is having to relearn its content in the course of a new generation’s practical experiences.

Australian workers salute their Chinese comrades and urge them to persevere on the path of struggle against foreign and local exploiters.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Maggots

Usually it’s the road kill
or other dead flesh
that creates the maggots -

but on our jobs
it’s the maggots that create
the kill and leave
dead flesh.

Maggots who are bosses
supervisors
stand-over merchants

made bold by the
“tough cop on the beat”:
those slimy maggots
of the ABCC.

And the dead flesh is his flesh
the flesh of my mate
the one I worked with
the one you knew

crushed by the beam
electrocuted
fallen from the height

and always the potential
that it’s your flesh
or my flesh

created to meet the deadline
the line of the dead
the shortest distance between
the two points of
here today and
gone tomorrow
the shortcut to save money
and lose lives.

When the maggot says
“I’ve got a deadline to meet”
introduce him to that line
of mates who died on the job

and say, “My body
on your deadline?
No way, you stinking
little maggot!”

And when the ABCC
comes knocking: “Oh my name
it is Ark Tribe
and I ain’t gonna
talk to you….
Maggots!”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ark faces jail as bosses go on killing


Adelaide construction worker Ark Tribe returned to the courts of the capitalist class on June 20.
He is being tried on charges that he refused to attend a compulsory and secret interrogation by the thugs of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, created to intimidate workers in the building industry.
In a tragic twist of fate Ark's return to court came just three days after a fellow construction worker was killed at the Adelaide Desalination Plant site (below).


In South Australia, bosses who kill workers may be fined. Multinational giant BHP Billiton was recently fined $75,000 for causing the death of worker Scott Rigg. It's a paltry sum for a giant corporation.

There is no law on industrial manslaughter in SA.

Hence the international consortium building the bitterly opposed desalination plant won't see any of its executives sent to jail for the death at the plant.
But Ark, who refused to be interviewed by the scum of the earth after standing tall over a safety issue at his workplace, faces a mandatory 6 month's jail!

To support Ark, rallies were held in major cities around Australia. Altogether tens of thousands of workers downed tools. For the sake of some minor disruption to the work at the Flinders University site where Ark was employed at the time he was charged, tens of thousands of work hours have been lost to some of the biggest construction comanies in Australia each time Ark has fronted the courts.

And if Ark is jailed, his union the CFMEU has pledged to stop work right around the country.

Photos of the rally follow:


(The oath of the 1854 Eureka rebels at the Ark Tribe Embassy opposite the courtroom).


(Ark Tribe, second right, listens to speeches of support).


(State President of the Australian Education Union Correna Haythorpe details how members proposing to place a moratorium on NAPLAN testing to oppose school league tables were threatened with individual $6000 fines under Gillard's FairWork Act. Gillard, now Prime Minister, also threatened to send parents into schools as strikebreakers.)


(Jamie Newlyn, State Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia and President of SA Unions. His members stopped work for 24 hours nationally after a death of a member on the Melbourne wharves a week ago.)


("Ark Tribe - here to stay!")


("CFMEU - here to stay!" - with the support of comrades in the AEU, AMWU, ETU, CEPU, IEU, PSA, RBTU, MUA, LHMU present at the rally.)


(And as Ark went into court, we went off to confront the ABCC in its rats nest and vent our anger at its attacks on our class.)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A talk with Ark Tribe

South Australian construction worker Ark Tribe will return to court on July 20 to face charges that he refused to attend a secret inquisition conducted by the notoriously anti-worker Australian Building and Construction Commission.

If convicted, Ark faces a mandatory six months in gaol, and Julia Dullard will try and lead the Anti Labour Party (ALP) to victory in a federal election with a rank and file worker rotting in a cell for standing up to the intimidation and harassment of the boss class.

In the video, Ark reflects on the circumstances that led to him facing charges and on the tremendous support that has been forthcoming for the stand he has taken.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The parasitic consumption of China's new rich


The first half of 2010 in China has been characterised by an eruption of strike activity by China’s workers (see previous post).

This points to the antagonistic nature of social contradictions in the supposedly socialist Chinese society.

Under capitalism, workers are exploited because a part of their working day consists of unpaid labour time during which they produce a surplus value in the form of additional commodities for sale. This unpaid labour time is hidden by the apparent payment of a full day’s wage by the capitalist. The capitalist realises this surplus value as a profit through sale of the commodity. The contradiction that is inherent to capitalism exists between the socialised process of production and the private appropriation of surplus value.

Surplus value continues to be created in socialist societies where commodity production and the law of value continue from capitalism. However, surplus value is transformed into a component of the total social product. It is appropriated as profit from the sale of commodities by the working class itself and returned to the state as the owner of the means of production. Through its party (Communist) and government, the working class decides on the appropriate social distribution of the social product. Exploitation is removed from the equation when the private appropriation of surplus value is undertaken by the social agency of the creators of the surplus value.

However, socialist societies can undergo regression. If a group forms within the party and government that seeks to use its decision-making power to divert surplus value for private purposes (expanding top level salaries, introducing bonuses and incentives that go to those at the top, transforming state-owned enterprises into joint ventures or forcing their private sale through bankruptcy provisions) then it is possible for a new bourgeois class to emerge. Once any part of the total social product is appropriated for the private benefit and enjoyment of a privileged elite, the socialist society is taken on the capitalist road and the social product is broken apart into its exploitative form, with surplus value taken from the working class for the parasitic consumption of the new elite.

This is sadly the state of affairs in China.

The reforms begun under Deng Xiaoping took China down this path. The question was never whether it mattered if it was a black cat or a white cat that caught the mice; the real question was for whom the mice were caught.

Deng’s reforms enabled the appropriation of surplus value by party and government upper echelon bureaucrats, by enterprise managerial staff, by owners of privatised industries and services, by foreign and domestic investors, by the receivers of corrupt payments for favours, by shareholders and market manipulators. These were the beneficiaries of the mouse-catching of Chinese economic activity in the post-Mao era.

Look at last year's case of Wen Qiang, former Director of the Chongqing Justice Department. He had managed to corruptly receive 20 million yuan which he had tried to conceal by wrapping the entire amount in waterproof oilskins and placing it at the bottom of a pool (see retrieved money on display below). Unfortunately, corruption on this scale is all too common in China. This is money created by the labours of the working class but diverted from them and hoarded away at a time when many of the Chinese people can no longer afford education or health care.

Look at the extravagant and boastful weddings of the super rich of the new Chinese bourgeoisie. The fleet for the wedding of a coal bosses’ son on June 20, 2009 in Datong, a major city in Shanxi, included a camera team of 6 Jeeps, 4 Ferraris as lead vehicles, a main fleet of 4 Rolls Royces, and a retinue comprising 6 Mercedes, 6 Bentleys, 20 Audi A8s, a Hummer bringing up the rear, and Porsche Cayennes for "odd jobs” (below).


Despite press campaigns against ostentatious displays of wealth, lavish banquets are still thrown with enormous waste of food and ritual displays of status associated with the provision of rare and endangered species as food. Mo Yan, the novelist who provided us with Red Sorghum in 1987, satirised this culinary elitism in 1992 with The Republic of Wine, a story in which selected boy babies are fattened as “meat boys” and served as the highlight at banquets. It was an effective satire because it dealt with a real and growing abuse of position and power.

A recent report on the East South West North blog refers to a copy of a restaurant bill posted on the Internet, according to which four customers ate: four servings of abalone with list price of 8,800 yuan each; four orders of braised truffles/shark fin soup with list price of 13,888 yuan each; four orders of South African bird's nest soup with wild honey at 9,860 each; 1980 vintage Lafitte red wine; 50-year-vintage Maotai; ... These items alone already amounted to more than 180,000 yuan. There were also some other miscellaneous items such as beef with
pepper, braised tofu, etc which were offered free of charge. The customer signed the bill for the round sum of 200,000 yuan.






The report continued:
“Could this be real? Many netizens have their doubts, because they think that this is yet another promotional gimmick.
“From the telephone number listed on the bill, our reporter contacted the restaurant and spoke to the manager named Yang.







“Manager Yang confirmed that this was true. He told the reporter what happened: ‘There were four customers who showed up for lunch. They ate so late that the restaurant workers had to work overtime. They drank a lot. For some reason, they got into an argument with the servers. The attitude of patrons is that if you don't think that we can afford it, we will deliberately make it hard on you. So this patron had two carloads of one yuan bills delivered to pay the bill. He wanted to cause us grief [by counting the money bills one at a time].’

“This restaurant specializes in serving bird's nest, abalone and shark fin, with an average expenditure of 1,500 to 2,000 yuan per capita. The patrons are mostly coal mine owners, company bosses, etc. Apart from the food and wine, the restaurant also imposes a 10% service charge. They provide side dishes and fruits for free.

“Is this a promotional gimmick by this restaurant? Our reporter tried hard but was unable to reach this "most awesome restaurant patron ever.”

Whether or not it was a promotional gimmick or a real display of ostentation and arrogance by coal mine owners and company bosses, the fact remains that such a restaurant exists to satisfy the parasitic consumption of an exploitative class in China whilst workers are reduced to fighting for shorter working hours and higher wages and are denied access to free medical and educational services.

The Gini Coefficient for China (an international measure of the disparity between a nation’s social poles of wealth and poverty) rose from 0.25 in 1983 (measured by Chen Jiandong and others in The Trend of Gini Coefficient in China http://www.bwpi.manchester.ac.uk/resources/Working-Papers/bwpi-wp-10910.pdf ) to 0.47 in 2008, according to Zhou Tianyong, senior economist of the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. The larger the coefficient the wider the social polarisation. Going beyond 0.5 is usually taken as an indicator the imminent social breakdown of the society concerned.
(Above: at the start of the world financial crisis laid off migrant workers in southern China rally under signs saying "I want to go home". Destitute and without means of transport despite long hours creating surplus value, profit, for bosses.)

China's transformation from a socialist society to a capitalist society will invariably see its emergence as an exporter of capital and a purveyor of neo-colonialism.
The Australian resource sector is in the forefront of this development.
Australian workers and Chinese workers have a shared interest in eliminating all forms of exploitation and greed. Their friendship and understanding will grow in struggle.