Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chinese blogger: What sort of “harmonious society” is this?

Drawing on the reactionary theories of the “sage” Confucius, the Chinese government has adopted the ideal of a “harmonious society”. However, contradictions between capital and labour are never “harmonious” and the restoration of capitalist relations of production in much of China has been a disaster for the working class.

This article draws on several sources, English (see here ) and Chinese, to explore a “mass incident” that occurred last June in Guxiang Township, Chaozhou Municipality, Guangdong Province.

Tendons slashed after seeking back pay

In late May, Xiong Hanjiang, a 19-year-old migrant worker from Sichuan visited his township labour bureau in the hope that officials there would help him get his two-month’s salary back from his employer, Hua Yi Porcelain (see photo above).

The bureau ordered the factory to give Xiong his 3,400 yuan salary and on June 1 at 9am the young man, accompanied by his parents, went to Hua Yi factory to see the boss about payment of the arrears.

Although the boss had agreed to pay the wages, he was nowhere to be seen. At midday, his wife went off to lunch, telling Xiong that he would be paid at 4pm.

At 4pm an altercation broke out when the boss told Xiong that he was not going to be paid. Xiong picked up a stool with which to hit the boss’s head. Xiong’s father tried to stop him but was himself assaulted by the boss’s men. Xiong chased after the boss but was overpowered by the boss’s men and had the tendons on his hands and feet severed.

After receiving a report of the incident, police from the Guxiang police station rushed to the scene where they found the victim unconscious. They sent him to the People’s Liberation Army No. 188 Hospital in Chaozhou. In the meantime, the boss had disappeared, but, according to eyewitnesses, his family later in the afternoon took 3000 yuan to Guxiang police station.

On June 2, Xiong’s family went to the police station demanding the arrest of the boss and assistance with their son’s medical expenses. The Guxiang Party and government leaders tried to calm the situation, visiting the injured worker and offering to assist with his expenses.

However, the Xiong family wanted compensation for their son’s injuries and the arrest of the boss and his accomplices. Between June 3 and June 6 there were various incidents including the smashing of the police station door, the destruction of a plaque outside the police station, and assaults on several police. Some of the migrant workers were subsequently arrested as “troublemakers”. Claims that the local police had admitted being paid to ensure that the boss went free did not help, and were subsequently denied by higher-ups in Chaozhou.

The June 6 incident

On June 4, the boss was arrested and two more were taken in on June 5. However, June 6 was a festival day, and by evening a large crowd of Sichuanese migrant workers had gathered outside the police station demanding the punishment of the assailants.

Around 6pm, the migrant worker crowd cheered when a car was involved in a minor traffic incident. The car was then attacked and burned, thus starting a four hour riot which saw more than 100 vehicles, including a luxury Buick and a couple of BMWs, torched.

Guxiang locals considered this an attack on themselves and gathered for a counterattack. They concentrated on destroying the homes of migrant workers.

It took a month for tensions to subside and for work at some of the factories to resume.

Harmony cannot exist in the presence of capitalism

The cause of this dispute is undoubtedly the restoration of capitalist property rights and the accompanying reappearance of the ideas and habits that accompany capitalism.

The class component of justice under capitalism is revealed through the inadequacy of the new Labour Contract Law to ensure the just treatment of a worker denied his wages. “What is the point of this law after the Guxiang incident?” asked a Chinese citizen online.

Corruption in the service of the rich is manifested in the ability of the boss’s family to initially bribe his way out of trouble. “What kind of a deterrent is the so-called criminal law?” asked the same person.

The problemsof the poor in a society rapidly transitioning to all-out capitalism is seen in the victim, unable to pay his medical expenses and not having received any compensation. “What kind of functions do government departments have?”

The unity of the Chinese people has disappeared under the pressure of economic and social inequality: many of the better-off coastal peoples treat rural migrant workers from inland provinces as uneducated and fail to respect them as humans.

Of the 80,000 residents of Guxiang, 20,000 are migrants workers from Sichuan mainly, but also from Anhui and elsewhere. Some of the locals have taken to expressing regret at having sent donations following the Sichuan earthquake, accusing the migrant workers of being “ungrateful” and completely forgetting that a young worker remains in hospital possibly crippled for life.

As one blogger put it, referring to the severing of Xiong's tendons, "What sort of harmonious society is this?"

Monday, July 25, 2011

What sort of "revolution" was the Cultural Revolution?

(Above: A scene from a painting depicting Yu Gong, the Foolish Old Man, and his sons moving the mountains)

What sort of revolution was the "Cultural Revolution"? What, in the end, is constitutional government?

Author: Anzi

(Translator’s preface: This is an article from the Chinese website Cultural Revolution Research . Very little material that appears on this and other Chinese websites supportive of Mao Zedong’s efforts to continue the revolution after 1949 are translated and made available to non-Chinese readers. My Chinese isn’t fluent and I have limited capacity to translate documents like this, but I think that it is important that we have access to them. The original author had added a very short PS and the text of Chen Yongmiao’s article. They added nothing and I did not translate them. I have added a few translator's notes where I thought it appropriate. Mike)

I’ve recently read two articles on Mao Zedong Thought and the "Cultural Revolution", Guo Songmin's "When Heaven and Earth are not in favour, there is not much even a hero can do" and Chen Yongmiao’s "If there is Mao, there must be Deng, if there is Deng there must be Mao". The former was written based on the latter. After reading them, I was moved. These were the questions that I have been thinking about all along. After reading them, I suddenly saw the light.

There have been many disputes about Mao Zedong Thought and the "Cultural Revolution”, from the anti-communist, anti-Mao Zedong Thought "constitutional activists" to "In relation to Mao Zedong, I have a certain admiration in that, alone and by himself, he created an opposition between the political party and state apparatus. In this regard, I am grateful to him.” Since ancient times, China has never treated the emperor, sovereign political parties and bureaucracy, as potential and real enemies. The effort to experiment with a clash of opposites to realize an ideal makes Mao a symbol and embodiment and thus Mao became a legend for the masses, which also provides inspiration for those who think. This provides ideologists with an explosive topic. Hence, Guo Songmin has a well-founded interpretation of the "Cultural Revolution" with “When Heaven and Earth are not in favour, there is not much even a hero can do ".

On August 5, 1966, "the big-character poster of Mao Zedong" read: "‘China’s first Marxist-Leninist big character poster and Commentator’s article on it in Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) are indeed superbly written! Comrades, please read them again. But in the last fifty days or so some leading comrades from the central down to the local levels have acted in a diametrically opposite way. Adopting the reactionary stand of the bourgeoisie, they have enforced a bourgeois dictatorship and struck down the surging movement of the great cultural revolution of the proletariat. They have stood facts on their head and juggled black and white, encircled and suppressed revolutionaries, stifled opinions differing from their own, imposed a white terror, and felt very pleased with themselves. They have puffed up the arrogance of the bourgeoisie and deflated the morale of the proletariat. How poisonous! Viewed in connection with the Right deviation in 1962 and the wrong tendency of 1964 which was ‘Left’ in form but Right in essence, shouldn’t this make one wide awake?”

(Big character posters were large sheets of paper on which articles were written for mass discussion. They were pasted onto walls of buildings where anybody could read them. Mao Zedong approved of this practice and encouraged it by writing his own at the start of the Cultural Revolution - Trans.)

(Above: "Bombard the Headquarters" - the big character poster of Mao Zedong)

Without naming or accusing Liu Shaoqi, it made it clear that there is a bourgeois headquarters in the CPC Central Committee. Under the influence of the manufactured signboard of “tragedy” our people today have started to hate the “Cultural revolution”, and have even started to hate Mao Zedong. As everyone knows, behind the back of this poster there was "more than fifty days" of the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie": on June 3, 1966, the CPC Central Committee under the direction of Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, decided to send Work Groups to Beijing's universities and secondary schools to lead the work units’ "Cultural Revolution." Liu developed a "Central Committee Eight Directives," including "differentiating between the inner and the outer" and other policies to restrict and suppress the spontaneous movement of students which occurred throughout the country, such as the confrontation between the students and the work teams and the phenomenon of the work teams labelling the students counter-revolutionary in the Xi'an Jiaotong University’s June 6 Incident, Qinghua University’s June 7 Incident, the Guangxi June 8 Incident , Beijing Geology Institute’s June 20 Incident, Beijing Normal University’s June 20 Incident, the Forestry Institute’s "Summary of the Minutes of the Talk" Incident and others.

On July 24, 1966 after Mao returned to Beijing, he convened meetings of the Standing Committee of the Central Committee and the Central Cultural Revolution Small Group, criticized Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, and made a decision to withdraw the Work Teams. Since then, from early June 1966 to the end of July has been known as the "more than fifty days of the bourgeois reactionary line." See, the "bourgeois headquarters" fired the first shot with "the phenomenon of students labelled as counter-revolutionary", but so far no one had been accused. Consequently, these impetuous youths afterwards were exhausted and just wanted to forget whether they were “counter-revolutionary” or not. Consequently, afterwards, whether something was “capitalist” or “socialist” was not worth worrying about, and under the principle of "no debates", they calmed down.

People should read Guo Songmin's "When Heaven and Earth have equal strength, there is no freedom for the hero", and then reflect on it a bit. Mao Zedong's ideas on the "Cultural Revolution" should to some extent be apparent before the CR took place. Before he entered the cities, Mao took Guo Moruo’s "'Commemoration of the Three-Hundredth Year since Jiashen [1644]' " as the party's rectification and educational document. The reason why Mao Zedong Thought became a systematically scientific theory is that it has consistency.

(Guo Moruo was in KMT-occupied Chonqing when he wrote this article on Li Zicheng’s peasant uprising that ended the Ming Dynasty. It was published on March 19, 1944. Mao Zedong arranged for its republication in Yan’an as study materials for the drive for Party rectification - Trans.)

There is currently a very interesting phenomenon on the Internet. Opposition to Mao Zedong Thought and the Communist Party can provide a platform for the murderous chill-to-the-bone wind of malicious attacks and even suspected illegal abuse by "democratic personages”. However if the insignificant masses criticize the bureaucracy they often run into a brick wall. Although those "chill-to-the-bone” “dissidents” who can “make malicious attacks" are often spat upon by Chinese people with a conscience, I am often uncomfortable and always feel it is bad manners.
What’s even more laughable is that at the same time that I thought our bureaucrats were satisfying their own selfish desires, protecting the honourable “capitalist-roaders” who would receive the support of this protection, that is not, in fact, the situation. Were they unaware, as they immediately cast their greedy eyes on the sceptre of the bureaucracy, that they were raising a tiger only to court disaster? And is it any wonder that they advertised themselves as researchers “seeking the truth" and “constitutional socialism”, taking the essence of Marxism -" emancipating oneself and seeking the truth from facts” as faithful Communists, and as Chinese who feel proud to be an ordinary citizen of the Republic." Anti-Communist Party and anti-Mao Zedong Thought "constitutionalists” like Hua Xiaobing and his ilk all try and fit into the same pair of pants, yet they’re all too fat. Chen Yongmiao and Chen's “If there is Mao, there must be Deng, if there is Deng there must be Mao” is a living resource. They are a group of ungrateful fellows, discussing this without being either “Left” or the “Right”.

What sort of revolution was the “Cultural Revolution”? In the end, what sort of thing is constitutional government? Look at two articles I have recommended!
“When Heaven and Earth are not in favour, there is not much even a hero can do “(Guo Songmin, original title, "Foolish Old Man Mao Zedong").

Since Mao Zedong closed his remarks at the 7th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party with a report entitled "The Foolish Old Man Who Moved the Mountains", the story gradually became a household name in China, expressing in typical language the gritty, relentless fighting spirit of the Chinese people. What people probably had not realised is precisely that Mao Zedong considered himself to be a kind of “Foolish Old Man” and that a foolish old man moving the mountains clearly describes Mao Zedong’s lifelong experiences. Because throughout his whole life Mao Zedong was just like the Foolish Old Man, constantly engaged in projects to "move mountains" – he kept digging away without stopping, not slackening off, not giving up, and not failing.

To be fair, Mao Zedong did most of the projects to “move mountains" very successfully, and older Chinese people are familiar with the successes in moving the “three big mountains of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism”, (their reappearance now is another matter), but the last project to "move mountains", by which I mean the Cultural Revolution, he did not do very successfully, and after his death, followed by a cowardly coup, the Cultural Revolution suffered a disastrous defeat.

Now, we have to ask: what sort of society did Mao Zedong want? Who was the “mountain” that he wished to remove in the Cultural Revolution? Why did the Cultural Revolution fail? Mao Zedong pursued thoroughgoing democracy. Early in July 1945, in his Yan'an cave, Mao Zedong asked the visiting Huang Yanpei what were his impressions. Huang Yanpei said that what he had seen and heard in more than sixty years can be described as "Quick to rise, and quick to fall," – there’s not one person, one family, one group, one place, nor even a country, that can escape being dominated by this cycle. In every period of history there are "lazy government officials”, there’s “When the leader dies, so do his ideals” and there is also "seeking glory but finding shame" and in short, no-one can jump out of this cycle. He hoped that the CCP could find a new path and jump out of the control of this cycle. Mao Zedong said: "We have found a new way, we can escape this cycle. This new way is democracy. Only by allowing people to supervise the government will it not dare to slacken; only when everyone begins to take responsibility will we avoid the ideals dying with the leader”. Huang Yanpei nodded: "I tend to agree that democracy can break the cycle”.

(Above: Huang Yanpei and Mao Zedong in Yan'an in 1945)

This "cave dialogue" story has been cited at a very high rate in recent years. Some people would like to remind the ruling party to fulfil this historic commitment, some people want to prove that Mao Zedong went back on his words, or even just used impressive words to deceive the world. However, in my opinion, Mao Zedong was very conscientious in relation to this very serious commitment, and always made great efforts to find what he called “this democratic new way", until he finally launched the "great democracy" as the main feature of the Cultural Revolution. The main way for Mao Zedong to explore "this new way of democracy" was to mobilize the masses in "political campaigns", to mobilize those who for thousands of years had been excluded from the political process, and therefore get the politically apathetic masses of the people to “all take responsibility”.

Today, thanks to the long-term demonization of the main target of previous "political movements" - the bureaucracy - political movements and “crazy" seem to be synonymous. But the reality is not the case, the historical truth is: "political movements" to a large extent enforced the two basic democratic functions of a "people's supervision of government" and "everyone exercising responsibility together", which can explain the first thirty years of New China, and why the contingent of cadres is basically clean, why there did not emerge an unwieldy leadership of "vested interests" (in the late 1970s, with the restoration of the college entrance examination system, almost all of the candidates felt that they faced the possibility of infinite wealth, the reason being that, due to absence of monopolisation by interest groups, students of lower classes felt that opportunities to go up in life were fully open).

Logically, the legitimacy of political movements should coexist with the legitimacy of the ruling party, and the denial of the legitimacy of the one is tantamount to denial of the legitimacy of the other. Because in the case of one-party rule, supervision of the elite by the elite is no longer possible, then it is only through the channel of opening up mass political movements to monitor the elite that is it possible to prevent the deterioration and corruption of the ruling elite. A ruling party that persists in negating political movements is in effect denying any supervision. How can it be no accident that since the ruling party announced that " there will be no political campaigns in the next 20 years" in the 1980s, while at the same time explicitly rejecting indiscriminate Westernization, and not engaging in the separation of the powers, we have evolved today to the point of “the nation will perish if we do not oppose corruption, the party will perish if we do "? If political movements prior to the Cultural Revolution stressed party leadership of the movement, and therefore those in power often used power in a bureaucratic way, taking advantage of the opportunity to silence dissidents, then as the Cultural Revolution drew closer, Mao Zedong obviously wanted to rectify this kind of mistake, calling for "the people themselves should rise in revolution, should educate themselves, manage themselves, and liberate themselves" (August 20, 1966).

However, the bureaucrats were well aware of the implications of this slogan and what it means, and in the "February Adverse Current", Chen Pixian, an official holding power in the party, came to Beijing to launch an attack on the question of this slogan: "We do not want the party's leadership, all day long always going on about the masses, the masses! The masses should liberate themselves, educate themselves, kick aside the party committee to make revolution, this is metaphysics! “Of course, we’re also now well aware of the actual meaning of the “dialectics” of those party people in power. What is beyond comprehension is that the mainstream intellectual elite, in opposing the "political movements", maintained a high degree of bureaucracy and were completely unwilling to acknowledge that political movements were in anyway democratic, and that this and their oft professed love for democracy were quite out of step. Why were they like this? Looking at the reason for this, I think there is a connection between them becoming temporary supervisors of the masses during political movements, losing their supreme status from bygone days, and becoming birds of a feather with the bureaucrats (especially during the Cultural Revolution). It seems that democracy was not the real love of the mainstream intellectual elite, that they had a capacity for leadership, and that only “democracy” under their leadership was their real love. Mao Zedong's efforts resulted in recognition of another side to Huang Yanpei in the “cave dialogues”.

On August 4, 1952 Huang Yanpei attended the CPPCC Standing Committee presided over by Mao Zedong and praised the country's achievements in construction. After dinner that day, Mao Zedong sought the opinions of people from the various parties and Huang said: "The victorious results of the Three Antis and the Five Antis prove that the reply by Chairman Mao in Yan'an in 1945, that the CPC can use democracy to break the cycle of the repeated rise and fall of historical tradition is correct." At the time Huang was already 74 years old, and he and Mao had an unusual personal friendship, and it is unlikely that he would simply pretend to flatter him. On democracy, Mao Zedong also had a more thorough discussion than the “cave dialogues”. In the last century, at the end of the fifties and start of the sixties, after the storm of the "Lushan conference", Mao Zedong had a special time with some "scholars" to read the Soviet Union's "political economics textbooks", and had made a large number of comments and held many conversations, and a book "Mao Zedong’s comments and talks on reading socialist political economy” was published later According to the record in the "comment and talks,", in Chapter 23 of the Soviet textbook, it spoke of the new constitution in 1936 which discussed the rights of Soviet citizens and Soviet labourers, including "the rights to labour, the right to rest, the right to education, and the guaranteed rights of the elderly, the ill and those incapacitated and unable to work”.

Mao stated prominently alongside this text: "The greatest right is to manage the state", and made the comment that: "When referring to the rights enjoyed by Soviet workers, there is no mention of the workers’ right to manage the state, to manage the military, to manage enterprises, or to manage culture and education. In fact, this is the greatest right of Soviet workers under the socialist system, their most fundamental right. Without these rights, there is no guarantee of the workers’ right to work, rest, education, etc.”

From the "cave dialogues" to "comments and talks," we will find Mao Zedong’s interpretation of democracy has undergone significant changes, that he is no longer simply satisfied with "people supervising the government", and is no longer just generally talking about "everyone taking responsibility ", but rather sees the" workers’ rights to management of the state, management of the military, management of all types of enterprises, and management of culture and education” as the main content of democracy. From these comments and talks, we can already see some clues to a number of major initiatives that he has taken during the Cultural Revolution.

In 1965, Mao Zedong reascended Jinggangshan, and in the mountains he again had an important conversation about democracy, which the director of Jiangxi Provincial Public Security Bureau, Wang Zhuochao later recalled: "I remember that afternoon the Chairman asked teachers and students alike what they thought was the Jinggangshan spirit. We said hard work and arduous struggle and he laughed, and told us to think again, that hard work and arduous struggle is only one direction, it was a minor point, that there were still two points and that we had to think from the direction of the system. Wang Dongxing added a comment about organising party branches on the basis of companies in the army. The Chairman nodded and continued: During our time in Jinggangshan, we explored a good system, good style, and now what we advocate is hard work and arduous struggle, and what we pay attention to is organising the branch on the basis of the company, but at the expense of the soldiers' committees. Along with our coming to power, and with the branch on the basis of the company, all walks of life have now built party organizations, and these are now the leading organs. The party's strength has increased. However, the conscious acceptance of supervision by the masses, the implementation of political democracy, and ensuring that our party is not divorced from the masses, has many shortcomings compared to the soldiers’ committees of the time on Jinggangshan. Nationwide democracy has not taken shape as a system, as an effective method, and the soldiers’ committees of the Jinggangshan period have a major role to play. The Chairman proposed that the role of the Jinggangshan soldiers’ committees have major status, as shown in the words at the heart of his article “The Struggle in the Jinggang Mountains” where he wrote: 'In China the army needs democracy as much as the people do. Democracy in our army is an important weapon for undermining the feudal mercenary army.’”

(Above: Mao Zedong back in Jinggangshan)

Mao Zedong’s return to Jinggangshan, right on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, was not simply nostalgia, which itself is a compelling political gesture. This conversation shows that Mao was considering "a nationwide political democracy" as well as how democracy could be shaped into a system, and how an "effective method" of democracy could be found and so on, and using language we are familiar with today, that Mao was already considering the problem of political reform. In Mao's view, things such as "soldiers' committees" can exercise checks and balances on Party branches, together with the involvement of mass organizations in the management of companies in the military and that these were capable of becoming important ways of implementing democracy in China.

The difficult problem for the Foolish Old Man Mao Zedong, i.e. Mao Zedong on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, was what was the situation with the social structure he was up against? In general this was summarised as "two classes, one stratum", that is, the working class, peasantry and the intelligentsia. However, this generalization ignored the most powerful social stratum, the bureaucratic social stratum (or "party - state elite"). We should say that this social stratum is a "byproduct" of the Chinese revolution – owing to the fact that the Chinese revolution was forced to choose the path of armed struggle, in the long years of war , thousands upon thousands of professional revolutionaries were nurtured, and that after the establishment of New China they naturally developed into a bureaucracy at all levels, they enjoyed a high prestige in the community, they had rich experiences of struggle, had a strong commitment to defending the regime, and had a monopoly within the country over all the natural resources including the party, government, military, human, financial, and material.

At that time in China, after the long and large-scale violent storm of revolutionary baptism, from the bottom to the top, the original vested interests and elite groups had gone - the landlord class has been eliminated; the national bourgeoisie had accepted socialist transformation to the beating of drums and gongs, and had already been “bought off”; Western forces had already been forced out of China; the intellectuals had expressed their support for socialism, and were in the state of having been remoulded – the only organized strength was the bureaucratic social stratum . In this Chinese Garden of Eden, this giant bureaucratic monster had no natural enemies: the workers and peasants expressed support for them and the intellectuals were also very submissive.

The Foolish Old Man Mao Zedong's project to "move mountains" had thus come up against its final mountain. For him, the trouble was that this bureaucratic social stratum was his personal creation in the long years of revolution and war, and it had been led from victory to victory under his personal leadership, but now it had become the biggest obstacle to his leading China towards democracy. If Mao could successfully find a way to deconstruct the power of the bureaucracy, or if the masses could organize effective checks and balances on the bureaucratic strata, then it would not be difficult to lead China along the easy path to democracy, and turn it into a great socialist country; on the contrary, if the control of everything was left to the bureaucracy, the Chinese revolution would be incomplete and fall short of success, and the fruits of the revolution already obtained would be wholly or partly lost.

Of course, when Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution, the bureaucracy was basically "red", its revolutionary vigour and idealism had not completely faded, and under the impact of Mao Zedong’s strict supervision and the rapid succession of political movements they had not had the time to become corrupt (this point later on caused great difficulties during the Cultural Revolution), but under the circumstances of the masses’ lack of democratic rights, and their inability to place restrictions on them, their "red" could become "gray" and may even be changed to "black", so because of these points it was not possible to implement democracy. However, it is precisely because firstly the bureaucratic social stratum was still "red" and secondly they were not entirely corrupt, that not only could party cadres not understand the Cultural Revolution, but neither could non-Party cadres. At the high tide of the "Cultural Revolution" on National Day in 1967, during the ceremony on Tiananmen, the Vice President of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Guomindang Zhang Zhizhong revealed his own doubts to Mao Zedong: "Chairman, you are going too fast, we cannot keep up! I always thought that the Communist Party cadres were good, so how have so many good cadres all of a sudden become capitalist-roaders? "But history has since proven that it was Mao Zedong and not any other talented persons who had really seen the class nature of the bureaucratic social stratum and where this would lead.

Surveying the international communist movement, we will find that owing to the monopolisation of powers under socialism by the bureaucratic social stratum or the "party - state elite", that there must a condition of instability and impermanence. Its prospects is either to continue to move forward towards an "association of free peoples," to establish a people's democratic socialism where the people have the "right to manage the state, manage the military, manage enterprises, manage culture and education"; or it can go backwards and return to the "mainstream of world civilization", and restore capitalism on the ruins of socialism - it must be one or the other.

Of these two possibilities, the latter is most likely to become a reality, and it has become a regular phenomenon in almost all of the traditional socialist countries. Mainstream scholars have given a variety of reasons, and have even trotted out "global trends" as the ultimate explanation. But in my opinion, this is only because the bureaucracy in the former socialist countries had no natural enemies, and that after the death of the leaders Lenin and Mao Zedong, who were vigilant against the bureaucracy and had the ability to inhibit it, if the bureaucrats decided to use their power to pursue to the maximum their own self-aggrandizement, then there was little power to stop it. The result of the pursuit of maximizing their own interests was bound to be the break-up of all the myths about socialism, ideology, dogma and institutional frameworks, and especially to turn into an hypocrisy the slogan of the "equality of all". With the failure of socialism, capitalism seems to be "successful" and the restoration of capitalism thus becomes the "main trend." In relation to the first possibility, with the exception of the solemn and stirring experiment of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the whole history of the international communist movement is utterly silent on this, the reason being that because the bureaucrats had a monopoly of power, it was impossible for them to launch a revolution in which they themselves were the target. In fact, because it is impossible to place hopes on “the party - state elite" remaining red in the long-term, the Marxist classical writers in describing the socialist era always thoroughly insisted on democracy. In their view, of course, the economy is a necessary condition for building socialism, but it was not the only condition. Only when the people directly are the masters of the party and the state, rather than society being controlled by a new ruling group can it be called socialist. Socialism is not about a new group of people becoming the masters, but about completely changing the concept of power. So, whether it was Marx, Engels or Lenin, they have all repeatedly spoken highly of "the principles of the Paris Commune": firstly, the election of public officials by universal suffrage; secondly, the wages of all public servants being equivalent to the wages of skilled workers; thirdly, supervision of public officials by the masses enjoying the right to recall. Engels argued that only by adhering to these measures can we be assured of “preventing the servants of society in the state and state organs becoming the masters of society."

The Foolish Old Man Mao Zedong's effort to "move mountains", the Cultural Revolution, can be said to be a great attempt to "completely change the concept of power", to have had an unprecedented impact on the bureaucrats’ monopoly of power, and a great experiment in mass democracy that is fundamentally different from the elite Western democracy! In general, the big democracy of the Cultural Revolution consisted mainly of the following three aspects: First, the masses had the right to “speak out freely, air views fully, hold great debates, and write big-character posters”. The main characteristic of this right was the dismantling of all barriers to the right of expression, whether by status, property, educational level, etc. Looking at the history of all human civilization, the right to speak had been monopolized by the elite before the "four big freedoms” of "speaking out freely, airing views fully, holding great debates, and writing big-character posters" were invented. The appearance of the "four big freedoms" meant that the lowest rung of the masses were no longer in the situation of having to get the permission of the elite to exercise the right to speak, that they could challenge the oppression of the bureaucracy, that they were in possession of the most effective political means to supervise the elite. Because this right was unprecedented, the "four big freedoms" thrust China onto the highest stage of development of world human rights, put it in the position of human rights leadership and caused a series of chain reactions in developed capitalist countries such as Europe, the US and Japan.

Today, we look back at the "four freedoms" as we stand in the era of the Internet, and we can better appreciate its great significance. On the Internet, people are forever "speaking out freely, airing views fully, holding great debates, and writing big-character posters", and the impact of online media on China's political environment and public policy is profound, and we cannot imagine what China would be like with the abolition of the Internet. So I think those who love the Internet and enjoy its benefits should have a sympathetic and understanding attitude towards "speaking out freely, airing views fully, holding great debates, and writing big-character posters". It is no exaggeration to say that the 1975 Constitution which contains the four big freedoms of "speaking out freely, airing views fully, holding great debates, and writing big-character posters" is a great unprecedented legal document, that it goes beyond the "Napoleonic Code " , and also surpasses the “Mayflower Compact” which is regarded as sacred by the main Chinese elites.

(The Napoleonic Code,introduced by Napoleon in 1804, curtailed feudal privileges. The Mayflower Compact was a document governing the new colony of Plymouth signed aboard the immigrant ship Mayflower in 1620 - Trans.)

One of the most criticized aspects of using the "four big freedoms" as the means of supervising the bureaucrats is that many criticisms and accusations were not based on facts, and this became a pretext for their later cancellation. But in fact, owing to the serious information asymmetry between the public and the bureaucracy, the "burden of proof" (so-called "confession under duress") has become a kind of inevitability in the public supervision of the elite, and, to a certain extent, this will lead to some miscarriages of justice. This is correct However, political figures or those holding public authority have an obligation to hold themselves accountable in the face of questioning from the masses, and this is universal law of today's political civilization. The constantly stressed "burden of proof lies with the accuser" objectively protects the absolute superiority of the bureaucratic groups, and makes inevitable the huge amount of corrupt elements at large. Everyone may consider which of these two ways is the better. In the second, the masses have an unprecedented freedom of association.

An organized minority can always overcome the unorganized majority, which is almost an eternal truth. The bureaucracy is a minority in the general population, but they have long been able to dominate the vast majority of the total population because all they are is organized, while the public is disunited. To some extent, during the Cultural Revolution, and especially in the first three years, there was the highest degree of freedom of association in human history: there was no need to apply, to register, and the moment a few people discussed it, a new political association was created. If you take into account that only after entering the 21st century, some of the most tolerant Northern European societies have just arrived at establishing a degree not requiring registration, we can realize that the freedom of association enjoyed by the Chinese masses was something rarely seen anywhere in the world. Today, many Chinese liberals are on the one hand pushing freedom of speech and freedom of association, while on the other hand generously using the most vicious cursing of those times when the freedom of speech and freedom of association surpassed that of any Western country, and this contradiction in attitudes is puzzling, but it also allows people to doubt the sincerity of their pursuit of freedom.

The shape and inspiration of the mass organizations of the Cultural Revolution definitely came from Jinggangshan period of "soldier committees" and if, in time, it is possible to grow into a new "socialist civil society", and become the main platform for the supervision of the bureaucracy by the masses holding and exercising "the management of all affairs", it will make the “social” of “socialism” well-deserved, and create the national conditions for a genuine "small government, big society". Thirdly, it will create the system of people at the grassroots directly participating in and exercising the management rights of the "revolutionary committees".

(Above: The badge reads "Revolutionary Committees are fine"; the reverse side indicates that it was released in 1967 at a textile factory in Guilin to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the factory's revolutionary committee.)

During the Cultural Revolution, revolutionary committees were the organizational form at all levels of government and referred to as Cultural Revolutionary Committees. They were first launched in Shanghai in 1967 in the January Storm movement to seize power, through the mass organizations’ capturing the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee and Shanghai Municipal Government's authority at all levels, through following the example of the Paris Commune by organizing government agencies into a great democracy, and through Zhang Chunqiao naming it the Shanghai People's Commune, which was later, under a proposal of Mao Zedong changed to "Revolutionary Committee". In the Cultural Revolution, all levels of Chinese government, from provincial level to the factory and the schools, changed their names to Revolutionary Committee.

The Revolutionary Committees implemented unified leadership and abolished the difference between the Chinese Communist Party and the government, combining them in a single system whose personnel adopted the approach of the "three-in-one combination", which included "revolutionary cadres" who had not been overthrown, the representatives of mass organizations, and the "workers' propaganda teams" and "agricultural propaganda teams" (called the “workers (the poor, and lower-middle peasants) Mao Zedong Thought Propaganda Team ", which in the main were representatives of the workers and the poor and lower-middle peasant stationed in the danweis or work units of offices, schools and cultural institutions) or composed of representatives of the military. In such institutions, because cadres were familiar with the business, they generally were responsible for daily operations, while the worker-peasant-soldier representatives were in charge of major policies, and the mass organizations on behalf of the staff were responsible for maintaining the interests of the lower units.

We can say that “Revolutionary Committees "were the concrete form of "the greatest right is to manage the state" spoken about in Mao Zedong's" Comments and Talks ", and that this form of organization in all levels of government and the management of institutions brought in the fresh blood of the masses, and that even in the central government there were cadres of workers and peasants from the grassroots level like Chen Yonggui and Wu Guixian . In order to prevent these people from again becoming divorced from the masses, and on the basis of Chen Yonggui’s experiences, Mao Zedong enacted the "three-thirds system," namely the principle that one-third of one’s time should be at the central work, one-third of one’s time should be back in one’s original place of work, and one-third of one’s time should be for engaging in research at the grassroots level. This system guaranteed direct ties of flesh and blood between the highest central levels and the masses people and made it very difficult for any schemes that violated the interests of the masses to get through. In short, the Cultural Revolution was undoubtedly a great attempt to implement the ideal of democracy in China, and if it is said that there were any problems during the Cultural Revolution, it was that it failed. Can the failure of the Cultural Revolution, apart from proving that democracy in China is not an easy matter, indicate anything else?

(Chen Yonggui (1914-1986) was the leader of the Dazhai Production Brigade whose experiences Mao called on the nation to study. He became a member of the 9th Central Committee in1969 and became a popular figure in his white-towelled peasant turban. He was re-elected to the 10th and 11th Central Committees and after 1975 held the position of Vice-Premier of the State Council. By 1982 he had resigned most positions and ended up supervising a farm outside of Beijing. Wu Guixian was a former textile worker from Xianyang, Shaanxi province who was elected to the Central Committee in 1969. She became the first female Vice-Premier of China. She continues to work in poverty alleviation programs and promotes education for the rural poor - Trans.)

(Above: Chen Yonggui on the cover of an illustrated booklet about the Dazhai Production Brigade)

Why did the Foolish Old Man Mao Zedong fail? A direct cause of the failure of the Cultural Revolution’s experiment with big democracy was the threat to the bureaucracy's monopoly on power, and it therefore lead to their instinctive or conscious counterattack. One landmark event was the 1967 Wuhan "720 Incident": the deliberate creation of a very serious situation, namely the kidnapping of central representative Wang Li by mass organisations and a part of the army supported by the bureaucrats, in the full knowledge that Mao Zedong was actually in Wuhan, forcing Mao to leave Wuhan in an emergency transfer to Shanghai, hence Wang Li's words, that this was an unprecedented disgrace suffered by Mao Zedong since he became a leader of the party. In a certain sense, the influence of the “720 Incident" on the history of the Cultural Revolution is comparable to the "Xi'an Incident". It made Mao Zedong realize that the desired goal of the Cultural Revolution could not be achieved, that only through much repetition could it be achieved, and in order to avoid imminent civil war, national crisis and complete anarchy, Mao Zedong had to begin the process of making significant adjustments to the Cultural Revolution.

But the "720 Incident" remains a superficial reason. In my opinion, the fundamental reason was that the "God" Mao Zedong had hoped to arouse - that is, the working class – was in fact half-hearted towards Mao Zedong’s project to "move mountains". During the Cultural Revolution, the student Red Guards were just an assault force, and could not decide the outcome of the whole of the Cultural Revolution, farmers basically stayed out of it, the bureaucracy had become the target of the Cultural Revolution, and the intellectuals opposed the Cultural Revolution, so the outcome of the Cultural Revolution depended on the attitude of the working class. Mao had issued the call that "the working class must exercise leadership over everything" and had high expectations of the working class. On the surface, the working class also warmly responded to Mao's call and had set up a variety of mass rebel organizations, and had actively participated in the leadership teams for the Revolutionary Committees at all levels and organized "workers' propaganda teams" stationed in "superstructure ", but in fact the working class as a whole did not truly understand the significance of the Cultural Revolution.

On this issue, the most obvious manifestation is that after the “uprising” of the working class it split into two factions, the rebels and the "Royalists" which were unable to extricate themselves from factional struggles, and which not only seriously undermined the workers’ class power, but also enabled the bureaucracy that had sustained heavy losses to use factionalism to stage a comeback, for even after Mao Zedong issued the “highest instruction” that "There is no fundamental conflict of interest within the working class, there is no need to split into two irreconcilable factions" the situation did not fundamentally improve. During the intense and complex political game of the Cultural Revolution, in the situation of the bureaucracy being unable to employ the military, the police and other repressive state apparatus to repress the mass revolt, the "royalists" supported by the bureaucracy objectively played the role of guards for the bureaucrats, and became the main instigators of "resorting to violence ", racing to the front in the "720 Incident ", forcing out Mao's" Million Heroes” , the basic membership of whom were the workers.

(The “Million Heroes” was a Red Guard faction loyal to Wuhan Military Commander Chen Zaidao. They kidnapped Wang Li, a member of the Central Cultural Revolution Group after Mao ordered the PLA to switch its support to the rival Workers’ Headquarters. I’m not sure why the author refers to the “Million Heroes” as Mao’s - Trans.)

(Above: Mao's quotation that there is no fundamental conflict of interest in the working class).

The most fundamental reason why the working class would show such a state of political immaturity during the Cultural Revolution is that in the 17 years prior to the Cultural Revolution the working class was the biggest beneficiary of the system - their political status was high, their social reputation was good, and their benefits were also better than many other sectors of society. From this perspective alone, they were a stabilizing force in society rather than a revolutionary force. Can you imagine that the Western middle class would become the revolutionary force of the Western system?

But what the working class did not realize is that if they could not occupy the superstructure, as Mao had hoped, as a united, revolutionary force, as well as acting as checks and balances on the bureaucracy, then their existing status and interests in the historical process called "reform" would be lost. In this sense, it is no exaggeration to say that the Cultural Revolution failed because of the political immaturity of the working class. Today we have seen that the cost of restructuring the “iron rice bowl" of 30 million workers has been easily “paid” and the working class has become a socially vulnerable group in reality as well as in name. In short, the working class, for their own political immaturity and the failure of the Cultural Revolution, has paid and will continue to pay a heavy price, and where it will all end is hard to say, but it’s certainly the case that the goddess of history will not give, in the immediate future, a second opportunity to the working class to “exercise leadership in everything”.

So the success of the legendary Foolish Old Man actually depended on two factors: first, the courage to challenge the impossible, to keep digging every day, and never give up; second, moving "God" so that "God" (ie the people as indicated by Mao Zedong) felt like joining in. This was a key element of success in "moving mountains". After the "720 Incident", Li Na and the people around Mao Zedong, often heard Mao reciting a poem: “When Heaven and Earth are not in favour, there is not much even a hero can do ". When he began, Li Na believed Mao Zedong was sighing for people like Wang, Guan, and Qi who were under investigation, but she later realized that Mao was lamenting for himself - most likely, the "foolish old man" Mao realized that in the current project to "move mountains", he could not completely move his " God ", and that the project to "move mountains " must be full of twists and turns and even reversals, and that probably in his lifetime he could not achieve the "moving of mountains ".

How should we deal with the legacy of Mao Zedong? The Cultural Revolution was not defeated in 1976, nor was it defeated in document that "totally rejected" it, rather it was defeated in that hot summer of 1967. Since then, owing to his awareness of the split in the working class, Mao Zedong was unable to deliver the last fatal blow to the bureaucracy, and the Cultural Revolution was forced to deviate from its goal of complete democracy, continuing on ambiguously in a kind of half-baked manner. The opportunity to achieve complete democracy once and for all in China had been lost, at least temporarily, and already Mao Zedong, unable to fundamentally restore the situation of realizing his hopes for democracy, had pushed them into the distant future.

In the 1960s, the subjective conditions for the Cultural Revolution were ripe, because Mao was clear-headed and knew what his own goals were, but the objective conditions for the Cultural Revolution were immature, the bureaucrats "redness" still existed, and his "God" was sceptical towards Mao Zedong efforts. The failure of the Cultural Revolution was Mao Zedong's failure, and also the failure of China's first attempt at mass democracy, and anyone hoping for democracy in China should inherit the legacy of Mao Zedong, complete the unfinished business of Mao Zedong, and not make a clean break with it.

Is there no difference between Mao and Deng? If we have Mao must we also have Deng? I cannot see it. In my opinion, the biggest difference between Mao and Deng is that Mao had never been happy being a tool of the bureaucrats, he had made great efforts to make the bureaucracy "serve the people wholeheartedly" as he hoped it would. He launched previous political movements, all in order to tame the “monster” of the bureaucratic groups. But Deng on the contrary, no matter whether it was before or after the Cultural Revolution, no matter whether or not he was subjectively aware of it, was the tool of the bureaucracy to achieve their own ends, which led to him being “overthrown” twice by Mao Zedong. In the failure of the Cultural Revolution, the masses were temporarily withdrawn as a real political force in the political arena, and Deng had no choice but to become the bureaucrats’ tool. Since then, whether it is the political "cleaning-up of three kinds of people", the vindication of miscarriages of justice, or economic reform and opening up, we will find the final and biggest beneficiaries are the bureaucrats, that they are not only still in power, but also quick to get rich through the economy, developing into a high consumption social stratum living a life of luxury and dissipation. That the policy of Reform and Opening Up can be taken as the starting point for the relegation of political and democratic reform (including the abolition from the Constitution of the “four bigs” and the right to strike, and the cancellation of the Xidan Democracy Wall) is often intentionally or unintentionally ignored.

In the situation where Mao Zedong is no longer around, what should we do? The answer is simple: Let each of us become a Mao Zedong! Let each of us in the face of this "mountain" of the bureaucracy follow the model of Mao Zedong in "keeping on digging every day, never slacking off, never giving up, and never failing"! Mao Zedong has already proven that it is entirely possible to achieve mass democracy, and what we need to do is to put this possibility into reality, Mao Zedong’s historical mission has been completed, and we cannot continue to put the blame on him; on the contrary, we can only continue to forge ahead in the places where Mao Zedong failed. It is incredible that for many people the failure of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution is the reason for doubting whether mass democracy is viable - just because Mao Zedong failed can we no longer pursue democracy?

Solidarity with Swedwood IKEA workers

The USA is reputed to be the “home of the brave and the land of the free”.

However, there is one brave group of 300 workers who are certainly not free to join their union.

They are employees of the wholly-owned IKEA subsidiary Swedwood in Danville, Virginia.

They have been subjected to harassment and intimidation as they try to organize into a union.

According to the latest reports, with the US in the grip of a heatwave, conditions in the plant have soared to 115° F (46° C) and in some sections of the plant, to 125° F (51.6°C), yet Swedwood management refused to open the doors of the non air conditioned building in order to keep down the humidity which is draw into the building by the massive saw dust exhaust blowers.

Workers have fainted and passed out from the heat. At least one worker received medical treat off site for heat related issues. Electronic equipment has begun to fail from the combination heat and humidity.

This is why workers need to have basic organizations of defence in the workplace.

The Building Workers International Union last week issued a call to make the week of July 19-25 “I Vote for Swedwood/IKEA Union” week, calling on activists around the world to take photos of solidarity actions outside their local IKEA plant.

In Adelaide we did just that.

Hope it helps!

Post Script
July 27, 2011

Victory news from Swedwood

In a secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, an agency of the United States Federal Government, workers at Swedwood’s operation in Danville Virginia voted to be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), and affiliate of the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI). The final vote was 221 workers (76%) who voted for the union and 69 against. The election victory marks completion of the first phase in the struggle for workers rights and social justice for these Swedwood workers.

Issues of safety and health, racial discrimination, dignity and basic human respect were the main grievances that the workers had expressed as reasons for voting to join the Machinists Union.

The workers have voted for a union but clearly the struggle is not over as the next major hurdle for the workers is to negotiate a successful collective bargaining agreement that improves worker safety, promotes respectful treatment, and puts an end to favoritism and discrimination.

“This struggle was global with support and assistance from every continent by more than 120,000 workers, various social partners, and many other global union federations” said Bill Street,Director of the Wood Works Department of the IAMAW. “There are not the words in the English language to express our gratitude and thanks to everyone who participated and made this first victory possible.”

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Arkaroola - victory at last!

On Friday 22 July 2011 the long-awaited announcement that mining would be banned forever in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary was delivered by premier Mike Rann.

This is a huge victory.

Marathon Resources, which holds an exploration licence within the Sanctuary, and which was aiming to mine uranium, had major connections and influence.

Its two main shareholders were the late Queensland coal mining magnate Ken Talbot and the China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC).

Talbot was a shonky operator and was facing corruption charges relating to jailed Queensland politician Gordon Nuttall just before his death. CITIC is the major state-owned investment arm of the Chinese government.

Marathon has strong ties to influential people within the Labor Party. Executive Director Chris Shacht is a former Labor Senator. Former Federal Labor MP John Quirke is a lobbyist for Marathon and has made donations to SA Labor through his company Pallidon Pty Ltd.

Nevertheless, these connections and this influence ultimately counted for nothing in the face of strong community opposition to the prospect of mining in the Wilderness Sanctuary.

That opposition came from communists, Greens, sections of the traditional custodian Adnyamathanha community, rank and file Labor supporters as well as some within the conservative Liberal Party.

The announcement is better late than never.

However, there is still a need for careful scrutiny of the Rann plan. For example, nowhere in the official Rann press release is Arkaroola correctly referred to as the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. It is simply referred to as the Arkaroola “region” and Arkaroola “area” and in one place only as the “Sanctuary”.

A Primary Industries and Resources Department map showing the area to be saved by special legislation and recommended for World Heritage listing does not entirely align with the current Sanctuary borders.

The status of brother and sister Doug and Marg Sprigg who jointly operate the Sanctuary is unclear. They are merely referred to as the “pastoral leaseholders” and the press release refers to the government “actively examining options for the future conservation management of the Arkaroola Sanctuary”.

However, we can now celebrate the end of a four year campaign of blogging, pickets and rallies secure in the knowledge that the game is well and truly up now for Marathon and its shareholders.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Klein: Murdoch brings in the spin master

There’s just so much to say about this Murdoch phone hacking scandal that it might be best to get a lot of it out of the way courtesy of the prince of photoshop, Matt Walker:

(The optional response boxes at the bottom of this shot are:

  • I can't remember

  • Not to my knowledge

  • No, I have no recollection of that

  • You have to ask them

  • Act confused and senile)

    • But here’s one that Matt didn’t need to touch up. It’s hilarious, tragic and instructive in it’s own right:

      Immediately behind the right shoulder of James Murdoch is the disgraced former Chancellor of Education in New York City, Joel Klein.

      Klein was once the shining star of educational "reform” in the US, holding schools “accountable” for student test results through a system of publicly available school “report cards”. However, the system turned to high farce following what Diane Ravitch, Professor of Education at New York University, has called “rigged and fraudulent” reports. (See ).

      Recognising a snake-oil salesman, Murdoch snapped up Klein last November when he appointed him a vice-director of News Corporation. Murdoch was keen to use Klein to open up the education market to his publishing and online empire:

      “We’re very fortunate to have a leader of such exceptional depth join the senior executive team of News Corporation,” said Mr. Murdoch on November 9.2010. “His record of achievement leading one of the country’s toughest school systems has given him a unique perspective that will be particularly important as we look into a sector that has long been in need of innovation.”

      What Murdoch meant by “innovation” was spelled out more clearly at this year’s G8 meeting in France. He referred to education as “the last frontier” - a vast market waiting to be invaded, conquered and financially exploited by News of the World and other companies.

      He cited approvingly what he called Sweden’s “IKEA schools”, the Knowledge Schools chain, the owner of which has said: “If we're religious about anything, it's standardisation. We tell our teachers it is more important to do things the same way than to do them well.”

      What attracted Murdoch, sniffing for dollars like a dog at its neighbour’s bum, was this: “Like IKEA, a giant Swedish furniture-maker, Kunskapsskolan gets its customers to do much of the work themselves. The vital tool, though, is not an Allen key but the Kunskapsporten (“Knowledge Portal”), a website containing the entire syllabus.”

      Note, students are “customers”. The chain of schools to which Murdoch referred has 700 employees and teaches nearly 10,000 pupils, with an operating profit of SKr62m last year on a turnover of SKr655m. ($A1 = SKr6.7).

      Murdoch wants to take this approach internationally.

      All of that is on hold for the moment.

      Klein, the master of spin, has been tasked by Murdoch with heading News Corporation’s internal investigation into the phone hacking scandal.

      Murdoch said Klein would provide "important oversight and guidance" as the company "co-operates with the police in all investigations".

      We hope that “co-operation with the police” extends to having Mr Murdoch’s toothbrush packed and ready for when he is arrested, as he should be, and taken to the holiday home for ageing reactionaries and fascists.

      Monday, July 04, 2011


      A sign on the Unley Uniting Church caught my eye as I drove to work work this morning. “Trading asylum seekers for refugees is despicable”, it said in reference to the recent deal struck between the Australian and Malaysian Governments. And I agreed and thought how far we’d retreated from the early days of the colony of South Australia when the British unsettlers welcomed German refugees into the lands they had stolen from its Aboriginal custodians. Perhaps we’d forgotten ‘cos a place name’s origins become obscured and one suburb’s the same as another.

      undistinguished suburb within the ugly
      urban sprawl of feral occupation…

      Where once the Kaurna in their settled
      and stable custodianship walked the riverside
      in 1838 came Kavel’s boatpeople; asylum seekers
      fleeing religious persecution at the hands of
      Prussia’s King and Junker nobles…

      Not for them a Norfolk
      Island cell or a Van Diemen’s Land
      solution; each an honoured guest at George
      Fife Angas’s behest in a paradise
      of religious dissent…

      Whitewashed walls of wattle and daub; the yellowed
      thatch of sloping roofs; a pair of oxen
      double-yoked through a redgum collar; an open
      dray and a lad stooks hay, muttering in
      guttural Deutsch “Get thee
      behind me Satan!” for he
      has taken in the blonde-haired girl
      whose thick double plaits come
      across her shoulders like door snakes and fall
      down her breasts like shards of waterfall to
      hang in mid-air and never splash
      into that dark pool below….
      that dark pool below…
      that dark….Oh get thee behind I say!

      Only in the context of imperialist
      war with the white-washed walls
      now clay brick and the dirt
      lane become macadamized and each house
      a row of English roses and the German name all that
      remains of those persecuted arrivals does the
      host community assert its narrow Anglo preference
      and Klemzig is no more for Gaza is gazetted; a decree
      to spite the Austro-German ally
      Turkey and a Palestinian place-name
      obliterates the Prussian on the land of Kaurna people…

      1935 and it’s Klemzig again except
      at the local footy club which plays on
      today under a Middle-Eastern name….

      And I shouldn’t call this suburb bland but
      the whitewashed walls and the guttural noise and the
      girl with thick blond plaits and the boy whose
      every thought the Good Lord had placed to account
      are gone;

      and it’s
      an undistinguished suburb within the ugly
      urban sprawl of feral occupation