Monday, December 03, 2012

James "Purlie" Wilson

James "Purlie" Wilson

OK, she’s nearly three
but when she called with delight,
after running around the headstones
lichened and leaning
in their carpet of Hampshire green
This would be a great place to live!
I knew she didn’t quite grasp the

Backtrack a week to Strathaven, Scotland
where, on a fruitless search for dead family,
we found the grave of James "Purlie" Wilson

Martyred in the cause
of freedom and emancipation
of working people

on August 30, 1820
never before heard of
how he lives for me now!
I grasp the context in my fist…


Friday, October 05, 2012

On Alan Jones and other human deformities

I am indebted to Dennis Parker of Yongala for his Advertiser Letter to the Editor, which begins:

“So we find Alan Jones can’t stand Julia Gillard and Julia can’t stand Alan; I wholeheartedly agree with each of them.”
Having said that, this US phenomenon of the “shock jock” – and by extension, shock cartoonist, shock columnist, shock TV presenter – needs to be condemned.

And they need to be condemned by exposing the class interests behind their promotion.

Nothing suits the ruling class better than to have the people arguing amongst themselves instead of as a solid mass against the rulers.  Divide and rule.  Encourage male contempt for women; heterosexual hatred of gay, bi-sexual and transgender persons; mainstream Aussie rejection of Asians and blacks; waged people’s resentment of “dole bludgers”; the free citizen’s anger at “boat people”….the list goes on.  Only one thing is excluded: the united determination of the people to get the ruling class off their backs and into the dustbin of history.  That they will never encourage.

Adelaide’s “talkback king” Bob Francis was removed from the airwaves for four weeks last June for saying “Bugger the boatpeople, I say.  As far as I’m concerned, I hope they bloody drown out there on their way over here…”

A fortnight later Francis got his wish with the drowning of over 90 asylum seekers when their boat capsized in Indonesian waters about  110 nautical miles northwest of Christmas Island.

There was no statement of contrition or regret from Francis.  He remains on air because it suits the ruling class to have him continue to foment disagreement and disunity amongst the people.

Then there are people like cartoonist Larry Pickering who publicly harass Gillard from a sexist and misogynist perspective.

Pickering’s claim to fame was a series of satirical cartoons which were made into calendars during the era of Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke.

Pickering’s cartoons of Gillard naked and sporting a giant dildo are not satire: they have a meaner and nastier flavour.


They have moved past humour and are simply an expression of one man’s savage dislike of the woman, and a throw-back to earlier labelling of her as “lesbian” - as though lesbianism was some disgusting crime.

Pickering recently took Gillard to task for her response to allegations concerning her time as a lawyer with Slater and Gordon.  He listed 24 questions that he wanted her to answer under the heading “What a cunning stunt”.

This a rhyming slang for an insult based on the four-letter term for vagina.

Pickering is clearly bitter as a result of a divorce that has left him bankrupt, is anti-women (“I have run out of brood mares”, he says at the end of the same article) and has been exposed as a con-man and fraudster.

Yet misogynists and nutters rallied to his defense, applauding his vile rants and cartoons.
Murdoch continues to publish the reactionary Andrew Bolt whose loony ravings embraced racism for which he enjoyed a day in court.  Gina Rinehart found him so palatable that she is widely believed to be behind Channel Ten’s decision to give him his own show.

The same channel has promoted the obnoxious Paul Henry as part of its breakfast show.  He makes Bob Francis and Larry Pickering look almost sane by comparison.

Now back to Alan Jones.

His comments about Julia Gillard’s father dying of shame were cruel not just to Gillard but also to her grieving mother Moira.  That has apparently escaped Jones’ notice, for his pathetic faux apology made no reference to her.

While it is good to see major corporate sponsors temporarily withdraw support from Jones’ show, it is also testament to the power that the ruling class has to sustain divisive and reactionary commentary in normal times and explains why there are no normal people putting forward a progressive perspective in the mass media.

Those working people who follow the opinionated, belligerent put-downs offered by the “shockers” will always be “the stupid victims of deceit and self-deceit” (Lenin) until they start to ask of such put-downs, “Who does this serve?”  and “Which class stands to benefit from the divisions being promoted by this sleaze bag?”

Because in a class society, every type of thinking carries with it the characteristics of one or other of the great social classes confronting each other in daily life.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Portrait of a thug

The man who will possibly be Australia’s next Prime Minister has made an art form out of denouncing unions for their “thuggery” and “intimidation”.

In his case, the old adage that it “takes one to know one” rings only too truly.

Journalist David Marr has recounted the story of Barbara Ramjan, a candidate for the position of president of the Sydney University Student Representative Council in 1977.

Abbott, who had contested the position as a right-wing Catholic candidate and was beaten by Ms Ramjan, approached her in a rage.

She said that she thought he was approaching to congratulate her, but that he invaded her body space, placing his head an inch away from hers, and then proceeded to punch a wall with blows to either side of her head.

Abbott told Marr he had no recollection of the incident. Denial is the first refuge of the bully, although strictly speaking, and cleverly, Abbott has not denied the incident.

“It would be profoundly out of character had it occurred,” he said.

The second refuge is to seek safety in the members of your gang.

Hence comprador journalist Greg Sheridan and right-wing commentator Gerard Henderson both springing to the defence of their mate.

For Sheridan, the Abbott he knew at that time was “never a violent person”.

According to Henderson: “A reading of Marr's essay reveals that Ramjan's claim is based on her memory alone of an event that allegedly took place 35 years ago. There are no witnesses. And there is no contemporaneous record of the occasion - not even in the student press.”

Unfortunately for this gang of three – Abbott, Sheridan and Henderson – there is now a witness and a person with a contemporaneous knowledge of Ramjan’s claim.

The witness, a student at the time, said he was outside the Student Representative Council's offices photocopying when "Abbott's famous flying squad of goons crashed down the stairs, threw me against the wall, kicked in the doors of the SRC, and started creating havoc".

The man, who emphasises that he was not involved in the SRC election, said it was extremely scary, as they were clearly looking for a fight. But he was so angry he followed them into the building.

"I saw Abbott throw a punch at Barbara Ramjan, but didn't see it land ... when next I saw her, she was in an extremely shocked condition, leaning against the wall ... I thought he had actually struck her, but I can see that was simply my assumption and rationalisation.

"If Ms Ramjan says the punches were aimed next to her head, I can't actually in fact contradict that ... simply I saw Abbott swinging punches, and certainly indulging in serious argy-bargy. I saw him swing a punch, I saw her in great distress."

The witness wishes to remain anonymous but says he is willing to sign a statutory declaration about what he saw, if necessary.

And a Sydney barrister, David Patch, has corroborated Ramjan’s claim

Mr Patch, who won the SRC presidency in 1975, said he had been Ms Ramjan's campaign manager in 1977, and she had told him about the Abbott incident immediately after it happened.

He wrote in the Age: ''I did not see the incident, but I was nearby. The count had just finished. Barbara found me. She is a small woman, and Tony Abbott was (and is) a strong man. She was very shaken, scared and angry. She told me that Tony Abbott had come up to her, put his face in her face, and punched the wall on either side of her head.

''So, I am a witness. Barbara's immediate complaint to me about what Abbott had just done had the absolute ring of truth about it. I believed Barbara at the time, and still do.''

The wall-punching event was not an isolated one, he writes. ''As President, Ramjan chaired SRC meetings. She did not want to be called 'Mr Chairman', but preferred 'Chairperson'. But for an entire year Abbott called Ramjan 'Chairthing' whenever he addressed her at SRC meetings.

''The gender-based disrespect for her office and her person is remarkably similar to the disrespectful way that Abbott treats the Prime Minister, and her office, today.''

As if this is not enough to establish that Abbott was, indeed, a violent person, yet another person has come forward with details of an incident in which an argument over a woman's right to abortion led to a threat, by Abbott, to punch his head in. And guess who intervened to stop Abbott?  None other than Greg Sheridan!

So this is the character of the man who described the militant but disciplined construction workers picketing the Grocon site in Melbourne as “absolutely out of line, thuggish and illegal”.

It is the man who is being sued for defamation by the Victorian CFMEU’s John Setka who was described by Abbott as a self-confessed thug who intimidated people in the building industry by visiting them at home and acting aggressively towards them.

No wonder Abbott can speak of such behaviour with intimate familiarity.

The man is a grub and a thug who has no right to lead a fly to a cowpat, let alone a political party, or the nation.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The slavers resurgent

The bourgeoisie never misses a chance to remind us of their utterly repugnant class nature.

(Above: cartoon by John Kuldeka

It is reported today that the recipient of inherited wealth, billionaire mining magnate Gina Reinhart, is calling for Australian workers to be competitive with Africans.

“Australia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, has urged Australia to become more competitive, warning Africa is a cheaper investment option, with workers willing to take jobs for less than $2 per day,” says one report.

“Ms Rinehart says in a video presentation there is unarguable evidence Australia is becoming too expensive for multinational companies that are running rulers over their pipeline investments and comparing them to options around the globe.”

Now there’s something for a bleeding heart to really haemorrhage over: the sad sight of multinational corporations fretting over their profitability.

Reinhart may as well suggest outright slavery if she really expects workers in Australia to compete with poverty-stricken workers in Africa.

Maybe competing with them will also require any striking Australian workers to accept being murdered in cold blood Sharpeville-style - and then charged with murder for deliberately getting their bodies struck by bullets from an innocent police force.

We can expect such deranged right-wing rantings from Reinhart. Wealth was not all she inherited from Daddy.

Just as selfish and ignorant are the comments of Adelaide engineering services and property developer Mark Dayman.

The said gentleman named “government regulation, taxation regimes and the sheer size of government as inhibitors to business opportunities in the state.”

“The ideas are to make government smaller, to outsource things to business sectors and not-for-profit organisations that can deliver services that government (currently) deliver,” he said.

So, anything done by government that could potentially return a profit to private business, as opposed to general revenue, should be handed over to business; any service provided to the community by government at a cost currently covered by state taxes and charges should be given to charities and volunteers.

In this way, this miserly bastard believes, “you can encourage businesses here as a lower cost centre.”

Well damn you man, just come out and say it - scrap welfare and services and bring back slavery!

(Just to make this Dayman more attractive to the general population, let it be known that he is heavily involved in coal seam gas extraction….mongrel!)

This long-dead German guy once said that capitalism continually forced the working class to lower its living standards to that of one level mass of broken wretches.

Apologists for capitalism countered that capitalism was a system that spread wealth to all.

Reinhart and Dayman are on the side of Karl Marx on that one!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Great struggle by construction workers for rights on site

Construction workers are conducting a magnificent fight for their rights at work against the Grocon company.

Grocon boss Daniel Grollo has reneged on a verbal agreement with the CFMEU and has denied workers the right to wear union apparel and to elect their own shop stewards and safety officers. His rules are enforced by thugs previously employed as bouncers.

Workers have maintained an organised blockade of the Grocon site in Melbourne for the past  week.

(Above: the spirit of organised labour - If provoked, we will strike!)

When Daniel Grollo called in the cops to break this up, the workers maintained a tight collective discipline, held their ground against capsicum spray and horses, and forced the cops to retreat.

As far as the copper in charge was concerned, the behaviour of the workers was “not unreasonable”.

Yet the capitalist press and right-wing commentators have dragged out all the old clich├ęs about industrial thuggery and union lawlessness. They call for a revival of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the building bosses’ own Schutzstaffel or SS police.

That is to be expected.

What really infuriates - although no less to be expected – is the unhelpful role of the social-democrats. Having originally come into office on the backs of a powerful community movement in support of the ACTU campaign “Your Rights at Work”, these neoliberal “Labor” politicians had every mandate they needed to tell Grollo to pull his head in and to allow workers to enjoy rights at work.

Instead, they play the role of the “responsible” labor lieutenants of capital, bemoaning “unlawful” union behaviour and hinting darkly at punishment of the major construction union, the CFMEU.

There will be no easy victory for construction workers.

They will need to persist through difficult times and to withstand police and political intimidation.

But they are not alone.

(See for a rally by Sydney CFMEU members outside a Grocon site in that city)

They have friends everywhere in the ranks of the working people.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Class society? The gaps just get bigger

This graph was quoted today by bourgeois economics commentator Robert Gottliebson.

It shows why we have an Occupy movement, and why we need a communist movement.

In respect of the sharing of the wealth created by the labour power of the working class at the point of production, and subsequently realised through sales in the process of distribution, the position of the overwhelming majority of US citizens has remained unchanged between 1917 and 2008. It’s basically the same in all other advanced capitalist countries.

The very thin blue line at the bottom (appropriately) represents the average annual income of the bottom 90% of the popluation.

There are three other colour categories for the top 5-10%, the top 1-5% and the top 1% respectively.

What is significant following the adoption of neoliberalism (privatisation, deregulation, attacks on workers sand their unions, financial speculation) is that the gap between the bottom 90% and the top 10% has exploded, and within the top 10% almost all of the growth in income and wealth has accrued to the top 1%.

That’s why Occupy’s claim to be the voice of the 99% against the 1% resonated so loudly and so widely.

To be successful, Occupy in whatever form it takes shape in the future, must move from the successful use of percentages for the purposes of sloganeering, to the adoption of revolutionary tactics and strategies based on class analysis.

That is the only analysis that makes the transformation from capitalism to the next stage of society possible.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Archie and Occupy

As a barometer of the effectiveness of a genuine mass movement, Archie comics is somewhat surprising.

A friend found a recent issue which featured the Occupy movement.

Needless to say, by the end of the story, the local rich guy (Veronica’s dad) apologises for calling in the cops to suppress an occupation of a local park, whilst spoiled rich-bitch Veronica gets to go out with the “cute guy” who has organised the protest.

With everyone reconciled, the message can be put that Riverdale (Archie’s community) is not divided into the 99% and the 1%, but rather is 100% united and American!

Well, I didn’t say it would be realistic, did I?

Productivity - for whom and for what?

In their insatiable quest for maximum profits the ruling class has a single-minded focus on raising productivity. Bourgeois economics defines productivity as a ratio of outputs of production to the inputs required for its creation. While national productivity is thus a measure of the effective utilisation of many inputs including investment in plant and machinery, costs of resources, costs of labour power, management expenses, and taxation and so on, the immediate target of the ruling class in its push to raise productivity is always the cost of labour power.

Marx identified two components of capital in the process of production: variable capital (wages - the price of labour power) and constant capital (capital invested in plant, equipment and materials). He described the ratio of the one to the other as the organic composition of capital as it was, in effect, a ratio between living capital (wages - the cost of a commodity that can create new value) and dead capital (the cost of those commodities which cannot by themselves create new value).

In his lengthy investigation into the economic laws of motion of modern capitalism Marx indicated that, as a general trend, the share of constant capital in the total outlay of capital increases, and that labour input per product unit declines. Furthermore, he revealed how the competition between capitalists required the lowering of the prices of commodities and that this was substantially brought about by investment in newer and more productive equipment and the application of newer and more effective technologies. This meant a rise, over time, in the organic composition of capital which would lead to a declining rate of profit; for every new increase in profits from sales, an even larger corresponding increase in constant capital investment becomes necessary. The obvious corrective to a decline in the rate of profit is a reduction of variable capital.

For example, if at the start of a production process a business has a variable capital cost of 8 units, and its investment in plant and its ongoing cost of materials amounts to 4 units, then it is producing at a rate of 200% on its outlay. However, if a rival firm is established after technological advances make cheaper and more efficient plant available to it, and/or the rival becomes supplier of materials to its own production process, then it will undercut the older competitor assuming the cost of labour power remains the same. The original firm is forced to invest in new plant and new technology to make its products more cheaply and efficiently, but the new constant capital costs are in addition to the old constant capital costs and so the denominator increases to 6 units. If wages remain the same, the rate of profit drops to 133% - still enough to cover costs but not enabling the previous rate of profit to be maintained. There can only be a return to the previous rate of profit (200%) if the cost of labour power can be reduced to 5.2 units.

Please don’t accept that very superficial analysis as in any way doing justice to the majesty and sweep of Marx’s Capital and other writings.

Just keep it in mind as we return to the question of productivity as a concept in capitalist economics.

By way of newspaper headlines and ”serious” TV, the ruling ideas of society about productivity never give any real airing to management responsibility for declining productivity.

Instead, the discussion is always about “labour productivity” or the amount of goods and services that a worker produces in a given amount of time.

Hence the Murdoch rag The Australian on July 3: “Productivity first, not wages: Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson turn on union family”.

Hence a national enquiry prompted by the most reactionary circles of the ruling class and their assertion that the industrial legislation embedded in the Fair Work Act is denying employers the right to a more “flexible” workforce.

All of this is despite the fact that productivity according to bourgeois economists has a whole range of inputs and that it can actually rise as wages go up. It can also actually rise as constant capital costs increase and profits drop. It is possible as Gerry Harvey bemoaned on the weekend, to have increasing manufacture of wide-screen televisions at the same time as there is a decrease in demand. The problem is therefore not low productivity but overproduction. (Harvey seems to have accepted that the problem is not on-line sales from overseas suppliers – his position last March – but overproduction.)

But for all their gnashing of teeth, the bosses have very little to complain about in terms of productivity. According to the IMF in 2011, Australia ranked fifth highest out of 34 OECD economies in terms of productivity – behind Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland and Denmark. There is never celebration of our high levels of national productivity. Indeed the Financial Review had the following little in-joke for its mainly business and financial circles readership:

For its particular readership, this cartoon is designed to provoke agreeable chuckling (“Yeah, that’s right, let’s get on with it…”). In a working class paper, it would provoke outrage.

Productivity can vary between sectors of the economy, as the following graph shows.

The mining sector has seen the greatest increase in productivity and, beginning during the Howard years, a no less dramatic decline. A little later in the Howard years, a decline set in in the accommodation and food services sector. But four other sectors, construction, manufacturing, retail trade and financial and insurance services have all seen relatively steady growth for close to a quarter of a century. So there is clearly no basis for using gloom-and-doom stories about productivity for launching attacks on workers’ wages and conditions via a return to the draconian Howard-era industrial laws. Today’s are bad enough!

(The negligible impact of Labor’s Fair Work Act on productivity, revealed in the graph above, led one letter writer published in the Fin Review to observe: “In the absence of discernible effects(of the FWA) on national productivity, the spotlight will then fall squarely upon what it should: the extent to which management sloth, incompetence and commercial turpitude have contributed to the nation’s problem.” - Mike Martin Fin Review 10/8/12. We won’t hold our breaths waiting…)

Data from the University of Sydney’s Workplace Research Centre on the relationship between labour productivity and real wages (ie wages expressed in terms of what they can actually buy over a defined period of time) confirms that it is not wages that lie behind the so-called “problems” with productivity:

ABS data also shows that starting from a common index point of 100, wages have actually declined in terms of their share of national income, whilst profit’s share has substantially increased:

And Alan Kohler has shown recently, using data from the US bank Morgan Stanley that Australian corporate profits are doing very nicely compared to countries in the Group of 10.

It is in their very real interests that Australians not be hoodwinked by productivity sob-stories into thinking that there is a problem, and that they are to blame. There is a problem – the compulsion to increase productivity not to meet real social need but to put the competitors out of business.

We need a system that connects productivity to social need not to private profit.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Behind the Colorado massacre

The following analysis of the Aurora California massacre comes from the Workers World paper.  This is a socialist publication from the United States.  The author, Larry Hales,  lived in Aurora and Denver, Colo. He was in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.
Behind Colorado massacre

By Larry Hales on July 24, 2012

(Above: US newspaper headlines)

The most important question raised by the latest massacre in Colorado remains unasked by the corporate media: What is it about social conditions in the United States that promotes these terrible tragedies?
Late on the evening of July 19, theatergoers in Aurora, Colo., sat down to watch an “event” film — the kind whose opening at midnight showings is preceded by saturation ads placed by Hollywood studios.

“The Dark Knight Rises” is the final in a film series based on Batman comic books. The protagonist is a billionaire vigilante whose primary objective is to “clean” the streets of a metropolitan area of criminals, who for the most part commit crimes of opportunity. On occasion, he tangles with oddly named and outfitted master criminals with murky rationales.
Twenty minutes into the film, survivors said a young man outfitted in full-body tactical gear — including a helmet with gasmask, vest, leggings, throat and groin protectors — threw gas canisters and began shooting into the crowd. Aurora police say he fled out a back door, but was quickly captured in the parking lot. They have identified the alleged shooter as James Holmes, 24.

In the initial confusion Holmes was thought to be a prop associated with the screening. But the screams of those shot soon alerted others to what was happening. In all, 70 people were reportedly shot; 12 were killed, the youngest a six-year-old girl. A dozen of the wounded remain in critical condition.
Holmes made his first appearance in court on July 23; formal charges will be filed on July 30.

Survivors told of great acts of heroism. Family members, friends and complete strangers shielded and ushered one another out of the theater, while Holmes shot at random, first with an AR-15 assault rifle, which is a shortened version of an M-16, and then with a 12-gauge shotgun and two Glock 40-caliber semi-automatic pistols. He is reported to have purchased them over a period of several months in preparation for the massacre.
Why isn’t Holmes called a terrorist?

Holmes grew up in an upper-middle-class area of San Diego, Calif., raised by a computer scientist/mathematician father and a mother who is a nurse. According to police, he had booby trapped his apartment in Aurora and left his door unlocked. If tripped, the intricate traps could have killed many in the building and the nearby Anschutz Medical Campus of the University of Colorado.
The media have been cautious not to use the word “terrorist” because “there is not enough information as to motive.” Would they be so reserved if the suspect were a Muslim from almost anywhere?

What if Holmes were a person of color? Mightn’t labels like thug, gang member or terrorist have been hastily applied, regardless of how much information police had? In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, people scrambling to survive were labeled criminals and looters. The media constantly reported false stories of rape and mass murder, eager to believe the worst when describing Black people.
If Holmes had an Islamic name, or one uniquely African or Southeast Asian, would he have been able to purchase and stockpile massive amounts of ammo, four weapons including an assault rifle, tactical gear, accelerants and large commercial fireworks? If he had a known affiliation with a progressive or leftist group that was infiltrated or spied on by authorities, might not his apartment have been flagged and raided?

Whatever personal motive the shooter might have had is speculation at this time. However, the massacre of people in a movie theater is an act of terror, and the few words he allegedly uttered claiming to be the Joker character in “Batman” showed he was very aware of this.
Holmes may suffer from delusions that come from a mental illness. But his planning, purchasing of weapons, tactical body armor, thousands of rounds of ammunition and chemicals, and other components to make bombs and the other devices found in his apartment show a great deal of calculation. However, mental illness and the ability to think through a plan are not mutually exclusive.

Nevertheless, the label of mentally ill, or sometimes genius, superb student, etc., are the usual platitudes whenever a “normal” or “everyday” person who is not from an oppressed community commits a crime such as this massacre.
Violence & capitalist alienation

This event must be analyzed in the context of the overarching culture of war and violence that runs through the entire history of the United States and has been perpetrated against the most oppressed and vulnerable. Violence is an integral part of this capitalist system, based on exploitation of workers and super-exploitation of the nationally oppressed.
The established norm, what is generally accepted as everyday or mundane, flows from how the wealth of this society was first gained and then maintained. The dominant class in U.S. society has historically been white. Thus, Holmes is “normal” at first glance and without a coherent political motive, so the word terrorist is not applied to him.

Instead, he is categorized as a loner, a misfit or socially awkward, which denote that in no way is this type of violent crime condoned or reinforced by the society as a whole. At the same time those terms disregard the glorification of violence in the U.S. and the effects of the military-industrial complex on the culture.
Karl Marx wrote that under capitalism workers must sell their labor power for a wage as part of a productive process owned by a boss, leaving the worker alienated from the product. There is no satisfaction in the end product because the primary reason to work is to earn a wage to sustain oneself and one’s dependents.

Over time workers are not only alienated from what they produce, but are in competition with one another for jobs — which are now becoming increasingly scarce. This often influences how people relate to one another and contributes to the development of some mental illnesses and anxieties. The more developed the country, especially one that has passed into the imperialist phase, the more decadent the society grows and with it the prevalence of social illness.
It was just a few miles from Aurora that a similar incident happened in 1999 at Columbine High School. There two teenagers specifically paid reverence to Hitler’s birthday and espoused ultra-right, racist beliefs as they gunned down fellow students.

A culture of war & militarism
Most of Colorado was stolen from Mexico in an extremely violent war. It is a militarized state where Rocky Flats, the infamous U.S. government facility, produced chemical and nuclear weapons for 40 years. It also once housed napalm-maker Dow Chemical.

Colorado is home to defense contractors Lockheed Martin and several Northrop Grumman facilities, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Air Force Academy, and one of the largest and most technologically advanced infantry divisions, the 4th Infantry based at Fort Carson.
Before becoming a state, it was the site of the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre, where hundreds of Cheyenne and Arapahoe were massacred by the Colorado Territory militia, which terrorized Indigenous people into leaving their land.

It is also where the National Guard and company goons employed by the Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel & Iron Co. massacred two dozen striking miners and their family members in Ludlow in 1914.
San Diego, Calif., where Holmes grew up, is a military area with a huge Naval base close to the border with Mexico.

To leave out the effect on people’s minds of the military-industrial complex and the U.S. history of conquest would miss the point. The U.S. was founded on violence and genocide. The major colonial countries carved up land that did not belong to them. They waged a battle that is still ongoing against the original inhabitants, as well as against Black people and Latinos/as in general and other oppressed peoples who don’t belong to the dominant nationality.
Maintaining the status quo has been a violent affair. The U.S. has been constantly at war since its inception. The mainstream media justify this with jingoism and glorification of the U.S. military machine.

The U.S. military budget dwarfs that of the rest of the world’s combined. The constant glorification of violence in movies, commercials and video games, plus the fact that the U.S. has been openly engaged in warfare for the last decade, seep into the psyche.
U.S. soldiers massacred at least 16 villagers in Afghanistan just months ago, many of them women and children. Such massacres are commonplace during an occupation. Every day whole families are incinerated by bombs.

This is the context in which the mass killing occurred in Colorado, where, as in most of the U.S., it is so easy to purchase weapons, tactical gear, loads of ammunition and other materials online.
No family should have to experience such horror. People should be outraged, and the victims and their family members are entitled to justice. But justice is not served by making this an isolated incident and leaving out its historical, cultural and social framework.

James Holmes may be mentally ill. This should not reflect on those who suffer from mental illness, but who would never harm another person. Nor should it be assumed that mental illness is an excuse to get out of going to prison.
Mental illness & a sick society

Julie Fry, a Legal Aid attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., told WW: “Mental illness is not generally well understood or appreciated at all within the criminal justice system. In fact, prisons have become essentially warehouses for people with mental illness, while social services and medical networks designed for the treatment of these illnesses have been gutted systematically through budget cuts over recent decades. Far from using it as an excuse to escape prison, people with mental illness usually receive much worse treatment in jail and are likely to receive longer sentences than other people.”
Only a sick society refuses to give people the help and services they need.

The argument that incidents like this happen because of the prevalence of weapons is problematic. It is obvious that all too often the right-wing do champion gun rights and the wealthy and politically backward have access to large stockpiles.
But revolutionaries and progressives such as the Deacons for Defense and the Black Panther Party were able to offer defense from the Klan and racist police by being able to purchase guns. While people of color are made the targets of the police and denied the right to self-defense, we cannot cede the monopoly of force to the police and the military, which maintain the status quo of a society built on exploitation.

The victims and family members do deserve justice, but ultimately justice will be secured when the root causes of crimes like this one are addressed and the social foundation for the glorification and justification of violence is uprooted.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Handouts for private school parents - arrests for public school parents

Australian public education is free, compulsory and secular.

Or at least that was the intention of the early colonial bourgeoisie whose Public Instruction Acts of the 1880s decreed such to be the case.

Yet it was revealed a couple of days ago in the South Australian daily paper The Advertiser that thousands of parents have been prosecuted for failing to pay public school fees this year.

In fact 271 parents had been issued arrest warrants for failing to appear in court over the matter.

Arrest warrants? For failure to pay fees in a supposedly free system??!!

But don’t get angry yet.

Some 34% of school age children go to Catholic and private schools. You see, public education is not only not free, it is not really compulsory.

The ruling class has made a religion of the choice agenda, starving public schools of funds and forcing parents who want to do the right thing by their children to seek out the much better funded private alternative.

Most OECD countries have private school enrolments of around 4-5%, so Australia’s more than one-third is truly testimony to the appeal of the neoliberal gospel.

But don’t get angry yet.

The private schools are better funded not just because they enrol students from wealthy families, but because – unlike other OECD countries – government funds are used to offset the costs of private schooling!

We like to be different in Australia!

A common myth is that public schools are funded by the State and territory governments and that private schools are funded by the Commonwealth.

It’s a bit more complex than that, a bit like the yin-yang symbol which is predominantly black and white, but with a bit of white in the black and vice versa.

So let’s get back to school fees.

A component of the school fee (both public and private) can be paid for poorer families by the State government. Families must endure the humiliation of applying to be on the School Card, a list of low income families who get part, but not all, of their fees paid.

For the three years 2009, 2010 and 2011 there were some 50,000 School Card approvals. Nearly all applications and approvals are made in Term 1 when school fees are charged to parents. The figure for 2012 is 30,000. That is a massive 40% drop in School Card numbers.

There must be a reason for the drop, and it sure as hell saves the State government a whole lot of money!

We need to know whether the decline is in public schools only, or whether it extends across the Catholic and private sectors as well.

School Card payments are quite a lucrative source of income for the privates.

Here is a table of some non-government schools, their student numbers and the School Card payments they received in 2011:

This is just a handful of schools in the private sector that not only get a substantial part of their recurrent and capital costs paid by the federal government, but also get hundreds of thousands each from the state government as a result of parents prepared to pay thousands of dollars in fees to get out of the public system, but who then turn back to the public purse to get part of those fees paid in the form of a School Card!

But don’t get angry just yet.

The apparently random list above has one factor in common. All of these schools also get from the state government a fee remission payment in excess of $60,000.

So what the hell is a fee remission payment?

Fee remission is an interesting concept. It applies to those non-School Card holders in the non-government sector who are unable to pay fees or school debts due to economic hardship!

Elite Prince Alfred College claimed $48,942.17 in fee remissions from the state government in 2011, significantly less than the schools above (which are middle and low-fee as far as private fees go). But why a private college catering for the rich should get 17 cents from the public purse, let alone the other $48,000-plus is beyond me.

And now we can start to get angry, because we can put those fee remission payments next to the School Card payments:

Only one of the schools above is a boarding school - Rostrevor - in the leafy green eastern suburbs and it gets an additional $166,423.21 to help defray the cost of providing pastoral care to its boarders! Prince Alfred College, mentioned above, received $244,492.17.

So can you see why there is basis for anger?

Parents who are resisting the lure of “private is better” are chased by the system to the point of arrest over non-payment of fees in a supposedly free public system, while those who thumb their noses at public schooling can get all sort of additional government subsidies to shelter them from the pain of paying fees in the private system.

This is a matter of the grossest social injustice!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rinehart decision a disgrace!

When Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister in the midst of the campaign by mining monopolies to prevent the Resources Super Profits Tax, she announced that she had opened the door to the mining industry.
She not only opened the door, she then rolled herself out as the carpet over which they could tread underfoot the aspirations of the Australian people to benefit from the extraction of their sovereign wealth.

The RSPT was abandoned and a watered-down Mineral Resource Rent Tax was substituted.
The RSPT was to be levied at 40% and applied to all extractive industry including gold, nickel and uranium mining as well as sand and quarrying activities.  The MRRT will be levied on 30% of the super profits from the mining of iron ore and coal only, and the mining company will only have to pay the tax when its annual profits reach $75 million.  The MRRT is proposed to be introduced from 1 July 2012.

Enterprise migration agreements a product of unplanned capitalism
Having capitulated to the big miners on the RSPT, the Gillard government has now capitulated to their demand to import foreign workers, with Immigration Minister Chris Bowen granting the world’s richest woman, Gina Reinhart an “enterprise migration agreement” that will see some 1700 workers, or 21% of the workforce, brought in  to her $9.5 billion Roy Hill project in Western Australia.
This is a disgrace.  It is an indictment of capitalism.

Capitalism can operate individual workplaces that are strictly regulated by the boss and run to exacting plans designed to maximise the individual capitalist’s realisation of surplus value, or proft.
But the economy as a whole defies planning and regulation.  Capital flows globally in search of the quickest means of making a profit, leaving governments scrabbling to devise ever-newer “incentives” to attract capital into less profitable but socially useful areas. 

If we could really regulate and plan under capitalism we would long ago have had an even stronger RSPT in place and it would have funded the establishment of a Mining Industry Skills Institute where trainees on a living wage learned the skills required in mining and thereby obviated the need to bring in foreign workers to meet a “skills shortage”.
The MISI would have enabled those who had lost jobs in manufacturing, as well as youths fresh out of school, to transition into new areas on employment in the extractive industries.

But no, just as we send raw materials out of the country for others to value-add, so we send unemployed manufacturing workers and too many of our young people onto the scrapheap of unemployment.
The mining industry runs its self-congratulatory propaganda about being a creator of jobs.  In fact, it will increasingly turn to technology to destroy jobs in its sector, such as the introduction of driverless trucks and driverless trains.
And if it is not destroying jobs, it will replace them by importing workers trained at another society’s expense and ready to be returned to it when they are no longer needed.

Gillard has no excuses
Gillard has offered the weak excuse that she knew nothing of the enterprise migration agreement approved for Rinehart.
If that is true, then she is too busy sucking up to US imperialism and NATO to know what is happening in her own backyard.

This is not some minor announcement: it is the first-ever enterprise migration agreement and one that was always going to embroil the government in controversy.
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said that home workers had been "overlooked" and called on Ms Gillard to intervene in the situation immediately.

"We think it’s a reprehensible situation," Mr Oliver said.
Outspoken MP Bob Katter also faulted the Government's move, branding it a ludicrous decision which erodes confidence in the national economy.

"These people are so lacking in patriotism and so committed to looking after the interests of corporations that invariably are foreign owned or foreign financed, that they have agreed to fly in people from overseas," Mr Katter said.
"They will undermine our awards and they will take your jobs, and I don't just mean in mining - it'll spread beyond that.

"The Australian people will not stand for this."
CFMEU Construction National Secretary, Dave Noonan said that this decision was a disgrace, as the company had not been required to try and employ local workers before being granted the EMA.

“Today’s decision is disgraceful and unnecessary. At a time of high youth unemployment in many parts of Perth and Western Australia, job losses in the non-mining states, and declining construction employment, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has written a blank cheque to Australia’s richest woman.
“Instead of standing up for Australian workers and requiring her to advertise these positions or train workers for them, Chris Bowen has fallen over himself to help Gina Rinehart bring in cheap bonded overseas labour,” Mr. Noonan said.

Mr. Noonan said that the new agreement will mean that at least 21% of the total construction workforce for this project will be temporary foreign labour.
“Apart from the impact on local workers, the CFMEU is also very concerned that these workers owe their temporary visas to their employer, and are under constant threat of deportation if they stand up for their rights or complain about dangerous conditions,” Mr. Noonan said.

Demand the Resources Super Profit Tax be brought back!
Make the rich pay every inch of the way!

Take away the power of the ruling class and run the country ourselves!
For national independence and socialism!