Friday, February 28, 2014

Pillar talk

When a politician is so obviously in bed with big business, all sorts of pillar talk tends to come out.

In the case of Tony Abbott, the sweet nothings whispered in his ear from the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, various Chambers of Commerce, the Property Council and other unions of the capitalist class led to his identifying, prior to the election, five pillars that would underscore his term of government.

Those five pillars were not Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart, Twiggy Forrest, Gerry Harvey and WesFarmers, as has been claimed by certain cynics.

Rather, they were manufacturing innovation, advanced services, agricultural exports, education and research, and mining exports.

These five pillars were part of a service contract entered into by the Coalition to pleasure the ruling class for a three year term of office.

Housing, transport, health, education (public and free), and employment – the five pillars of working people’s livelihood – were not part of that service contract.

But they do form an essential component of a vitally necessary independent working class agenda.

We must take seriously the task of settling in for a protracted struggle for control of the vast urban stretches of our major cities.

We must anticipate the likelihood of contested responsibility for providing essential services to the people as we struggle to elevate them to their rightful position as the rulers and decision-makers of an anti-imperialist independent nation with key areas of the economy socialised, and with plans to advance to a fully socialist economy.

We must develop mass organisations around these five people’s pillars that can function through a lengthy period of dual power between the organisations and structures of the imperialists and their hangers-on, on the one hand, and the working class and its allies in the intermediate sectors of the people on the other.

One of the future tests of maturity of a working class vanguard will be the extent to which it can maintain a revolutionary, as opposed to an economist or reformist, orientation as it seeks to meet the lifestyle needs and living standard requirements of those it seeks to serve.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Yes, let's end the age of entitlement!

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has renewed his call for ending the “age of entitlement”.

It is a sentiment with which we thoroughly agree.
However, we suspect that there might be some slight disagreement between ourselves and Mr Hockey on just what is meant by an age of entitlement.

We would most probably agree that the term refers to people who believe that they are entitled, without any effort, to be on the receiving end of an endless flow of money, privilege and reward.
But before we pop the champagne corks and clink glasses with good ol’ Joe, toasting our shared commitment, we had best ask a few more questions.

Is rejecting the “age of entitlement” aimed at that class of parasitic financial investors who do nothing but make money out of money?
Is rejecting the “age of entitlement” an attack on the whole exploitative bourgeois class who take unto themselves the surplus value created through our labour power?

Is rejecting the “age of entitlement” a refusal by parliamentary cretins to line their own pockets through all sorts of lurks and perks such as attending friends’ weddings or travelling interstate to purchase property under the guise of doing electoral work?

No, and we won’t bore ourselves by going into the detail of Newstart Allowances, bushfire compensation, workers’ compensation, drought relief, CentreLink benefits, penalty rates, public libraries, Medicare, aged care, rental assistance, public education, pharmaceutical benefits schemes or free air.
Hockey has in his sights precisely those entitlements that we, the majority, have clawed out of the entitlements that the rich, the arrogant few, believe are theirs as our social betters and owners of property.

He is not about ending the “age of entitlement”; rather he seeks to extend the selfish entitlements claimed by the parasitic rich by pushing down on us.
Yes, we want the age of bourgeois entitlement ended, and we will fight to establish anti-imperialist independence and socialism so as to bring to an end the class structures that, since the times of slavery, have guaranteed underserving entitlements to the exploiters and robbers at the top of the pyramid.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Here's a tip for Abbott

The Federal Government is pushing for the abolition of penalty rates so as to make Australian workers competitive with the impoverished of the world.

And before you think I’m talking about Bangla Desh or Cambodia, keep in mind that the Federal minimum wage in the US is only $7.25 per hour, that not a few US states have lower – or no – minimum wage rates.

That’s why you can be expected to pay a 15-20% tip or gratuity to hospitality workers, taxi drivers, hairdressers, grocery packers and others of the working poor in the world’s richest country. 

Abbott and Hockey have called for changes to, or removal of, penalty rates in a submission to the Fair Work Commission (FWC), hoping to hide behind the skirts of an “independent umpire”. 

Abbott and Hockey hope to con us into believing that any change to penalty rates was not their doing, but that of the Commission.

Of course, there is independence and there is independence,

A body such as the FWC may not be under the direct supervision or control of the government of the day, but, if ideologically, culturally and politically there is a commonality of agendas then it makes very little difference as to the formality of the ties.

The same demand for more “labour market flexibility” features in the upcoming South Australian state election where both the Liberal opposition and the Nick Xenophon group have also signalled the need to cut penalty rates.

But are the reactionaries merely lifting a heavy rock only to drop it on their own toes?

A few weeks ago, a prominent Adelaide pub restaurant, the Bombay Bicycle Club, erected a sign purporting to show how penalty rates of 2.75 times the value of the award wage would affect menu prices.

This was no spur of the moment act.  It was not an erasable chalk scrawl on a blackboard, but a professionally made, embossed sign.  It clearly displayed not the truth of the penalty rate usually applied but sheer bloody malice aforethought by an arrogant born-to-be-a-boss.

What came crashing down on the head and the toes of this creep was a torrent of negative and hostile comment on all avenues of social media.

The kiddies had struck back!

They had shown that this was an issue for their age group, and that once pushed to action, they were capable of effective and immediate mobilisation.

The restaurant owner backed down, pulled the sign and apologised on Facebook.

No wonder Abbott and Hockey want someone else to do their dirty work for them!

So here’s a tip for Abbott – bring it on you bastard, ‘cos once you’ve got the kids off-side, you’ll never get them back!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mateship without comment

Another fine graphic from the imagination of Matt Walker:

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

71st anniversary of Stalingrad

Yes, Geoffrey (author of the article below), the silence is just as deafening in Australia, US neo-colony.

71st Anniversary of the Soviet Victory at Stalingrad

by Geoffrey Roberts

The Guardian (U.K) Feb 28, 2003 (the 60th anniversary)

The anniversary of Stalingrad has inspired major celebrations in Russia [Volgograd officially changes its name back for the day], but a strange silence here. Sixty years ago the greatest battle of the second world war reached its climax. The site of that decisive battle was not the windswept sands of north Africa beloved of British war mythology, nor the broad expanses of the Pacific favoured in the American version, but
the debris of a devastated city on the Volga.

The German surrender at Stalingrad in February 1943 was the strategic turning point of the second world war. After Stalingrad, Hitler had no hope of winning on the eastern front and that meant inevitable defeat in the wider conflict.

In Russia, the 60th anniversary of the battle has been marked by great celebrations. President Putin led the commemoration in Volgograd (as the city was later renamed) and was joined by the British and American ambassadors. But in Britain and the US the silence about the battle has
been deafening.

At Stalingrad the Soviets lost a million people - more than the British and Americans during the whole war. Such sacrifices, as Churchill said, tore the guts out of the German war machine. More than 90% of German losses were suffered on the eastern front, including 10 million military casualties.

All other theatres were a sideshow compared with the gigantic battles in Russia. At the time it was clear that the second world war was primarily a Soviet-German war. During the cold war, however, the western narrative of the struggle against Hitler was rewritten to minimise the Soviet
contribution and to exaggerate an Anglo-American crusade to make Europe safe for democracy.

The Soviet war effort was not so much a crusade as a struggle for national survival. When the Germans attacked Russia in June 1941 they launched a war of annihilation – a campaign to destroy ’judeobolshevism’ by the mass murder of Soviet citizens. Among the victims of the Germans
in 1941-42 were 2 million Soviet Jews – a massacre that marked the beginning of the Holocaust.

The German campaign inspired a popular mobilisation to save the Motherland. ‘Kill the Germans,’ exhorted the Soviet writer Ilya Ehrenburg, ‘or they will desecrate the whole of Russia and torture to death millions more people.’

Among the many heroic episodes on the eastern front, none was more awesome than the Red Army’s defence of Stalingrad following the launch in June 1942 of a German offensive in southern Russia. This was Hitler’s war for oil, the aim being to reach Baku on the other side of the Caucasus and occupy the oilfields that supplied 80% of Soviet fuel.

The capture of Stalingrad was a secondary objective, but deemed vital to the German defensive line along the Don and Volga rivers and a convenient point to intercept oil supplies shipped to northern Russia. Neither was the symbolism of a German occupation of the ‘city of Stalin’ lost on Hitler. By October 1942 General Friedrich Paulus’s 6th Army occupied 90% of Stalingrad. Yet the Soviet defenders clung to positions on the western banks of the Volga, denying the Germans complete control of the city.

The traditional story of Stalingrad has emphasised the heroism of the Red Army’s defence. Antony Beevor questioned this heroic narrative, highlighting the coercive measures used by the Soviets to force their troops to fight. His reinterpretation has been seized upon by many
conservative commentators, keen to depict the struggle as a contest between totalitarian systems in which the more ruthless emerged as victor. But the contemporary evidence of Soviet heroism at Stalingrad is enormous and cannot be dismissed as wartime propaganda or retrospective

The turning point came in November 1942 when the Red Army launched a massive counter-offensive that broke through the Germans’ flanks and trapped Paulus’s 6th Army in the city. Within three months Paulus had surrendered and 150,000 Germans lay dead, with another 100,000 captured.

Maintaining a foothold in Stalingrad was crucial to Soviet plans for the great counter-offensive, which aimed not only to encircle Paulus but to entrap another half million Germans fighting in the Caucasus. A few days after springing the Stalingrad trap, the Red Army launched another
counter-offensive in front of Moscow, aiming to destroy German positions all along the eastern front. This was to be followed by a drive to Berlin that would deliver victory against Hitler in 1943.

In the event Stalin had to be content with stunning success at
Stalingrad. Hitler’s last chance came at the great tank battle at Kursk in July 1943. The Germans lost that, too, and thereafter the war on the eastern front was one Soviet victory after another.

Stalingrad was the most decisive encounter in military history, a clash of two European superpowers that determined the outcome of the second world war. It meant that the main victor of the war would be the Soviet Union: a result that determined the shape of Europe.

Dr Geoffrey Roberts is senior lecturer in modern history at University College, Cork and author of ‘Victory at Stalingrad: The Battle that Changed History.'