Monday, March 25, 2013

Much ado about nothing

Vanguard April 2013 p. 1
by Bill F.

What can the Australian people make of the recent farce played out over the re-election of Julia Gillard as leader of the parliamentary Labor Party?

On one level, many people were surprised that, contrary to the media hype and the inflated expectations of some nervous back-benchers, Kevin Rudd didn’t nominate.

Instead, he appeared to stake out a patch of moral high ground by ‘sticking to his word’ not to challenge a sitting Prime Minister – in contrast to Gillard’s coup against him, and in contrast to her ‘broken promise’ on the carbon tax. This almost certainly guarantees he will continue to be a thorn in her side for a while yet.

On another level, we need to remember that, like the election of the Pope, the numbers game in the Labor Party is conducted by factional power-brokers behind closed doors. Caucus is only a rubber stamp that endorses decisions made elsewhere.

Our guess is that a deal was done. Gillard gets a crack at the federal election, Swan gets to deliver his budget, and Rudd takes over if it doesn’t work out. Face is saved, and an appearance created that the Labor Party stands (somewhat) united behind its leader going into the election!

Out of touch

Regardless of from whatever level we look at it, the whole parliamentary theatre is totally divorced from the lives of Australian working people.

Policy differences between the Coalition and the Labor Party are minimal. Both support the system of monopoly capitalism and pander to big business. Both espouse privatisation and the IMF ‘free trade’ agenda that has decimated Australian manufacturing jobs.

Both are subservient to the interests of US imperialism and its domination of Australian foreign policy. Both collude with the expansion of US military forces in the Asia-Pacific region, and would willingly drag Australia into new American wars. They compete to sell themselves as loyal lap-dogs.

Workers left behind

While they shadow-box and point-score in parliament, public schools and hospitals are starved for funds, social services are pruned back, pensions fail to keep pace with the rising costs of living, and job security and working conditions deteriorate for millions of Australian workers.

There’s no money for these things, they say, we have to balance the budget.

Yet the big banks and the mining magnates are rolling in massive wealth, and big business executives get huge salaries and million dollar bonuses just for turning up.

The big promises of taxing mining profits and rolling back climate warming through a carbon tax have turned out to be fizzers. The Gonski report on school funding gathers dust.

It’s no wonder that many workers have turned away from the Labor Party. In reality it is the Labor Party leadership which has turned its back on the workers, dropping its pretence of representing working people and taking up the ruling class terminology of ‘aspirational families” etc.

It’s no wonder these days that many people are cynical about parliament altogether and only show enthusiasm for voting ‘bastards’ out with no great enthusiasm for the replacement lot. Only a handful of Greens and independents occasionally take a stand in the interests of the working people, but whatever facts they present are drowned out by the monopoly media bias that reduces all politics to Liberal vs. Labor.

National independence

Australia needs a new politics of fundamental change to improve the lives of the people. This is not possible as long as the nation’s key industries and resources are owned or controlled by foreign monopolies and investors, as long as profits are sucked away overseas, as long as interest on foreign loans goes the same way.

Nationalisation of key industries, such as gas, water, electricity, telecommunications, banking and mineral resources would put them to work for the benefit of the Australian people, not for profiteers on the other side of the world.

Instead of a ‘talking shop’ parliament divorced from the people, a genuinely independent Australian republic would have a system of government based on participatory democracy, where the people are not only extensively consulted, but actually have a role in implementing and enforcing the agreed policies.

Our task and challenge is to mobilise the working people around this vision of a better future, because we’ll never get it through the revolving doors of parliament.

Notice - Many thanks

Vanguard April 2013 p. 2

The editors wish to thank all those comrades and friends who have renewed their subscriptions over the past few months. In addition, we have received a number of donations, all of which are greatly appreciated and will be put to good use.

Finance is critical to our ability to produce a revolutionary newspaper in the face of rising costs, and we urge all those who can afford to contribute to chip in.

Climate warning threatens marine life

Vanguard April 2013 p. 2
Bill F.

A lesser talked about consequence of global climate warming is the disastrous effect this will have on marine life and the fish stocks that millions of people depend on for food.

Some scientists are saying that the warming of the oceans could threaten mass extinctions similar to those that occurred during the Jurassic Period more than 140 million years ago.

According to Professor Richard Twitchett of Plymouth University, “Global warming might well lead to the extinction of some marine species”, as this is what has been consistently demonstrated by the fossil record. As ocean temperatures rose, oxygen levels fell, and this resulted in species seeking colder waters and the extinction of some species altogether.     

Monash University ecophysiologist Professor John Beardall is not so certain about extinctions, but is concerned about the effect on fish stocks. “Certainly marine ecosystems are under threat and increasing temperatures will result in less productive waters, especially in tropical and sub-tropical systems. So-called ‘dead zones’ are proliferating; especially where there is much nutrient run-off into near-shore environments… there are multiple examples in today’s oceans where oxygen depletion significantly affects marine life.”

Marine biologist Pamela Allen, from the Australian Marine Conservation Society, points to changes already taking place. “Global climate change will have a vast impact on marine life. This is not hypothetical – negative effects are coming to light every day… The effects on coral reefs are evident – warmer waters resulting from climate change are causing bleaching events on a massive scale.”

Furthermore, as climate warming causes oceans to acidify, the carbonate shells of species such as shellfish and corals become thinner. Warming oceans, combined with overfishing, lead to jellyfish blooms so large that fish populations cannot compete.

By way of example, she refers to the Antarctic krill which feeds on algae and sits at the bottom of the marine food chain. “As oceans warm and sea ice continues to melt, krill will lose this important food source and potentially decline,” Ms Allen says. “The effects of this decline could affect every fish, whale and seabird in the Antarctic. Coral reef declines will have a massive impact on all species that use reefs for shelter, food and breeding grounds.”

Global crisis of greed

Climate warming is a global crisis that threatens humanity.

At the centre of this crisis is the system of capitalism in its final, decadent stage of imperialism. It has poisoned the land, air and seas, disrupted weather patterns, created deserts, destroyed river systems and aquifers, and brought war and famine to millions – all in the cause of parasitic profits and the greedy few.

Certainly people everywhere should campaign and fight to force the polluting monopolies to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They should demand the establishment of conservation zones and marine parks to protect endangered species and food resources.

Ultimately, the best way to preserve humanity and open up a bright future is to bring about a modern extinction – the end of global capitalism.

Role of capitalist media monopolies untouched by "reforms"

Vanguard April 2013

The media monopolies raised a great hue and cry about supposed restrictions on their freedom contained in media reform legislation proposed by Communications Minister Senator Conroy.


The pack was led by Murdoch’s local lap dog and News Ltd boss Kim Williams.  He accused the government of being “the first outside of wartime to attack freedom of speech”, saying that it will lead to “government-sanctioned journalism”.
This was all rubbish of course, so much so that some members of the pack broke loose, chased their own self-interest tails, and barked up another tree.
Nine Entertainment Chief Executive David Gyngell and Ten Network Chairman Lachlan Murdoch, for example, were pleased with those parts of the reform package that would advantage their companies. 
A 50% rebate on commercial networks’ licence fees would be made permanent, saving them about $180m this year.   Despite all the usual guff in capitalist circles about the benefits of competition policy, there would be no fourth commercial network.  The ceiling on audience reach, which prevents media takeovers that would take a network’s audience beyond 75% of the target, was to be referred to a parliamentary committee and was likely to be abolished.
The fly that crawled up Williams’ nose was a proposed new “Public Interest Media Advocate” to regulate standards developed by the media industry through bodies such as its Australian Press Council.
If this was a handcuff on the freedom of the press, then it was a handcuff made of butterflies’ wings.
It would not have touched the essentials of the role undertaken by the capitalist media which consists firstly, of delivering all of us as media consumers to the monopolies through exposure to advertising; and secondly, to ensure that the ruling ideas of society are the ideas of the ruling class.
In all the shambles of trying to get the media package passed by parliament – and failing – the “debate” was never allowed to touch on the fundamental issue that freedom of the press is a class question.  The capitalist media monopolies deny freedom to express opinions in their press to opponents of the capitalist domination of Australia.
In complete opposition to all that the capitalist press stands for is the Communist paper Vanguard which this year celebrates 50 years of publication.

Where the capitalist media refuses to acknowledge the workers, except in universally negative  terms, Vanguard seeks to bring their immediate and long-term interests and concerns to the fore.
Where the capitalist media refuses to report on this or that struggle of the people, Vanguard seeks to highlight the activities of the people for fundamental change.
Where the capitalist media refuses to permit discussion of certain subjects, or discussion from certain viewpoints, Vanguard seeks to break through the boundaries of bourgeois discourse and keep discussion alive with proletarian content.
Vanguard seeks to maintain the closest ties with the militant and advanced sections of the working class, drawing its material from their contributions, rather than from a staff of paid experts.
Vanguard seeks to deliver a consistent Marxist-Leninist analysis of all questions of the theory and tactics of class struggle, and to link the experiences of workers in Australia to those of our comrades around the globe.
To seek to do these things is not necessarily to actually do them.  This paper has many shortcomings.
Delivering the workers up to the big monopolies is not one of them.

Australian artists fight to protect and increase Australian content on digital TV

Vanguard April 2013 p. 3
Max O.

Currently Australian artists are struggling to protect Australia's cultural independence and oppose increased foreign penetration of the nation's television programming. They are learning the bitter lesson that art and culture are not free from politics and the country's prevailing capitalist economic base. Australia's dependent capitalist economy is at the beck and call of imperialist interference, which shapes the nation's economy and culture to pursue capital accumulation and ideological hegemony.

 As Mao explained in his famous, 'Yenan Forum on Literature and Art' speech: "In the world today all culture, all literature and art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines. There is in fact no such thing as art for art's sake, art that stands above classes, art that is detached from or independent of politics."

 The commercial TV networks are about to abandon and reduce the screening of Australian cultural content across the myriad of digital television channels that they run.

 The  Australian Directors Guild, Australian Writers’ Guild, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance and the Screen Producers Association of Australia united to launch the “Australian Screens, Australian Stories” campaign in February. As the Federal government drafts new legislation which comprises sweeping and regressive changes to local content sub-quotas for Australian TV drama, children's and documentary programming, Australian artists aim to fight and protect local TV programming across free-to-air and digital channels.

 The proposed legislation, for multi-channels (eg the Seven network’s 7Mate and 7Two) to broadcast minimum hours of Australian content per year, in reality is a con by Senator Stephen Conroy. In actual fact it will not increase the amount of new Australian stories broadcast on our free-to-air television stations. The digital TV multi-channels will meet this requirement by airing endless news, sport, reality programs and repeats of old sitcoms.

Conroy, who is Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, in his media release late last year undertook to:

  • Introduce a multi-channel Australian content requirement for each commercial television broadcaster of 730 hours in 2013, increasing to 1095 hours in 2014 and to 1460 hours in 2015. This includes an incentive for first-release drama by allowing an hour of first release drama premiered on a digital multichannel to count for two hours under the transmission hours requirement for multi-channels.
  • Retain the current 55% transmission quota for the commercial television broadcasters’ primary channels, but introduce greater flexibility into the current arrangements for sub-quotas.

The above will be presented as legislation to the parliament in March and will require the commercial networks to screen at least 12% (2015 hours) Australian content between 6am and midnight across their digital channels by 2015. Conroy has also offered to the commercial networks a 50% licence rebate for 2012 that would be extended to the end of 2013 and be made permanent at 4.5% of revenue without conditions.

Australian Directors Guild argued that: “This is approximately half the amount of Australian content they currently show on their multi-channels. Critically, there is no requirement to screen any first-run content so the quota can be filled by repeats of programs from the main channel.”

Conroy has been accused of not giving the industry a preview of the draft legislation and being light on detail. Australian Writers’ Guild is concerned that, “The proposed changes will not result in any increase in the vulnerable program genres that tell original Australian stories — locally made drama, narrative comedy, children’s programs and documentaries”.

Actors Equity point out that, “These quotas were actually recommended by the government’s own convergence review, which revealed a huge increase in foreign TV programs since the introduction of the multi-channels. The cost should be borne by the commercial networks — which is not a lot to ask given the government is handing them a permanent cut in licence fees and a commitment not to allow a fourth free-to-air network.”

Consequently these arts industry organisations have launched the national campaign, “Australian Screens, Australian Stories” to ensure that Australian stories are told on TV and reflect and maintain the Australia's national identity, character and diversity.

 They are calling on Australians to sign an online petition in support of meaningful local content regulation, and urge people to sign and mail postcards to their local MP.

The postcard is at

It is important that this campaign reach as many Australians as possible, so that they become aware of what is happening in the TV sector. Politicians need to feel the heat from outraged Australians and Conroy's machinations especially need to be thoroughly exposed.

Australia's cultural forums: whether they be TV channels, theatres, books/e-books, film, music industry etc belong to and should serve the people!

Sydney's West waits its chance

Vanguard April 2013 p. 4
David B.

Murdoch’s Telegraph and The Australian scream it from their headlines.

 Alan Jones, Steve Price and Ray Hadley scream it over the airwaves.

“Sydney’s Western Suburbs hate Labor!”

 Hate the sight of them. Hate the sound of them. Hate the very thought of them.

It’s almost in the air we breathe.

It’s a real dilemma for us all let alone a Labor leader trying to woo them to vote for the local hack.

Sydney’s Western Suburbs are the home of Keating’s true believers. They have been loyal for generations. They expected and aspired and to an extent prospered.

Their loyalty and belief has been dashed as the reality of the Obeid’s, the Williamson’s, the MacDonald’s heaped injury and insult on the abuses so many Westies had previously turned a blind eye to.

Used and betrayed

In NSW, Labor stands as little more than a training house for those seeking the life of Riley. Inside it they squabble amongst themselves for each opportunity to feast on the plums of office in a betrayal of those they ask to put them there. Some are not so crass but in the sum this is their way.

The cloak of idealistic endeavour, of serving those suffering hardship and deprivation stands exposed as a sham.

The crisis on the roads, unreliability of the trains, hospital waiting lists, price gouging by state electricity and water instrumentalities, open slather for developers in the suburbs, neglect of government schools, the handovers of public land and taxing local bowling and small clubs out of existence, have all burdened the West.

They know they have been used and betrayed, and as a scorned lover turns blindly vengeful, Westies await their opportunity to give Labor its comeuppance in spades.


Impotence in the parliamentary arena

But it’s not so much being spurned, it’s Westies’ impotence in the world of power, where state power and money power meld into a parasitic beast of such potency that the millions in Sydney’s West count for next to naught.

The real issues in Sydney’s West are power and capitalism.

The power of capitalism, and its vile henchmen (and they are mostly men) in the parliamentary arena in all their exposed parasitic greed, disenfranchising the people from their own suburbia.

The complete impotence of the working class in suburbia and society, with Labor hacks using the West as their ticket to the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and their combination with the bankers and mining giants against the mortgage belt, has come to this denouement.

The workers hate their impotence. That is what this is about.

They know in their bones capital rules supreme but they have been told time and again “We’ll look after you” by the now exposed quislings of Labor.

Capitalist power flaunted

The aspirationals and battlers of the West strive to get some improvements in their lives and for their kids. For ever tiny advance they have achieved, they watch the bankers and mining monopolies enrich themselves at an astounding rate. Big money, the monopolies of every sort, mining companies, real estate developers, financiers, chemical monopolies, transport moguls, supermarket retail conglomerates, and gas companies all run rampant over society and over the West.

The monopolies rub our noses in their exercise of power, their day-to-day control of state power in our communities, our states and territories and the nation.

Bribery and corruption of parliamentary elites is merely a sideshow to the main game of capitalism.

See how quickly all the issues of law, regulation and environmental controls have been cleared from the path of coal-seam gas companies.

Contrast that with endless squabbling, erection of barriers or inaction over fixing the health and education systems or congestion on the cities roads.

Power and impotence is the issue.

Our impotence and their power. 

Workers have real power beyond parliament

According to the “rules” of the capitalist game, there is only one power in Westies’ hands, their vote. And they intend to use it, even if it hurts.

It may not be the right approach. It is certainly not the best approach, but until they know another one it will do for now.

Many know Abbott will hit them. They are not fooled by his gloating observation that the Western suburbs are the “new heartland of the Liberal Party”. They know he’s from the North Shore. A boy from a top private school. A trusted confidante of big business. That’s not news to them. They are not as silly as the shock jocks would have people believe.

But their current focus is on getting back at those who have ignored them in the pursuit of self-interest and power through corruption.

They yearn to exercise the one “power” granted to them by the system and that’s their vote.

Class consciousness in the Western suburbs is a product of spontaneity and is still to be developed into a scientific ideology. The West is cosmopolitan, ethnically, and in its experience. It is aware of itself as a class but not yet aware enough and organized enough to act for itself as a class.

Over time, that higher class consciousness is bound to develop. Capitalism and the class struggle will make such a development inevitable.

The task of Communists is to work patiently amongst the people, starting always from the spontaneous reaction of the people to their own impotence and to the power of the class that rules over them in society.

Rather than obsess about whether or not the Western suburbs vote for Gillard or Abbott, our task is to take the discussion beyond the bounds of parliamentarism, to gradually raise the class consciousness of the Westies and of working people around the nation to the real power they have in workplace and community organization.

It is to win them to confidence in an agenda for fundamental social change that can be kept independent of, and advanced outside of, the parliamentary channels.

There is fertile ground everywhere for comrades who are prepared to go into the community and amongst all with whom they work, who can overcome the “left bloc” and really implement the mass line style of political work.

Quick! Get the surface spray

Vanguard April 2013 p.4
Jack D.

It looks like the ALP hierarchy has just now woken up to the fact they have largely ‘missed the boat’.

Tony Sheldon, National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union and National Vice-President of the ALP, has taken a swing at some of his party’s misdeeds and some wrong-doers. He said, "Like cockroaches, B-grade politicians are able to thrive on the corruption and detritus that lies under the dishwasher." He also said, "It's a crisis of belief brought on by a lack of moral and political purpose."

On his first point what does he want? Perhaps a 200 litre drum of the most potent of surface spray may do the trick. It is the only thing that might fix it. Simply changing leaders like musical chairs will achieve nothing. In fact, that is basically what has been going on for many decades as older working people will know.

Tony Sheldon is right on the button when he said, "It's a crisis of belief brought on by a lack of moral and political purpose." The ALP is not a real working class party, a party of the working-class. It never was and never can be. It is a social democrat bourgeois party, imbued with that ideology and confined to always work within the limitations set by capitalism.

It does not lack political purpose. It serves the purpose that is set by and for those with the cold stony, rusty heart of the capitalist class. That purpose is to mislead and divert working-class struggle into areas harmless to capital as that class intensifies its profit maximization schemes, its exploitation of the workers.

Study the tides

It is a purpose the ALP have become most efficient at; after all, there has been no fundamental change in the exploitation of the working class since the advent of the ALP. This is because it has been tied in to capital all of its existence. It is tied to capital more so today than ever before. It is therefore unreasonable to expect anything more from it as it is not a revolutionary party and essentially it serves the interests of capital, not the working class.

To rely on the likes of the ALP and on the parliamentary system to bring about fundamental change in the relationships of production is about as much use as standing on the sea shore piddling into the ocean trying to stop the tide from going out! I know. I tried both. It doesn’t work, it is asking the impossible.


Chicken processor plucked by US capitalists

Vanguard April 2013 p. 5
Nick G.

US capital has secured yet another Australian-owned company, chicken processor Ingham Enterprises.

This ends 95 years of family ownership of the company.

It is not our intention to weep for the capitalist Ingham family.  They have engaged in the private appropriation of surplus value created by generations of workers simply because the ownership system of capitalism gives them that right.

But the company has now been purchased by US investors and profits realised through the sale of Ingham’s products will be directed to the hands of US billionaires. An extra squeeze will be on the agenda for Ingham workers to force an increase in those profits.

Corporate piranhas

In this case, the foreign investor is one of the global capital’s most ruthless private equity firms, Texas-based TPG Capital.  Its sole interest in an acquired company is to buy out current owners and shareholders, strip it of non-core assets, redirect its operations only to high return ventures and then sell the company at a huge profit through a public share offering. 

Sometimes it will purchase the same company and start the whole process over again in what the International Union of Food workers (IUF) calls a “Buy ‘em, bleed ‘em, buy ‘em again cheap” strategy.

For example, in 2000, TPG and Leonard Green & Partners invested $200 million to acquire Petco, the US  pet supplies retailer as part of a $600 million buyout. Within two years they sold most of it in a public offering that valued the company at $1 billion. Petco’s market value more than doubled by the end of 2004 and the firms would ultimately realize a gain of $1.2 billion. Then, in 2006, the private equity firms took Petco private again for $1.68 billion.

Private equity goes for workers’ jugular

In all of this buying and selling frenzy, workers’ rights are the first to go.

At the time of its acquisition by TPG in 2002, Swissair caterer Gate Gourmet employed 25,000 workers. TPG immediately launched an aggressive drive for steep reductions in payrolls, wages and benefits involving closures and assaults on union rights. According to a Reuters report, the company today employs "about" 20,000 people.

In 2002, along with Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs Capital Group, TPG took over Burger King in a $2.3 billion leveraged buyout.  In December 2007, Burger King, the world's second largest restaurant chain (over 11,200 units in 65 countries), adamantly opposed an agreement which would see Florida farm workers receive a tiny one extra US cent for every pound of tomatoes purchased by the fast food giant.

Workers - not national bourgeoisie – will take up the fight

Company owner – now former owner - Bob Ingham exemplifies the weakness of the national bourgeoisie.  He has compliantly welcomed TPG’s buyout of his enterprise and expressed his confidence that TPG would “ensure that our customers will continue to receive the highest level of service and our employees would be well looked after”.

TPG has grabbed hold of Ingham at a time of expansion in the chicken processing industry.  Chicken meat production in South Australia, where Baiada and Ingham both have major processing plants, has doubled from $232m to $436m in the five years to 2011.

But it has also taken over following some major fightbacks by workers in the industry, particularly in rival Baiada owned plants.

The lessons of those struggles are sure to be shared with and taken up by Ingham workers at the first sign of intensified exploitation by their new foreign masters.

Baillieu shafted by nutters

Vanguard April 2013 p. 5
Bill F.

We all knew that the Victorian Liberal Premier, ‘do nothing’ Ted Baillieu, was in his political death throes, but were the fatal wounds from falling on his sword or from knives in his back?

Baillieu’s sudden resignation took place against a backdrop of murky events and disclosures.

There was the revelation of secretly recorded conversations between the state Liberal Party Director Damien Mantach, Premier Baillieu’s Chief of Staff Tony Nutt and disgraced former staffer Tristan Weston. Weston had been sacked after his role in the conspiracy to destabilise the former Labor-appointed Police Commissioner, Simon Overland, had been exposed.

Mantach and Nutt promised to look after Weston, offering him money, accommodation and help finding another job. Maybe they had good reason to keep him ‘gruntled’? Other sacked workers never get treated this way, and many don’t even get their legal entitlements.

When all this hit the fan, Baillieu flicked it to the newly formed Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC). Meanwhile Nutt had reassured Weston, an ex-cop, that the IBAC investigators would not include people from the old Office of Police Integrity who may have had prior dealings with him.

The other character, Damien Mantach, is still hanging on with vocal support from Tony Abbott. “I know Damien Mantach well. He is a person of integrity. So let’s see where this investigation goes. He has my confidence.”

Finally, the erratic right-wing backbencher Geoff Shaw, himself already under investigation for alleged rorts, resigned from the Liberal Party with stage-managed drama, triggering another crisis.

With all this going on, Baillieu, whether pushed or he jumped, was sidelined, and the ‘safe’ seat-warmer Denis Napthine was resurrected to become Premier. That is, at least until the federal election makes Tony Abbott the next Prime Minister.

What a stew! Who made the secret recordings? Who spilt the beans? Who benefitted?

This rubbish is ‘business as usual’ in Australian parliamentary politics. No wonder people are cynical – they are kept in the dark like mushrooms, disempowered by ‘fat cats’ who can pay $10,000 to have private dinners with government ministers, and manipulated by media moguls singing the hymns of ‘free trade’, foreign investment, and the need to cut wages and conditions to compete in the globalised market!

Recession whacks Victorian working people

Vanguard April 2013
Bill F.

Another backdrop to the Baillieu shafting was the release of Bureau of Statistics data which shows that the state of Victoria had moved into recession in the second half of 2012.

In brief, general spending fell by 1.1%, investment by 5%, retail sales by 0.8% and 11,000 jobs were lost.

Household spending on furniture and appliances dipped by 6% over three quarters, spending on gas and electricity slumped by 2-3% in spite of price hikes by the privatised utility companies, and restaurant, hotel and café spending has fallen by 5%.

Before the global economic crisis of 2008, there was a steady 4% growth in household spending in Victoria, but last year the growth was only 1.3%, less than the population growth rate, and still falling.

 Hard times

The only sales growth recorded was for new cars (cheaper imports?) and mobile phones, and the latest electronic gadgets that all kids (and others) have to have.

Behind these statistics is the grim reality of Victorian working people doing it tough. They are cutting back heavily on so-called ‘discretionary spending’; making do with clapped out appliances and tattered furniture, missing out on films and entertainment and meals in restaurants, putting off trips and holidays, and spending less on new clothes.

This is because the money is needed for the basic things such as rent/mortgage, council rates, food, healthcare, education, and transport costs for work, all of which continue to cost more every year.

Those already unemployed (5.2% in Victoria) and those in the manufacturing, hospitality and retail sectors in shaky jobs or on short hours, temporary or casual work, are the first to feel the pinch.

The slump in investment is also starting to alarm the local capitalist class. They see investment capital by-passing Victoria and being sucked into mining and speculation. While they don’t give a hoot for the struggles of working people, they do want paying customers for their products and services. Employer groups are now calling for some easing of the ‘balanced budget’ mantra and a little Keynesian pump-priming by the state government! 

Class struggle and the state apparatus

Vanguard April 2013 p. 6
by Alice M.

In their detailed analysis of classes and class struggle Marx, Engels and Lenin paid a great deal of attention to the decisive role of the coercive state apparatus in enforcing the rule of the class that holds the economic and political power in society.

Their investigations into the historical origins of classes and class struggle showed that the state apparatus arose at the time when human society divided into two main classes – the exploited and oppressed majority who create all the wealth (surplus value) in society, and a small minority who own the means of production, exploit the vast majority and keep the surplus value for their own class.

The job of the capitalist state machine is to suppress the resistance and struggles of the working class, and ensure that the exploitation by the minority class is not interfered with or disturbed by the majority working class of the exploited population. In his 1919 lecture on The State, Lenin said, “The state is a machine for maintaining the rule of one class over another.”

Today’s monopoly capitalist state is made up of the armed forces (army and police), jails, the public services, the courts, the extensive legal system and the mass media. The capitalist state is administered by parliament, the CEO (Chief Executive Office) for the ruling class.

Ted Hill, the founding Chairperson of the CPA (M-L) used these general truths of the coercive state machine exposed by Marx, Engels and Lenin, to examine the particularities and characteristics of Australia’s imperialist dominated capitalist state. His analysis deepened the revolutionary working class consciousness and advanced Australia’s revolutionary theory.

Marx, Engels, Lenin and Hill pointed out that the state apparatus takes many different forms, reflecting the historical, economic and social conditions of the time. The capitalist state uses both the open force and the deception as a means to suppress resistance and challenge to the main order of the capitalist class rule. Both the open and the deceptive coercion of the capitalist state are two sides of the same coin, often used simultaneously.

There’s the open violence and suppression by the armed forces – the army and the police, including the secret police, and imprisonment of rebellious workers. There’s also the coercive state machinery of the upper levels of the public service and the bourgeois legal system that administers and enforces the capitalist class exploitation.

The monopoly media is an essential part of this capitalist state’s superstructure. It vigorously imposes the ideology and interests of the monopoly capitalist class, and tries to crush or silence the voice and the will of the people when resistance and rebellion of the working class disturbs the smooth operations of the capitalist exploitation.

The imperialist dominated capitalist state has always used both of these forms of state repression and coercion.

From the British colonial armed forces’ bloody and violent repression of the Aboriginal people, the violent putting down of rebellious convicts, the Eureka uprising of 1854, the struggles of shearers and maritime workers in the early 1890s, to the Chifley Labor government using the army to crush the striking coal miners in 1949.

More recently we have seen the 1998 MUA struggle, police attacking striking workers on the picket lines, the secretive Commonwealth Crimes Act and the more deceptive, but no less effective, suppression of working class struggles through the capitalist legal system in the form of the penal powers in the 1950s and 1960s, the BIIC, the ABCC, WorkChoices, Fair Work Australia and  many thousands more anti-worker laws designed to paralyse working class struggle and gut workers’ collective organisation. 

In the struggle between construction unions and the giant Grollo construction company in November 2012 the state deployed most instruments of the state machinery to suppress construction workers’ battle for safety in their workplace. More than one thousand armed and riot police were dispatched to the peaceful picket line.

Simultaneously, the capitalist state activated many of its anti-worker laws against the union and workers, and the capitalist mass media went into full drive spreading lies and propaganda to discredit and demonise the just fight of construction workers.

In Australia’s present conditions, the capitalist state can largely rely on coercion by deception, through its legal system and the mass media, in the suppression of the exploited working class.   

Nevertheless, in spite of the coercive state machinery surrounding the working class, all the improvements to workers rights and conditions had been wrung out of the capitalist class through workers own struggles. They are important concessions forced on the ruling class by the organised and militant actions of the working class.

Through these actions the working class deepens the understanding of class struggle, the capitalist system and the role of its coercive state.

We encourage activists to study – Engels’ Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,  Lenin’s lecture on The State  and The State and Revolution, as well as Ted Hill’s Revolution and the Australian State.

ASIO bloats. Rights shrink. Fightback sharpens

Vanguard April 2013 p. 6
Dennis M.

ASIO parades itself as our shield against terrorists. Yet ASIO is itself part of a terrorist network. It is one branch of the state terrorism run on behalf of global corporates.

That is nothing new. Forty years ago, Attorney-General Murphy visited ASIO’s Melbourne headquarters. He had ASIO in his portfolio but it was not under his control.

Murphy feared for the safety of the Yugoslav prime minister who was due to visit. ASIO had been shielding the Croatian terrorist organisation, the Utashi. These fascists also trained with the Australian Army. Utashi fighters infiltrated Yugoslavia to terrorise the population.

A second instance of ASIO terrorism was the Hilton bombing.

ASIO framed Tim Anderson but that ‘conviction’ fell apart.

Mossad agents

ASIO sub-contracts for global terrorist organisations. It is the regional partner for the CIA, MI6 and Mossad. Spy agencies help each other with official documents. In February 2010, Dubai police revealed that Mossad terrorists had used Australian passports in the murder of a Hamas leader. Mossad nobbled their agent Ben Zygier before he could go public.

Big Brothers

From 1996 to 2005 Dennis Richardson was Director-General of ASIO.  Then he went to Washington as Ambassador. He came back to head Foreign Affairs. Now he heads Defence. Richardson has not held four different jobs.  His career is merely a division of labour for a spook.

ASIO’s current head is David Irvine. He sounds like O’Brien from Nineteen Eighty Four. His every word comes across as a threat: ‘How dare you question our motives or actions.’ 

New ASIO Central Office

ASIO’s new HQ is being built in Canberra beside the Defence Department. The Defence offices encircle the US eagle on a 50m. high column. That totem pole exposes whose interests are being defended. Spy bases, the Marine base in Darwin, and drones out of Katherine enforce the rule of US monopoly capital. More than ever, the Defence Department is a sub-branch of the US war machine.

ASIO now has 1,800 agents. That is three times as many spooks as during the peak of the Cold War. They will operate around the clock.

In 2009, ASIO got total exemption from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.  There is one law for ASIO and another law for the rest of us.

To work on the site a navvy needs a security clearance. Those clearances are readily available to holders of 457 visas. Union officials are often denied entry.

Meanwhile, the lead contractor is a convicted criminal. In April last year, Lend Lease paid fines and restitution of $US54m. For ten years, it had engaged in what a US judge called ‘a systematic pattern of audacious fraud’.  Militant workers are barred. A criminal corporation is put in charge. Once again, there is one law for ASIO and another law for the rest of us.

The ASIO website encourages us to report threats to our security. ASIO is a clear and present danger. To whom can we report ASIO? The answer is to our fellow Australians.

 ASIO powers have ballooned. Independence fighters need a sharp policy.

Our demands remain those of the Committee for the Abolition of the Political Police.
Do away with ASIO! Destroy all security files!