Monday, November 28, 2016

Productivity Commission’s “fresh approach to workplace relations”

Nick G.

Productivity Commission Chair Peter Harris has called for the dismantling of current industrial relations infrastructure in order to further intensify the exploitation of Australian workers.

In a speech on November 4 to the Australian Labour Law Association, he called for “Institutional reform in workplace relations – not the alteration of laws to favour one ideological perspective or another, but the alteration of the institution itself…”

Harris expressed dissatisfaction with what he claimed were “low expectations” of a Workplace Relations Report the Commission produced last year.

He called for “breaking the Fair Work Commission (FWC) up into two bodies”, one to take over the awards modernisation process, and the other to take over the setting of the Minimum Wage.
He said the new bodies should abolish decisions by precedent where “it is always the prior view that must be dislodged, rather than a fresh view taken of the matter.” He added that the new bodies should have their own “independent research capacity” and not be reliant on “expert” opinion commissioned by parties appearing before the commissions.

Thus the new bodies would be freed to more aggressively pursue workplace “reforms” deemed by the bodies to be in the “national interest”.

Who is Peter Harris?

Harris has form in changes to the institutions of workplace relations.  He supported the Accord (it broke “decision-making structures into economically manageable outcomes”) and was senior private secretary, from 1989 to 1991, to Prime Minister Bob Hawke who, together with his successor Keating, was a pioneer of neo-liberal policies embracing deregulation of the economy.
He referred nostalgically to that era as one when “both major parties during their stint in power sought to convince their own supporters to take the medicine…

“And the product of all that work was a flexible economic structure in Australia that persistently lifted productivity and national income, and allowed for redistribution polices that ensured we did not then and still do not today suffer from the languishing incomes for the poorest households and inequality of income distribution that now bedevils the US and the UK; and may be contributing to extremes in political behaviour.”

All workers know or sense that “lifting productivity” under capitalism means attacks on their wages and conditions. And “national income” is a different animal altogether from what a family has to live on.

What Harris left out of his rosy view of the past was the decline in unit labour costs.  These were revealed in a graph that he supplied.

Unit labour costs (ULC) measure the average cost of labour per unit of output and are calculated as the ratio of total labour costs to real output. The average cost of labour is calculated on the basis of factors such as wages and salaries, paid leave, superannuation, taxes on employment, training and recruitment costs, and fringe benefits (included in wages and salaries in the national accounts). Average labour costs divided by average labour productivity constitute unit labour costs. A decline in an economy’s unit labour costs, as is clearly the case in Harris’s graph below, represents a decreased reward for labour’s contribution to output.

To put it in simple maths, if average labour costs are set at a value of 2, and average labour productivity increases over time from 6 to 8, then unit labour costs decline from 2÷6=1/3 to 2÷8=1/4.  The outcome is worse for workers if average labour costs decline during that increase of average labour productivity.  If average labour costs halve (an extreme example, but it keeps the maths simple), then the equation becomes 1÷8=1/8. 

The graph shows a decline in the workers’ share of their own increased productivity.  Capitalism continually seeks just such a decline.  The blue line showing rising labour productivity is fairly obvious, but what about average household income?  How can workers’ wages increase while their share of their increased productivity declines?

Average household income or “languishing incomes for the poorest”?

Average household income is a misleading statistic used to paint a rosy picture of life under capitalism. As the footnote to the graph says, it is a measure of gross national income per capita expressed in terms of the average number of people above 15 years of age per household.

Gross national income (GNI) is basically gross domestic product (GDP) plus any income from overseas sources.  GNI is therefore better if there is a healthy Terms of Trade and worse if there is a deficit.  Terms of Trade is directly affected by payments made by multinational companies to their headquarters overseas, so in Australia, with so many US, British and other multinationals dominating our economy, there is always a trend towards a negative Terms of Trade where money paid out as profits exceeds any money coming in. Australia’s terms of trade have declined over the last decade, resulting in the slight downward curve at the end of the average household income line above.

To have had such a marked overall increase in average household income at a time when wages have been held down in both the government and private sectors simply means that there has been a massive increase in wealth enjoyed by the rich and super-rich, that their share of our labour productivity has gone through the roof. For the unemployed, the precariously employed and those on low wages, trying to cope with today’s cost of living is nearly impossible on the “languishing incomes for the poorest households”, the existence of which is denied by Harris. 

When Marx wrote prior to the age of monopoly capitalism, that is, prior to the era of imperialism, that capitalism sought to degrade workers to “one level mass of broken wretches past salvation", he was describing a tendency arising from the drive for capital accumulation. 

That drive has been resisted by organised labour and in developed capitalist countries workers have fought for and won a social and cultural expectation of a minimum standard of living. The setting of a minimum wage is an expression of this.  

If one combines the agenda of the Productivity Commission for a “fresh approach” to the minimum wage and to awards with the present Government’s attacks on unions through the Registered Organisations legislation and the revived ABCC then we see capitalism forcing the issue of just what it can get away with in degrading the working class in the direction of one level mass of broken wretches.

The best elements of our comrades in trade unions and within the precariously employed workforce must dig in for the long fight and be prepared for the sacrifices inevitable in class struggle.

Fidel will live forever in the hearts of the poor!

Nick G.

The Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) joins with progressive and revolutionary peoples the world over to mourn the passing of Comrade Fidel Castro.

Castro led the guerilla movement that overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. He served as Prime Minister of Cuba for the next 47 years and as President of Cuba from 1976 to 2006.  He was First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party from 1961 to 2011.

Castro led the Cuban Party and government through periods of great difficulty including the period of ideological confusion engendered by Soviet leader Khrushchev’s revisionist attacks on Marxism-Leninism, and the entire period of US imperialist hostility towards the Cuban revolution.

The US imperialists brazenly invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 and made one attempt after another to assassinate Cuba’s leader.  The blockade of Cuba imposed by US imperialism created economic hardship.  With the support of the Cuban people, Fidel Castro frustrated every evil scheme to subvert and destroy Cuba’s independence, sovereignty and socialist economy.

Under Castro’s leadership, Cuba won great prestige among the poor and oppressed nations and peoples by guaranteeing its own people’s health care, education and literacy, and housing.  In an extraordinary gesture of proletarian internationalism and solidarity with the global poor, Cuba trained health professionals from Third World countries at no cost and made literacy programs and teachers available to those in need.

In the decade after his resignation as leader of the Cuban state, Castro provided exemplary political leadership through a series of letters, notes and interviews.  He was unrelenting in his exposure of the crimes of the imperialists and in his encouragement of socialist sentiment and the science of Marxism.

His final major speech was delivered at the Cuban Communist Party’s 7th Congress on April 16, 2016 which was both the anniversary of the Party’s founding and the 55th anniversary of the Declaration of the Socialist Nature of the Revolution. 

In the speech, Castro solemnly addressed his own mortality, not with fear of the inevitable, but with confidence in the ideas of Communism, saying, “Soon I will be 90 years old. I would never have thought of such an idea and it was never the result of an effort, it was a whim of chance. Soon I will be like all the others. We all will have our turn, but the ideas of the Cuban communists will remain as proof that on this planet, if we work with fervour and dignity, we can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need, and we must fight without ceasing to obtain them. To our brothers in Latin America and in the world we must convey to them that the Cuban people will win. Maybe this is one of the last times that I speak in this room….”

The time will come when every one of us speaks last words.  Few will have the privilege of their words outliving them and of their life resonating through the ages in those words.

Fidel Castro will join the great revolutionary leaders of the modern era who will continue to live long after death.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Will Australian Built Submarines Be Obsolete Before They Are Built?

Ned K.

Defence manufacturing workers in Australia campaigned strongly for Australia's naval submarines to be built in Australia. The federal government awarded the principal contract to a French corporation whom we are told will build the submarines in Australia. We are told by the government and the successful tenderer that they will be suitable for Australia's needs which in reality means suitable also for the needs of a US build-up of military presence in the Asia Pacific region. 

It is better for workers in Australia that the submarines are built here at a time when manufacturing generally is in decline in Australia. However it is possible the submarines will be obsolete before they are completed. The US Pentagon is spending up to $3 billion on robotic Unmanned Underwater Vessels (UUVs). The corporations to benefit from this expenditure are the usual suspects including Boeing, General Dynamics and Raytheon. Boeing has already developed UUVs that can cruise the ocean depths for weeks at a time. These corporations are designing UUVs that do not rely on an external signal for navigation so they can avoid detection from China and Russia in particular who are behind on this technological front. They are autonomous.

"The US Defence Advanced Research Project has a plan to plant 4.5 metre pods on the ocean floor that could stay there for years waiting to be awakened. When they received a signal they would float to the surface and release aerial drones, which could perform surveillance over shorelines" (AFR 26 November).

Raytheon is working on torpedoes that roam the seas detecting and collecting information.
With UUV technology well advanced and about to take a qualitative leap forward at American taxpayer's expense, the submarines expected to be built in Australia but not completed for quite a few years yet, may be useless.

Is Australia being taken for a ride by bigger powers yet again?

In an independent, socialist Australia, money would be spent on an Australian owned Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) to research and design defence systems for Australia's needs as an island continent in the 21st Century. 

This would revive manufacturing jobs in producing what research and design projects show is in our best interests in maintaining an anti-imperialist peace-oriented Australia.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Workers’ wages on a slippery slide as foreign investors take profits overseas

Ned K.

The daily news cycle of the giant media corporations has attacked the construction workers for winning 5% wage increases each year for the next 4 years in new Enterprise Agreements.

They use these wins to give the impression that that any group of workers who significantly increase their incomes through struggle are "against the national interest" or placing jobs in jeopardy.

What is actually happening though is that the income of workers as a whole is on a downhill slide and arguably has been this way over the last 40 years, including for construction workers as a whole.

Last week the Reserve Bank released a report by economist James Bishop which concluded that there is currently a "reduction in size and frequency of pay rises" and "historically-low growth in wage rates."

The decline in the average size of wage increases since 2012 has been greater than during the imperialist financial crisis of 2008.

Bishop says the average size of "wage changes" has dropped from 3.6% in 2012 to 2.3% in the year ending June 2016. The share of 4%-plus wage increases fell from 29% in 2012 to just 7% in 2016.

Frequency of wage increases for all workers has dropped to a 16 year low and the average length of time between wage increases has risen from once every four quarters in 2012 to once every 4.75 quarters in 2016.

These overall figures include both public and private sectors. In the private sector the situation is worse with the growth in rates of pay excluding bonuses now firmly below 2% per year for the first time since the ABS began compiling the Wage Price Index over twenty years ago.

In the year ending June 2016, wages in the private sector grew by just 1.9%. This was a year in which workers on the minimum award rate had a wage increase of 2.4%. So wage increases in collective agreements have been on average lower than even the safety net award increase for the year ending June 2016.

Looking at even longer term trends, ABS data shows that since the mid-1960s to the present day, the gap between the median average wage and the minimum wage in Australia has widened.
In the 1960s the minimum wage was 60% of the median wage. Now it is about 40% of the median wage! 

This gap between the haves and have nots within the working class was accelerated from the 1990s with the introduction of the ALP federal government approved Enterprise Bargaining system.

Prior to that system being introduced in about 1993, the pay levels in awards of semi-skilled workers in all industries were equivalent to a percentage of the Metal Trades rate. For example a cleaner's rate of pay was struck at 87.4 % of the Trade rate. 

Since 1993 the Trade rate in construction, mining and manufacturing increased through workers winning wage increases through enterprise agreements so that today the average Metal Trades rate is $28 per hour or more. However the minimum wage now is about $18 per hour or 60% of the Trade rate instead of the 87.4 % of the Trade rate in the case of a cleaner in 1993.

Wages down –profits up

These short and long term trends in wage movements are contrasted with an increase in profits as a share of GDP. It cannot be otherwise. Workers produce the wealth and value in all sectors of the economy. That wealth either goes to workers directly in the form of wages or to the capitalists as profit in one form or another with what's left going to the state as tax for the government to administer the affairs of the capitalists as a whole.

Within the capitalist class in Australia, imperialist investment and return on investment plays a dominant role. The Australian newspaper printed figures from DEFAT recently showing that US investment in Australia was $860 billion, almost double its nearest rivals from the UK and Japan followed by Singapore and Belgium. In the last year US investment in Australia at $55 billion was still the dominant investment from countries in Australia. The corporations from the US and other countries invest for primarily one reason - to take profit back to their headquarters.

So, given the continued large scale investment by multinational corporations in Australia and the steady decline of income of workers in Australia, is this investment and the control over industry and governments that come with it, in the interests of workers? 

Why the decline in real wages?

There are many reasons given by the mainstream media, politicians and economists for the decline in wages. Terms such as "globalisation", "international competitiveness" and  "low inflation" are given. However it is no accident that it is in areas of the economy where workers are strong and united, such as the large construction sites, state public sectors, maritime industry and manufacturing, that workers have been able to withstand the attack on wages and conditions by the capitalist class as a whole.

During the period from the 1960s to now there is another very significant percentage figure that has declined - union membership as a percentage of the workforce. From a high of plus 60% of the workers in Australia having a collective union voice to about 11% (private sector) now tells the story. 

While minimum wages are usually sufficient to enable the worker to crawl back to work the next day having paid the bills and enough to eat to slave for the boss for another day, the actual share of wages/profits is determined by the outcome of the on-going class struggle.

Imperialism in Australia, led by the US, mounted a sustained attack on the living standards of Australian workers during the period from the mid-1960s to the present day. They have been helped in their endeavours to shackle the workers by one government after another and by the top of the official trade union leadership who swallowed hook line and sinker the imperialist plans to "restructure" Australia and divide the working class through one measure after another - from ending closed shops to enterprise bargaining to labour hire and so on.

Where has all this got workers? ABS statistics show that if you count workers on ABNs, casuals, part time contract workers, fixed term contract workers across both blue and white collar jobs, that there is a staggering 40% of the total workforce that can be classified "precariously employed".

This trend is worsening every day as too many union leaderships put scarce organising resources in to the shrinking areas of what they see as their core membership rather than the challenge of organising where it most needed.

At the moment there is a disconnect between millions of workers and unions at a time when unions as organisations are under attack as registered associations under the restrictive Fair Work laws and trade practices legislation which impose heavy fines and even loss of homes on workers who take collective action in their own interests or in support of others such as CUB maintenance workers in Melbourne. 

There is also opportunity for union leaders to take a risk and show leadership and plan collective actions which assist workers to break through the shackles imposed on them by imperialism. Rather than telling workers all the time what they cannot do because of this or that law. 

As P.B Shelley, the British poet said of the working people, "we are many, they are few".

80th anniversary of the Chinese Red Army's Long March

Max O.

October this year marked 80 years since the successful completion of the Chinese Red Army's Long March, an event of huge significance  for the Communist movement and world history.

The Long March was a strategic manoeuvre to break out of the Kuomintang's army (lead by Chiang Kai-Shek) encirclement of the Red Army's bases in Jiangxi province and retreat to a safer position so as to begin operations against Japan's invasion of China. In breaking out of the Kuomintang siege, soldiers of the Red Army had to trek through 11 provinces, cross 24 wild rivers, scale 18 massive snow mountains, pass through hazardous bogs, fight 600 pitiless battles, face dangers from local warlords, deal with constant food shortages and diseases. Starting out from the town of Ruijin in October 1934, the Red Army began the Long March. It advanced north-westward along many diverse routes, in a journey of over 12,500 km. 

Many famous events took place during the Long March which mythologised the Red Army's retreat. Incidents such as:  the crossing of the Chishui River four times to escape the enemy; Zunyi conference where Mao was brought back into the leadership; the heroic fight for the Luding Bridge demonstrated the selfless bravery of the Red Army soldiers who won control of it; the desperate march through the treacherous marshy grasslands of north-eastern Sichuan that took a heavy toll on soldiers; the daring combat at Lazikou Pass (a passage between two cliffs heavily defended by Kuomintang forces) that was captured by a well-planned surprise attack.

The first contingents of soldiers from the First Front Army arrived to the safety of the town Wuqi, where they were united with the Northern Shaanxi Red Army forces in October 1935. All Red Army forces finally combined in Huining, Gansu Province in October 1936, completing the heroic journey that is known as the Long March.

The Red Army soldiers suffered terribly and of the 100,000 who initially started out, only 10 % survived. However it was not a defeat, they survived through a strategic retreat to eventually achieve great successes.

Soon after, December 1936, Yan'an, Shaanxi Province became the base area for the Red Army's Second United Front; and it was from here that the Communist Party of China consolidated its forces, expanded the war against Japan's invasion and eventually defeated both the Japanese Imperial Army and the Chiang Kai-Shek's Kuomintang forces.

Two political lines of conducting revolutionary struggle emerge

The Long March brought about a fundamental shift in the thinking and political line of the China's Communist Party and Red Army. Prior to the Long March two political lines emerged about how to conduct the revolutionary struggle in China. 

Some argued that a solely proletarian revolutionary strategy of city insurrections, as happened in Russia, should be the way to conduct the struggle. Mao argued that this overlooked the peasantry, who were the largest exploited class in China, and that the revolution ought to start in the countryside with the goal of encircling and seizing the cities to eventually win nationwide power.

Workers' insurrections in Chinese cities were defeated by the Kuomintang counter-revolution, who were just too strong in the urban centres. Consequently, Mao called for a worker-peasant alliance, that concentrated on building base areas in the countryside where the new forms of local people’s power could be established to carry out land reform for the impoverished peasantry. He had written this ground breaking approach in the now famous Marxist classic, "Analysis of Classes in Chinese Society" (March 1926).

Similarly, Mao, after analysing military defeats, disputed the approach of building blockhouses and conducting all-out military battles to oppose the Kuomintang's strategy of encirclement through the construction of blockhouses. Chiang Kai-Shek's forces were far larger and stronger than the Red Army's and could easily crush them in conventional battle formation. However, by carrying out mobile guerrilla warfare in China's countryside, Red Army forces could weaken and defeat the much larger enemy in smaller battles. Mao's strategy of a protracted people's war outside the cities and in the rural areas enabled the Red Army to eventually turn around the unfavourable balance of strength.

His famous dictum of conducting guerrilla warfare became legendary:  “When the enemy advances, we retreat; when the enemy halts, we harass; when the enemy tires, we attack; when the enemy retreats, we pursue.” By pursuing the strategy of protracted warfare in the countryside the revolutionary forces were not only able to survive the onslaughts of the far bigger Kuomintang forces, they also gradually built a politically conscious, disciplined army which won the trust and support of the peasants, who then joined the Red Army in droves. 

It was vitally important to Mao that the peasants be won over to support the Red Army whose whole purpose was to liberate workers and peasants from exploitation. To build trust between the Red Army soldiers and the peasants Mao and Zhu De formulated rules of conduct:

Three Rules of Discipline:
•    Obey orders in all your actions.
•    Do not take even a needle or a piece of thread from the people.
•    Turn in everything you capture.

Eight Points of Attention
•    Speak politely
•    Pay fairly for what you buy.
•    Return everything you borrow.
•    Pay for any damage.
•    Do not strike or swear at people.
•    Do not damage crops.
•    Do not take liberties with women.
•    Do not mistreat captives. 

In China people fled from armies due to fear of being looted and raped by soldiers in the armies of the warlords and imperialists. To overcome this experience Mao demanded that Red Army soldiers were never to enter a house uninvited or take anything from peasants. The courteous behaviour of Red Army soldiers was very unusual and a welcomed experience for people. The revolutionary forces carried out the practice of taking money and cloth from landlords, then distributing it amongst the peasants.

Through these actions village residents were curious enough to attend town meetings called by the Communist Party where they explained that the goal of the Red Army was to fight for their interests and liberation.

Whilst the Long March was a retreat from a more powerful enemy it gave the Communist Party and the Red Army the opportunity to present themselves and spread their message to the peasants of China. Through their commendable behaviour and the practice of assisting peasants wherever they could, the revolutionary forces won the hearts and minds of the Chinese people.

What can be learnt from the significance of the Long March

In the following extract from his speech “On tactics against imperialism”, delivered December 27, 1935, Mao succinctly summed up the importance of the Long March: "Speaking of the Long March, one may ask, “What is its significance?” We answer that the Long March is the first of its kind in the annals of history, that it is a manifesto, a propaganda force, a seeding-machine...

"For twelve months we were under daily reconnaissance and bombing from the skies by scores of planes, while on land we were encircled and pursued, obstructed and intercepted by a huge force of several hundred thousand men, and we encountered untold difficulties and dangers on the way; yet by using our two legs we swept across a distance of more than twenty thousand li through the length and breadth of eleven provinces. Let us ask, has history ever known a long march to equal ours? No, never. The Long March is a manifesto. It has proclaimed to the world that the Red Army is an army of heroes, while the imperialists and their running dogs, Chiang Kai-shek and his like, are impotent. It has proclaimed their utter failure to encircle, pursue, obstruct and intercept us.

"The Long March is also a propaganda force. It has announced to some 200 million people in eleven provinces that the road of the Red Army is their only road to liberation. Without the Long March, how could the broad masses have learned so quickly about the existence of the great truth which the Red Army embodies? The Long March is also a seeding-machine. In the eleven provinces it has sown many seeds which will sprout, leaf, blossom, and bear fruit, and will yield a harvest in the future. In a word, the Long March has ended with victory for us and defeat for the enemy. Who brought the Long March to victory? The Communist Party. Without the Communist Party, a long march of this kind would have been inconceivable. The Chinese Communist Party, its leadership, its cadres and its members fear no difficulties or hardships."

After the Long March, Mao and the Communist Party started planning the next stage of the revolutionary struggle in China. In his 1939 paper, "On New Democracy" Mao outlined that China had been dominated by a number of imperialist powers for a century. Its economy became distorted and dependent as a result of imperialist exploitation. Alongside this was the feudal economic relations, where rich landlords who owned most of the land and subjugated the peasantry, also incorporated into the capitalist economic relations.

Japan had invaded China in 1932 and was rapidly expanding its territorial gains. The Communist Party identified Japanese imperialism as the main enemy of the Chinese people. Even though Chiang Kai-Shek's Kuomintang was a reactionary and fascist force, there was the need to call for a united front with them to oppose Japanese aggression.

Despite the fact that the Kuomintang half-heartedly opposed Japanese aggression, they were neutralised through the united front from attacking the Red Army who could then go about mounting the majority of the military actions against the Japanese. This won the admiration and universal support of the Chinese people.

The lesson here for revolutionaries is that when you are weak, you can only oppose one enemy at a time. A united front is a strategy where communists unite with other parties who have different interests, in fact they can be diametrically opposing interests, but have a common purpose of resisting a greater enemy.

Whilst communists cooperate with other parties within the united front, they maintain their independence and are not submerged by it. They carry out their revolutionary tasks in stages.
The Communist Party in China decided on a two stage revolution. The first stage being the liberation of the nation from imperialism and establishment of a new democratic state, followed by a second stage of launching the socialist revolution.

What can be learnt from the Long March and China's two stage revolution is that Marxist analysis needs to be applied through thorough investigation of the material conditions of each country. Past revolutions cannot be rigidly copied into another revolutionary situation, they are only lessons of how past struggles were conducted.

Revolutionary organisations in Australia are weak, as is usually they case with most revolutions in the beginning. They cannot afford to oppose all their opponents at once. The main enemy needs to be identified.

Revolutionaries need to carry out a systematic and comprehensive investigation of the material contradictions in capitalist Australia. The major contradiction needs to be identified and seek unity of all possible forces to initiate campaigns to oppose it.

This is the generalised lesson that we can learn from the history of the Long March and China's implementation of their two stage revolution.

Monday, November 14, 2016

“No!” to Weatherill’s nuclear referendum

Nick G.

Opposition to SA Premier Jay Weatherill’s push for an international nuclear waste dump refuses to go away.

This is despite the Premier’s war of attrition against SA public opinion.

Weatherill had previously said that the dump would not go ahead without the support of Aboriginal communities, without broad public support, and without bipartisan political support.

Every Aboriginal community has rejected the proposal.  A Citizens’ Jury has rejected the proposal.  The State Liberals and key Independents (including the Xenophon Team) have rejected the proposal.

So Weatherill has now announced that there will be a referendum on the matter, but “not any time soon”.

He hopes that by playing for time he will be able to retrieve the doomed proposal.

“Weatherill is anti-nuclear, trust us” 

Weatherill’s “Left” faction members in the SA government are turning themselves inside out trying to rationalise Jay’s public support for the dump.

“Come on, you know that Jay is anti-nuclear,” one told me when challenged about Weatherill’s continuing push for the dump. 

“He just has to go through this process to get the nuclear lobby off his back.”

If that was his motive, he could simply stand up to the lobby and use existing State legislation that makes it a crime to transport, dump or argue for the transportation and dumping, of nuclear waste in SA.

Imperialist nuclear symposium opposed

Yesterday (Monday Nov 14), registration began for a Waste Management symposium hosted by the local office of the University College London (UCL). 

The symposium was obviously timed in anticipation of a pro-dump outcome from the much-manipulated Citizens’ Jury process.  The timing would have enabled Weatherill to tie a pro-dump outcome into the agenda of some of the world’s biggest imperialist corporations and their military connections.

UCL, as a foreign private tertiary institution, is heavily backed by multinationals and local corporations.  They include SANTOS and BHP-Billiton, one of whose shareholders is Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce.

Included in the participants at the symposium is US imperialist giant Westinghouse, a major player in the military-industrial complex, a builder of nuclear plants and nuclear submarines.  French state-owned nuclear industry utility AREVA is also there.

Another US giant, Lockheed Martin, is represented by its wholly-owned subsidiary Sandia National Laboratories (SNL).  According to Wikipedia, it “is Sandia's mission to maintain the reliability and surety of nuclear weapon systems, conduct research and development in arms control and non-proliferation technologies, and investigate methods for the disposal of the United States' nuclear weapons program's hazardous waste”.

About 80 concerned citizens stood outside the UCL office in the central Adelaide square, Tarndanyangga, during business hours, to show their opposition to the symposium.

The Anti-Nuclear Coalition, the No Dump Alliance and a host of other organisations and individuals will ensure that the level of struggle is lifted against this disgraceful proposal.

If Weatherill continues to pursue his “softly, softly catchee dumpee” tactic, he will have no-ne to blame but himself when he is finally dumped from office.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Trump's Growth Plan: Borrow Big and Hope

Ned K.

In the aftermath of the US Presidential election, "Trump's Growth Plan: Borrow Big and Hope" was the heading of a revealing article in the Business Section of the Australian on Friday 11 November 2016.

It predicted that Trump would try and administer the economy with a big spend, big debt approach, the way he launched his Trump economic 'empire' from the 1990's in particular.

Back then he was loaned $4 billion by banks to prevent him going bankrupt and his vast assets from crashing and causing a ripple effect through the economy. So now he thinks that increasing the federal government debt from $14 trillion to $19 trillion is business as usual in order to accelerate economic growth. The article says he plans to spend $600 billion on roads and rail systems and $500 billion on the US military. 

On this aspect alone, growth and government increased debt, no matter what the cost, there is nothing new in Trump's plans. Respected political economist David Harvey wrote a well-researched book demonstrating that imperialist economies needed to have compound growth of at least 3% per annum to sustain their systems of maximizing profits. US history, particularly before and during the Second World War has examples of governments trying to lift the US economy out of one crisis after another. 

One irony of the predictions of the article in the Australian is that Trump is likely to scrap any Trans-Pacific Partnership as part of his economic isolationism approach.

However to think that US imperialism will cease the export of capital and cease plunder of the developing world for mineral wealth in particular goes against the imperatives of an imperialist economic base which really is what Trump means by "Make America Great Again".

While he may succeed in rebuilding some manufacturing in the US and creating some blue collar jobs, what quality of jobs will they be? In the US over the last 15 years under both Republican and Democrat Presidents, manufacturing in the Southern States has in some areas increased with multinational corporations relocating to these States because they are "Right to Work" States which means there are very low wages and where union organisation is at its weakest.

So will part of "Make America Great Again" see more working poor and more "Right To Work" States or even similar low wage zones within non Right To Work States"?

One thing is for sure. Whatever Trump does, class struggle within in the US will intensify all be it unevenly across that vast country as the contradictions arising from Trump's policies unfold. 

Herein lie the seeds of a revolutionary uprising the like of which the developed imperialist centres of the world have never seen before. 

Centenary of the 1916 conscription referendum: a significant defeat for the imperialist war

Max O.

The Australian Government has put enormous effort into commemorating the centenary of the First World War, focusing on our soldier's participation in the Gallipoli invasion and battles on the Western Front. The promotion of the ANZAC legend is to not only glorify past foreign military adventures but to also garner support for future military aggressions.

In promoting the military history of the ANZACS the ruling class in Australia has been mindful to smother the turbulent history of opposition to the First World War and the two failed conscription referendums. The 'Lest we forget' mantra is utilized annually to remember and lionize our soldiers who fought battles in far away places.

However it is a case of let's forget the war at home in 1916/17 by officialdom. Leading up to the first conscription referendum, 28 October 1916, was an acrimonious struggle of riots, sabotage, strikes, frame-ups, gaolings, show trials, surveillance and police persecutions. 

The No Conscription campaign, against enormous odds, won the vote by a slim margin a hundred years ago - a centenary that Australian officials prefer not to remember. No exhibitions or commemorations have been planned by the Museum of Australian Democracy nor the Australian War Museum about the two bitter conscription referendums of 1916/17.

The unwillingness by the two museums to cover this monumental conscription issue could be explained by the fact that Australia was accused by Britain of not pulling its weight in supporting the empire by supplying enough troops to fight against the 'Hun'. To acknowledge this part of Australian history undermines the trumpeting of our country's heroism during the First World War. 
The justification at the time for going to war against Germany was to defend "King and Empire", liberal values of the British 'way of life' and the 'rule of law' that Germanic aggression had crushed. British aggression and autocratic rule of the last 700 years was conveniently overlooked.

First World War, an imperialist war
The First World War was brought about by the competing imperialist interests of the British and German capitalist ruling classes. The established British empire was being challenged by Germany's recent industrialisation and the desire to achieve a re-division of colonies around the world. The capitalist pursuit of profit propelled Germany and Britain into fighting over markets and the capture of valuable raw materials.

Initially people volunteered in their thousands to fight for the British Empire, with many workers hoodwinked by the Labor Party whose leader at the time declared "...stand beside the mother country to help and defend to the last man and last shilling." This patriotic zeal saw at the beginning of the war 53,000 willingly enlist in the military, with 23,000 of these being unionists.
Eventually enthusiasm for the war plummeted with rising war casualties, business war profiteering, inflation, unemployment and falling living standards. Of the 300,000 Australian soldiers who fought on the Western Front, 62,000 died, 16,000 were gassed, 4,000 lost more than one limb and 37,000 were horribly disfigured.

Workers quickly realised that they were the ones wearing the brunt of the war effort and could see that the business class were profiteering at their expense. In 1916, 1.7 million working days were lost through a succession of militant strikes. Workers started pushing for business to share the burden of the war and hit their bosses with strikes for better wages, for shorter hours and against speed ups.

Volunteer enlistment for the war effort plunged  throughout the British empire. The British government overcame this problem by the use of forcible conscription and wanted its dominions to do the same. Billy Hughes, the infamous Labor prime minister of Australia at the time, visited Britain and the Western Front in 1916. 

The British government placed pressure on Hughes to supply 16,500 soldiers a month, which he was quite happy to do. However there was a stumbling block stopping for him in obediently carrying out this order. 

Support for the war in Australia had changed drastically, with divisions emerging both in the Labor party (two thirds of the Labor MPs opposed conscription) and the union movement. Whilst Hughes had majorities in both houses of parliament, he could not get support to pass laws to enact conscription.

The fear of losing the vote over the introduction of conscription laws in parliament attracted Hughes to the idea of winning this issue by plebiscite. He counted on the fact that a campaign backed by business, the press, churches and the whole capitalist state would guarantee victory for implementing conscription.

However, all he achieved in the end was splitting the Labor party.

Repressive capitalist state apparatus employed to ensure conscription victory
Many groups from either side of the conscription referendum campaign vied to win support, especially through massive rallies and mass action. On the 'No side' there were a range of organisations such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies), Labour Volunteer Army and Women's Peace Army, who bravely agitated against the war and conscription. 

They worked furiously to put out propaganda that challenged the purpose of the Great War. Arrayed against them were the police, military and right wing vigilantes who violently broke up No Vote demonstrations, by bashing, framing and arresting anti-conscription activists.

Using the "War Precautions Act" and "Unlawful Associations Act" more than 3400 people were prosecuted and 2500 were gaoled during the 1914-18 war. Statements and actions that were deemed to 'prejudice recruiting' led to offices, print shops of unions and leftwing groups being raided and their propaganda material declared illegal and confiscated.

In an effort to associate anti-conscription with criminality, the IWW was targeted and charged with treason. The state alleged that the IWW planned to sabotage the war by setting fire to Sydney.

Twelve members were gaoled with sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years. Through the efforts of mass action and the personal efforts of the great Labor parliamentarian, Percy Brookfield, it was proven that these 12 were framed. By 1920 the 12 famous IWW members were released.   

Having lost the first conscription referendum - 1,160,033 against vs. 1,087,557 for, a 52% to 48% decision - Hughes and the reactionary capitalist state tried again and held another referendum in 1917. The slyly worded referendum was also rejected with 1,181,747 against vs. 1,015,159 for, a 54% to 46% decision.

War and Peace - a class question
Contrary to what politicians and war museums say, Australia's democratic liberties were won by the majorities of the population who voted No twice against war conscription, and not on the battle fields of Gallipoli and the Western Front.

If the 'Labor rat' Hughes had won the referendum, he and the business class would have had an open road to establish an overt dictatorship. Then workers' rights and liberties would have been eliminated and more soldiers' lives lost in the slaughter house of the front line. War and peace are class questions. 

The challenge for progressive Australian's is to reclaim the war monuments and Anzac Day marches, which are used by monopolising capitals to manipulate working people, and turn them into sites and events of class conflict.  Soldiers of the past and present have to be patiently convinced that they are not actually fighting for their country, but are just canon fodder for the murderous capitalist class.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Nuclear waste dump: Jay walking on wrong side of the street

Nick G.

A citizens’ jury of 368 randomly selected South Australians has overwhelmingly rejected the proposal by the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission for a nuclear waste dump in SA.

In the report to the Premier, Jay Weatherill, a two-thirds majority of the jury state that they “do not wish to pursue the opportunity under any circumstances.”

The Premier, who has more spin than a toy top, immediately interpreted this to mean: “Their present view is that the proposal in its currentform should not proceed”.

No Premier, their view, now and in the future, is that they do not want the proposal under any circumstances.

A Flawed Royal Commission

The rejection comes in the wake of a flawed Royal Commission and opposition to the dump from every Aboriginal community consulted by the Government.

Appointed as Royal Commissioner was retired Admiral and former SA Governor Kevin Scarce.  In November 2014 he acknowledged being an advocate for the nuclear industry, and a month later told the SA Chamber of Mines and Energy that SA should develop nuclear industries to compensate for the downturn in manufacturing.  On February 9, 2015 Weatherill announced Scarce’s appointment as head of a Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.  Scarce justified accepting the appointment by saying “I have not been an advocate and never have been an advocate of the nuclear industry”!

Scarce then appointed an Expert Advisory Panel to assist the Commission.  Three of the four were nuclear industry hawks, including the notorious and outspoken Prof. Barry Brook.

Further undermining any claim that the Commission was an independent exercise, Scarce told the ABC’s 7.30 programme on March 14 that the question facing the Commission was “How do we convince South Australians that it is safe... and what are the benefits of so doing?”[

At this stage, Scarce’s and Brook’s pro-nuclear comments were unlawful under SA legislation, as was the funding of a Royal Commission on the nuclear fuel cycle.

When the latter unlawfulness was pointed out to Weatherill, he hurriedly tried to revoke the legislation and having failed in that, amended it after the fact to enable “discussion” of SA’s nuclear future.

Directing the Jury

The 350-plus Citizens’ Jury was conceived by Weatherill as a means of manufacturing the appearance of community support for the nuclear waste dump proposal which, incidentally, calls for the importation of 138,000 tonnes of high level nuclear waste and 390,000 cubic metres of intermediate level nuclear waste, all to be stored above-ground for 80 years whilst an underground facility is built.

The Jury met over three weekends and had to digest an enormous amount of reading material and verbal presentations, much of it slanted in favour of the nuclear industry.

For example, only one economic report on the viability of an international nuclear waste dump was commissioned and its two authors were subsequently outed as having strong links to the nuclear industry.  One was vice-president of the Association for Regional and International Underground Storage and the other was previously involved in the Association’s former incarnation, Panagea Resources, which had spearheaded a nuclear dump proposal back in Howard’s time as Prime Minister.

It is all to the credit of the citizen jurors that they saw through the manipulation and rejected the dump proposal.

Specifically, they did not trust the State Government to deliver the dump safely and on budget; they acknowledged Aboriginal opposition to it; and they were sceptical of the sincerity of the jury process itself.

Which way Jay?

Weatherill has clearly been embarrassed, but not put off, by the Jury decision.
In addition to spinning their rejection into something it is not, he has cited the 38 years that it took Finland to decide to build an as yet uncompleted underground nuclear dump to let it be known that he was still pressing ahead. “We don’t expect that this is a debate that will be concluded any time soon,” he said.

After a three thousand-strong anti-dump rally outside SA Parliament on October 15, a vocal rally was held outside the ALP State Conference last weekend.  Faced with a raft of anti-dump resolutions, Weatherill retreated to accepting a Special ALP Convention “to be held at the conclusion of community consultation and before a decision is made on the development of a high level nuclear waste repository in SA”.

Weatherill had previously said that the latter decision would be made by the end of 2016, yet within days of the Conference motion being passed, he announced he was walking away from its motion  too: “There is no upcoming special convention…It may be a question of years away.”

This chicanery and duplicity is the hallmark of a social democratic party committed to managing the affairs of the drivers of the capitalist economy.  The primary drivers are the big imperialist finance capitalists, embedded within which are the big multinational corporations running the world’s nuclear power industries.

The working class and its progressive allies must continue their efforts to build a genuinely independent agenda to cut through the bullshit that comes from the parliamentary cesspit.

Our future lies in independence from imperialism.

Our future lies in socialism and not capitalism.

Our energy sources must be clean and sustainable.

No to nuclear power!  No to a nuclear dump!