Monday, February 27, 2017

The Netanyahu Visit: Girding the Loins of Imperialism

Nick G.

Israel is emerging as a global player in the changing face of the division of the world between the major imperialist powers.

And Australia, as one of the most strident cheerleaders of the US imperialist cause, is helping to promote that emergence.

The Netanyahu visit also encompassed a stopover in Singapore and was to have included a visit to Fiji (cancelled for “logistical reasons”).

Singapore has had military ties with Israel since the latter helped it create an army in 1967 following its independence from Malaysia, while Fiji contributes more “peacekeepers” to Israel’s borders than any other country on a per capita basis.

Netanyahu’s Australia visit comes after his visits to England and the US where he met PM Theresa May and President Trump.

So what’s the agenda here?

Trump clearly wants key allies to do more to help make America “great” again.  Australia, Israel and Singapore are among those key allies.

This does not mean that Trump will be less bellicose or less of a warmonger than Hillary Clinton, had she been elected.  Indeed Trump has just announced a $54 billion expansion of US military muscle, his justification being that “We have to win. We have to start winning wars again”.

What it does mean is that the international Al Capone wants his gang there with him all the way, ready and willing to intervene regionally at minimal cost to the US.

Comprador journalist Greg Sheridan and Australian Strategic Policy Institute writer Antony Bergin, did their bit to prepare Australian public opinion for just such an approach prior to Netanyahu’s visit.

Bergin co-authored (with Efraim Inbar from Israel’s Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies) a report titledThe Wattle and the Olive last year calling for Australia to “upgrade military and diplomatic relations with Israel to tap into its expertise in counter-terrorism and hi-tech weapons systems”.

Sheridan enthused over the recommendation in Murdoch’s un-Australian, saying that “Australia could benefit from Israel’s expertise in unmanned aerial systems, ship-borne missile defence, cyber-warfare, armoured vehicle protection, smart sensors and a range of other capabilities.
“Both nations are intimate US allies and operate a great deal of common US defence equipment, including soon the F-35A version of the Joint Strike Fighter.”

Israel also has strong military ties with India (see US imperialism, Israel and the militarisation of India ).  Thus, Israel, India, Singapore and Australia allow US imperialism to reverse shadow the Chinese initiative of a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road along which China pursues growing influence in the South China Sea, the South Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean through to Africa and the Middle East.

China’s economic ties are strong, but military force is stronger

China already has strong ties with Israel which it has been able to foster by recognising the Zionist state and ignoring its lebensraum illegal settlements on remaining Palestinian territory.

Earlier this year, Israel and China reportedly reached a deal for around 6,000 Chinese construction workers to come to Israel to help with housing construction. The two countries have agreed to begin negotiating a free-trade agreement. Additionally, Chinese investment in Israeli technology companies and in infrastructure has been growing and Chinese tourists have been heading to Zionist-occupied Palestine (Israel).

In fact Israel trades more with China (its third largest trade partner), India, and Japan than it does with its major ally, the United States.

Even the strongest economic ties have never prevented trade and investment partners from facing off in times of war when larger strategic interests and loyalties are called into play by a dominant military power. The political power of US imperialism grows out of the barrels of its guns.
Thus, when Netanyahu says "Israel is pivoting towards Asia in a very clear and purposeful way," at a press conference and dinner event in Singapore, it is clear which dominant power he is channelling, namely, the military ally rather than the trade partner.

It is no accident that Netanyahu’s visit is the first to Singapore by an Israeli Prime Minister in more than 30 years, and the first ever to Australia.

The timing reflects the jockeying for influence and the positioning of forces loyal to US imperialism in our region.  

US imperialism is girding its loins against growing Chinese influence.

This can only spell disaster for the Australia and the region if US-China conflict gets out of hand.

We must have an independent and peaceful approach to regional and global instability, and that means redoubling our efforts to smash US imperialism’s stranglehold on our sovereignty and independence.

Food and Beverage Workers Under Attack

Ned K.

With the decline of the automotive manufacturing, white goods, coal fired power industry and steel industry in Australia, some political servants of imperialism in Australia are pinning their electoral hopes on a vibrant food manufacturing industry providing jobs in areas of growing blue collar unemployment. 

There is some truth in this, particularly in wine and dairy industry areas of Australia as exports of wine and milk products to Asia add to the established export markets in Europe and to a lesser extent the USA. 

However, even in a buoyant industry like wine, use of labour hire at cheap rates is on the rise.
There are also worrying signs for workers in the food and beverage industry generally regarding their wages and conditions. In Queensland recently Coca Cola announced it was changing its production focus away from the high sugar component soft drinks to other products with lower sugar content. To implement their product changes they also decreased the wages of their production workforce and increased labour hire workers at much lower base award rates. 

In Western Australia, Hong Kong based food and food ingredient manufacture Goodman Fielder announced complete closure of its bread bakery with the loss of about 100 jobs. It plans to have its products made at the plant owned by George Weston Foods, its main competitor in the Australian bread market. 

In the milk product manufacturing industry, Parmalat has recently started hiring labour hire employees on the lowest wage levels and requiring them to perform higher wage level jobs. 
This is all part of the general push by imperialism to lower living standards of workers to increase profits. 

Workers in the food and beverage industry have no illusions about their job security and the ruthless behaviour of Coca Cola in closing its Adelaide manufacturing plant will only heighten their vigilance.

Organise Against Imperialism’s Fair Work Commission Attack on Retail and Hospitality Workers

Ned K.

The Decision of the Fair Work Commission Full Bench to slash Sunday and Public Holiday pay rates of retail and hospitality workers is part of imperialism's attempt to increase profits from all sectors of the Australian working class.

The Decision has been handed down at a time when average annual wage increase in the private sector in the last year is 1.8%, continuing a downward trend.

The only sectors of the working class to win annual wage increases above 2.5% -3% (the enterprise agreement current average increases) are where workers are well organised and prepared to collective action to win their demands. The construction industry in large building projects is an example, despite the best attempts by the ruling class through the ABCC to weaken these workers’ collective strength.

It is no accident that imperialism's business associations in Australia have targeted the retail and hospitality industries for an attack on weekend and public holiday rates of pay. These sectors of the economy are two of the least organised sections of workers in Australia. In retail, the shop assistants union SDA has membership in large corporate entities like MacDonalds, Woolworths and Coles where weekend penalty rates had already been traded away by the SDA and where active membership is discouraged as long as the corporations facilitate union membership for the union.
Outside of these large corporations where the retail workers are paid only the award rate and sometimes not even that, there is little union membership and even fewer organised union members.

In hospitality, the situation is similar with little organizing resources allocated to the industry except in the easier targets like Casinos who employ hundreds of workers under the one roof. In most states attempts to organize hospitality workers in suburban hotels, tourist resorts and clubs where the majority of award based workers work, is minimal. 

These sectors are characterized by high levels of casual employment with 65% of hospitality workers without leave entitlements and high turnover of labour with only a small minority of workers staying with the one employer long enough to accrue long service leave. The high turnover of labour and the small number of workers with an accrued entitlement of Long Service Leave is one of the hidden cost savings that employers in these sectors already enjoy. Cuts to weekend rates is the icing on the cake.

However the big agenda of imperialism is to increase the overall rate of exploitation of workers in Australia and to increase the share of GDP going to profits and decrease the share going to wages and salaries. The changing nature of the structure of the working class in Australia is being seized upon by imperialism to accelerate this share going to profits.

This recent Decision of the Full Bench of Fair Work Commission on weekend and public holiday rates highlights the significant change in the structure of the working class, where the sectors of the economy where the workers were strongest have been overtaken numerically speaking by sectors where workers are not nearly as well organized.

Pages 98 and 99 of the Decision contain tables with the changes in proportion of total employment by industry between 1975 and 2014.

In 1975, manufacturing employed 20% of workers in Australia and the services sector employed 50%. In 2014, manufacturing employed 6% of workers in Australia and the services sector just over 70%.

The services sector includes the following industries: Wholesale trade; Retail trade; Accommodation and food services; Financial and insurance services; Rental hiring and real estate services; Professional, scientific and technical services; Administrative and support services; Public Administration and safety; Education and training; Health Care and social assistance; Arts and recreation services.

Taken as a whole, the services sector with the exception of public sector health and education is not nearly as well organized to defend their wages and conditions, let alone improve them.
Many of the workers in the services sector do not see joining a union as the solution to their problems. There are many reasons for this way of thinking. It is overt attacks on living standards like the latest Fair Work Commission Decision that may be the catalyst to an upsurge in struggle by hundreds of thousands of workers in the services sector.

This may see existing unions rise to the challenge of meeting these workers’ aspirations and needs or it may see them bypassed by new forms of organization as the means by which they can defend and advance their material class interests.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Russia's 1917 February Revolution - The first stage of a new epoch

Max O.

A hundred years ago, as John Reed's celebrated book announced, 1917was the year that shook the world. The Russian revolution, which took place from February to October in the Julian calendar, shattered the omnipotence of feudal-capitalist Russia and ushered in the first workers’ state.

During late February (Julian calendar) or early March (Gregorian calendar) 1917 saw the collapse of the Imperial Russian empire, the abdication of Czar Nicholas II, the establishment of a Provisional Government and a battle of wills between the working class and the repressive state apparatus of the capitalists and landlords.

Lenin saw the February Revolution as only the first stage (the overthrow of Czarist autocracy) to be followed by a second stage where power would transfer from the bourgeoisie to workers and peasants.

Before the 1917 revolution the Czar ruled Russia by absolute autocracy, buttressed by the Orthodox Church and feudal aristocracy who monopolized the land. This nobility subjected some four-fifths of the population to work the land for them for centuries in serf-like conditions.

A segment of the feudal class, after the 17th century, aspired to create capitalism in Russia to match the capitalist industrialisation of Germany, France and Britain. However the development of capitalism was retarded by the absolutism of the Czar, wary that capitalist class forces had overthrown some monarchies in Western Europe.

Whilst capitalism remained relatively small in Russia it was expanding and technically compared favourably to the advanced capitalist states. In fact foreign investors, mainly French and British, owned a large part of Russian industry.

1905 Revolution - a dress rehearsal

The burgeoning capitalism in Russia combined with losing a war against Japan and intensified resentment amongst soldiers, workers and peasants. Out of this hostility emerged Soviets (Councils) of workers, peasants and soldiers in Petrograd which campaigned for workers’ economic and political rights, peasants’ desire for land and soldiers’ unwillingness to be cannon fodder.
The revolt began with the Bloody Sunday massacre in January 1905, when Czarist soldiers killed 800 workers in a mass procession. This sparked an outbreak of mutinies amongst soldiers, peasant riots and mass worker strikes throughout the country. 

The revolution eventually failed with an uprising in Moscow, December 1905. The revolt instigated and led by the Bolsheviks finally severed the association between them and the Mensheviks. 
The Mensheviks claimed the revolt had 'gone too far' whereas the Bolsheviks confirmed their belief that only an independent mass struggle of workers could carry out the revolution. Lenin saw in this mass uprising of the 1905 Revolution against the Czarist regime the "great dress rehearsal" for 1917.

February Revolution

Russia's entry into World War One on the side of Britain and France against Germany once again  intensified the class antagonisms within the Czar's empire. The war inflicted horrendous suffering on both soldiers at the front and peasants and workers at home. Both groups suffered appalling living conditions, diseases and hunger.

Massive inflation caused by the war had hit the working class worst. Workers at the Putilov factory, in Petrograd, declared a major strike on the 22 February (Julian calendar). This was followed by women textile workers who on 23 February (7 March in the Gregorian calendar), on International Women's Day, called a strike in a number of factories throughout Petrograd. 

Major demonstrations took place in this city that became the catalyst for the revolution which took place over the following five days. The strike grew in size during this time into a general strike with the majority of the rank-and-file soldiers refusing to put it down and instead joined the workers.

By the 28 February the Czar and his government had collapsed. The vacuum was taken up by the formation of a Provisional Government, composed of the Constitutional Democrats - Kadets (a small and big capitalist based party), elements of the nobility, wealthy landlords and supported by the Social Revolutionaries (a peasant based party) and the Mensheviks (a Social Democratic party).

Alongside the new Provisional Government was the Workers, Peasants and Soldiers Soviets who represented their interests.

What emerged was a situation of dual power.

Eventually differences broke out between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks over whether the Soviets would agree to allow the Provisional Government to establish a 'capitalist democracy'. When Lenin made his famous return to Russia from exile, in April 1917 he put forth his equally famous April Theses.

These theses outlined the path for the revolution and Lenin was not one for equivocation. The decisive language of the first three points demonstrates Lenin was not one for compromise at this point in time of the revolutionary struggle:

1) In our attitude towards the war, which under the new government of Lvov and Co. unquestionably remains on Russia’s part a predatory imperialist war owing to the capitalist nature of that government, not the slightest concession to “revolutionary defencism” is permissible.

2) The specific feature of the present situation in Russia is that the country is passing from the first stage of the revolution—which, owing to the insufficient class-consciousness and organisation of the proletariat, placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie—to its second stage, which must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants.

3) No support for the Provisional Government; the utter falsity of all its promises should be made clear, particularly of those relating to the renunciation of annexations. Exposure in place of the impermissible, illusion-breeding “demand” that this government, a government of capitalists, should cease to be an imperialist government.

The Bolsheviks and Lenin called for an end to Russia's participation in the war, termination of the Provisional Government and "All power to the Soviets". With the simple but revolutionary slogan, "bread, land and peace", the Bolsheviks were able to successfully challenge and overthrow the capitalist class and their Provisional Government. This second stage became famously known as the Great October Revolution. 

In November another article will outline and examine in detail the events of the 1917, October Revolution.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Early Days – the Trump Administration


The hasty high-level diplomatic visit of United States Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to Seoul has highlighted two issues in the early weeks of the Trump administration: the importance of South Korea (ROK) for foreign policy objectives and their duplicity surrounding the proposed siting of a US-led defence and security THAAD system in the country.

The issues are also inseparable from general hawkish and militaristic stance of the Trump administration and their supporters.

Early in February US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis travelled to Seoul for his first overseas diplomatic mission. It was no great surprise he chose the ROK. The southern half of the peninsula has remained a strategic centre for 'US interests' for over half a century. Its significance and importance has steadily risen on US agendas in recent times: the ROK has been chosen to host 'an advanced US missile defence system' the Theatre High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD). (1)
It was therefore to be expected the Mattis visit to the ROK was to discuss 'with the South Koreans a timetable for deploying' the 'advanced US missile defence system'. (2)

The THAAD forms part of a much wider US-led regional and global defence and security system. In the Asia-Pacific region it is linked into provision established by the recent implementation of the Global Transformation of Defence and Security (GTDS) planned during earlier Bush administrations. The US is linked into the regional in a triangular form with Australia and Japan being strategic regional hubs for 'US interests' with other countries subsequently linked into the hubs. The general aim of the GTDS is to reassert US hegemonic positions assessed as being threatened by China.

The recent period has been marked by the US reopening numerous bases and military facilities across the Asia-Pacific region. Their presence has not been particularly difficult to observe: 28,500 troops permanently based in the ROK are linked to a further 50,000 in Japan, numerous US-led and coordinated military exercises take place on the regular basis. (3) The annual Cobra Gold military exercises, ostensibly joint manoeuvres between the US and Thailand, 'now involve more than twenty countries'. (4)  

A central component of the US-led militarism is their X-band system: an 'early warning radar' used for regional monitoring and surveillance. (5) Sited in various locations the system has provided the US with the ability to assess the emergence of China as a major world power.  

The proposed THAAD system is a further addition to the already existing defence and security provision. Its proposed siting in the ROK has, however, been highly controversial. Most ROK residents do not want the system in place, they are well-aware of the implications. President Park has also been impeached on corruption charges, rendering the ROK a politically volatile US ally. 

There have been huge protests and demonstrations led by the political opposition together with trade unions and other progressive organisations mobilising hundreds of thousands of people. The whole of Seoul has been brought to a standstill on more than one occasion by millions of protesters. Those involved are 'deeply critical of the close strategic relationship South Korea has with Washington and its allies, including Australia'. (6) The US are clearly worried their position in the ROK is possibly becoming untenable; diplomatic options, to maintain existing positions, are limited. Influence, nevertheless, has been brought to bear.

A recent carefully-worded media release from Seoul noted 'the caretaker South Korean government has said it supports THAAD deployment, but the decision is in doubt because of approaching elections'. (7)  Those concerned are well aware 'the country's next leader will be from one of the left-of-centre opposition parties leading the charge against her'. (8) 

The lameduck ruling administration in Seoul would therefore appear more likely to serve 'US interests' even though it is highly unpopular: it is easier for the US to manipulate, and for good reason. The proposed siting date of THAAD falls within the set period of presidential office, due to expire at the end of the year.  

The present government in Seoul and their US advisors clearly do not want to allow the political opposition to make the proposed THAAD deployment an election issue. If they do so, they are likely to not only lose but also be implicated in publicising the highly sensitive nature of the system and the duplicity of the US position. 

Official media releases about the THAAD system tend to concentrate upon the northern DPRK as a major adversary and threat posed to the ROK. The US have consistently ignored or denied allegations the system is also intended to target both China and the Russian Federation. In fact, the recent media release about the Mattis visit to Seoul stated 'THAAD should be a worry to no nation other than North Korea'. (9)  

The information, however, runs counter to previous media releases which appear to originate from better placed and informed sources. Duplicity would appear to have already become a standard method of operation for the Trump administration.

An earlier official media release from the US Congressional Research Service during the Obama administrations declared they were 'laying the foundations for a regionwide missile defence system that would combine US ballistic missile defences with those of regional powers, particularly Japan, South Korea and Australia'. (10)

The statement was likewise supported with further incriminating information which included 'the focus of our rhetoric is North Korea', but, 'the reality is that we're also looking longer term at the elephant in the room, which is China'. (11) The fact most countries across the region possess effective diplomacy and extensive trading relations with China has been conveniently overlooked by the US. They continually seek to dislodge Chinese influence across the region through wave after wave of militarism. 

Intelligence collection, through western allies, is a central feature of the US-led defence and security provision. It is not difficult to monitor. The ROK and Japan have recently 'signed an intelligence-sharing pact, late last year'. (12) The planned visit of newly appointed CIA director Mike Pompeo to Canberra in early March also forms part of the same planning, with particular emphasis upon the use of military facilities at Pine Gap in central Australia which is a strategic link to US facilities on Deigo Garcia in the Indian Ocean. It is also significant Pompeo has been noted as 'a long-time supporter of expanding the government's surveillance powers'. (13)

It is, however, when observing the resurgence of far-right political positions and the diplomacy which has accompanied it that the picture becomes clearer:

Within the Trump administration one of the 'closest advisors' was Michael Flynn, appointed National Security Advisor. (14) There remains little ambiguity in the far-right nature of his political position, or the type of advice offered to the incoming president. Media statements have used terminology remarkably similar to 1950s Cold War rhetoric, referring to noted adversaries of US interests as 'political ideology akin to a malignant cancer'. (15) While the adversaries change, the terminology used to describe them has remained consistent.  

The fact Flynn lasted a mere 24 hours before being compromised and dismissed is evidence in itself of the deep-seated dysfunction within the White House. One face may have gone, but their supporters nevertheless remain in prominent decision-making positions. 

It has, however, been a recently released media statement about the Asia-Pacific region from the Hudson Institute which has provided a particularly far-reaching insight into US foreign policy and military planning. The institute, forming part of a strategic, far-right, outsourced, freelance intelligence service, issued a major statement in early February shortly after the Trump inauguration. While there was no reference to the proposed THAAD system in the ROK to avoid unfavourable publicity there was little doubt about the role of the US-led and ROK-based system in broader regional terms. 

Foreign policy toward the region was specified with the statement 'to restore US strength and prestige in the Pacific and rebuild trust and alliances, America needs to reassert its traditional presence and role in the region' with use of 'cutting-edge weapons systems that will increase America's defence advantage'. (16)    

The statement also highlighted a problem with existing regional alliances: it noted 'America's defence relationships with its Asian allies are bi-lateral, like spokes in a wheel. There is no multilateral security framework like NATO. Take away the US hub and the entire system falls apart'. (17) There is little doubt who is the puppet-master. The statement continued with a detailed specification about the role of the US with it having to 'show its friends the way forward', defining 'friends as Australia, Japan and South Korea'. (18)  

Make no mistake, the US are preparing to unleash war in the Asia-Pacific region. We should be on our guard. 

Those ROK residents who have protested across the country in recent months are heroes. Progressive people across the region should offer their support and applause. 

1.     Mattis issues sharp nuke warning to North Korea, Weekend Australian, 4-5 February 2017.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Ibid.
4.     US eyes return to south-east Asian bases, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 29 June 2012.
5.     U.S Seeks New Asia Defences, The Wall Street Journal, Friday-Sunday 24-26 August 2012.
6.     Potential crisis looms in Korea, Editorial, the Australian, 12 December 2016.
7.     Weekend Australian, op.cit., 4-5 February 2017.
8.     Australian, op.cit., 12 December 2016.
9.     Weekend Australian, op.cit., 4-5 February 2017.
10.   Wall Street Journal, op.cit., Friday-Sunday 24-26 August 2012.
11.   Ibid.
12.   New Defence Secretary's first trip settles nerves in Japan and South Korea, Australian, 6 February 2017.
13.   CIA chief's visit a bid to mend fences, Australian, 14 February 2017.
14.   Editorial, Stability goes out like Flynn, Australian, 16 February 2017.
15.   Donald's first casualty as security advisor falls on sword,  Australian, 15 February 2017, and   see, The Assault on the West, Ian Grieg, (London, 1968), Foreword by Sir Alec Douglas Home, as a good example of the demonisation of adversaries and western war-mongering. 
16.   Mattis takes reins as Americans face crisis of credibility in Asia, Australian, 2 February 2017.
17.   Ibid.
18.   Ibid.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

“Good on you Mum, Tip Top’s the one!”…or is it two?

Ned K.

"Good on you Mum, Tip Top's The One" used to be the jingle of Tip Top Bakeries, the biggest bread production company in Australia.

It is owned by George Weston Foods, a British based multinational food company. It is about to get a bigger controlling interest of the bread market. 

Its major competitor, Hong Kong owned Goodman Fielder in Australia has announced closure of bakeries in Queensland and Western Australia. The closure of its Western Australian bakery means about 100 workers will be looking for another job. The twist to this now familiar story of multinational corporations closing plants and destroying jobs is that Goodman Fielder bread in 
Western Australia will be made by Tip Top's Perth bakery!

So not only is "Tip Top’s The One", now "Tip Top’s The Two"!

Both Tip Top and Goodman Fielder produce bread for the big retailers Coles and Woolworths but they also make profits in other parts of the food production chain. Goodman Fielder makes millions of dollars out of production of food oils including palm oil, while Tip Top owns its own flour mills and agricultural grain crops as well yeast production plants. 

Workers in other Tip Top and Goodman Fielder plants around Australia are watching closely to see what other "rationalisation" plans these corporations are dreaming up. Food manufacturing, especially bread production, has been presented by the media and politicians as the future strength of the manufacturing sector in Australia to absorb lost jobs from other declining or extinct manufacturing industries here.

However the move by Goodman Fielder to close its WA plant and have its product made by its major competitor shows that not even employment in an industry producing a basic food like bread is secure in an economy where huge corporations are the decision makers, not the talking (or yelling) shops of the parliaments around the country.

No wonder people are attracted to try voting for someone other than traditional Liberal or Labor. 

People are looking for answers and the various new misleaders in parliament will be put to the test by the people too. 

Power for Profit Versus Power for People

Ned K.

The difficulties for the regional economy of South Australia regarding reliability of electricity have been the subject of considerable media space and parliamentary blame games. 

Renewable energy, coal, gas, nuclear have all been mentioned or championed by one group or another. For the people there is not only unreliability of power supply but escalating cost of it. Same applies for small business and even large corporations looking for abundant, priority supply are making noises about relocation due to high electricity power costs.

The fundamental cause of the problem is that the essential service of electricity supply and cost is determined by the big corporations who own and run it. Profit is their prime objective, not providing an essential service.

This is admitted by France’s Engie Corporation who owns the gas-fired power plant at Pelican Point (above) in the north western suburbs of Adelaide. On Friday 17 February the company issued a statement that said, "There is no commercial rationale to operate the second 240MW capacity Pelican Point unit in the current market environment in SA for a small number of high demand days across the year."

So "commercial rationale" (profit making) overrides the needs of the people in time of greatest need when there are extreme weather events.

This says it all. Corporations in the power industry will only provide power when it is profitable to do so, not when people need it.
An immediate demand on the SA Government should be to take over the power station at Pelican Point. 

Can't be done within capitalism? Under their own laws it most likely can be done as a previous Premier Tom Playford in the 1940s took over a private electricity company and formed the Electricity Trust of SA (ETSA).

People in the street are talking about this and wondering why, if a conservative Liberal Government could do this, can't a Labor Government whom many (although a declining number) still see as being more for the "little person".
he Premier has announced that the SA Government is planning to "intervene" in the electricity market to secure SA's power supply in the short and longer term.

People will be watching this one closely with a state election one year away.

Australia's electricity crisis demonstrates the madness of capitalism

Max O.

The famous French writer Andre Gide commented on the matter of deception with the following insight: "The true hypocrite is one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one lies with sincerity". 

The Australian people have now come to expect this behaviour from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who habitually performs malicious acts of dishonesty, with his foray into the electricity energy crisis being the latest example.

The progressive and urbane environmentalist has now contorted himself into a fossil-breathing, coal-hugger. Turnbull, and cabinet Ministers Frydenberg and Morrison, at the behest of the coal industry and the Minerals Council, went into attack over the electricity power blackouts in South Australia that occurred in July last year and February this year, 

They blamed the SA Weatherill Labor government for relying excessively on 'intermittent renewable energy' and putting the state's power supply in jeopardy. The implication being that South Australia's increasing use of renewable energy was the cause of blackouts, because when wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining turbines and solar panels don't produce electricity.

This assertion was mischievous to say the least, when in fact the July blackouts in South Australia were caused by storm damage to electricity towers which stopped power transmission to houses and businesses throughout the state. Reliance on fossil fuel generators wouldn't have stopped the blackout.

Who's really at fault for the blackouts?
This year's February blackouts in South Australia, where 100,000 households lost power, were the result of the Australian Energy Market Operator's (AEMO) blunder on a day of scorching temperatures and the consequent high demand. To avert a failure of the entire grid AEMO ordered load shedding, in other words rolling blackouts.

Despite AEMO calling for electricity generators to bid offers for providing power, none did. This seemed strange considering that there was "an unprecedented level of demand" and the market price for electricity was rising.

In the face of these facts the Turnbull Coalition government spewed forth the deceitful mantra, "Now more than ever, Australians need affordable and reliable electricity, affordable and reliable energy, as we meet our emissions reductions targets." Then in the next breath he goes onto the attack: "We’ve seen a shocking failure of leadership by Labor’s state governments and of course, we see in Western Australia the Labor opposition proposing a 50 per cent renewables target."

Whilst not fully opposing the need for carbon emission targets, the Turnbull Coalition government are in reality opposed to the concept and regularly rail against further emission reductions and any increase in renewable energy. Doing the bidding of the Minerals Council and coal industry, they have started to tout the dubious advantages of clean coal  generators, coal seam gas, pump hydro with battery storage throw in to make themselves look visionary.

What the Coalition government have dared not spoken about over the electricity crisis is the critical and more important matter of energy companies withholding  supply. What is stopping Australia having an 'affordable and reliable' electricity is the energy corporations 'gaming' the system by withholding power supplies to achieve electricity price spikes.

The energy economics consultant from CME (Carbon and Energy Markets), Bruce Mountain, stated that the primary cause of the South Australian blackout in early February was the same as what occurred in July last year; deliberately orchestrated low supply led to enormous spikes in wholesale electricity prices. He pointed out that the electricity market generation capability far surpassed the demand. Mountain noted that all the fossil fuel generators, except for Origin, carried on operating well below their capability, so as to sell electricity to the market at a very high price.

The electricity market's artificially orchestrated high energy costs to consumers has got so bad now that industry is complaining that it has become both unaffordable and unreliable. Big corporations such as aluminium smelters and steel manufacturers have, in particular, warned against the lack of stability and high power prices.

Privatisation and Nationalisation
The privatisation of previously state-owned power providers and the creation of an energy market is the actual cause of Australia's electricity crisis.
Both consumers and industry are feeling the effects of the anarchy that the capitalist mode of production causes.

After the Second World War Australian economic development required the capitalist state to carry out nationalisation of the multitude of electricity companies for the simple reason they would not undertake the electrification of rural and regional locations. This brings to mind Marx's pertinent comment: "This is why capital is productive; i.e. an essential relation for the development of the social productive forces. It ceases to exist as such only where the development of these productive forces themselves encounters its barrier in capital itself." Marx, The Grundrisse (1857)

Therefore energy production, especially electricity, needs to be operated as a public/state utility to achieve, using Turnbull's  appealing mantra, 'affordability and reliability'. Capitalism  is tottering from crisis to crisis and running on empty at the moment. Other than pillaging, it offers no solutions to the economic and environmental disasters it creates.

Electricity generation and distribution needs be nationalised for the good of society, although it is highly unlikely this will happen again by the capitalist state. This will only be achieved under workers' state power.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Our ultimate goal requires a working class state

Nick G.

Corey Bernardi’s defection from the Liberal Party illustrates an important part of the Marxist criticism of the bourgeois state.

The 1871Paris Commune afforded Marx and Engels their first opportunity to compare a working class state power with that of the bourgeoisie.

They observed how the bourgeois state had developed from an instrument of society in its struggle against feudal absolutism into a “state power making itself independent in relation to society” (Engels, Introduction to Marx’s The Civil War in France).

That process included an electoral system that privileged successful candidates over those who voted for them via a guaranteed fixed term of office, and an upper caste of highly paid officials (senior “public servants”) who were characterised by service to self: to “place-hunting and careerism” (Engels).

The state was indeed “nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another” (Engels) from which Marx drew the conclusion that shattered social-democratic, reformist and revisionist illusions: “But the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state-machinery and wield it for their own purpose. The political instrument of their enslavement cannot serve as the political instrument of their emancipation” (Marx,The Civil War in France).

The Commune introduced the right of recall

It was the practical measures of the Commune that contained the essence of the theories developed out of it by Marx, and restated 20 years later by Engels in his Introduction.

“From the very outset,” wrote Engels, “the Commune was compelled to recognize that the working class, once come to power, could not go on managing with the old state machine; that in order not to lose again its only just conquered supremacy, this working class must, on the one hand, do away with all the old repressive machinery previously used against itself, and, on the other, safeguard itself against its own deputies and officials, by declaring them all, without exception, subject to recall at any moment.”

This leads us directly back to Senator Bernardi.  He is not subject to recall, despite having six months ago, accepted second spot on the South Australian Liberal Senate team, and having been elected as a Liberal Senator for a period of six years. Bernardi is protected in his defection from the Government because the Parliament in which he sits is “independent in relation to society”, subject only to the periodic charade of an election in which candidates chosen by their party, and not by electors, seek the endorsement of the electorate.

(When we say, quoting Marx and Engels, that the bourgeois state is “independent in relation to society”, we refer to that formal separation of the elected representative from supervision, and if necessary, recall by those who voted for them. We do not mean that the political institution of the state is any way above the influence and power of the class which has created and controls it -  the bourgeoisie.)

Marx applauded the most significant of the practical measures of the Commune as representing “the reabsorption of the State power by society as its own living forces instead of as forces controlling and subduing it” (The Civil War in France) and recognised that one of the means by which this had come about was by “replacing the haughteous masters of the people into always removable servants…continuously under public supervision”.

Enter the power of the Soviets…

In October 1917, the Russian workers, peasants and soldiers ended Tsarism and “did away with the old repressive machinery previously used against itself”.  The Soviet revolution was the second time that workers were afforded the opportunity to make a completely new state apparatus. That apparatus grew out of democratically elected councils of workers and soldiers, the soviets, operating under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party.  Supervision of both the Soviets and the Party by the working class, a supervision into which the peasants were progressively drawn, was mandatory in the proletarian state.

Sir Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the British Trade Union Congress from 1926-1946, and no friend of the Soviet Union or the British Communist Party, visited the Soviet Union in 1925 and again in 1935, the year in which he was knighted.  He described the supervision of Communist functionaries within a factory he visited:

“The Commission is sent to the factory. The members of the Party are called up before them in front of the workers, both Party and non-Party. He is required to tell his life’s history, especially what he has done and is doing for the Revolution. Anyone can question him regarding both private and public matters, and after he has been turned inside out, the Commission then makes its decision” (Citrine, I Search for Truth in Russia, 1936).

The new Soviet Constitution of 1936 further consolidated these supervisory functions of the working class.

“In the preparation for the elections under the new Constitution,” wrote British author J.R. Campbell in his 1939 book, Soviet Policy and its Critics, “there were wide discussions in the Communist Party and all of the mass organisations in the country, and a re-election of all the leading officials…”

“Great reporting meetings and delegates of all categories reported on their work.  The reports were submitted to a prolonged and in some cases ruthless criticism, and on that basis the election of officials by secret ballot took place. One-third of the new officials have been elected for the first time. Many officials, both locally and nationally, who had got into a rut and were failing to attend to the requirements of the members were removed.  In these assemblies the Communist Party members had no special privileges. The workers judged them – as they judged other officials – on the basis of their work.”

The Soviet system of supervision of elected officials and deputies by those they represented through mass meetings to evaluate their contribution to the implementation of policies based on the needs of the workers has no equal in the contemporary Australian political system. There is no equivalent in our parliamentary system of that organic, structured and systematised supervision of the elected by the people that was characteristic of the Soviet system prior to its betrayal by the Khrushchev gang after Stalin’s death.

The democratic dictatorship of the Soviet state

But, may it not be objected (indeed, it certainly will be objected) was not Stalin’s Russia a personal dictatorship with near-unanimous (hint: fraudulent) votes for single, Party-approved candidates?

This is the year of the centenary of the Soviet revolution, and it behoves all Communists to be able to answer criticisms such as this.

Let’s look at the account of an American who was in the Soviet Union for three months prior to the 1936 elections.

“To start with it must be remembered that while the final elections took place on only one day, December 12th, the election campaign, as such, occupied two or three months of intense discussion and activity. Why was this necessary if most of the candidates were unopposed? Because the very process of selection of the candidates was a most important aspect of the election.

“In the United States candidates are proposed by political parties. The average citizen has darn little to say about who these candidates shall be.  This is all left to the ward heelers and the city, State and national bosses of the major political parties.

“Not so in the Soviet Union. According to the Soviet Constitution the right to nominate candidates resides in every pubic organisation, in every society of toilers. Trade unions, co-operatives, youth organisations, cultural and sports clubs and all other organisations of the people not only have the right but actually did nominate their candidates for the Supreme Council.

“Let us see how this worked in practice. In One election district a number of local organisations of that type nominated their own candidates. This took place many weeks before the final elections. Hence, as a result of such nominations by a number of organisations in this district, a handful of candidates were left in the running. Immediately widespread discussion developed around these proposed individuals. One organisations would send spokesmen to others to convince them to support their nominee. As the whole discussion was based on finding the person best suited for the post, some candidates were withdrawn, others declined, until finally, just before election, one candidate was left in the field, the unanimous choice of all the organisations of the people in that election district.

“Thus, if only one candidate was on the final ballot in this election district it was not because n others were nominated and discussed, but because prior to election day it had already become clear that this one person was the logical candidate and would emerge the victor” (Gil Green, The Truth About Soviet Russia).

The great virtue of our bourgeois parliamentary system, namely that we can engage in a process once every three years (or six in the case of Senators) of choosing from a field of candidates one to misrepresent our interests with, generally speaking, no prior involvement in their selection and no subsequent opportunity for thorough, systematised and on-going supervision is revealed rather as a vice in comparison with the genuine democracy for working people of a proletarian state.

Soviet democracy and Stalin

Stalin himself had to go through such a process of selection, albeit one in which his outstanding contributions at the head of the Soviet state and his enormous popularity, quite naturally predetermined an outcome in his favour. How well Stalin presented to electors of the Moscow electoral district his views on the differences between the bourgeois and proletarian democratic processes, and the inalienable right of voters to supervision and recall of those they elected:

“Never in the history of the world have there been such really free and really democratic elections—never! History knows no other example like it. (Applause.) The point is not that our elections will be universal, equal, secret and direct, although that fact in itself is of great importance. The point is that our universal elections will be carried out as the freest elections and the most democratic of any country in the world.

“Universal elections exist and are held in some capitalist countries, too, so-called democratic countries. But in what atmosphere are elections held there? In an atmosphere of class conflicts, in an atmosphere of class enmity, in an atmosphere of pressure brought to bear on the electors by the capitalists, landlords, bankers and other capitalist sharks. Such elections, even if they are universal, equal, secret and direct, cannot be called altogether free and altogether democratic elections.

“Here, in our country, on the contrary, elections are held in an entirely different atmosphere. Here there are no capitalists and no landlords and, consequently, no pressure is exerted by propertied classes on non-propertied classes. Here elections are held in an atmosphere of collaboration between the workers, the peasants and the intelligentsia, in an atmosphere of mutual confidence between them, in an atmosphere, I would say, of mutual friendship; because there are no capitalists in our country, no landlords, no exploitation and nobody, in fact, to bring pressure to bear on people in order to distort their will.

“That is why our elections are the only really free and really democratic elections in the whole world. (Loud applause.)

“Such free and really democratic elections could arise only on the basis of the triumph of the socialist system, only on the basis of the fact that in our country socialism is not merely being built, but has already become part of life, of the daily life of the people. Some ten years ago the question might still be debated whether socialism could be built in our country or not. Today this is no longer a debatable question. Today it is a matter of facts, a matter of real life, a matter of habits that permeate the whole life of the people. Our mills and factories are being run without capitalists. The work is directed by men and women of the people. That is what we call socialism in practice. In our fields the tillers of the land work without landlords and without kulaks. The work is directed by men and women of the people. That is what we call socialism in daily life, that is what we call a free, socialist life.

“It is on this basis that our new, really free and really democratic elections have arisen, elections which have no precedent in the history of mankind.

“How then, after this, can one refrain from congratulating you on the occasion of the day of national celebration, the day of the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union! (Loud, general cheers.)

“Further, comrades, I would like to give you some advice, the advice of a candidate to his electors. If you take capitalist countries you will find that peculiar, I would say, rather strange relations exist there between deputies and voters. As long as the elections are in progress, the deputies flirt with the electors, fawn on them, swear fidelity and make heaps of promises of every kind. It would appear that the deputies are completely dependent on the electors. As soon as the elections are over, and the candidates have become deputies, relations undergo a radical change. Instead of the deputies being dependent on the electors, they become entirely independent. For four or five years, that is, until the next elections, the deputy feels quite free, independent of the people, of his electors. He may pass from one camp to another, he may turn from the right road to the wrong road, he may even become entangled in machinations of a not altogether desirable character, he may turn as many somersaults as he likes—he is independent.

“Can such relations be regarded as normal? By no means, comrades. This circumstance was taken into consideration by our Constitution and it made it a law that electors have the right to recall their deputies before the expiration of their term of office if they begin to play monkey tricks, if they turn off the road, or if they forget that they are dependent on the people, on the electors.

“This is a wonderful law, comrades. A deputy should know that he is the servant of the people, their emissary in the Supreme Soviet, and he must follow the line laid down in the mandate given him by the people. If he turns off the road, the electors. are entitled to demand new elections, and as to the deputy who turned off the road, they have the right to blackball him. (Laughter and applause.) This is a wonderful law. My advice, the advice of a candidate to his electors, is that they remember this electors' right, the right to recall deputies before the expiration of their term of office, that they keep an eye on their deputies, control them and, if they should take it into their heads to turn off the right road, get rid of them and demand new elections. The government is obliged to appoint new elections. My advice is to remember this law and to take advantage of it should need arise.”

The Soviet state was a dictatorship alright, a class dictatorship of workers and peasants over the capitalist-roaders, the pessimists and obstructionists, the traitors and saboteurs.  The workers and peasants had guaranteed democratic rights as masters of this state.  This was sustainable during the Lenin-Stalin era because it embodied the Marxist requirement that such a state enact “the reabsorption of the State power by society as its own living forces”. 

Australians’ growing disillusion with parliamentary parties

Senator Corey Bernardi is the personification of that independence of bourgeois politicians from society of which Marx and Engels spoke.  Elected one day to represent the Liberals for a six-year term, it took only six months for him to feel quite free, quite independent of his electors to “pass from one camp to another, …(to) become entangled in machinations of a not altogether desirable character, (and to) turn as many somersaults as he likes”.

Recent surveys of Australian voters reveal a growing disenchantment with parliament, parliamentary parties and politicians. Professor Mark Evans of the University of Canberra Institute for Governance and Public Analysis said a survey last June showed Australians' trust in government and politicians are now at their lowest levels since 1993.  The joint survey with the Museum of Australian Democracy revealed only 37 per cent of Australians subscribe to a particular political party, the lowest level since 1967.

A second survey, the 2016 Scanlon Foundation survey, on the working of Australian democracy found low levels of trust in parliament and political parties.

An increased proportion of respondents agreed that "the system of government we have in Australia … needs major change", up from 23 per cent in 2014 to 31 per cent in 2016. A further 11 per cent would like to see the system replaced.

According to this survey, the lack of trust in the political system may in part reflect the failure to tackle socially progressive issues supported by a majority of electors. This is despite the fact that right-wing grouplets like Hanson’s and Bernardi’s seem to have benefitted electorally from the disenchantment.

And a January 2017 Ipsos survey painted a global picture of widespread resentment of the rich and powerful, distrust of traditional politics and pessimism about the future. The Australians it surveyed were reported to be “very much in tune with these sentiments”. 

According to Ipsos research, “Over two-thirds (68 per cent) believe "the economy is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful" and 61 per cent believe "traditional parties and politicians don't care about people like me".

Parliament, as the political institution of the capitalist state, and the processes by which it functions, will never serve the real interests of the Australian working class and people.  
Our choice is clear.

Either engaging fruitlessly in that inevitable cycle of hoping for a better deal under Labor than we know we are going to get from the Liberals, and then losing heart every time Labor wins office and backtracks on its promises to the point where it seems indistinguishable from the more open party of big business. 

Or having own independent political agenda which, while proposing immediate demands for measures to make life easier and better, never loses sight of the ultimate goal of an independent and socialist Australia.

Either engaging in the shallow and empty exercise of choosing between candidates selected for us by the parties and giving them free rein to do as they please between electoral cycles.

Or smashing the old and creating a new working class state power with genuine selection of our own candidates subject to ongoing supervision and recall.

Away with the bourgeois parliament!

For independence, socialism and a working class state!