Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The triumphs and the tragedies of the Great October Socialist Revolution

Josh S.

The 1917 Russian revolution was a momentous event that changed world history. For the first time, a conscious planned revolution overthrew the capitalist-imperialist system and replaced it with a government that set about building socialism.

Some forty years later, the leadership of the Soviet Union was captured by corrupt bureaucrats who overtly set about watering down and reversing the path toward socialism, and ultimately led to the restoration of capitalism, the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the accession to power of corrupt, ruthless mega-rich oligarchs. Russia and most if not all the previous Soviet republics are now controlled and exploited by virtual Mafia, accompanied by vicious nationalism which is promoted to distract populations from their increasing impoverishment and depowerment.

How did this happen? How could it happen?
Firstly, let's overview the history of the Soviet Union. Later we will analyse the key features of this history, and some lessons to be learnt.
Western capitalist ideologists, academics and opponents of Soviet socialism typically blame one man – “Stalin”, and “Stalinism” have become uncritically accepted shorthand for all the achievements and shortcomings of the Soviet construction of socialism One man is usually blamed, sometimes with a concession that his cronies also contributed.  He was supposedly micro- mismanaging the whole Soviet Union and viciously repressing all the peoples from eastern Europe to the Pacific. Often, the critics also allege he was simultaneously misdirecting the day-to-day operations in the Spanish civil war, some 2,500 km away and using 1930's communication technologies.
To address this obsessive, often hysterical, orthodoxy of blame and demonisation, this brief overview will focus on the period from the 1920's to the 1950's.
An accurate understanding of what really happened in the Soviet Union requires intellectual honesty, a scientific approach and a reliance on evidence not hearsay or propaganda. As the saying goes, “For the truth to get in, the mind must be open”.
Fortunately, increasing evidence is steadily becoming available from Russian archives, enabling those who are concerned with the truth to review and update previous views.
We are gradually getting closer to a clearer understanding of what happened. This analysis relies on much of this recent documentary evidence, particularly as reported by Grover Furr in his several books, and also by (the steadfastly anti-Stalin) Getty and Naumov in their book of documents “The Road to Terror”. Those wishing to corroborate the facts and claims made here, and/or to seek further detail are referred to these works. We will not weigh down this short overview with extensive facts or references.
The analysis below relies heavily on these sources, which are publicly available and reviewable.
The most productive approach is surely to survey the overall developments and policies, recognising the achievements, and identifying and learning from the mistakes, rather than a pointless focus on the success or culpability of a single individual.
We will also follow a dialectical approach, recognising that a phenomenon or process is usually not just one thing or another, but typically has two sides, containing varying trends and complexities.
The 1917 October Revolution overthrew the tsarist regime. The Bolsheviks were suddenly in power in the major cities. They immediately honoured their promise to withdraw Russia from World War 1, and redistributed land to the peasants and started to nationalise key industries. The old regime resisted and a civil war ensued across the country, and the counter-revolutionaries were supported, armed, staffed and often led by the capitalist powers The Soviet forces ultimately won control over their own country, but at great cost. The ruin of WW1 and the civil war forced the Soviet Government to take steps back and, in the short term, to adopt some capitalist policies in order for the economy and the country to survive.
The Bolsheviks had expected successful revolutionary uprisings in Europe, particularly Germany, which would lead at least to the establishment of socialist governments and systems in at least some parts of Europe. When this failed to eventuate, some Bolsheviks leaders despaired that it was impossible to build socialism in one country.  However, the vast majority of the Bolshevik leadership and membership resolved to grab the opportunity and to proceed to build socialism in the Soviet Union.
The whole of the Soviet Union was very backward in the organisation, technological state and productivity of industry, agriculture and transport It was necessary and indeed urgent to develop modern industry to meet the needs of the population, and to strengthen the country against the constant isolation and sabotage by the capitalist powers.
Agriculture needed to be modernised, on a socialist basis, in order to:
• increase productivity feed the population of both the cities and the countryside
•  establish the reliability of production to prevent the recurrence of famines that regularly decimated the countryside
• generate the funds to support the introduction of modern industry
Consequently, agriculture was collectivised in the early 1930's. It met powerful opposition from vested interests i.e. those who owned large tracts of land and who employed and exploited poor and landless peasants/labourers, aided and abetted by the other opponents of socialism, inside and outside the Soviet Union. The process and outcomes of collectivisation have been highly contentious. Opponents have typified the Soviet Union as vicious, callous and murderous. However again recourse to the evidence and commentary by experts who base their conclusions on the facts, rather than propaganda and hysteria, indicates clearly that collectivisation of agriculture was not only necessary but direly urgent. It coincided with, and was given even greater urgency by, the severe famine of 1931-2. Only an immediate improvement in productivity and distribution could have fed the populace and averted even greater disaster (Furr deals with this event and its contentiousness in detail in “Blood Lies”). 
During the 1930s, the Soviet Union steadily developed, increasing the standard of living and economic security of the people, providing free education, health services, housing, child care, and employment for the whole population. Major progress was made toward real equality for women and for all the nationalities across the vast, diverse Soviet Union. All this while the capitalist world suffered the massive unemployment and emiseration of the Great Depression.
During the 1920s and 30s, there were intense debates and struggles over the policies and practices to be followed. The evidence coming to light proves that there were many conspiracies and conspiratorial networks against the predominant policies and leaders. These resulted in instances of sabotage and assassination, in accusations, arrests and trials, and confessions by, convictions of, and imprisonment and sometimes execution of conspirators. There had always been intense debates over the policies and future directions of the Soviet Union. A range of leaders with a wide range of dissenting views were represented in the leadership for the whole period of Soviet history. The notion that any dissenters were repressed and even executed is belied by the evidence.  Zinoviev and Kamenev had opposed the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917. Afterward, they even advocated the handing back of power to some sort of coalition of counter-revolutionary parties in late 1917. They consistently opposed the majority policies of the leadership, regarding the building of socialism, all through the 1920's and 30's.  However, despite this ongoing dissension, they were still members of the leadership until their involvement in secret conspiracies to usurp power illegally was exposed in the mid and late 1930's. Similarly, other contending voices, such as Radek, Bukharin and Rykov, were also retained in leading positions until their conspiracies were unmasked.
The fact of these conspiracies is established. However, the reasons that opposition descended into conspiracy needs to be further examined and understood. And even further, how and why these oppositionists went so far as to link themselves to foreign powers, and to plot to at least facilitate or support foreign invasion and defeat of the Soviet Union. Continuing and at times intense debate and struggle over the path to socialism are a reality – capitalism and its supporters do not give up their allegiance to their former power and wealth. Erstwhile revolutionaries can and do retain hallmarks of bourgeois ideology and morality – individualism, selfishness, lust for power or prominence certainty about one's correctness etc all remain in various forms. These characteristics emerge and can then dominate the attitude and conduct of individuals including veteran revolutionaries.
There were also tens of thousands of apparently innocent party members and officials who were “repressed” – accused, dismissed, jailed and even executed. The emerging evidence shows that many of these “repressions” (but by no means all) were conducted by senior officials who were trying to provoke popular opposition to the Soviet government. Some of these leaders, such as leaders of the NKVD, were also motivated to appear “more loyal than the loyal”, to cover their secret disloyalty. The evidence also proves that many of these conspirators were in direct contact with foreign powers, in particular Germany and Japan.
They apparently hoped to utilise a Soviet military defeat or setbacks to overthrow the Soviet leadership and seize power for themselves. Indeed, evidence emerged in 1980s that Hitler expected a military coup in the Soviet Union. These conspiracies even spread to the highest levels of the Politburo and the armed forces.
Even given the inevitability of ongoing struggles as socialist construction proceeds, the reasons that these struggles descended into conspiracies and treachery bears further analysis. In the Soviet Union, the number of these conspiracies is probably an indicator that these disagreements and struggles were not handled well. The fact that a large number of military leaders (allegedly 186) were involved in a conspiracy with Nazi Germany again indicates that something was seriously wrong. 
Control of the state administration, armed forces, trade unions and the Communist Party was increasing captured by bureaucrats who appointed their favourites to build a loyal following.
The Politburo leadership was determined to introduce secret, multiple candidate elections for positions at all levels in the state, Party and trade unions in 1936. This was doggedly resisted by the bureaucrats, especially the first secretaries of the provinces and districts, who saw it as a potential threat to their positions and their monopoly of power.
Despite the claims of Stalin's dictatorial power, he and the other election advocates were overruled twice at the Central Committee meetings in 1937. Only one round of elections ever occurred, in the trade unions in 1937. The threat of German invasion and the hugely and deliberately exaggerated threat of internal conspiracies was used as the excuse that elections could not be held at this point.
Although Stalin fought staunchly against the forces of capitalism reappearing in various guises in the USSR, high salaries had begun to be paid to certain managerial elements and cadres. This was noted by the Central Committee of the CPSU, led by Stalin, at its 19th Party Congress held in October 1952. The corrupting influence of this practice was criticised. In the months after Stalin's death, the executive branch of the Soviet government (the Council of Ministers) deprived Party leaders of their extra salaries (“envelopes”) as part of the continuing, or resurrected, campaign to separate Party leadership and state administration, bringing the salaries of Party leaders to a level lower than government leaders. However, Khrushchev and his cronies managed to overturn this decision and have their higher pay restored, with back pay. This episode is representative of the ongoing dispute about the problem of the roles of Party leadership and state administration being intertwined, and the huge power exercised, often in their own interests, by the bureaucrats who straddled both roles and spheres.
The evidence shows that, probably driven by their fears about the real and perceived threats to their power, many of the First Secretaries exaggerated the conspiracies that threatened the Soviet Union, and asked for special powers to repress conspirators. Khrushchev himself asked for central permission to repress “41,805 kulaks and criminals” in Moscow. He asked for permission to repress 17-18,000 persons per month in the Ukraine, and then complained that the central authorities only permitted 2-3,000.
A commonly expressed claim in the anti-communist orthodoxy is that Lavrentii Beria was a ruthless, repressive henchman for Stalin. However, the evidence, including that in the Pospelov Report (drawn up in 1956 to support Khrushchev’s condemnation of Stalin) shows that after Beria was appointed to head the NKVD (the state security police), arrests dropped by over 90% in 1939 and 1940 compared to the numbers in 1937 and 1938. Executions in 1939 and 1940 dropped to less than 1% of the levels in 1937 and 1938.
And in fact, the repressive acts in Moscow under Khrushchev exceeded those in every other region. The numbers of those repressed in the Ukraine accelerated after his arrival to 106,119 in 1938. He was responsible for the execution of thousands and thousands – far more than any other First Secretary.
Thus, there was an intersection of bureaucratic self-defence and aggrandisement, conspiratorial opposition and treachery, and mass repressions in the late 1930s This was met determinedly by the leadership, although the certainty that war with Germany was inevitable undermined the success of the attempts to reign in the growth and power of the bureaucracies. Stalin in Moscow had believed the reported threats to the security of the Soviet Union and sanctioned repression of leading conspirators. But the leadership argued quite specifically for an individualised, differentiated approach – treating the leading conspirators very firmly but being lenient and understanding with honest people who has been misled or who merely expressed disagreement with official policies. As evidence began to come in about the mass and unjustified repressions, the leadership dug more deeply, and discovered false reports and accusations, and the plots that underlay them. They then took very firm action against leaders, including the heads of the secret police and other authorities responsible
(The fact that the Soviet Union was able, almost singlehandedly, to defeat the Nazi aggression so soon after such internal subversion and challenges was indeed remarkable – see below.)
The growth of German nationalism, militarism and hysterical anti-communism under the Nazi dictatorship, was primarily and overtly directed against the Soviet Union. The Soviet government constantly sought to build a mutual defence alliance with Britain and France, and also with Poland, all of whom prevaricated and ignored the approaches. They involved an offer by Stalin on August 15, 1939 to move a million troops across Poland to the German border according to documents declassified in 2009. The capitalist powers hoped for, and tried to manipulate, a German drive east against the communist USSR. Paradoxically, and to the horror of the western powers, the USSR in the end responded to the clear Nazi threat by signing a non-aggression pact with Germany, to buy time to prepare for the inevitable attack.
Ultimately, Nazi Germany invaded and occupied much of eastern and western Europe, attacked Britain, and then attacked the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union bore the brunt of the Nazi aggression murder and vicious genocide, and ultimately played by far the major role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. Only a well-developed, efficiently organised and nationally-united and committed nation could have survived the Nazi onslaught and then managed the defeat of the German war machine.
Toward the end of, and then after, the war, the Soviet Government, traumatised by the experience of German aggression, started to adopt an increasing element of geopolitics in its international policies. The establishment of socialist systems through eastern Europe enabled the reconstruction, modernisation and socialisation of these countries, providing economic security, social services for whole populations in previously devastated, backward, terribly governed countries. These unpopular realities are recognised, for example by Chomsky who is certainly no fan of Marxism, but has the refreshing intellectual honesty to recognise and state the truth. (see "Understanding Power")
However, the liberation of Eastern Europe from the Nazi yoke also provided the Soviet Union with a buffer zone against any future aggression by Germany or other capitalist aggression. Western Communist Party leaders who had spent the war in the Soviet Union were despatched back to their countries to promote a policy of the united front against fascism in order to protect the Soviet Union from future attack. This policy disarmed revolutionary movements that had gathered strength through their courageous leadership of the resistance to Nazi aggression. In a number of countries that remained capitalist after the War, revolutionary movements failed to make the transition from an anti-fascist front in which there was collaboration with democratic bourgeois elements to the new situation which required the proletariat to impose itself upon all elements of the capitalist class.  
There was a real prospect of revolutionary success in Greece, and possibly Italy, but these opportunities were not seriously pursued, possibly in return for a buffer zone of socialist states along the Soviet Union’s western borders.  Churchill referred to a scrap of paper he had passed to Stalin in 1944 with the percentage of influence the West and Russia would each have in various countries, including Greece (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percentages_agreement ). Whether or not he “ticked” this piece of paper, Stalin was critical of the Greek communists for not adopting military tactics that would have been more successful for them.  In January 1945, he told Yugoslav leaders that the Greek communists had been wrong to leave Papandreou’s government.  It was a “wrong step taken without our advice…They made it easy for Churchill”.
The death of Stalin in 1953 precipitated the predominance in the Soviet leadership of bureaucrats who formally and quickly led the Soviet Union away from socialism and toward greater bureaucratic control, geopolitical involvement and manipulation, and ultimately capitalist accumulation, leading to the full, overt restoration of capitalism. An analysis of this last development is beyond the scope of this article, but has been extensively analysed in, for example, Martin Nicolaus’ book On the Restoration of Capitalism in the USSR (Liberator Press, Chicago, 1975); How Capitalism Has Been Restored In the Soviet Union (Revolutionary Union, Chicago, 1974 available online here;  Joseph Ball’s The Need for Planning: The Restoration of Capitalism in the Soviet Union available here; and Bill Bland’s The Restoration of Capitalism in the Soviet Union available here.
A major criticism of Stalin, made by Khrushchev after Stalin's death was that Stalin had promoted a “cult of the individual”. Certainly, there was a ridiculous level of officially-promoted adoration of Stalin, who came to represent the Soviet Union and socialism in general across the world. This helped anti-Communists to demonise Stalin as the font of all evil.
The evidence shows that Stalin was very critical of this idolatry. He refused to allow Moscow to be renamed Stalinodor (= gift of Stalin), and strongly questioned the motives of those promoting the idolatry, accusing them of “toadying”. These included Radek and Khrushchev, who lauded Stalin to the skies in public but plotted against the leadership in private. 
Some Lessons
Firstly, and undoubtedly, the long-term dire state of Czarist Russia and its impoverished ignorant population, and its ruthless, greedy but failed participation in that great imperialist project, World War 1, required a socialist revolution.
The potential for a people, despite being isolated and dreadfully backward, to construct socialism, to modernise agriculture and industry through collectivisation, and to feed, house and secure the population through strong leadership and mass mobilisation, is proven.
However, this process is always accompanied by intense debate, disagreement and struggle. And also, inevitably, constant attempts by the defeated capitalist class and its adherents to undermine, obstruct and overthrow the socialist system.
Capitalist society is maintained by a dictatorship of the ruling capitalist class, using ideological hegemony, backed up by force and violent institutions when necessary.
Similarly, the working class and its allies maintain and defend socialism through a dictatorship over the vanquished capitalist class and its constant attempts to undermine and overthrow socialism.
This system is both a dictatorship over the class enemies, and at the same time, is also a democracy for the working class and its allied classes and supporters.
Such a system needs to distinguish between legitimate views and debate about the future directions of the socialist system, and ongoing undermining of, and opposition to, socialism. Mao addressed this problem in his 1957 essay “On the Correct handling of Contradictions Among the People”.
The system must be genuinely democratic for the people, with guaranteed avenues, procedures and rights, protected by socialist law, for people to express their views, supervise their representatives, and recall and replace them as they see fit - a dictatorship of the proletariat, not a dictatorship of the Party or the Party leadership.
The strategic aim of the leadership is to maximise the base for the construction of socialism and narrow the target of those working for capitalist restoration.  It must maximise the proportion of the population actively involved in the construction of socialism and the political life of the country by the encouragement of the expression of ideas, including constructive dissension and suggestion, and the taking of initiative and the exercise of power through formal channels. This requires the development and perfection of democratic procedures among the people at all levels of society: political, legal and administrative. It must thereby narrow the proportion of people who are identified as incorrigible opponents who need to be strongly combatted.
The Communist Party's role is to provide ideological, political and moral leadership toward the steady construction of socialism. The state apparatus is separate, and democratically controlled.
Within the Communist Party, there is full democracy and encouragement for members to study, debate and express their views. Once decisions are made, members are obligated to support them publicly (like any effective organisation), though they can continue to contest decisions internally Continuous conscious striving to ascertain facts, study and develop theory to guide practice, and engage in criticism and self-criticism to develop members into selfless courageous committed leaders. This latter requirement is doubly important after revolutions have overthrown fascist or vicious dictatorships, since in such situations a broad spectrum of people flock to and often join the Party as the leading viable vehicle for overthrowing the old regime. Consequently, the Party contains a broad range of views, motivations and interests, so determined conscious ideological development and struggle are required to challenge old bourgeois attitudes and morality that the Party inevitably contains.
The Party requires collective leadership – any singling out of individuals for extra power or adulation sets in process uncritical, deferential attitudes that ultimately disarm the active independent thinking and initiative required of all members.
The maintenance of a positive strong internationalist view and policy requires ongoing ideological struggle to emphasise and continue to develop socialist ideology. The dangers of succumbing to the temptations to secure and advance national interests as the primary goal in specific situations and then on into general longer-term policy needs to be recognised and resisted This has proven difficult in both the USSR and China, as the capitalist powers have continuously harassed, surrounded, undermined and threatened socialist countries, creating a siege mentality, that saw leaders drift into geopolitical self-defensive priorities.
Another lesson is that there are many paths to socialist revolution, that strategies must fit local situations. There can be no revolutionary centre, dictating strategies to other countries. While the Third International was directing communist parties around the globe regarding policies and strategies, Mao and the Chinese Communist Party ignored these dictates and successfully developed their own creative rural-based revolutionary strategies.
In the Australian context, we believe in a strategy of revolution by stages.  It recognises the preeminent position of US imperialism at the heart of capitalism in Australia and the need to mobilise all forces, under working class leadership, for the seizure of the assets of the imperialists and the severing of all political, diplomatic, military and other means by which US imperialism imposes its interests and agenda on the Australian ruling class. The principal target at this stage is imperialism. Any national bourgeois elements that ally themselves with the working class will be protected during this stage. Fundamentally socialist in content, this stage elevates the working class to a commanding position over the whole of society and makes possible the peaceful takeover of remnants of capitalism under conditions and on a timeline developed by the independent state during the second stage.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Book Review: Driving Disunity by Lindy Nolan

Nick G.

New South Wales teacher and Teachers’ Federation activist Lindy Nolan has written a remarkable book on the agenda behind the Business Council of Australia’s (BCA) Indigenous involvement agenda.

There is no mystery about her view: the full title of her 101-page study is Driving Disunity – the Business Council Against Aboriginal Community.

The BCA is the peak body for the Chief Executives of the hundred-largest foreign and local corporations in Australia. Its members sponsor and promote a long list of initiatives under the heading of Indigenous Engagement, including the annual Garma Festival in the Northern Territory.

Nolan’s thesis is that this a deliberate change in approach to corporate attempts to exploit the human and physical resources of the roughly 25 per cent of the Australian land mass now under some form of control by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

It marks a change from when individual pastoral and mining companies confronted Aboriginal communities over issues like the Gurindji walk-off, the Nabalco Corporation’s fight against the Yolgnu People at Gove over the mining of bauxite, and oil explorer Amax’s fight with the Yungngora People at Noonkanbah in Western Australia. This approach was not good PR for the exploiters. In each dispute, growing numbers of non-Indigenous workers, working people and students rallied in support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Such disputes still occur, of course. However, the decisive sections of the ruling class, through the BCA, have openly sought to develop a “new architecture” for Aboriginal affairs, including high-profile, pro-business advocates within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The reactionary Murdoch media has been complicit in this new approach by publishing and publicising a group of Aboriginal leaders who hold Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities largely responsible for the social problems of unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence, who support income control and other punitive approaches, who disparage Land Rights and self-determination in favour of assimilation into the capitalist economy.

“Business Council of Australia member companies are helping to create the social and economic conditions in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can prosper and thrive,” says the BCA on its website.

Nolan takes the BCA to task, saying, through a number of case studies, that its policies and practices have damaged Aboriginal communities and seen them lose control over their lands. This is not mere assertion: it is a conclusion drawn from meticulous and detailed research into the BCA and the outcomes arising from the application to several Aboriginal communities of its profit-driven policies.

Nolan also contextualises the racist NT Intervention within BCA and other right-wing attempts to roll back land rights in the NT and open Aboriginal lands to commercial exploitation. She shows how the BCA has driven the Reconciliation movement and its offshoot, the move for Constitutional Recognition. She also amplifies the counter case put by grassroots Aboriginal Peoples for Treaty embodying sovereignty.

This is a ground-breaking study of corporate Australia’s creation of new weapons in their fight to dispossess Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders of their birthright. Sadly, certain Aboriginal leaders have put themselves at the service of the most powerful core of the ruling class, in the forlorn hope it will solve the horrific problems First Nations Peoples.

It is an essential resource for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples determined to work together for a just settlement of their mutual relationship. The essence of that settlement was expressed in 1975 by E.F. Hill, founding Chairperson of our Party, when he wrote:

“The black people have resisted and still resist in various ways, the imperialist occupation of Australia. They form an important component of the independence movement in Australia. There can be no independence for Australia without the independence of the black people.”

Nolan’s book, published by the Spirit of Eureka, can be ordered online at: http://www.spiritofeureka.org/index.php/shop

US imperialism is the main obstacle to a free and independent socialist Australia

Nick G.

The size and scope of US investment in Australia, and the degree of subservience shown by our political leaders to US imperialism, confirms our analysis that US imperialism is the major obstacle to a free and independent socialist Australia.

In a recently released paper, the United States Study Centre at the University of Sydney does its best to portray the US-Australia investment relationship as one of “indispensable economic partners”. However, its own figures clearly show that it is not a partnership of equals.

The paper notes that the cumulative value of two-way investment between the United States and Australia is more than A$1.47 trillion It estimates the figure of cumulative Australian investment in the US as A$617 billion.  According to those figures, Australian businesses have 42% of this two-way investment, while US businesses account for the other 58%. Australian FDI in the US enters the world’s largest economy; US FDI in Australia dominates the much smaller “partner” economy. US investments here represent around one quarter of all FDI in Australia. Australian FDI is swamped by other FDI in the US.

The US is the no. 1 source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Australia, and has been for many years. Australia is the seventh largest target for US FDI. Australia is the recipient of more US FDI than all of South America, Africa, or the Middle East, receiving well over twice the amount that China does.

Australian FDI in the US fluctuates from year to year.  For example, in 2014 Australia did not appear in the Top 20 countries investing in the US, but in 2015 it ranked 12th.  To even rank 12th sounds important, but the leading nations for FDI in the US that year were the UK with US$569bn, Japan with US$414bn, and Canada with US$342bn.  Australian FDI in the US was only US$45bn.

It is not just that Australia is small fry compared to its “investment partner”, the US.  Nominee companies comprising the major shareholders in most Australian companies are notoriously opaque. It is difficult to know the source of investment capital in bodies such as HSBC Custody Nominees (Australia) Limited, J P Morgan Nominees Australia Limited, and Citicorp Nominees Pty Ltd. Capital raising by share offerings is also only one source of a company’s operating funds.  Frequently companies turn to Australian banks for loans, or to overseas sources of finance. Hence a company may appear to be Australian owned but mask a substantial proportion of overseas (and US) capital. If Australian companies investing in the US are using US funds then US investors and debt markets can be large beneficiaries of “Australian” investment in the US when interest is added to loan repayments.

This is conceded to some extent in the report, which notes that “US capital markets, especially debt markets, are a vital source of capital for Australian companies, especially the banking and financial services sector. Australia’s “Big 4” banks (Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac, National Australia Bank, and the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group) are the four largest ASX-listed companies and account for nearly one-quarter of the total market capitalisation of the ASX 300. The Big 4 banks are heavily reliant on wholesale funding from US debt markets. Due to foreign exchange markets, the depth of US debt markets, and interest rate derivatives, the United States is the overwhelming source of that funding.”

Australia’s second largest source of FDI is Japan.  Two-way investment is valued at A$322b, significantly smaller than that between Australia and the US. From 2010 to 2016, Japanese FDI in Australia grew by 78% to reach A$91bn. Whereas there are 1500 US companies operating in NSW alone, the total number of Japanese companies in Australia is only 421.  US companies employ 335,000 Australians; Japanese companies employ 58,000. Compared to its main rival for the amount of FDI in Australia, the US still overshadows Japan.

Growing concern about Chinese investment in Australia cannot be dismissed.  China is an economic powerhouse and globally, the major competitor facing the US.  However, China currently has only 10% of the value of US FDI in Australia and no ability at the present time to supplant the US as political master of Australia’s destiny. 

To summarise, Australia is an unequal partner in its investment relationship with the US.  The latter currently easily surpasses other countries as a source of FDI in Australia. It is right for us to be wary of Chinese investment; however, the political loyalties of the Australian bourgeoisie are with US imperialism.  It is correct to describe Australia as enmeshed in the economic, political, social and military web of US imperialism. It is not strong enough to act as an imperialist power in its own right; indeed, it is a sign of its weakness as an independent nation that its Prime Minister believes his own country and the US imperialists to be “joined at the hip”.

The path to an independent and socialist Australia lies through the struggle to break the power of US and other imperialisms in Australia, to seize and nationalise their assets and lay the foundation for socialism.




Monday, August 21, 2017

October 2017 – Time to celebrate workers’ struggles at home and abroad

Ned K.
October 2017 marks the centenary of the historic Russian Revolution of 1917 when workers broke one key link in the imperialist chain which enslaves the workers of the world.
The victory of workers in the Russian Revolution gave Australian workers great hope that a better world was possible when workers take control of the whole society. It inspired workers in the 1920s and 30s to struggle for better pay and conditions in many developing industries in Australia. Those experiences extended after WW2 to include an embryonic car industry which was taken over by US imperialist interests led by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler and more recently Japanese imperialist interests led by Toyota.
As imperialism expanded production of motor cars and car components in factories built in Australia it strengthened and expanded core elements of the industrial working class (proletariat) in Australia. The very conditions of working life in the large car and car component factories compelled workers to organize in mass organisations to defend and advance their own interests. The tremendous gains made by workers in the Soviet Union after the 1917 October Revolution inspired thousands of working class leaders and activists in many industries, including the large car industry factories in Australia.
The great 1964 four-week strike by 20,000 General Motors Holden workers for higher wages and better working conditions was led by progressive rank and file workers including Communist Party members and supporters. In the late 1960s and 1970s the struggle of car industry workers escalated with US-owned Uniroyal car component workers in Adelaide striking for six weeks.  The Ford Broadmeadows strike in 1973 was a highpoint of worker militancy.  For 9 weeks, a largely migrant workforce battled their US bosses and a subservient union leadership which included prominent revisionists.
The political consciousness of car industry workers was high with their shop floor leaders campaigning for nationalization of the car industry in response to US imperialist car industry barons developing the "world car".
It was car workers' political consciousness and agitation that provided the impetus to Labor Minister Mick Young in the Whitlam Government period calling for "Nationalization Of GMH".
The world car concept was a deliberate strategy by the imperialists to weaken the working classes of individual countries by spreading the design and production of cars and components across multiple countries. This was the start of US imperialism's assault on the working class internationally by playing one country off against another. It started closing plants in some countries where the working class was strong, such as Australia, and opening new ones where it estimated there would be less resistance to its profit maximization goals.
This assault on the working class in 'the West' complemented its relentless attempt to divide and conquer the workers of the Soviet Union.
This strategy by car industry multinationals in Australia was accelerated by mass sackings of workers due to overproduction and also automation and use of robotics. In the 1970s and 1980s many progressive workers in the car and car component factories were targeted for redundancy. This included the very effective Rank and File organisation at Chryslers in Adelaide.  Hundreds of workers were sacked in 1977 to ensure that a core group of militants were removed.
US imperialism succeeded in smashing the Soviet Union, aided by the bureaucrat capitalist roaders within the Soviet Union. However the car and car component workers in Australia, although diminishing in numbers, continued to struggle together to defend their living standards right in to the 21st Century and up to the present day, sometimes with little or no assistance from the union official leaderships and neo-liberal politicians of both major political parties.
While it is true that the economic imperative of profit maximization of imperialism has led to car and car component factories being moved around the world like pawns on a chess board, it is also true that the only way the imperialist corporations could defeat these car and car component industry workers in Australia was to close the whole industry down and move it to where it hoped to find less organised workers and even more compliant governments.
So in October 2017 when General Motors and Toyota and their component suppliers have closed their production lines in Australia, remember that like the workers of the great October Russian Revolution of 1917, the car and car component workers in Australia provided magnificent leadership and inspiration to the working class of Australia as a whole stretching across three generations.
Their legacy of daring to struggle and daring to win against the show pieces of imperialism in Australia over the last century will continue in the working class communities which nurtured them and which they enriched and continue to do so

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Venezuela under attack

Max O.

From the news we receive about the turbulent events in Venezuela by the Australian media one would think that the Bolivarian Government is a dictatorship which, understandably, is being resisted by their people.

It has become fashionable for the mainstream media to regularly bleat their dismay over the rise and proliferation of "fake news"; however, they're as guilty themselves of spreading false and misleading information about movements and governments that don't submit to the Western bloc, in particular to US Imperialism.

This is certainly the case with violent street protests, or what the Venezuelans call the "guarimbas", that have been going on since April this year. From the time Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution won government in the late 1990s Venezuela's political atmosphere has been dangerously explosive.

The Western media have played their part in "faking the news" about Chavez, Maduro and the Bolivarian movement as being solely responsible for the political and economic chaos in Venezuela. Whereas the Anti-Chavista opposition's malevolent behaviour is mitigated by Western mainstream media, for they are presented as archetypes of human rights and democracy.

Numerous attempts at overthrow

The progressive, although limited, political and economic policies of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) have been relentlessly attacked and sabotaged at every opportunity by the Venezuelan rich and comprador capitalist class. From the attempted military coup of 2002 against Chavez, the PDVSA (Petroleum of Venezuela) oil strike, the failed 2004 recall referendum against Chavez to the current murderous street battles carried out by the reactionary opposition, each of these momentous events reflect class warfare by the US-aligned wealthy and their hatred of the poor gaining political power.

This rich, reactionary class are not interested in accepting the will of the majority, nor democracy, and at every turn refused to negotiate a settlement in the interest of the nation. They have plotted economic disruption, all-out hoarding of essential commodities and food, stage-managed black-market currency operations, and run corporate contraband activities.

The continual destabilization saw a dip in support for the Bolivarian cause, when Nicolas Maduro narrowly won the presidency by 50.62% and the opposition, United Democratic Roundtable (MUD), won a majority in the National Assembly in 2015. Undaunted, the MUD, not interested in passing legislation or governing, pronounced that their only intention was to get rid of Maduro.

Since then the wealthy opposition have committed arson on public buildings - such as a crowded maternity hospital; a police helicopter launched grenades at Venezuela’s supreme court building; closed highways and attacked commuters; assailed, lynched and burned to death black youths for supposedly being Chavistas (see photo above). The murderous leadership and supporters of MUD are drenched in rabid classism and racism against the poor and are effectively in the pay of US State authorities and big foreign oil corporations.

The recent street battles in Venezuela that have been reported by the Western media emanate from the struggle over what to do with the current gridlock between the Maduro presidency and the MUD majority-controlled National Assembly. To break this impasse Maduro called an election of a Constituent Assembly to reform the nation's constitution, something the MUD controlled National Assembly could have done (given their hostility to the current constitution) but didn't .

The purpose of this National Constituent Assembly (ANC) is to examine reforms to the constitution and put these to a referendum. Of the 545 delegates elected to the ANC 346 will be elected on a territorial basis and 173 from social sectors such as workers in the oil and mining, industrial, construction, services and public sector; self-employed workers; peasants; commune councils; students; pensioners; Indigenous and business owners etc.

Despite the Anti-Chavista opposition's boycott of the 30 July ANC election a massive turnout of 8,089,320 people, 41% of the population voted on the day. This number of votes exceeds the 7,587,579 votes received by Maduro in the 2013 election victory and nearly matches Hugo Chavez's 2012 re-election figure of 8,191,132.

See-saw power struggle continues

Whilst this is positive news for the Bolivarian movement the problem of see-sawing claims to power will continue. Though the comprador (dependent on US Imperialism) capitalist class has lost government at times through the electoral system their economic power of private industries, media, agriculture, banks, food businesses etc has allowed them to continually undermine the "socialist experiment".

The old electoral system and parliament is still heavily under the sway of the capitalist class. Essentially the National Assembly is a forum for bickering with the wealthy ruling class, as opposed to an institution for mass worker democracy.

The Chavista constitution from 1999 gave rise in a limited form to "popular power and participatory democracy", where the formation of co-management of state-owned factories, communal councils, socialist communes, and various social missions have emboldened the conviction of the working class.

What has been described as a "Pink Tide" sweeping through Venezuela and South America is an anathema to the capitalist class and Anti-Chavista opposition who are intent on carrying out a Ukrainian style overthrow of Maduro, PSUV and the Bolivarian movement.

The US-backed street violence by the opposition which has seen the killing of over a hundred people and two more coup attempts, will now receive an added boost with Trump calling for regime change in Venezuela.

The time has come for the Bolivarian/Chavista movement to go on the offensive and strike a blow by eliminating the capitalist class’s economic and political power through the mass involvement of the working class and the peasantry. Nationalisation and socialisation of their industrial, agricultural, financial and media assets needs to be undertaken and turned over to workers control and management.

New forms of political power need to be established, where socialist governing institutions run the country and capitalists and their bureaucracy cease to exist as a class. If a "Red Tide" is not undertaken and the Bolivarian movement hesitates the Anti-Chavista opposition certainly won't, and with the help of the US will stop at nothing to overthrow Maduro and the PSUV.

This moment in Venezuelan's history calls for a dedicated Communist Party to carry out this historic challenge. Alliances and United Fronts have an important place in the struggle for liberation; nevertheless transformation of a country's economic base and political superstructure calls for sweeping revolutionary changes otherwise there is the perennial danger of reactionary retrogression - capitalism and or fascism.

If this did happen the Western mainstream media would obviously go berserk with massive amounts of "Fake News" about the Venezuelan Revolution to shock the world's peoples. This is something we ought to expect because the capitalist media is the enemy of the world's workers and toilers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Solar-Thermal Power Plant Win

John C.
On the 14th August 2017, the South Australian premier, Jay Wetherill announced that the construction of a concentrated solar-thermal power plant has been given the go ahead. This is a monumental step forward in the transition to 100% renewable energy.
The notion of establishing a viable solar-thermal power plant in Australia was raised by the renewable energy think tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) as far back as 2010 . In 2012 plans for such a power plant were firmed up by BZE and the Repower Port Augusta campaign came into existence .
During the intervening 5 years between then and now, a peoples’ movement in collaboration with scientists, engineers and local government lobbied the South Australian government relentlessly with powerful, logical and well backed up arguments for constructing a concentrated solar-thermal power plant in Port Augusta to replace the existing system of coal-fired power plants which was coming to the end of its life. The idea was widely supported throughout South Australia, but it was the people of Port Augusta who played a pivotal part in the campaign. In the process, the people developed and honed their skills and strategies in united front work. There was involvement of ordinary citizens of Port Augusta, workers from the power plant, local government, local businesses and city people (Adelaide). Pt Augusta residents took action online, crowdfunded TV ads and billboards, doorknocked and had thousands of conversations. They rallied in the streets, and 100 of them even walked from Port Augusta to Adelaide to make their voices heard.
The success of the campaign was never a given, especially considering that those behind the push for more traditional and environmentally unacceptable methods of electricity generation have loud political and financial voices. This makes the victory all the more significant and demonstrates what can be achieved by the people when they unflinchingly stand united.
The basic principal of operation of a concentrated solar-thermal power station is as follows. A large array of mirrors tracks the transit of the sun across the sky during the day. The reflected radiation is focused on to a tower, the top part of which is filled with sodium chloride – the common salt that we eat with our food and that exists in sea water. The focused radiation is sufficiently intense that the salt becomes molten. The molten salt contains large amounts of stored energy (look mum, no batteries!) which can be called upon as required to generate electricity in the same way that the last stage of conventional electricity generation does. Namely, the energy is used to heat water to produce steam which drives turbines which in turn generate the electricity.
This type of solar-thermal power generation is proven technology with such plants having been in use for example in Spain since 2011 and in Nevada in the USA.
One argument that was posed by those against the case for a concentrated solar-thermal power plant for Port Augusta when the idea was first put forward, was that it would not be able to cater for periods of peak electricity demand. This is no longer an issue in the latest designs. The proposed plant is capable of generating 150MWatts and the maximum load requirement set by the government is 125MWatts. The excess capacity during daylight hours can be fed back into the grid. The heat that is stored in the molten salt can generate electricity for about another 8 hours after the sun goes down.
A single solar-thermal plant is not sufficient to provide all of South Australia’s energy presently but it will be part of a mix with other renewables including wind, solar photovoltaic and lithium ion battery storage; and unfortunately for the moment, non-renewable gas.
However, the construction of even a single solar-thermal plant is highly significant. The first one always has the greatest cost associated with it. As an industry develops around this type of plant, the cost of subsequent plants will reduce and the uptake of the technology will increase. Part of the deal is to involve South Australian universities in conducting further research on solar-thermal systems.
In this way, and as other renewable technologies develop, the transition to 100% renewable energy forms part of reality. The only barrier to achieving this is the will to do so.
The federal government has shown no leadership or commitment toward this reality, but instead dreams up excuses for not going down the path of 100% renewable energy, criticising those who do and it continues to back the dead-end and environmentally damaging fossil fuel industry.
Even poorly funded not-for-profit, but nonetheless professional, think tanks like BZE are showing the way forward with their “Zero Carbon Australia Plan”. They have devised a viable plan, the government has none.
With solar-thermal no longer a pipedream, the federal government must come up with the goods or face being totally discredited and going the way of the dinosaurs.
Had Australia been under socialism, a commitment to 100% renewable energy would have been made long ago as part of a national strategic plan and the requisite research undertaken in earnest before any looming environmental disaster manifests itself.  Further still, energy sovereignty would be seen as essential, and energy supply and ownership would be nationalised.  There would be no opportunity to either hold the country to ransom or to impose obscene price rises.
The proposed solar-thermal power plant relies on a 20 year contract with US company Solar Reserve for supplying the electricity that is generated.

Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan 2010. Published by the Melbourne Energy Institute, University of Melbourne.
Repowering Port Augusta. A blueprint to replace Northern and Playford B coal power stations with renewable energy. Published by Beyond Zero Emissions in 2012.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

“Joined at the hip”, or “under the thumb”?

Nick G.

Australian bourgeois parliamentary politics has left the people with an embarrassing legacy of expressions of subservience to imperialism.

They come from both “sides” of politics. Actually, the parties of the two-party system are on the same side: that of imperialist domination of Australia and of service to capitalism.

On 31 July 1914 in an election speech at Colac in Victoria, the Opposition Leader Andrew Fisher (ALP) famously declared that ‘should the worst happen, after everything has been done that honour will permit, Australians will stand beside the mother country to help and defend her to our last man and our last shilling’.

This was in reference to the looming imperialist war of 1914-18 which saw over 60,000 Australians killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. 

Australia had no control over its foreign policy in 1914. That control lay with the British. It was one of the compromises that gave us an unreadable and convoluted Constitution.  The British conceded the formal right to an independent foreign policy for its Dominions in the Statute of Westminster in 1931. But Australian politicians, including Prime Ministers Scullin (ALP), Lyons (United Australia Party – forerunner of the Liberal Party), Menzies (UAP) and Fadden (Country Party – forerunner of the National Party) rejected our right to an independent foreign policy right up until 1942. Then, in the context of a war which saw the fall of the “impregnable” British fortress of Singapore on February 15, 1942, Labor PM Curtin introduced the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942, which came into effect on October 9 of that year.

This acceptance of a right to have our own foreign policy, bestowed by the British, and rejected for 11 years by our “leaders”, could have marked the beginning of a new era for Australia.  To a certain extent, it did, namely the swapping of the era of subservience to Britain with the era of subservience to America.

This had been foretold by Curtin in an address to the nation on December 27, 1941: “Without inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.”

Even the profoundly Anglophile Menzies, who described himself as “British to the bootstraps”, and who sycophantically said of the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth, “I did but see her passing by, And I shall love her till I die”, supported the transition from one imperialist overlord to the other.  Interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor on September 24, 1952, Menzies said “I become very resentful when I hear people affecting to sneer at American imperialism.  The benevolent commands of a great nation should be good for mankind. If that is American imperialism, let us have more of it.”

And the context?  From 1950 to1953, Menzies sent 17,000 Australian soldiers, of whom 339 died, and 1200 were wounded, to support the murderous war waged by US imperialism against the Korean people.

When we were embroiled in the US war of aggression against Vietnam, Prime Minister Harold Holt made a pilgrimage to Washington where he humiliated himself and all Australians by declaring that we were going “All the way with LBJ”, a reference to US President Lyndon Baines Johnson. 

Although probably the least subservient conservative Australian PM, John Gorton nevertheless spoke his way into infamy with a pledge to Richard Nixon, in May 1969, that “We will go a-Waltzing Matilda with you”.

A September 1999 characterisation of Australia as the deputy sheriff of the US in the Asia-Pacific region by Prime Minister John Howard in The Bulletin magazine was picked up again by President Bush in 2003, saying that Australia was really a sheriff in its own right in this region.

And now Malcolm Turnbull has tried to ingratiate himself with US imperialism by describing our two countries as “joined at the hip”. This followed US President Trump’s fascist threat to immolate North Korea with “fire and fury”.

This description arises from the circumstance of conjoined, or “Siamese”, twins. Chang and Eng Bunker, born with a fused torso in Siam (Thailand) in 1811, became American circus oddities. In more recent times, surgical separation, although risky, has allowed some conjoined twins to achieve independence from each other.

By describing us as “joined at the hip” with US imperialism, Turnbull could not make a plainer case for the rejection of Australia independence.

More to the point would be to describe us as “under the thumb” of the US, since our two countries are hardly “twins” with equal weight and influence on each other.

And in so far as Turnbull is saying that any act of aggression by the US would automatically see us falling in behind our overlords without any reference to the people or parliament, without any consideration of our own independent interests, he has made himself eminently qualified for immediate disqualification from parliament under the first part of that section of the Constitution that is being quoted in relation to politicians discovered to have dual citizenship, namely:

44. Disqualification Any person who: (i) is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power…

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Preserving the ICBM “old boys” network

Jamie C.

The ICBM “old boys” network’s board of directors — more formally known as the UN Security Council permanent members — has, along with its temporary members, unanimously agreed that the socialist ‘rogue’, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), must be prevented from joining the network at all costs.

They must be heavily punished for their dastardly attempts to improve their ICBM capability — “they just don’t have the right breeding, old boy”. “What’s more they believe in their Juche ideology of self-sufficiency, military self-reliance and an independent foreign policy. We wouldn’t even be able to control them”.

So, just to get a clearer picture of the current position, let’s have a quick look at the board and their ICBM activity as simplified from the table at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_ICBMs

UN Security Council Permanent Member
Number of operational ICBMs
Number of currently inactive ICBMs
ICBMs under development

The three other ICBM-owning nations are: India (one active with two under development), Israel (one, with unknown status), DPRK (1 under development according to the table, but now having been tested). 

India & Israel are both capitalist nations so, of course, they aren’t “rogue” nations. 
But because the very highly vulnerable DPRK — being the only ICBM owning nation that has any real claim to be currently socialist — has the temerity to protect itself by building an ICBM able to hit much of the USA, who has been continually threatening the DPRK, the DPRK is labelled a “rogue” nation.  This is part of US Imperialism’s long-term policy: isolate perceived enemy nations one at a time, and paint them as rogues.

When genuinely rogue nations, who have jointly led to the deaths of millions in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, label a peaceful, socialist country as a “rogue” nation, one can’t help thinking of the apposite words of Mao Zedong in his May 26, 1939 article, To be attached by the enemy is not a bad thing but a good thing: “It is good if we are attacked by the enemy, since it proves that we have drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves. It is still better if the enemy attacks us wildly and paints us as utterly black and without a single virtue; it demonstrates that we have not only drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves but achieved a great deal in our work.”

China today disagrees with the DPRK Juche policy. China’s government believes the DPRK should open up to the West by acting as China did, such as accepting the capitalist World Bank philosophy and rules; that the DPRK should follow a line similar to Deng’s interpretation of the “socialism with Chinese characteristics” concept, the “black cat, white cat, it doesn’t matter the colour as long as it catches mice” philosophy (meaning: using capitalist methods or socialist methods, it doesn’t matter, as long as the population is fed) and “it is glorious to be rich” philosophy, which under President Jiang Zemin led to his “three represents” policy, opening the party membership to wealthy capitalists. Is it any wonder that China today is marching along the capitalist road, rapidly dropping one socialist concept after another?

The Trump-sponsored UN Security Council resolution to horrendously restrict world trade with the socialist DPRK has been estimated to rob the DPRK of one billion US dollars a year, a third of North Korea’s export income. 

If China were still a socialist country, the decision to support US imperialism’s motion would be an absolute disgrace. It would be unthinkable for a genuinely socialist country to do anything but stand in total solidarity with another socialist country under imperialist attack.

But China today has replaced walking the socialist path by chauvinistic self-aggrandisement supporting private and state capitalism and by running at an unbelievable rate towards the imperialistic strategic goals of capital export and political influence. 

The DPRK is struggling to survive and build socialism whilst being surrounded by capitalist enemies. Yet last year despite sanctions, it achieved a 17-year high in GDP.  It deserves our admiration and support in solidarity.