Tuesday, February 27, 2018

South Australia: overview in approach to March 17 state election

Ned K.

 

As the deadline for the March 17 state elction approaches, a number of features of the South Australian situation require our attention.

 

1. Car industry closure


October 2017 saw the final closure of the car industry in South Australia with the complete closure of General Motors Holden plant and associated car component factories. These closures also impacted negatively on diverse service industries that relied on these factories’ operations for a living. For example, a cafe on Phillip Highway directly opposite the Holden factory in Elizabeth closed putting 14 people out of work. Twelve full time Wilson Security officers at the Holden plant had the choice of being made redundant or taking part time or irregular casual work that Wilson had available. Contract cleaners who cleaned the car and car component factory buildings lost jobs completely or had to be content with reduced hours of work and income in cleaning jobs at other locations.


The state Weatherill Government tried to paint a rosy picture of new jobs through “new manufacturing” opportunities for car industry workers thrown on the scrap heap. It announced that a Victorian based business would re-develop the closed Holden car plant at Elizabeth and turn it in to an “industrial park” for unspecified “new manufacturing”. However, it is more likely that the new investor will focus more on modern warehousing facilities at the site and that “new manufacturing” jobs will be few and far between, but perhaps well paid.


More recently the British capitalist Gupta company which is investing in the steel works at Whyalla, announced that it wanted to buy General Motors-owned machinery from the Elizabeth plant and use it to manufacture electric cars. This was used by the Government to give hope to discarded car workers that there was a future for them back at the Elizabeth plant. The Premier Weatherill is reported to have written to General Motors US head office to ask General Motors to sell machinery to Gupta to facilitate the electric car manufacturing at its old Elizabeth plant.


That “good news” story has died away for the time being but we may not have heard the last of it.


2. Electricity Supply and Price Rises


In the long term the people of South Australia are being told by the Weatherill Government that the continued growth of wind farms, the replacement of the coal-fired power plants at Port Augusta with a solar thermal plant and the establishment of an electric battery plant in the mid-north of the state will steer the state to self-sufficiency in production and distribution of electricity and in lower the cost of power. This in turn, so the story goes, will attract business investment to South Australia and hence jobs.


There is probably a significant degree of truth in this as far as supply of electricity goes, but whether it reduces the cost of electricity to households remains to be seen as the electricity generation and distribution will still remain in the hands of foreign-owned corporations whose main objective is maximising profits.


In the short term though, increasing electricity costs for both the people and small business in particular continue to rise with a recent increase in electricity prices as high as 25% in one hit.


Even for the “new manufacturing” being sprouted by the Government as a potential saviour to the northern suburbs of Elizabeth in particular, the cost of electricity and water for that matter becomes a higher percentage of manufacturing operating costs as the percentage of operating costs attributed to direct labour declines due to automation.


3. Defence and Space Exploration Industries


The biggest manufacturing industry in the state now is connected to Australia’s integration into the US military plans for the Asia Pacific region. At Osborne near Port Adelaide the naval defence and associated electronics industrial area is expanding. Submarines and other naval vessels look like being assembled at this location for at least the next two decades. The number and type of jobs this will create for local people of the northern and north western suburbs of Adelaide needs some more investigation. From press reports it appears that there is a continual struggle between the foreign owned corporations involved in the military/defence industry and the Weatherill and Turnbull Governments as to how much of the work required to be done to construct these vessels is done here and how much is done overseas.


Further to the north of Osborne at Technology Park Mawson Lakes and Edinburgh, large multinational corporate “merchants of death” like Raytheon and BAE are designing and manufacturing weapons of mass destruction and/or drones and electrical equipment to guide these weapons of destruction to their destinations when needed. At the moment this is mainly the Middle East, but in coming years the destination is likely to be more towards East Asia as US imperialism lashes out militarily to try and stop the advance of Chinese hegemony in the region.


4. Tertiary Education, Health Research, “Bread” and “Circuses” To Revive the City Centre 


The Weatherill Government has relied largely on the growth of the tertiary education industry and health research industry to rejuvenate economic activity in the city centre of Adelaide. Expansion of both Adelaide University and University of Adelaide campuses has seen tens of thousands of overseas students study and live in the CBD of Adelaide. This expansion has seen growth in construction jobs (temporary in nature) in new university buildings and a growing number of high rise apartment towers filled by overseas students. This growth in jobs has offset the decline in white collar office jobs and the increase in vacant office space caused by the march of technology and companies withdrawing regional city offices in favour of centralised offices in Sydney or Melbourne but sometimes overseas to places like Singapore.


The Government has also gone to expensive lengths to attract all sorts of events to the newly built “colosseum” better known as Adelaide Oval. In early February it even put up between $5 million and $8 million to secure the playing of a NSW versus Queensland State of Origin Rugby League at Adelaide Oval! Any “circus” is worth the price if the “masses” of Adelaide can be entertained as passive on lookers if it wins a few more votes on election day! Exploiting class rulers have not changed in some ways from the Roman Empire rulers who “thrilled” the masses with gladiatorial fights to the death.


The “Bread” provided to the people by the Government has been in the form of contracting huge multinational construction developers to build road overpasses and new freeways. The government has marketed these suburban road expansions as “good for jobs” at a time of “good jobs” disappearing in manufacturing industries in the city. However, the CFMEU State Secretary recently exposed this as an exercise in swindling by these big construction companies. While the thousands of workers on these road projects wear the big corporately badged clothing, 90% are employed by sub-contracting layers, on minimum casual award rates if they are lucky!


5. Regional Areas


While declining living standards, unemployment and underemployment in the capital city Adelaide are thorns in the side of the Weatherill Government as it approaches the March 2018 parliamentary election, the picture in some regional areas is considerably different. In the Riverland, Barossa Valley South East and Southern regions, in the at times boom-bust wine and viticulture industries, there is an ever-increasing export market, particularly to China and other Asian countries. These industries provide thousands of regular full-time jobs, most of which are paid well above the award. Union membership in these areas is relatively high compared with other private sector industries, high enough have the strength to preserve penalty rates and pay increases above the private sector average.


The wine and viticulture industry in SA is dominated by multinational corporations such as Accolade and Treasury Wine Estates (both US-owned) and Pernod Ricard (French-owned). Collectively these multinationals have as a rule not tried to “take on” the collective strength of their workers and have been prepared to agree to wage increases of between 3% and 5% per year for the last decade. Combined with preservation of penalty rates and plenty of overtime, these big corporations have been one of the few “success stories” for trickle-down economics that both Labor and Liberal politicians support.


For working class families in these regions, many say they are doing ok compared with what they can see happening in the “big smoke” of Adelaide.


The economic “good times” in regional SA have extended to the dairy manufacturing industry as well where there is a high export demand for milk powder in particular. This has led to the re-opening of two milk product factories in the lower Murray River region at Murray Bridge and Jervois, the conversion by a Victorian-based rural capitalist of a potato processing plant at Penola in to a milk products factory and the establishment of a Chinese corporation-owned milk powder processing plant at Tantanoola north west of Mt Gambier.


Combined, these four new plants employ over 300 people in full time work.


To the north of South Australia, the total collapse of the industrial base of Whyalla has been temporarily averted due to the decision by British capitalist Gupta to invest and modernise the steel works once owned by BHP when Whyalla also had a thriving ship building industry. Whyalla has been saved by the benevolent capitalist! That has been the extent of the state and federal government attempts to salvage the damage done to people’s lives in the state through the near complete destruction of the state’s manufacturing base ironically developed under the long parliamentary office of the Liberal Party’s Playford Government.


6. Contradictions - Agriculture, Environment, Mining


For the regional areas of South Australia and indeed for the majority of the state’s people living in Adelaide there is an on-going threat to people’s livelihoods through boom and bust cycles of capitalism. That is the competing capitalist interests and their various parliamentary political cheer-leaders putting these interests before the interests of the people and the state as a whole.


This includes the interests of Indigenous People more than all others. Mining companies, many foreign-owned, never stop wanting to mine on land owned by Indigenous People. The talk of expanded uranium mining never goes away and on top of uranium mining Indigenous People have to put up with both state and federal governments wanting at various times to build nuclear waste dumps on their land! In relation to the latter, Premier Weatherill has been forced to back off (for now) on his disastrous thought bubble for a nuclear waste dump in SA.


However, he seems unable or unwilling to control his Energy Minister Koutsantonis’s (some call him Fractonis) enthusiasm for Coal Seam Gas expansion in to prime agricultural regions, especially in the South East. Koutsantonis is also probably largely responsible for another project announced by Weatherill: a somewhat different form of gas extraction, an Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) project in Leigh Creek, Adnyamathanha Land in the Flinders Ranges.  The Government’s push in favour of these forms of gas extraction is a grave danger to not only the agricultural industries that it relies on so substantially for its own government revenue, but also to the vast underground water basin in the driest state in the driest continent.


Then in the same breath, the Weatherill Government comes out guns blazing as the champion of “Saving The River Murray” as the Murray Darling Plan literally dries up due to competing economic interests along its arduous, meandering all the way to its clogged up mouth at Goolwa.


These are examples of how the parliamentary parties and the capitalist state are unable to solve the basic issues of the people. They put the interests of one or other group of capitalists before the people and in desperation turn to capitalists (eg Gupta) to provide solutions to people’s basic problems.


Even this snapshot of what is happening in SA in the last 6 months demonstrates the crying need for a planned economy which only an independent (from imperialist vultures) socialist Australia as a whole in which regions are part of a national plan for sustainable development can deliver.


7. The SA Parliamentary Election of March 2018


Faced with this situation, how will the majority of people vote at the coming March election?


It is pretty clear to most working people that neither Labor or Liberal Parties will put working people’s interests first on a consistent basis.
How will people react to the SA Best outfit of Nick Xenophon? Even the “insiders” of the Labor Party machine say they have no idea how this election will turn out.


The Liberals’ only hope is that many people vote for them just because they want a change after 16 years of State Labor government.  The gormless leader of the Libs, Steven Marshall, is pushing the line that Labor is tired, but the infrastructure boom referred to earlier, together with the reintroduction and extension of trams to the city and all of the spin associated with the Gupta and Elon Musk initiatives make it hard for him to sustain that line of attack.


SA Best is not really interested in winning the election but presenting as a “keep the bastards honest” option for people, an option that does not stack up with the reality that Xenophon is at heart a representative of one section or another of the capitalist class just like Labor and Liberal.  His popularity will probably wane after this election, even if he emerges as a “kingmaker” in the formation of the next government. We need a good analysis of what he represents and why he is so popular.


The only benefit for the working people in re-electing Labor is that it will be easier to protect them from further privatisations due to Labor’s still significant relationship with unions and a greater commitment by Labor to renewable energy, notwithstanding Koutsantonis’s love of coal seam gas fracking!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Statement from the Central Committee on current Australian conditions

Imperialist rivalries and inroads by Chinese capital into sections of the Australian economy and growing political influence is worrying US imperialism who up to now had Australia’s absolute loyalty economically, politically and militarily.


The increasing penetration of Chinese capital has US imperialism agitated and whipping up anti-China frenzy.  Preparations for war with China will undoubtedly drag Australia into the military conflict.


The threat to US hegemony locally and globally is overshadowing Australia politically, economically and militarily.  These imperialist rivalries worsen the situation for Australia’s working people, but also sharpen the contradictions between imperialism and the people and push the struggle for independence higher up on the agenda. These conditions are opening up greater opportunities for the revolutionary forces to step up the anti-imperialist independence struggle and the promotion of socialism.


There are divisions and conflicted loyalties within different sections of the imperialist ruling class, and their servants in parliament, over Chinese investment in Australia.  These contradictions are throwing Australia’s political landscape into some mayhem and evident in a myriad of ways. Nevertheless, there’s not much difference between the main parliamentary political parties’ comprador class in their willingness to sell Australia and the people to an imperialist bidder with the biggest nugget of gold. (eg Darwin Port, farmlands, selling off public instrumentalities, etc.). They make noises about Chinese interference and espionage but mainly to placate the U.S. dominant power, and public concerns about selling off the country.  The Chinese know their vast reserves of capital will put them in the winning seat.


Presently, the LNP is rusted on to the US whilst sections of the ALP seek closer political ties with Chinese businesses.  But both vie for Chinese capital to maintain capitalism in Australia and continue the exploitation of Australia’s working people and natural resources. Both major parliamentary parties are loyal to US global military and economic hegemony.  On matters of US-Australia military and political alliance a few voices within the establishment raise concerns about Australia slavishly following the US into wars and interoperability into its war machine and multinational weapons manufacturers. Richard Butler, of Iraq ‘weapons of mass destruction’ fame, is calling for Australia to be more independent militarily and in a recent article refers to “US imperialism”.


Parliament, social democracy and the ALP

Bourgeois parliamentary parties and politics are increasingly unstable and reflect the crisis of capitalism and the sharpening contradictions and rivalries – decline of US imperialism and rise of China which threatens to replace US economic hegemony. 
 
Amongst the people there is less confidence in capitalism’s ability to solve economic problems and provide security for the people. 


However, capitalism is not being rejected in a mass way yet, there is cynicism. There is deepening disillusionment with main parliamentary parties and to a lesser degree bourgeois democracy and parliamentarism generally.    For Marxist-Leninists this is the most important aspect of the developing trend – the (slow) shift away from reliance on bourgeois parliamentarism.  This is not in any way to deny the present strong hold of bourgeois parliamentary democracy – and less confidence by the working class in the power of independent struggle of the masses.  No amount of rhetoric in itself will convince the working people that Labor cannot uphold the interests of the people. Only people’s own experiences combined with analysis based on people’s own experiences can assist the development of this process.


These conditions especially place responsibility on the revolutionary working class and its party to assist the development of revolutionary consciousness and organisation of the masses.  Objective conditions are moving fast, however the subjective consciousness and organisation is uneven and as always lags behind the objective conditions.  This is the present reality that we need to take account of.  It is partly due to a long period of absence of an active revolutionary Marxist-Leninist party deeply connected to the people.  Economic conditions and the temporary victory and influence of revisionism is one aspect of these complex conditions.  Bourgeois ideology of self-serving individualism, diminishing confidence and conviction in the revolutionary capacity and potential of the working class and the sugar-coated bullets of capitalism have paralysed some, and killed off others.


The ALP  

In practice the ALP has largely abandoned bourgeois social democracy, although the leaders still use the smokescreen of social democracy to deceive their progressive members, followers, workers and trade union activists.  Capital has less capacity to make concessions.  The ALP has lost much of the previously enthusiastic following by rank and file workers whose struggles it diverts more than ever from workplaces, streets and communities into bourgeois parliament and the ALP.  Even the organised working class under the leadership of ALP dominated trade union bureaucracy has less confidence in the capacity of their own collective strength and struggle and hesitantly park their vote with the ALP, half-hoping Labor will somehow fix things up for the workers.  This disengagement from independent working class struggle is vigorously pushed by union peak bodies and the ALP.   And yet in conversations with workers and ordinary people there’s resignation and a sense of powerlessness about the futility of parliament, and also concerns about the direction Australia is moving in, including foreign domination by corporations, selling off Australia, privatisation, etc.  For communists this is the more significant trend – though uneven and still not fully developed -  that we need to assist and encourage in its growth. 


Experience of Labor in government will deepen the exposure of its true character of serving capital.  However, unless the experience of Labor is connected to Marxist analysis and used to point towards an independent working class struggle and agenda, independence and socialism, workers will not be able to get off the merry go round of parliamentarism (including Greens and independents), hoping that the next newly minted, chest beating politician will somehow be different.  These conditions obligate the revolutionary working class organisation to not only assist in the understanding of the ALP’s service to capital, but importantly offer a political and practical direction of revolutionary independent working class struggle through our involvement in people’s struggles – mass work and mass line. We have to be at one with the ordinary people to know, understand and respect the immediate needs and developing consciousness.


Working class struggle and trade unions

One of the main contradictions in the working class movement today is the attachment to bourgeois parliament on the one hand and the (slow) movement in the opposite direction of growing disillusionment with parliamentary parties and politicians on the other. It’s a contradiction that will continue to develop and sharpen as economic and other conditions will compel the ALP to reveal itself to the working class as the party of the bourgeoisie.  The main aspect of this contradiction is the disillusionment with Labor (and other social democratic parties) and looking beyond parliament to deal with attacks on the organised working class, privatisation, integration and subservience under the US imperialist military command, independence, etc.  


Revolutionaries actively participate in the day to day struggles with workers - for workers’ rights, the right to strike, wages and conditions, secure jobs.  In the course of participating with workers in these struggles we put forward an alternative independent and revolutionary direction of struggle that points to the root cause of peoples’ many problems – multinational domination of the country who hold the real capitalist ruling class power behind the fa├žade of parliamentary democracy.  We propose a new direction of an independent vision and an independent agenda for immediate demands and struggle.  It’s not a blue print, but implemented and practised in diverse ways appropriate to local places and conditions – it needs infinite flexibility and creativity.


Militancy and struggle by workers organised in unions – Longford, Oakey, CUB etc. is mainly driven by rank and file workers who demand their leadership’s commitment.  Without this persistence none of these struggles would have continued if left to union leadership.  Significantly, most of these are in struggles against the multinationals.


In our work and connections with rank and file and union leadership we have to constantly reflect, review and assess our collective experiences, acknowledge and correct mistakes, and keep our sights fixed on building an independent, and revolutionary, working class agenda and leadership.


Anti-imperialist independence movement

The sharpening and more open imperialist contradictions and rivalries in Australia are raising anti-imperialist independence consciousness and sentiments more widely.  Subjectively this consciousness is not widely defined in the scientific terms of Marxism-Leninism.  However, in their varied forms and expressions they reflect the objective and undeniable facts and its truth.  They will continue to mature as imperialist competition intensifies and the US more desperately and openly tries to tighten the screws on Australia and protect its domination. One of the many forms of this more conscious anti-imperialist expression is the growing demand for an independent Australian foreign policy and extricating Australia from U.S. wars of aggression.

“No to War!” Greek Party calls for unity of Greek and Turkish peoples

Tensions that only serve imperialist interests are growing between Greece and Turkey.  The Communist Party of Greece (Marxist-Leninist) has issued a call for the Greek and Turkish peoples to unite against war.​ We reprint their statement below:

NO TO WAR!


PEOPLES ARE NOT CANNON FODDER OF THE IMPERIALISTS-MURDERERS!


The new dangerous naval incident involving the ramming of a Hellenic Coast Guard vessel in the vicinity of Imia islets, the announcements of military exercises and the subsequent reservation of marine areas, the airspace and maritime violations, and the escalation of threats once again underscore the increased perils of war that threaten both peoples of Greece and Turkey. These perils mostly spring out of the ferocious imperialistic enmity, that has transformed the area of Middle East and South-Eastern Mediterranean into an arena of a bloody game of influence and domination. Through interventions, stirring up of local reactionary contradictions, chauvinism, and redrawing of borders mostly in Syria, but not only there. The local bourgeoisie classes, reactionary regimes, as well as all region’s governments are being dragged in and manipulated in this ferocious enmity. They exchange the roles of aggressor and defendant according to the changes of balance of great powers and the strategical plans of imperialistic staffs.


The latest events prove that NATO not only doesn’t guarantee peace and security but is also an element of destabilization that brings war perils for our people. Just as it is for the rest of the peoples in Balkans and Southeastern Mediterranean. The Greek government, following and enhancing the American-NATO line, has dragged the country deeper into greater danger.


• By granting full freedom to the American military forces through their bases and accommodations, especially the one in Souda, Crete.
• Through the alignment to NATO’s orders in the Balkans, and especially in the framework of relations/contradictions with the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia.
• With the enhancement of the political-military relations and the so-called axes of reactionary regimes in the region of S.E. Mediterranean, especially with the incendiary of war and conqueror-state of Israel.
• In its coordination with the far-reaching plans of the western multinational oil and natural gas companies the presence of whom has been historically proven to almost always be connected to the incitement of contradictions, unjust wars, and abundance of peoples’ spilled blood.
• Through the utilization of the reactionary agreements of European Union and Turkey regarding the refugee issue, transforming the Aegean Sea to NATO Sea and with hopes to enhance their role.

 

Nothing of the above guarantees peace, security, and prosperity to the people and the new generation. On the contrary, it portends new sacrifices, new billion-euro armament programs, new nationalist deceptive campaigns of blind hatred towards the neighboring peoples, new disasters!


On the opposite shores of Aegean Sea, in Turkey, the fascist regime guised in a parliamentary cloak, and with the support of all the bourgeoise parties already wages two wars. The first one (and the long-term one) is against the Turkish people, the liberties, and the democratic rights, but also against Kurds of South-Eastern Turkey. Towns and villages are being bombed, political adversaries, academics, and journalists are being imprisoned, tortured, and silenced. The heroic Turkish revolutionary Left, which with a heavy cost resists the fascism and chauvinism, is being hunted down. Only today, 14/2, the authorities have enforced an unprecedented curfew in 176 villages and municipalities in Diyarbakir!


The second war is the invasion in the Kurdish territories of the Northern Syria, which today are centered in Afrin, yesterday in the Northern Iraq, infringing every sense of international law. Just like all the other bourgeoisie classes in the area, the Turkish bourgeoisie aims to obtain an important regional role, to be favored by the imperialist element, to exploit the contradictions, and to avoid any rifts on the cusp of a new circle of sharing and re-sharing of the Middle East, its borders and its sources of wealth.



The working class, the new generation, and the people must not stand indifferent in front of the perspective of these nightmarish events. They must revolt against NATO’s war plans and the policy of the government which serves them.


• To resist to every power which seeks to redraw borders with the blood of peoples.
• To demand that all the treaties which define borders and at the same time all the liberties and rights of peoples and minorities are respected.
• To stand against nationalism, chauvinism, and the cries of hatred for neighboring peoples.
• To struggle for Greece to leave NATO and the European Union, to boot out the American bases, and to topple down the policy of war-friendly axes with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
• To denounce the plans of bisection of Cyprus and its transformation into a NATO’s aircraft-carrier.
• To protest the imperialist’s and their multinational energy companies’ bloody politics of stirring up the contradictions.
CPG(m-l) calls upon every working, democratic, and peaceful person to take a side, to mobilize, and to fight to block the war developments that loom on the horizon. First and mostly fighting against the politics of the imperialists and the government that serves them!


• NO TO ANY CHANGE OF BORDERS!
• FRIENDSHIP AND SOLIDARITY OF PEOPLES AND NATIONS OF THE REGION
• OUT WITH THE USA-NATO-EU-RUSSIA FROM THE BALKANS AND THE MIDDLE EAST!
• DOWN WITH THE GOVERNMENT POLITICS OF DEPENDENCE AND SUBMISSION
• NO TOLERANCE TO THE ENMITIES AND OPPORTUNISM OF THE RULLING CLASSES
• NO TO FASCISM, NATIONALISM, AND CHAUVINISM!


Wednesday, February 14, 2018