Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Saviours no more: Finance capital, Greensill, Gupta and the Whyalla steelworks.


 Written by: Alex M. on 31 March 2021

Over the Labour Day long weekend news filtered through that the ‘saviour’ of the Whyalla steelworks, Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, was experiencing difficulty with its finances (see Ned K’s 8 March Vanguard article here. ) That is, one of GFG’s key financiers, Greensill Capital, has spectacularly imploded leaving question marks hanging over GFG Alliance’s ability to continue its various operations here in Australia and overseas. 

A Bundaberg born businessman, Lex Greensill, founded Greensill Capital in 2011. Greensill went to one of the heartlands of finance capital, the City of London and established a financial firm that specialises in Supply Chain Finance.

Supply Chain Finance is like a lot of financial practice; it’s rather difficult for an ordinary person to comprehend. (The jargon and complexity associated with finance and financial instruments seems to be opaque by design.) Essentially, it is the speeding up of the payment process for companies actually making products. For example, a large manufacturer producing the bourgeois economists’ favourite item, the widget, has orders for the production of millions of widgets. The orders are from a number of companies involved in either using the widgets in their own production processes or selling the widgets (Marx called the latter merchants). Important here is the time discrepancy between the production of the widgets and the payment of the invoices by the companies that ordered the widgets. For the manufacturer it can be crucial to receive payment as soon as possible in order to have capital to start the production process again. However, invoices can have payments stipulated for 30 days or later after receipt of the widgets.

In order to overcome the time delay between production of commodities and payment for same, credit came into being. In volume three of Capital Marx describes the importance of credit and what he termed fictitious capital for the circulation of capital and the production process. Credit helped overcome the constant struggle to amass money for payment of commodities among other things. On the basis of the perceived soundness of a business or an individual, financial entities such as banks extended credit, thus allowing the production process to continue or the purchase of commodities to proceed with little to no delay. Of course the extension of credit comes at a cost; the debtor has to pay back the loan with interest. Marx highlighted the usefulness of credit and what was later called finance capital, while also pointing out the downside, namely the speculation associated with financial practice. 

Since Marx’s time there has been an exponential rise in the number of financial instruments and financial corporations. In addition, the fragmentation of production processes has proceeded apace. That is, rather than the production of widgets taking place in a single location, the various parts of the widget making process can be separated out with manufacturing firms specialising in producing a part or parts of the widget. These production plants can be located in various parts of the globe due to lower wages, tax breaks, less stringent environmental laws, higher profits and so on, thus adding complexity to the supply chain. A classic modern example of this is the Apple IPhone where Apple subcontracts the production of parts of the phone out to Foxconn in China and the packaging of the IPhone to other companies in other cities and countries. The IPhone and its packaging is the result of a number of production processes located in various parts of the globe, entailing numerous changes of location, warehousing and shipping, before distribution to retailers. Such complex supply chains have helped drive the rise of Supply Chain Finance.



Greensill Capital as a provider of Supply Chain Finance acted as an intermediary between producers and merchants, buying invoices at a discount. Namely, paying the producer/manufacturer before the invoice is due at less than the face value of the invoice (the discount). The manufacturer is happy to get less than the full price as stipulated in the contract/invoice because they are getting payment quickly before the due date. For the purchaser of the manufactured goods, they don’t have to pay the manufacturer; they now have to pay Greensill when they (the original purchaser) take possession of the manufactured goods. 

All very well, but there is a further financial twist; the debt owed to Greensill Capital as holder of the invoices was packaged up as Bonds and sold on the Bond market by Greensill. (Or an entity acting on behalf of Greensill; it is not necessary for the purposes of this piece to ascertain who organized the Bond issue as Greensill is the initiator of the process. One of the purchasers of the Bonds, a major financial capitalist enterprise called Credit Suisse grew alarmed with Greensill’s exposure to one group of companies – GFG – and stopped trading in the Greensill Bonds.) 

Such a step was feasible due to the multitude of invoices they held. Amassing a huge amount of invoices with the attendant streams of income coming in from the original purchasers of the manufactured goods, packaging these income streams into a financial instrument (Bonds) helped Greensill fund their continuing operations in Supply Chain Finance and other areas of finance. 

From its beginning in 2011, Greensill Capital grew dramatically due in part to its operating in what is called the shadow banking sector. Regulations and prudential requirements that financial institutions like banks are subjected to are evaded in the shadow banking sector. Emboldened by the lack of regulatory oversight and its ever-expanding Supply Chain Finance business, Greensill Capital indulged in some risky practices, or, more appropriately, speculative pursuits. As mentioned above, Greensill was one of the GFG Alliance’s major sources of finance. As well as the supply chain financing provided by Greensill to GFG, Greensill advanced GFG some additional unsecured loans resulting in GFG owing something like $4 billion US dollars to Greensill.  

The house of cards started to fall last year, when, with the Covid induced downturn in global capitalism, businesses which owed payments to Greensill Capital began to default in large numbers. Alarm bells rang in insurance companies that underwrote Greensill’s financial business. Insurers declined insurance to Greensill considering it too risky to stay involved. Things snowballed, with Gupta’s GFG Alliance refusing to pay back what it owed to Greensill as much of it was in the form of unsecured loans. Greensill went under in a matter of days in late February, early March and GFG is frantically searching for new financiers.  

This sorry tale leaves the Whyalla steel workers and their families wondering what will happen next. Time will tell, as this saga has not finished yet. What is clear though is that capitalism and its parasitical offshoot finance capital are not and cannot be the saviours of working class hopes and aspirations for secure and meaningful work and lives. Only socialist planning of production and finance can ensure the fulfilment of those working class hopes and aspirations.

 


Friday, March 26, 2021

Film review: White Riot, a documentary by Rubika Shah

 


Written by: (Contributed) on 27 March 2021

The release, in Australia, of the film White Riot has provided an important contribution toward our understanding of the forces of reaction and the ability of ordinary working people to organise effectively to combat the menace of racism.

The forces operating behind the main theme of the film are extremely historically important; they provide many insights into the age.

Originally released in the UK in 2019, the film White Riot showed how a younger generation were mobilised by the Rock Against Racism movement, which operated in conjunction with the Anti-Nazi League (ANL). It mobilised hundreds of thousands of people between 1976 to the early 1980s when both organisations were quietly shelved having served their purpose. The political climate, by the early 1980s, had changed dramatically with the election of the Thatcher administration in 1979; other political and trade-union campaigns were prioritised.

Rock Against Racism was largely a cultural movement composed of alternative rock bands together with reggae and punk counterparts which was established following racist statements from Eric Clapton and David Bowie. Both performing artistes were known to hold far-right political views. (1)

The ANL was a broad-based popular political organisation composed of progressives and left-wing groups which held together in an alliance over the single issue of combating the far-right. The Trotskyite Socialist Workers' Party was one of the original organisers of the ANL although other anti-fascists also contributed to the ANL. It was responsible for distributing huge amounts of left-wing propaganda couched in simple, easy to understand terminology for ordinary people; one broadsheet, for example, used official government statistics to show how for every immigrant into the UK, nearly two other people emigrated often to countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The ANL were responsible for organising huge rallies with personnel from Rock Against Racism which included the Clash, Tom Robinson Band, Sham 69, Steel Pulse and many others who would play to crowds of over 100,000 supporters in London Parks. Many of the rallies and marches to the concerts attracted easy to identify supporters from across a wide political spectrum; it was often fascinating and historically of immense importance to watch young punk-rockers closely associated with anarchist political view-points, marching alongside older trade-union members, communists who had been associated with the anti-fascist rallies against Mosley's Blackshirts in the 1930s.

The music and culture of the period mirrored other dominant factors in UK society.

The period 1976 to the early 1980s was period of immense social upheaval; unemployment, which had not been a problem in the UK since the mid-1930s, started, once again, to become commonplace, particularly in large northern cities with traditional industries. The cities had also attracted first generation immigrants in search of a better life in the heartlands of the British Commonwealth. Those who were white and native-born were in competition for jobs and subsequently targeted by far-right political groups including the National Front and British Movement with white supremacist standpoints; crude arguments about sending black and Asian people back to their countries of origin were used to divide the working class.

Other significant factors, in the background to the period, also came into play and were to have a major bearing upon the problem.

The earlier period, 1970-74, had seen the dramatic wave of industrial disputes which included the 1972 and 1974 miners' strikes, which eventually toppled the Edward Heath-led Conservative government. It is, therefore, not surprising those who identified with the business-classes and that Conservative government sought to divide the opposition to the Tories. Racism was a convenient way of conducting their political business. And in the UK, with its colonial past, it is not difficult to find supporters of a racist disposition, including those in influential and government positions.

Enoch Powell, a prominent right-wing M.P. in Westminster, for example, had fanned the flames of racial hatred earlier with calls to end black and Asian immigration. His demagogic speaking style was clearly aimed toward incitement although sympathetic media outlets always presented Powell as a credible parliamentary figure.

Secondly, the incoming Labour administrations of 1974, were thrust into the forefront of two major confrontations with Apartheid South Africa, which was actively supported by the UK far-right. In May, 1975, the Wilson government took a major position along with Australian counterpart Gough Whitlam at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, to condemn Apartheid and white supremacism in Southern Africa. The termination of the Simonstown Agreement by the Labour government the same year, was, likewise, a major blow to the defence and security of the Apartheid government in Pretoria which was already under siege following the Portuguese military coup the year before which effectively removed the buffer protecting both South Africa and Rhodesia.

Both developments set the Wilson labour governments on a collision course with the business sectors, which benefited from favourable trade with South Africa. The economic considerations were accompanied by intelligence operations. The publication, Inside BOSS, South Africa's Secret Police, by Gordon Winter (1981), has revealed the large-scale intelligence operations conducted in the UK at the time on behalf of Pretoria. They used many fellow-travellers to rally support for Apartheid in South Africa and the far-right in the UK. Covert funding operations also took place, as the subsequent Muldergate scandal revealed; the Apartheid regime funded front-organisations to conduct nefarious agendas in many countries, often using very subtle techniques. South African government officials were responsible for manipulating huge flows of finance for clandestine use through supporters, often for psychological warfare operations conducted through media outlets and sympathetic journalists.  

Harold Wilson, decades later, continued to accuse the Apartheid regime in Pretoria of covert operations in the UK designed to undermine his governments.

It is important, therefore, to establish the lineage of the far-right, from the puppet-masters behind the scenes to their front-line bully-boys and thugs.

The UK National Front and British Movement rested upon far-right organisations from earlier in the Cold War. It is not difficult to establish their links with Apartheid South Africa and their intelligence services. The National Front and British Movement, for example, evolved out of the League of Empire Loyalists, itself linked into the British League of Rights, with parallel organisations elsewhere in the British Commonwealth, the US and Southern Africa. (1)

The Australian connection to the League was conducted through the Australian League of Rights (ALOR), whose leader, Eric Butler, had been employed as a trainer of the South African Security Police in the late 1960s. (2) Butler was a regular visitor to Southern Africa and responsible for developing extensive far-right organisations; it was noted, nevertheless, 'Mr Butler places importance on his contacts with Christian figures and others in a position to lend him platforms and a cloak of respectability'. (3)

It should be noted as highly relevant that the Apartheid Police were specialists in unconventional warfare techniques when dealing with adversaries, particularly those who challenged white supremacist standpoints. No doubt Butler taught his Security Police students well: the repressive techniques included electrical torture, sexual molestation, prolonged jail – without trial - and, on a routine basis, savage beatings. (4)

Whether these techniques were later deployed to kill ANL member, Clement Blair Peach, a New Zealand special needs teacher employed in a London Primary School who was attending an anti-fascist rally in April, 1979, which was savagely attacked by a special police unit, has never been legally proved. A subsequent 130-page government report, however, led to an official conclusion he had 'almost certainly been killed by police'. (5) An official raid on a local police station by government investigators revealed the special unit concerned had amassed a large collection of unconventional warfare weapons including clubs designed to hide outer symptoms of massive internal brain damage.

The initial political flashpoint in the UK, however, took place earlier in 1977.

The National Front contested numerous council seats for the 1977 Greater London Council elections. They won 120,000 votes with a manifesto of forced repatriation of black and Asian immigrants. Following meetings between various left-wing groups in a House of Commons Committee Room, the ANL was established. It went into immediate operation; branches were founded in most towns and cities, attracting widespread support.

Part of the political work of ANL activists was networking sympathetic groups and ethnic minorities and establishing telephone trees for mobilising supporters at short notice. Many ANL supporters soon became political activists. One example of the extent of the networking took place in the lead-up to the 1979 general election and a National Front meeting in Bradford, an area of the north of England with a high density of immigrants from the Asian sub-continent. The proposed meeting, in a school building, was regarded as provocative, to say the very least.

In nearby Huddersfield an ad hoc committee of ANL supporters took over the student union premises for a couple of hours the afternoon of the proposed National Front meeting that evening. They successfully mobilised over 1,500 people for a counter-demonstration using personal contacts and telephone-trees. After the Police provided security for the seven neo-Nazis to enter their election meeting, the counter-demonstration prevented them from leaving the premises for hours afterwards.  

Elsewhere, all over the UK, similar demonstrations and counter-demonstrations took place on the regular basis.

Following the dissolution of Rock Against Racism and the ANL, many of those associated with them moved into other related areas of political activism, including anti-discrimination bodies, the Anti-Apartheid Movement and solidarity work with Central and Latin America to name but a few, together with usual trade-union and political work.

White Riot is recommended viewing for all progressive Australians!

With the far-right gaining ground in Australia the film will provide some practical ideas about how the forces of reaction can be combated: ordinary people can change the world!

*****

The author was an active member of Huddersfield ANL and an under-graduate at the local Polytechnic where he studied for a B.A.(Hons) in Politics, Philosophy and History. He attended many of the national and regional protests and demonstrations against the far-right during the period. He also lived in a predominantly immigrant suburb and was invited to join the local West Indian Community Centre in recognition of his work for the ANL.

Throughout the 1980s the author worked in the Manchester district as a teacher in the post-school sector and rose through the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) to the National Council before leaving the UK to work overseas.

On becoming an immigrant into Australia in 1994 the author returned to the shop-floor and blue-collar trade-unionism and is still a union delegate.


1.     Facing the music in sobering 70s note,The  Weekend Australian, 20-21 March 2021, has provided statements from Clapton and Bowie glorifying far-right positions on the race issue.

2.     The Australian League of Rights, A Study in Political Extremism and Subversion, Andrew A. Campbell, (Victoria, 1978), Appendix C, page 170.
3.     Eric Butler training SA Security Police, Front Page, The Star (South Africa), 15 July 1967.
4.     Voices of Hate, A study of the ALOR and its director Eric D. Butler, K.D. Gott, (Melbourne, 1965), page 44.
5.     The Spy in the Newsroom, Gordon Winter, Australian Playboy, June 1982, pp. 111-116.
6.     Blair Peach killed by police, The Guardian (U.K.), 27 April 2010.

 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Stop silencing our scientists! – Part 2


 Written by: Nick G. on 25 March 2021

In 2017, as a direct response to Donald Trump’s incessant attacks on science, US citizens called for a March for Science.  The march was held on Earth Day to emphasise the link to climate change denialism. Around the world, more than a million people marched.

People organised to march in Australia too, the inaugural march occurring on 22 April. People were angered that then Treasurer Scott “Scummo” Morrison had used his parliamentary platform to rub a lump of coal in their faces, taunting them with “This is coal. Don’t be afraid, it won’t hurt you.”

The Prime Minister at the time, Tony Abbott, was an unrepentant representative of big corporate interests that reject science if it does not serve capital accumulation. His was reputedly the first Australian Federal Government in 81 years not to have a Minister for Science.
 
Thousands marched in the big cities and regional centres. Marches were held in 2018 and 2019, but not during the pandemic year.
 
Attacks on science and scientists are really part of a larger pattern of neoliberal revenge against advocates of evidence-based policy making.
 
It is one thing for a denizen of Cowards’ Castle to defund scientists and advocate opposition to science-based evidence, but much of that evidence gets suppressed long before politicians get the opportunity to belittle it. 
 
A study published in September 2020 found that “the suppression of science through constraints on commentary and communication was commonly reported within government, industry, and, less often, at universities. The science suppression reported included complete prohibition on communication, as well as alteration of communications to paint government or industry actions or decisions in a misleading, more environmentally friendly, light.”
 
The MDBA censors the CSIRO
 
Richard Beasley, Senior Council Assisting at South Australia’s Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling Basin, refers in his book Dead in the Water to the study undertaken for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) by the government’s  Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Institution (CSIRO) on its dramatically (and unlawfully, according to Beasley) reduced estimate that the environment needed only 2750 gigalitres of water flow on average per annum. Scientists had previously concluded it needed much more, in the range of 7-8000 gigalitres. 
 
In his chapter titled “The best available heavily censored science”, he quotes from the testimony of CSIRO scientist Dr Matthew Colloff who led a team of 30 from the CSIRO which came to the conclusion that the benefits from the MBDA’s lower figure would at best be “marginal”.  To make their research easy to interpret, they used a standard spreadsheet with colour coded symbols showing the impact on ecological targets: green for “would be met”, amber for “probably wouldn’t be met”, and red for “would not be met” The MDBA insisted that the “traffic lights” be excluded because they reflected so badly on their 2750 gigalitre figure. The CSIRO went along with this censorship of its own report. 
 
Further interference by the MDBA occurred when it unilaterally changed a reference to the “increasing vulnerability” of trees in the higher elevations of floodplains to them seeing “little improvement”. The latter implies some improvement which the former denies. Beasley quotes from the Royal Commission transcript other “editorial” alterations to Colloff’s report. When Colloff reported to a CSIRO Executive that his results were being “manipulated and interfered with”, she told him words to the effect that “Well, we don’t have a choice because if we don’t do it, we won’t get paid.” The threat was that the MBDA would withhold payment to the CSIRO unless it agreed to scientific censorship.
 
Censoring the CSIRO
 
The power of the fossil fuel corporations and the stridency of climate change denialism has resulted in other censorship of CSIRO studies. In 2009, the Rudd Labor government was trying to get a market-based carbon emissions trading scheme through parliament. A paper critical of the scheme was suppressed by the CSIRO, whose CEO, Megan Clark, had worked for  Western Mining Corporation and BHP-Billiton. Clark attacked the report's author and threatened him with unspecified punishment. (After working at the CSIRO for five years she went back to fossil fuels as a non-executive director at Rio Tinto Ltd.) 
 
In August 2015 the CSIRO discontinued its annual July and August survey, conducted over the previous five years, of how Australians viewed global warming and their support for action. In the previous 2013 poll, 86 per cent agreed with the statement that climate change was occurring and only 7.6 per cent disagreed. This clamp-down occurred under new CEO Dr Larry Marshall  – a former venture capitalist with Southern Cross Venture Partners. In February 2016, Marshall caused an international outcry after describing Australia's national climate change discussion as "more like religion than science," a week after announcing hundreds of job cuts to the organisation that would reduce the effectiveness of its climate research team.
 
Censoring biodiversity threats
 

Australia has the worst record in the world for species extinction. Prevention of species extinction is meant to be one of the drivers behind the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, yet the government is in the process of significantly weakening it
 
According to the 2020 study, biodiversity is a hot spot for science censorship:
 
Topics that were suppressed are some of the most demanding and complex environmental issues. Australia has the worst record of mammal extinctions globally (Woinarski, Burbidge, & Harrison, 2015) with feral animals, changed fire regimes, and land clearing the key threats (Kearney et al., 2019; Woinarski et al., 2015). Australia is regarded as one of the world's 11 deforestation fronts (WWF, 2015) and is likely to suffer widespread biodiversity loss from climate change and habitat loss over coming decades (Hughes et al., 2017; Segan, Murray, & Watson, 2016). Yet our respondents reported that information about these critical topics has been distorted and suppressed.
 
They are distorted and suppressed because the big miners, the corporate irrigators and agricultural companies don’t want restrictions on their exploitation of the environment. 


In Part 1 of this article, we referred to the threat to the critically endangered regent honeyeater posed by plans to raise the height of the Warragamba Dam. This beautiful bird, which numbers in the low hundreds, is also threatened by land clearance for the Tahmoor Coal Mine expansion and the proposal, with Chinese backing, to develop two massive new coal-fired power stations near Kurri Kurri in the New South Wales Hunter region. These proposals may already have been sidelined as plans for a gas-fired power station, yet another polluting fossil fuel, emerge. In any case, we need the uncensored evidence from scientists on any threats likely to be directed at the regent honeyeater.
 
Silent blight
 
In the September 2020 study referred to earlier in this article, study participants described the pressures to be silent. Some of their comments include:
 
“I declared the (action) unsafe. I was overruled and … was told to be silent or never have a job again.”
“an email was circulated to our whole department (environmental) warning us not to attend protests or comment publicly on the development.”
“We are often forbidden (from) talking about the true impacts of, say, a threatening process […] especially if the government is doing little to mitigate the threat.”
“I was directly intimidated by phone and Twitter by (a senior public servant).”
“… governments allow (industry) to treat data collected as commercial in confidence. This means experts most able to comment on the details of big mining and construction projects are hopelessly conflicted and legally gagged from discussing these projects in public.”
“(Government) staff are rewarded or penalized on the basis of complying with opinions of senior staff regardless of evidence.”
“I proposed an article in The Conversation about the impacts of mining […] The uni I worked at didn’t like the idea as they received funding from (the mining company).”
“a project … clearly had unacceptable impacts on a critically endangered species…. the approvals process ignore(d) these impacts … Not being able to speak out meant that no one in the process was willing or able to advocate for conservation or make the public aware of the problem.”
“we are often forbidden (from) talking about the true impacts of, say, a threatening process … especially if the government is doing little to mitigate the threat … In this way the public often remains ‘in the dark’ about the true state and trends of many species.”
 
The first of those statements clearly indicate that scientists self-censor information for fear of damaging their careers. It is a fear similar to that which prevented Brittany Higgins from initially proceeding with a police complaint against her alleged rapist. Like Brittany, they work inside toxic cultures and coercive hierarchical structures where vested interests conspire to prevent important scientific information, particularly about environmental threats, from reaching the public or decision-makers.
 
We make this pledge now to the scientists of Australia, that an independent and socialist republic will make their research work inviolable, that their independence will be respected at all times.
 
Stop silencing the scientists of Australia!

 

Stop silencing our scientists! – Pt. 1


 Written by: Nick G. on 24 March 2021

The revelation, yesterday, that the NSW government had tried to change the work of a scientist preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a proposal to raise the height of Sydney’s Warragamba Dam will sadly come as no surprise to the scientific community.

Scientists, and particularly those working in areas like conservation and climate change, have told researchers that they “self-censor information for fear of damaging their careers, losing funding or being misrepresented in the media (and that) senior managers or ministers’ officers prevented researchers from speaking truthfully on scientific matters.” 
 
In the current extreme rainfall and flooding event over parts of NSW, Queensland and Victoria, the overflow of floodwaters from the Warragamba Dam has given some credibility to plans, first mooted some years ago, to raise the dam wall by at least 14 metres.
 
However, this has serious environmental and social implications:
 
It could see the destruction of over 1,200 culturally significant Aboriginal sites according to Gundungurra Traditional Owners
 
It could inundate over 4,700 hectares of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park and destroy the last wild river in Western Sydney, the Kowmung River.
 
The project would likely impact up to half of the remaining population of the critically endangered regent honeyeater; and 28 species of threatened animals, including nine mammals. Regent honeyeaters are so rare that young birds aren't learning their own song.
 
The scientist preparing the EIS had estimated that the cost to NSW of compensation for environmental damage would be $2.88 billion, more than four times the initial estimate of the project cost, touted at $690 million.
 
What followed were attempts to force her to change key findings in the draft EIS.
 
She was pressured to change language about impacts on plants and animals from "will likely kill" to "may impact” and to change her categorisation of the damage expected to occur upstream of the dam — where the higher wall would flood ecosystems — from "direct" impacts of the project to “indirect” impacts.
 
If the impacts were considered "indirect", the government would not have to pay compensation upfront and would only assess and pay for any damage after it occurred.   
 
Pressure on the scientist by the government is unlawful and corrupt.  The law requires that an EIS be conducted by an independent assessor. Under unlawful pressure to change her findings, she quit.
 
She was immediately replaced by someone who, until then, had been working for the government on the dam-raising project at WaterNSW. 
 
Harry Burkitt from the Colong Foundation for Wilderness said: "Why is someone who is trying to get an outcome for WaterNSW in raising Warragamba Dam wall, now being put in charge of determining the ecological impacts of this proposal?"
 
Professor of corporate governance at UTS Thomas Clarke said the revelations were shocking.
 
"A profound concern outlined here is that the NSW government is allowing the conditions to be created for a major ecological disaster to the ancient ecology of the Blue Mountains, and has allowed a systemic undermining of governance processes to enable this including a serious neglect of its own code of conduct concerning objective advice and conflicts of interest," he said.
 
"This apparent manipulation of results to suit NSW agency interests is directly contradicting the principles of NSW regulation."
 
The silencing of scientists like the ecologist in this example, is seriously undermining the community’s right to know. 
 
It is indicative of how policy-making under capitalism too often treats the public as mushrooms – kept in the dark and fed bullshit.
 
In a second article, we will examine further examples of this ugly phenomenon.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

International Automotive Workers Coordination: Auto workers struggles across the world


 We are pleased to publish the International Information Letter of the International Automotive Workers Coordination, which documents the continuous struggles and solidarity actions of Auto workers across the world. A former car industry comrade has provided a short introduction on the demise of the auto industry here in Australia.

US and Japanese multinationals in the automotive and automotive component industries shut all their remaining plants in Australia in the first two decades of the 21st Century. Initially this caused massive disruption to workers’ lives and whole communities. The multinationals and their compliant governments here at both national and state levels got some temporary reprieve from the working class movement as the automotive industry was such a highly unionized and organised part of the overall economy. 

However, many of the workers thrown out of automotive plants have ended up working in other production areas and services sectors of the economy. Their experience of the power of the collective has (much to the bosses' dislike) spread into previously poorly organised or passively unionised areas of the economy.

For example, in Victoria, an Australian state which had a big automotive industry sector, there has been a significant increase in workers' struggles and strike action in food production plants, by farm workers in large agribusinesses and large wholesale warehousing which distribute the imported products of multinational companies. In March 2021 production workers at US multinational food manufacturer, McCormicks, have been on strike for over three weeks in pursuit of  a first wage increase for five years. McCormicks supplies US multinational fast food manufacturers KFC and MacDonalds.

Some redundant automotive manufacturing workers re-trained in completely different areas such as disabilities and aged care sectors. They took with them to these previously poorly organized sectors a wealth of experience in worker struggle and now contribute to organizing in their new employment areas.

Multinational corporations in the automotive industry will continue to automate, continue to relocate plants or lay off workers. Nothing is more certain than this as long as capitalism exists. However, the experience of the decimation of the automotive industry in Australia is that workers have turned a bad thing in to a good thing by sharing their experience of struggle in new situations in different sectors of the economy, effectively expanding the level of organisation of the working class movement across a greater area of the economy as a whole.

International Automotive Workers Coordination
International Information Letter
GM-Stellantis
No. 20 - March 2021

Dear Colleagues,
The merger of PSA and Fiat is now official. The newly formed Stellantis mega-group includes 14 brands, over 100 production plants in more than 30 countries and over 400,000 employees.

Group CEO Tavares said the merger creates a "shield for jobs" and there will be no plant closures as part of the merger. He said similar things when PSA merged with Opel. Since then, thousands of jobs have been destroyed at Opel. The announcement that the merger is expected to result in an annual "synergy effect" of five billion dollars leaves no doubt that further attacks on jobs, wages and working conditions are to be expected. A Stellantis statement said it was "fully focused on realizing the promised synergies."

The statement was prompted by workers at Chrysler's Sterling Heights (Michigan, USA) plant opposing the introduction of an 84-hour work week. This horror working time of 12 hours a day, seven days a week, is explicitly called a test. Against this, Fiat colleagues throughout Italy, with the support of the union Si-COBAS, are calling for a two-hour protest strike on April 1, with meetings to discuss new initiatives. We call for solidarity - this attack must be repulsed by the whole workforce together!

We are publishing the appeal of the Italian colleagues as an attachment to this Infobrief. Make this initiative known in companies and trade unions! Think about initiatives to support the struggle for shorter working hours and to show solidarity with the colleagues in the USA and Italy! In Germany, this could be linked to the current collective bargaining round.

Also in the Eisenach plant (Germany), Tavares comes with the blackmail that the plant only has a future if flexible shift models are introduced beyond the current ten shifts.

The Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port / England is already acutely threatened. Stellantis boss Tavares claims that the British government is to blame because cars with combustion engines will no longer be allowed from 2030. He wants to blackmail the British government for several hundred million pounds and have the British taxpayer pay for the necessary investments. The company should have invested in environmentally friendly drive systems long ago - at the expense of its profits! The future of 1,000 jobs plus about 7,000 at suppliers is at stake. Union representative John Cooper says: "Unite will fight any attempt to close the car plant with all available means." No plant should stand alone. That's why the company-wide fight for every job is challenged!

The capitalist crisis chaos with corona crisis, environmental crisis, with structural crises and world economic and financial crisis is not caused by the corona virus, nor will it disappear with the possible containment of this virus. In Brazil, the pandemic is completely out of control. The trend is also moving more and more towards political and overall social crises. We are also getting reports from Poland, France, Italy or Germany about a variety of crisis developments. 

After one year with the Corona pandemic, the failure of the capitalist system is revealed more and more every day. The production of vaccines follows the greed for profit of the corporations, not the health protection of the masses. International corporations like Amazon make maximum profits while millions of small traders around the world lose their livelihood. Dissatisfaction with this development is growing in all countries, but dissatisfaction alone will not change anything. What matters is that the protest is actively organized by workers and their unions, as one letter from Poland says: "Otherwise they will destroy us."

We workers must organize and take responsibility for fighting for our rights instead of waiting for help from proxies. We must also lead the struggle against the governments responsible for the failed crisis management and the whole right-wing development!

The pandemic cannot be fought effectively as long as the capitalist corporations expose their workers to the risk of contagion on a daily basis. In Germany, the militant auto workers support the demand for a consistent "lockdown" for two to three weeks with full pay at the expense of the capitalists. All businesses that are not vital must be temporarily closed so that the pandemic can truly be brought under control and we can once again assemble and move without restriction.

Stellantis' 2020 earnings statement was published at the beginning of March. Both merger partners achieved profits. They sold 5.9 million cars last year, generating 134 billion euros in sales. Operating profit was 7.1 billion euros, or 5.3 percent of sales. General Motors reported a profit of 6.4 billion on sales of 6.9 million cars and $109 billion in revenue, a 5.9 percent return on sales. 

The auto industry had a slump in production and sales worldwide in 2020 by 11.2 million or 15 percent, and in Europe by 23.7 percent. China is the only country still experiencing small economic growth. At the same time, the proportion of electric cars is increasing rapidly. In the spirit of unity between man and nature, the move away from fossil fuels must be welcomed, but battery and hybrid technology can in no way be a permanent solution. Automobile workers are challenged more than ever to combine the fight for jobs, wages and working conditions with the fight to save the environment!

It has been one year since the 2nd International Automotive Workers Conference in South Africa. An important discussion there was the question of anti-communism as the main method of the rulers to divide us workers among ourselves and to paralyze us in unreserved cooperation. Controversial and forward-looking discussions were held and a more developed program of struggle was decided, which includes the struggle against anti-communism. We are promoting a broad discussion of the 'Don't Give Anti-Communism a Chance' movement in the plants and unions to strengthen the unity of the corporate workforces.

We received again a number of information from different countries:

In Germany, the collective bargaining round in the metal and electrical industry started on March 1 with demands for higher wages and shorter working hours. The monopolies are taking tough advantage of the Corona crisis and want another "zero" round until mid-2022. 410,000 workers took part in warning strikes and rallies in the first two weeks of the strike. There is great resentment among the workforce, especially because there is also the threat of attacks on jobs and company pensions. Struggles can and must also be waged under health protection measures!

India: GM has stopped car production at the Talegaon plant at the end of the year and will continue to produce spare parts until March. The struggle of the colleagues and their union, which was strongly represented at the 2nd International Automotive Workers Conference, could not prevent this brutal decision. Thousands of jobs are being destroyed because the profit rate in the competitive Indian market was not sufficient for the greed of the capitalists and investments were too expensive for them. But the struggle and the worldwide solidarity were not in vain, they united us more firmly. We wish all the colleagues involved all the best and further good cooperation.

At the end of January, the workers of the new PSA plant K√©nitra in Morocco started a strike for higher wages. The capitalists called in the state to help with military forces to end the strike. The demands could not be enforced at first, but the colleagues have staying power. A union has now been formed at the plant. Solidarity from France and Germany was particularly strong. We received messages of solidarity for the Moroccan colleagues from, among others, two friends from Morocco itself (see IAC homepage). 

Colombia: On January 23rd, a video conference organized by "SABOCAT" took place for the struggling colleagues of ASOTRECOL in Bogota. Joshua Heuertz of SABOCAT called the colleagues "heroes" who have maintained their vigil for reinstatement in the tent in front of the U.S. Embassy for almost ten years. The videoconference certainly helped strengthen the solidarity movement, especially in the U.S.!

In Poland, as we know, Stellantis has built a new PSA plant next to the previous Opel plant in Glivice and wants to take over the workers only on much worse conditions. The trade union Solidarnosc has made a long list, which deteriorations are planned. A colleague writes us: "For higher profits the company will do everything at our expense. Stellantis' strategy is to work more for less pay." In Tychy, even the attendance bonus of 20 euros per month has been eliminated.

 

TAX THE RICH TO END POVERTY


Written by: Ned K. on 22 March 2021

The Living Income For Everyone (LIFE) and SA Anti-Poverty Network organised a small but effective rally on the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide on Friday afternoon 19 March.

The two main banners. Poverty Is A Political Choice and Tax The Rich, Make Them Pay To End Poverty were highly visible to pedestrians passing by and to the many cars passing Parliament House on busy North Terrace.

Speakers included unemployed women workers, workers with a disability and pensioners.

All gave day to day examples of how difficult it  was to exist (let alone really live!) on the measly social security benefits that they received, and then only after jumping through the various procedural hoops before receiving a cent.

The rally was supported by several Union representatives including the Secretary of SA Unions, Angas Story and people from a wide range of community and church groups.

61 participants  at the rally then formed a line of 61 to symbolise that on average there were 61 applicants for every available job, a different picture than that painted by the Morrison Government and the Murdoch press in Adelaide. The latter ran an article today claiming there were 9,000 jobs that employers just could not fill!

The rally participants cheered when one speaker demanded that the Job Seeker income be raised by $80 per week for a single person to get somewhere near a Living Income for people out of work or unable to work.