Friday, July 30, 2021

Israeli spies and dodgy mobile telephones

 Written by: (Contributed) on 31 July 2021

Those who have had a mobile telephone and computerised equipment malfunction might well consider plausible reasons why the devices suddenly cease to operate effectively or develop strange problems. Government agencies and criminals have a long history of intelligence-gathering techniques and harvesting personal data.

The latest disclosure about an Israeli defence organisation hacking an estimated 50,000 mobile telephones has provided a further insight into those regarded as 'persons of interest', and who can ultimately be held responsible for the problem. The procedures used by the shadowy NSO Group organisation have been noted to include the use of Pegasus malware which can be used to activate cameras and microphones on mobile telephones, effectively turning the telecommunications devices into spy equipment without users being aware.

Mobile telephones and computerised equipment have long been targeted by intelligence organisations and criminals as potential sources of valuable personal data. Faceless wonders who lurk inside the corridors of power rarely possess a moral compass or display ethical behaviour; the means, to justify the desired end, takes priority at all times. All secrets, however, tend to eventually enter the public domain, either by chance or carefully chosen 'leaks'. The fact the US intelligence services recently announced they had ceased to rely upon their Crypto AG diplomatic intelligence-gathering equipment supplied to 120 countries when 'the National Security Agency's attention shifted to finding ways to exploit the global reach of Google, Microsoft, Venizon and other US technological powers', was little other than a carefully planned display and 'leak' of swash-buckling bravado. (1)

The Crypto AG spy equipment, which was initially a joint intelligence project with the US and West German governments, was launched in 1970 and eventually liquidated in 2018. (2)

It relied upon diplomatic encryption and decryption equipment being rigged as a trojan horse to enable the US and West German intelligence services to monitor all communications of those regarded as allies and adversaries. (3) The intelligence-gathering was also linked to a larger circle of spooks which included the UK, Israel and the whole Five Eyes network as a result of which 'Code-named Operation Rubicon … rendered half the world's most secret communications transparent to the US, West Germany and a handful of their closest allies'. (4)

It is also important to note the Crypto AG intelligence-gathering operated through a seemingly respectable business front in quiet, nondescript Switzerland, to enable western intelligence services to distance themselves from potential controversy. It was noted, however, 'the CIA appears to have spent years propping up an operation that was more viable as an intelligence platform than a business enterprise'. (5)

The latest revelations about the Israeli NSO Group intelligence-gathering project, likewise, would appear to have followed similar techniques and standard tradecraft. Its founder members in 2010, Shalev Hulio and Omri Lavie, received training and involvement, including active service, with the elite Israeli Defence Force (IDF) Unit 8200 Signals/Intelligence. (6) NSO has also formed part of the large Israeli defence sector which included over 150 active defence companies with a combined revenue of more than $3.5 billion; their exports reached $7 billion in 2012. (7) It is important to note the size of the Israeli defence sector and its workforce makes the industry a dominant player not only inside Israel but also globally, through US-led defence and security agencies.

Israel has been noted as a thoroughly militarised society with a long history of senior political leaders and their associates having personal links with military intelligence. The country is also considered one of the most loyal allies of the US, and regularly used for maverick-type operations on their behalf.

The NSO Group Pegasus project, however, has been under investigation since 2016 following a leak that they had hacked into 50,000 mobile telephones used by political activists, journalists, business executives and politicians. (8) More than 600 political leaders and government officials including heads of state, prime ministers and cabinet ministers are known to have been targeted. (9)

It is also important to note much of the Israeli effort has concentrated upon the Arab world and other areas of their interests, including the southern half of the Americas. Israel has had a long history of involvement in Central and Latin America; the Israeli defence sector has been responsible for selling every country in the region military armaments, except Brazil which has its own arms industries. (10) In country after country, declassified documents have revealed Israeli complicity in state-sanctioned repression, which invariably, has included para-military style operations and extra-judicial killings.

Israeli foreign policy toward the southern half of the Americas invariably followed that of US-led initiatives.

In December, 1982, during the final stages of the Dirty War, for example, which resulted in as many as 11,000 people 'disappeared' following torture and murder in clandestine detention centres together with 20,000 arrests and two million fleeing the country, Israel conducted high-level diplomacy and an arms deal with Argentina. Following concerns raised by then Israeli Foreign Minister Itzhak Shamir with the country's president and his associates about an estimated one thousand Jewish-Argentine 'disappeared' people during the reign of class and state terror, he then 'went on to discuss further arms sales'. (11)

While the NSO Group has stated 'we would like to emphasise that NSO sells its technologies solely to law enforcement and intelligence agencies of vetted governments for the sole purpose of saving lives through preventing crime and terror acts', it has carried a hollow ring of past, questionable, behavioural practices. It has continued to
decline any explanation as to why its Pegasus project has been used to monitor and interfere with large numbers of people who clearly do not form part of that particular category and also have direct involvement in the murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. (12)

What is particularly revealing about the Pegasus project is how it can be activated without the mobile telephone user initiating a download. Once activated, however, it can operate the camera and microphone, and use microwave facilities 'hoovering up all communications and locations', which effectively turn the device into a portable pocket spy without the user even being aware. (13)  There would appear no further need for intelligence agencies to infiltrate political opposition groups or break into and enter their homes and premises - an activated mobile telephone can do the required intelligence-gathering on their behalf.  

As a great deal of US-led intelligence-gathering during the previous Cold War included the infiltration of almost every part of civil society and the placing of citizens and residents on black/grey/or white-lists for identification, further profiling and prioritising further counter-activities, it is not particularly difficult to establish just how the NSO Pegasus program is being used during the present Cold War. (14) Journalists targeted by the program, were employed by sixteen major media outlets, and work in a profession whereby inveterate networking with large numbers of confidential and often sensitive sources of information as personal contacts remain the order of the day. (15)

In conclusion, revelations about the NSO Group and their Pegasus project are best viewed as a continuation of Israel being used by US-led intelligence-gathering agencies to pursue those who are regarded as not being on-side. And if any controversy arises about how targets are initially identified, a US military declassified document from the previous Cold War has sufficed for use with our understanding of the present one. It was specified US co-ordinated counter-intelligence activities, globally, were directed primarily against those 'who oppose the US Defence Department … during peacetime and all levels of conflict'. (16)

Elsewhere, NATO's secret Civil Emergency Committee during the previous Cold War had sub-committees for supplies, transport, communications, and civil war-time agencies to take-over essential government functions, if, and when, required. It was noted to have drawn-up lists of those regarded as anti-NATO and anti-war 'subversives', including planning to smash trade-unions and opposition from within the labour movement. (17)

Recent government discussions about expanding NATO provision to include Australia has to be viewed in the context of the Indo-Pacific becoming the epi-centre of the present Cold War with China. The silence from the present Morrison Coalition federal government in Canberra over this important issue, has been deafening. It too, is best viewed as a continuation of sycophantic behaviour from Canberra toward their cronies in both Israel and the US: We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     The Intelligence coup of the century, The Washington Post, 11 February 2020.
2.     Operations: Thesaurus and Rubicon, The Washington Post, 11 February 2020.
3.     'Crypto A.G. - The CIA', The Telegraph (London), 12 February 2020.
4.     Ibid, and, Allies sold cipher machines that let them spy on all, Australian, 16 January 2020.

5.     Intelligence coup of the century, op.cit., 11 February 2020.
6.      Wikipedia: Israel NSO Group, 20 July 2021.
7.     Wikipedia: Israeli Defence Sector, 20 July 2021.
8.     Privacy concerns as journos, politicians, executives on phone list linked to Israeli spyware, Australian, 20 July 2021.
9.     Ibid.
10.   Israel: State of War, PLO London Office, Information Department Publication, (n.d.), pp. 12-19.
11.   Ibid., and, Israeli Minister in Argentina raises issue of missing Jews, The New York Times, 15 December 1982; and, Time running out for Argentinian Jews, The Manchester Guardian Weekly, 19 March 1978.
12.   Privacy concerns, Australian, op.cit., 20 July 2021.
13.   Ibid., and, Everything we know about NSO Group, Forbes., 25 August 2016.
14.   See: Army's Project X Had Wider Audience, The Washington Post, 6 March 1997.
15.   Privacy concerns, Australian, op.cit., 20 July 2021.
16.   US Army Foreign Intelligence Assistance Program, Declassified: 15 November 1993, Army Regulation 381-20, Section 1.5, Mission and Policy, page 1.  
17.   CIA Infiltration of the Labour Movement, Lynn Walsh, (London, 1982), page 15.


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Solidarity with Comrade Stefan Engel, Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany

 Written by: Nick G. on 29 July 2021

On Tuesday August 3, Comrade Stefan Engel, Chairperson of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany util 2016, will take the Minister of the Interior Seehofer, two intelligence service chiefs and a police director to court to have charges they laid against him dropped.

The charges arose out of the organisation by Engel, the MLPD and its youth wing Rebell! of an anti-fascist, anti-imperialist, revolutionary music festival in May 2018.

German police threatened to close the festival using the pretext of the participation of one of the headline acts: the Turkish band Grup Yorum. (Two members of Grup Yorum died of hunger strike in 2020 in protest against Turkey’s persecution of the band.) We responded to the German police’s threats with an expressions of solidarity

Despite police threats, the organisers refused to bow down and the festival went ahead with over 50 bands. It was a great victory for the MLPD, for youth and for anti-fascism.

However, the state is ever-vengeful when it suffers a defeat.

Ironically, under laws designed to prevent terrorism, Engel was declared a “danger” by Thuringian police director Dirk Löther who said that his function as patron of the “Rebellious Music Festival” 2018 justified the “initial suspicion of terrorist financing according to § 89c StGB and the support of a terrorist organization according to § 129 StGB - crimes that are among the most serious under German criminal law.”

Under the declaration, Engel can be subjected to the entire arsenal of police repression measures, starting with identity verification via telephone surveillance, wiretapping of vehicles or apartments,  prohibitions to leave certain places or to meet people, up to electronic ankle cuffs or preventive detention, which is elegantly described as “preventive detention”.

Engel’s legal team hopes to use the process on August 3 to shed light as much as possible into the darkness of the amalgamation between the domestic secret service and the police authorities. His lawyer Frank Jasenski said that “if you look at the individual measures and extensive spying rights, you come to the conclusion that much of what was already used against political opponents at that time (Hitler’s) is now quite legally in the law. Hence one can speak of an increasing fascization of the state apparatus.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Pandemic and People’s Rights


Written by: Central Committee on 28 July 2021

Statement by the Central Committee, Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)

The Pandemic and People’s Rights

The Covid-19 pandemic, which began in early 2020, continues to threaten the health of people around the world.

That threat is complicated and magnified by the health measures that states are taking to enforce compliance with steps taken to deal with the pandemic.  

These include mandatory vaccinations for some categories of workers; the lockdown requirements to stay at home except for very limited exemptions for food shopping, obtaining essential medical services, being in an essential area of work, and the like; mandated wearing of masks in public; and logging in with QR codes, or a sign-in sheet, when entering any business, agency or sporting event for the purpose of contact tracing.  It is not alarmist to say that, for the authorities charged with administration of the capitalist state, this is all a very useful dress rehearsal for future political crackdowns. In Sydney, the step from lockdown-lite with almost every business sector open – as demanded by capitalism – to lockdowns and lock-ins accompanied by mass police presence, heavy surveillance including searches of shoppers without warrant, sets a particularly dangerous precedent.
Epidemiologists and other health professionals chosen by experts rather than government should be in control as they were in the AIDS crisis, when Australia’s response led the world. This would include thorough mass messaging in appropriate languages and media created and distributed by experts.
It is right that people want their rights and liberties protected.  It is healthy that a certain skepticism exists towards the pronouncements of state authorities. The fact that “big pharma” sees the pandemic as a source of mega-profits, protecting its interests with vaccine patents and controlling the sale and distribution of its products adds another layer of popular anger to the mix.
Australian soldiers sent to Vietnam were compulsorily vaccinated with a dangerous cocktail of vaccines. The failure to stagger doses and monitor health was pushed aside in the rush to throw them into US imperialism's brutal war. Some veterans say these vaccinations affected them as much as Agent Orange, and that their health was ruined. A complex set of factors has given rise to vaccine hesitancy, and this is certainly not to be conflated with the nonsense of anti-vaxxers.
This set of circumstances tests the ability of a Marxist-Leninist Party to “apply this Marxism daily, hourly, in the most diverse, peculiar, unprecedented circumstances” (Mikhail Kalinin, President of the USSR during the Stalin era). 
For example, what leadership should we offer on the question of mandatory vaccination? 
At one extreme, there are anti-vaxxers who simply refuse vaccinations on principle. Aligned with them are a small number of otherwise politically advanced members of the working class who are suspicious that the Covid-19 vaccinations could “turn out to be biological class warfare”.
The question of vaccinations is certainly a class question. Under a system of privatised and corporatised medicine, the right of workers and their children to free vaccinations must be upheld. Together with vaccines should go a raft of social measures to support prevention of the spread of illnesses including the provision of nutritious foods, non-crowded housing, and secure and well-paid employment.  Vaccines alone can never be the whole answer.
But workers should not fear vaccinations, and except where there are other underlying, verifiable medical issues, should accept mandatory vaccination particularly in health, education, aged care, disability and working class settings, such as the abattoirs, public transport, food processing, etc.
Vaccinations, including those that were mandatory, were definitely a part of the socialised medical services of the Soviet Union and China during the time of Stalin and Mao respectively (see Background Notes 1).
We therefore reject the proliferation of conspiracy theories that seek to encourage people to refuse to be vaccinated. We know that these theories come in a number of guises and, unlike the one that suggested that Bill Gates would surreptitiously place micro-chips in the vaccines, others themselves adopt a “scientific” veneer to oppose the science of vaccines.
There is also a group of people who object to the necessary coercive measures taken to protect public health on the grounds of individual liberties.  They raise the slogans of “freedom” and “the rights of the individual”.  
The question of rights is also a class question. The bourgeois revolutions that overthrew feudal relations of production advanced the concept of universal human rights so as to secure the support of the broadest ranks of the people for the introduction of capitalist relations of production. Feudal obligations of the serf to the landlord were replaced by the right of individual workers to sell their labour power to whomever they chose. Mass struggles led by the working class broke out in countries where capitalism was taking root to demand that substance be given to these “universal rights”. Every political, industrial and social right contained in the promises of the slogans of the bourgeoisie had to be fought for and won by the organised working class. Knowing the sacrifices made for these rights by earlier generations of workers makes us determined to resist their erosion.
However, we cannot support the reactionary demands and actions of libertarians, far-right activists and a minority of anarchists. Those who rally against the compulsory wearing of masks, who demand the premature lifting of lockdowns, or who oppose the science of vaccination, are objectively aligning with a right-wing agenda that hides behind slogans of “freedom” and the “rights of the individual”. Mao Zedong said “It is right to rebel against reactionaries”. It is not right to rebel for reactionary causes.  The storming of the US Capitol by Trump supporters clearly illustrates this point.  
None of this is to defend the Australian government, or governments elsewhere, from either their incompetence in the handling of the pandemic (see Background Notes 2), or their response to demonstrations and rallies held during the pandemic. The police, for example, are refining tactics of suppression and control that will be used to restrict our freedoms long after this pandemic has passed. We also note the highly coercive police practices in working class areas such as Fairfield, in Sydney, compared to the light treatment of affluent suburbs. This is the standard behaviour of capitalist states, but intensified (and exploited) by the circumstances of the pandemic.
Against the anti-vaxxers and the various vested corporate interests, we demand:
free and effective vaccination for everyone in the world.
all data and research related to vaccination against COVID-19 be made public domain and everyone must have the right to develop vaccines based on it.
all vaccines developed be scientifically tested and reviewed expeditiously by an independent body such as the WHO. All safe vaccines must be approved for use immediately. 
all vaccine production be taken over in the public interest and that all vaccines produced be centralised and transparently delivered worldwide, based solely on society's need for the vaccine. 
the costs of the entire vaccination process be recovered from the major corporations around the world in proportion to their profits. 
There must be purpose-built quarantine facilities in each state and territory of Australia to replace the use of medi-hotels.
the government should establish a single National Emergency Storage (NESt) facility, completely owned and operated by the government and publicly accountable through an annual report to parliament; its directors should answer questions by committees of the parliament.  It should not only have emergency medical supplies to pandemic levels of requirement, but bushfire chemical fire retardants, firefighting PPE, oxygen bottles, flood pumps and other requirements for dealing with unprecedentedly critical natural climate catastrophes.
that libertarian agendas and anti-vaxxer theories be countered with campaigns of education and persuasion, and that the government publicly commit to lifting socially necessary coercive measures at an identified point in the suppression and control of the virus and its variants.
Capitalist governments have as their first priority the protection of capitalist relations of production in which the pursuit of private profit obtained through the exploitation of working people is central.
Anti-imperialist independence and socialism alone will allow us to prioritise the needs of the people whenever national crises arise.
Background Notes 1:
Here are some passages from Socialised Medicine in the Soviet Union (1937) by Henry E. Sigerist (Left Book Club edition).
Much more serious than plague, however, was cholera…between 1823 and 1922 5.5 million people suffered from it and 2.2 million succumbed to the disease…The figures for the years from 1918 to 1922 are the following:
1918 41,289
1919 4,259
1920 25,923
1921 204,228
1922      86,178
The epidemiological measures applied consisted mostly of vaccination. In 1922, ten million people, including the entire Red Army, were vaccinated… Between 1923 and 1926 a few isolated cases were observed, but after 1927 cholera completely disappeared. (pp231-2)
Anti-typhoid vaccination is now used extensively, and it is compulsory for those groups of workers, such as people living in camps, who are in particular danger. (p. 232)
Smallpox is a presentable disease which can be controlled through vaccination. Tsarist Russia had no law making vaccination compulsory…In 1919 immunisation was made compulsory, and at present more than 10 million people are vaccinated and re-vaccinated each year. There are still regions in the Soviet Union where the vaccinator hardly penetrates…not a single case was reported in the first two months of 1937, and now it appears that the disease has been practically overcome. (pp232-3)
The contagious diseases of childhood, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and measles do not present any particular problem…The extension of nurseries and other institutions for the protection of infancy and childhood has been the best possible method of preventing the spread of these diseases. Diphtheria immunization is compulsory in many cities…Mass vaccinations against scarlet fever are carried out in many cities. It is interesting to note that the health authorities encounter no difficulty whatever in persuading parents to have their children immunized. On the contrary, people are eager protect their children against diseases. This fact shows that it is readily possible to enlighten even a backward population in health matters. (p. 233)
Here is a passage on China from ‘Away with all pests…’ An English Surgeon in People’s China (1969) Paul Hamlyn and Co.
The first task (of mobile medical teams in the countryside) is to provide preventative and therapeutic services in the area served and, in accordance with policy, preventive work is given priority. All children are immunized against infectious diseases by a travelling inoculation team which visits the villages whenever primary immunization or ‘booster’ doses become due…Smallpox, typhoid, diphtheria, infantile paralysis and whooping cough have now practically disappeared from this area and recently Chinese medical scientists have developed a method of active immunization against measles which has greatly reduced its incidence and severity. (p. 130)
Here is the Wikipedia entry on contemporary China’s vaccination policy:
China has passed the World Health Organization's (WHO) regulatory vaccine assessments, demonstrating that they adhere to international standards. The Chinese government's Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) was created in 1978 and provides certain obligatory vaccines, named Category 1 vaccines, for free to all children up to 14 years of age. Initially, the vaccines consisted of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, oral polio vaccine (OPV), measles vaccine (MV) and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DPT vaccine).  By 2007, the vaccine list was expanded to include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, A + C meningococcal polysaccharide, mumps, Rubella, hemorrhagic fever, anthrax, and leptospirosis. Category 2 vaccines, such as the rabies vaccine, are private-sector, non-obligatory vaccines that are not included in neither EPI nor the government health insurance. Due to the privatized nature of Category 2 vaccines, these vaccinations are associated with low coverage rates.
Background Notes 2:
During a webinar held by the International Coordination of Revolutionary Parties and Organisations (ICOR), the following incompetencies of the Australian government were identified:
1. There was a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). Although the federal government had established a National Medical Stockpile 16 years ago, its management had been outsourced to a private company.  In early February a privately-owned Chinese company sent 90 tonnes of PPE to Wuhan.  In late February, another Chinese company sent a further 82 tonnes. You can imagine how many surgical masks and protective gowns would be needed to make up this combined amount of 170 tonnes of equipment! And in such quantities, it could only have been sourced from the NMS. By March, our hospitals were running out of PPE, none of which was made in Australia.  Private companies were urged to retool to manufacture these essential items.
2. Australia has placed itself at a disadvantage by not maintaining local capacity for the production of medicines and vaccines. The government-owned Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL), established in 1916, was privatised in 1994 under a Labor government. Although it is the world's second largest influenza vaccine company, it did no research on a vaccine for Covid-19. It was contracted to make Astro-Zeneca under licence from the British in September 2020, although its first batches did not become available until March 2021. Medicine shortages in Australia were a "pre-existing problem" before COVID-19: somewhere in the order of 89 percent of all day-to-day prescription medications are supplied from overseas, mainly China and India. Having previously boasted that Australia would be at the front of the queue for vaccines, and was hoping to have 4 million people vaccinated by March and the entire country inoculated by October, the vaccine rollout has been very slow. So far, 6 million have had their first dose but only 900,000 or 4.3% have had their second dose. 
3. Australian quarantine facilities have many shortcomings. Active cases not requiring intensive care are placed in hotels for the mandatory two-week isolation period. However, casual staff working across different facilities and inadequate ventilation have contributed to the spread of the virus from quarantine hotels. There is only one facility that really meets the required standards, and that is an accommodation facility at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory, originally built by a Japanese mining company for its workers, but taken over in February 2020 to quarantine arrivals from overseas. Despite the demand for more such facilities (tens of thousands of Australians are stranded overseas and unable to return home), the federal government has only belatedly agreed to help the state of Victoria construct its own purpose-built quarantine facility. Quarantine is a federal government responsibility. The federal government has failed to provide adequate resources.
4. Aged care is another federal government responsibility. The sector has far too many casual staff, precariously employed, and working across multiple facilities.  The majority of deaths from Covid-19 in Australia have occurred in aged care facilities, often run by the larger Churches as for-profit undertakings.  After major break-outs last year, the Federal government imposed restrictions on these facilities to stop part-time staff being moved between them to minimise the risk of transmissions.  Late last year these restrictions were lifted as a result of pressure from privatised facilities claiming they couldn't pay decent wages under the new arrangements. The federal government has failed to provide regulatory oversight and adequate resources for this area.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Locals compare Sydney suburbs under lock-in to war zones

 Written by: Louisa L. on 24 July 2021

Police have been let loose in Sydney. 

Capitalists demanded our city stay open. The NSW Government complied. Covid’s fearful spread is a direct result.

Now demands rise for government action to protect peoples’ health and economic well-being. Sydney is locked down.

Whole working class and migrant districts across the south west and west are locked in. People strive to keep themselves, their families and communities safe. Little assistance is provided. 

But much more is afoot.

Key roads in and out are watched. We aren’t talking highways, just roads linking suburbs. Cameras detect people out of area by number plate. An expanding list of targeted suburbs are ringed by police and largely isolated, unless residents have passes.

Working class Yonan D’Baz from locked-in Fairfield says he would “die defending Australia”, but after “emergency” restrictions unfolded it does “not feel like I’m living in Australia.” 

Listing mounted police, highway patrollers, paddy wagons, helicopters “from the morning till you go to sleep,” he adds, “UAVs. Are you serious?” He rages against these surveillance drones, used as if “in war zones”. 

That’s right. Drones look into peoples’ yards. Helicopters with powerful cameras and lights patrol overhead incessantly. Police car and foot patrols stop people, interrogate and search them.

Even quiet suburbs without major shopping centres, like Chester Hill, suddenly have 30 plus cop cars, their occupants trawling the streets. Shopping bags are searched without warrant, looking for “non-essential items”. 

This has happened in at least one non-red zone suburb too. 

“I can’t see the cops trying the same shit at Woolies in ------, much too well heeled, though only a few kilometres away,” a friend texted.

Few people in other parts of Sydney know. 

Learning, they react with shock. “What??? What’s essential???” asks a friend who shops at night to avoid crowds. “What about ice cream?” We laugh and imagine her arguing the point with a cop.

Beware the Emergency Response

If the crisis had been dealt with effectively by early hard lockdown and clear messages sent to ALL sections of the population in languages and media they relate to, people would have responded more sensibly and safely, as they have done in Melbourne and as they are now overwhelmingly doing in Sydney. 
Instead, we went from unrestrained Ikea therapy to the armed force of the capitalist state in one step.

And remember, emergency response legislation is rarely repealed.

After fourteen years, police remain in NT communities as an “emergency response” (originally enforced by the military) despite the trigger being publicly exposed as a lie. 

NT Aboriginal jail populations are growing exponentially as a direct result.

The Territory is remote enough for the media to ignore as rights are systematically stripped from First Peoples which make up a third of its population. It’s a testing ground for how to get away with this in other places.

Why there? The NT is home to huge resources on Aboriginal lands that an overwhelmingly foreign owned mining and gas industry want. Additionally, there are expanding US military bases and rapidly growing troop presence, all amid sabre rattling and preparations for US war with China.

Blakfellas elsewhere, especially the youth, are also targeted by police for systematic brutality and harassment. Bag searches have been an increasing part of life for years. There’s jailtime in parts of the Territory for a bottle of beer, despite the battle to stop Woolworths opening another outlet in walking distance of several dry communities. 

In 2020 Vanguard warned of emergency legislation (which removed criminal culpability from any soldiers) combining with the NT Intervention and an already existing secret military training manual, ‘Australian Army Manual of Land Warfare’, called ‘Aid to the Civilian Authorities’.  

The manual is a step by step how-to for a military coup or dissolution of parliament or other moves to open capitalist class rule. Isolating suburban centres of political concern; travel passes; indiscriminately searching people plus identifying and shooting protest leaders; and “disappearing” people, bodies and any filmed evidence: are all in the manual. 

Australia is not ripe for such an extremity. But police are certainly getting good experience.  

When urgently requested extra vaccines, General F---knuckle (supposedly running national vaccine non-rollout) offers Sydney soldiers instead. Up here police chiefs lecture us at 11am press conferences. It normalises their role in public leadership.

Ideas gather their own momentum

Many thousands protested against lockdown in central Sydney on Saturday, partly because of its economic impact, but probably also about the way lockdown has been imposed.

Dangerous to health and against science the protest is, but it’s a symptom, not the cause. 

Mass arrests and venomous police take oaths to track more participants through surveillance footage. Still no charges against corporate chains that packed their stores like sardines.

A mate asks how we raise the open moves by state forces without looking like conspiracy theorists.

It depends. Some people will be open to the whole story, as long as we don’t lecture or become too irate. 

Each time this writer has raised the suburban shopping bag searches, especially with laugh emojis or their conversational equivalents, friends have been gobsmacked. 

It opens a door to something very unexpected in their own backyard. Let that idea percolate, because that image of cops searching women at Aldi is powerful.

It creates its own momentum. It brings up other questions.

We take inspiration from First Peoples. This is no petit bourgeois romanticisation of their experiences, as if the last 230 years of brutal invasion and dispossession didn’t happen. 

It’s their brave defiant spirits, that we emulate. For despite everything they say, “We are exhausted, but we have survived. We will never give up.” 

In a lifetime of struggle, this writer has often been teased, and even ridiculed, about the non-public nature of most of our membership. Perhaps we could have been more open at times and gained more strength. But we recognised always the repressive nature of the state, despite the appearance of freedom and democracy. 

Our members protect themselves in a sea of people. The grassroots are our teachers and comrades. We move forward depending on their understanding, their strength, their unity and above all on their preparedness to act. We take their ideas emerging from experiences to further develop our theories of when and how to act, of how to lead.

We aren’t reckless, but moves to fascism don’t frighten us. 

We acknowledge reality and find ways to move forward. 

Like First Peoples, our Party will never, ever give up the struggle to build a society that serves the people not capitalism. 

We aren’t alone.

Campaign for secure work is a worthy cause


Written by: Ned K. on 24 July 2021

The ACTU leadership has been investigating what are the key issues that can unite all workers in Australia. 

At a recent union forum ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said that insecure work was an issue that union members across all union memberships identified as a most important issue. 

Insecure work in various forms was present in industries with high paying salaries such as tertiary education to the lowest paid rural farm workers. McManus said that many unions already campaign on insecure work issues. 

She said that what has changed is that there has been a shift in public opinion with the majority of Australians now really concerned about insecure work. The stand-downs by employers during Covid-19 lockdowns and the federal government's scrapping Job Keeper has added to the change in public opinion.

She said that in her role as ACTU Secretary, she was determined to lead a campaign that linked the isolated fights around the many manifestations of insecure work through "umbrella messaging" captured by the slogan "Secure Jobs, Worth Fighting For"

She said that as important an issue that job security is for workers, it is only one part of a bigger picture goal of the ACTU affiliated unions and their members. 

What was "the bigger goal"? She said the bigger goal for union members was to struggle to change the industrial laws which strangled workers’ capacity to take collective action apart from the extremely limited "protected industrial action" during isolated enterprise bargaining campaigns.
She said that there would be the usual campaigning by unions in marginal electoral Seats leading up to the federal election to get rid of the Morrison Government.

However, unlike the ACTU leadership at the time of the 2007 election, election of an ALP Government was not the end of the matter, but the beginning in the fight for secure jobs. She said even if workers did agitate sufficiently for a new ALP government to make substantial changes to industrial laws, there was no guarantee that new laws would be enough. She said, "We will need collective action on the ground" both to force changes to anti-worker laws and also to have any new laws more favourable to workers complied with by the employers.
No doubt, as the election gets nearer, there will be a push by some within the ACTU and within the ALP upper echelons to change the campaign slogan of ""Secure Jobs, Worth Fighting For" to "Secure Jobs, Worth Voting For"! 

The 2007 campaign "Your Rights At Work, Worth Fighting For" was changed to "Workers Rights, Worth Voting For" and as soon as the election was over, the ACTU dropped the whole campaign and organisation that had been built up "on the ground" in workplaces and communities.

Workers were left with "Work Choices Lite" in the form of the Fair Work Act.

It is pleasing at this stage to hear Sally McManus commit to a campaign for Secure Jobs that is independent of parliamentary election outcomes.

Time will tell whether this eventuates. Workers will embrace such a campaign as their deteriorating economic situation compels them to do so. Workers will find alternative leaders from within their own ranks in such a campaign if current ones fall to live up to expectations.

Monday, July 19, 2021

NSW open for big business to spread Covid

 Written by: Louisa L on 19 July 2021

The corporate cat stuck its head out of the Covid bag early last week in Sydney, when NSW Premier Gladys Berejilklian mentioned she was taking guidance from business leaders.

Sydney's Lockdown Lite saw Covid spread like a hydra. Cut off one head and two or three more appeared. Chopping became increasingly frenetic. Barely a suburb remained without exposure sites. Red zones oozed across the city, regions and interstate.

We were "open for business". Traffic was as heavy as ever, as most jobs were deemed essential.

Almost every shop was open. Westfields and other malls were bursting with customers. Likewise, Officeworks, Bunnings, Ikea, JB HiFi, Spotlight, Harvey Norman and every other chain you could think of.

Stay at home, but go to work if your boss doesn't close down.

Is it any wonder that people pushed such a giant envelope and failed to take an escalating health crisis seriously enough?

Following capitalism's rules
"Those terrible Sydney-siders! They don't obey the rules!" the loudest condemnation from the very media giants who decry lockdowns.

This gleeful finger-pointing has an ugly, divisive side, separating "people like us" from "people like them".  State lines, the relics of former British colonies, deepen division leaving us open for plunder as we blame each other.

Yet in Sydney, few felt sorry for the five people heavily fined in the first week for gathering in one house. Nor for the footballer who copped a $35,000 fine and the sack for throwing a party.

The very justified outrage against removalists who infected Melbourne and lied about it became symbolic for "entitled Sydney-siders". Foxtel continues to demonise them for not staying home. Meanwhile it also spews bile at Dan Andrews.

What those outside Sydney often don't realise, is that people "out in the community while infected" have been obeying rules inflicted by capitalism. The exponentially growing list of exposure sites is overwhelmingly monopoly owned retail stores and worksites. Bolt and co knowingly manipulate this lack of knowledge.

Who suffers?
But where's the outrage for the two thousand people who went to Ikea one day and found themselves in isolation or infected? Ikea's two other megastores remained open. Not a fine. All legal. All good.

How many of those 2000 have children isolating too?

How many live pay cheque to pay cheque?

Who of them live in overcrowded apartments with views to brick walls, but no backyard?

And how many have life threatening mental health issues? At least one, this writer knows.

Who pays for the suffering this policy causes her and so many others?

What do we do?
There are many other questions begging to be asked and answered, but most importantly what do we do in face of all this?  

First, be kind and generous. Open our ears and phone lines for those who aren't doing well.

Second, build unity. Explain why some people push the envelope, rather than blaming individuals for problems caused by capitalism.

It's time to extend the web of connection between ourselves and others, for only the organised and active masses can create history and defeat capitalism. Little groups of insular lefties, no matter how perfect our analysis or feisty our spirits, can never do that alone.

Third (but not finally, for others will think of more to do) praise, and praise again, the health workers, epidemiologists, researchers, reporters and others who have fought for and won the stronger lockdown now announced. The overwhelming majority support them.

Corporations demanded profit while pandemic raged. Their tame politicians obliged.

A thousand or more infected, 100 in hospital, three dead, the toll rising.

Remember who to blame. Draw lessons. Never forget!