Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Former Taiwanese President Opposes US War Plans: “We are all Chinese”


(Above: Former Taiwan President Ma arrives in China.   Photo Shenzhen TV) 

Written by: (Contributed) on 29 March 2023

A military intelligence assessment about the balance of forces across the Taiwan Straits by a right-wing US organisation with links to the military-industrial complex has provided an insight into Pentagon strategic thinking. It has also served as a pretext to boost US-led military spending across the wider region. Information from elsewhere, however, has provided a far more sensible and practical assessment of the problem and likely outcome.

A recent intelligence assessment produced by the Pacific Forum about the balance of forces across the Taiwan Straits and fears arising about a Chinese invasion of the small island, was subsequently leaked to mainstream Australian media. (1) The leaking of the document into the media was clearly officially sanctioned, with the specific purpose of raising diplomatic hostilities toward China even higher.

The so-called Pacific Forum, is indeed, a shadowy body: based in Hawaii, which also remains the centre of the US Indo-Pacific Command, the organisation has numerous official websites and publications, publicising conferences and fellowships. Founded in 1975, during the past Cold War, the forum also has affiliates which include the World Economic Forum and Federal Reserve Bank together with lists of those associated with the organisation. It is part of a network of over thirty similar research institutes around the Pacific Rim, which attract retired military officials, retired diplomatic personnel and academics. One centrally placed individual, Richard L. Armitage, co-chair of the International Advisory Board, was former deputy Secretary of State during the Bush administrations.

No reference, however, was made to the so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction, used as the convenient pretext for the US-led invasion of Iraq, two decades ago.  

In recent times the US has become preoccupied with China's Taiwan Province, as China has increased its economic and diplomatic presence across the wider region. Much of the military planning behind the recent Australian acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines lies in the acceptance the US cannot be relied upon to "defend" Taiwan by itself and has required widespread assistance from allies. The range of nuclear-powered submarines would lend to the view their rapid deployment from Australian bases toward far afield 'theatres of war', would include the Taiwan Straits and Korean Peninsula, both areas where the US remains desperate to retain traditional hegemonic status.

The US military intelligence assessment has carefully outlined two possible scenarios:

Taiwan is invaded by China without US-led intervention. It would begin with Chinese armed drones destroying radar sites and intelligence-collection facilities followed by submarines severing fibre optic cables linking vital telecommunications facilities with both Japan and Guam. China would then launch a massive air-born attack on Taipei, devastating the government. China would, once in control, subsequently capture US weapons facilities and Taiwan's micro-chip research, development and manufacturing plants, causing serious problems for the US and its allies.

The second scenario has included intense battles between China and US-led allies, where hundreds of US and allied pilots are shot down together with an estimated fifty per cent fatality rate before surrendering. It was noted the scenario also included most of the US Pacific Fleet being sunk.

The conclusion of the assessment noted, 'the fall of Taiwan would undermine perceptions of the US as a world leader'. (2) Further related diplomatic problems are also identified.

It is not particularly difficult to imagine those closely associated with the military-industrial complex rubbing their greasy little mitts in glee, by using the intelligence assessment as a pretext for even greater military spending for regional defence and security provision.

Elsewhere, however, an official statement from Beijing has provided insight into China's position. Late last year the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of President Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan lost several key areas in local elections. It was perceived in China as a gauge of the government failure in Taiwan to guarantee peace across the Straits and to firmly oppose moves toward independence and external interference. (3)  Troubled with internal corruption problems in Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen also immediately stood down as DPP leader, to distance herself from controversy.

Much to the embarrassment of pro-war hawks in Washington, Canberra and other capitals of the US-led bloc, former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is currently visiting China. 

President from 2008-2016, Ma is the first former or current Taiwanese president to visit China since the defeated Republic of China (Guomindang) government fled to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of a civil war with the Communists. Speaking in Nanjing, Ma said "People on both sides of the Taiwan Straits are all ethnic Chinese and we share the same ancestor." 

"I sincerely hope that the two sides of the Straits will work together to pursue peace, avoid war and revitalize the Chinese nation. This is an unavoidable responsibility of the Chinese people on both sides of the Straits, and we must work hard to realize it," he said. (4)

Taiwan national elections take place early next year and China has clearly backed the GMD (aka KMT) re-winning its traditional ruling position, which was always accommodated by Beijing, and which seeks to re-establish the Taipei-Shanghai Forum as a major trade organisation.

Reliable commentary from Taipei has noted, 'polls suggest both major parties have a path to victory, but much will depend on the state of the Taiwanese economy and the international environment in the lead-up to January'. (5) At no time, however, did the US intelligence assessment pay reference to the possibility the DPP may lose presidential elections early next year. It was not an agenda item for those associated with the Pacific Forum.

Those who pay the piper, do indeed, call the tune; they also arrange for sycophantic political associates of US-led foreign policy to dance in time with their every beat.

                                         We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     US 'in no state' to save Taiwan from invasion, Australian, 28 February 2023; and, The World after Taiwan's Fall, Ian Easton, Pacific Forum.
2.     Ibid.
3.     See: Taiwan local elections say no to DPP rule, call for peace, Global Times, 28 November 2022.
4.     Ma Ying-jeou calls for cross-Straits peace, revitalizing Chinese nation on first day in Nanjing, Global Times, March 28, 2023
5.     Attack by China will 'wreck its economy', Australian, 17 March 2023.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Poverty – not the bandaid, but the scalpel.


Photo by Fernando Goncalves
Written by: Nick G. on 28 March 2023

A report into poverty in Australia, released this month by the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and the University of New South Wales, raises the question of whether capitalist economies can ever be free of the scourge of poverty.

Australia is classified as a relatively wealthy country. It must be to tie itself to US imperialist war plans at a cost of $386 billion for nuclear-powered submarines which, no matter how many “sovereign” Australian flags they fly, will still be forced into  “interoperability” with those of the US.

Yet this wealthy country, according to the report, currently has one in eight Australians (including one in six children) living below the poverty line. That is, 3,319,000 people, including 716,000 children are struggling to survive.

It lists six categories of people most likely to be affected by poverty. Among them are those in public housing, 50% of whom are at risk, and those in private rental. Twenty per cent of the latter face poverty, but those figures rise to 50% for those aged 65 or older.

It noted that Covid income supports (especially the Coronavirus Supplement) greatly reduced the deepest areas of poverty whilst they were available. Of course, once we learned to live with Covid (actually, learning to die with it), those supplements were snatched back by the ruling class.

The report says nothing about capitalism and the persistence of class inequalities. 

It has five proposals for “solutions to poverty”.  They are proposals we support, but they are not solutions.

Our founding Chairperson, Ted Hill, wrote a small booklet in 1975 on Australia’s Economic Crisis – The Way Out. 

On its first page, Hill observed that:

Australian people are haunted by economic and social insecurity…Prices have risen to an unprecedented degree. This involves almost all prices particularly the prices of goods needed in every day life. People have greater and greater difficulty in making ends meet. Rents rise. It becomes more and more difficult and more and more expensive to buy homes…There is no end to it. And the prospects are that these rises will continue. 

Capitalist development occurs unevenly. There are times of relative stability and low unemployment, of low interest rates. But these things never last. The next crisis is always just around the corner. 

Hill’s observation was of capitalism in Australia 48 years ago. 

Can anyone doubt that it applies just as much today?

Can anyone doubt that if we only apply the bandaid measures advocated by ACOSS (and even they are not guaranteed and will be resisted by advocates of class war against the poor), that things will not be the same or worse in 48 years’ time?

As Communists, we can only urge all working people in Australia to develop their own demands for taking over the economy and making it socialist, and making Australia truly independent of the exploitation and control exercised by US and other imperialisms.

That was the direction in which Hill pointed 48years ago.

It is an objective towards which we must have moved much closer in another 48 years’ time.


Celebrating 175 years of The Communist Manifesto

 Written by: Humphrey McQueen on 27 March 2023

Australian Marxist historian Humphrey McQueen looks at the beauty (for us) and the terror (for the class enemy) of the most important work of the last couple of centuries – The Communist Manifesto -eds.


Celebrating 175 years of The Communist Manifesto    
Marx and Engels composed The Communist Manifesto in a revolutionary surge. The Chartists had rocked the United Kingdom throughout the 1840s before the years from 1848 to 1851 saw uprisings across Europe, from Ireland to Poland. Engels fought on the battlefront in south-west Germany. Richard Wagner heaved a piano onto the barricades in Dresden. Marx had been forced into exile because of his writings. In July 1847, he organizes the Communist League which commissions The Manifesto, published in February 1848.
Poetry in motion
Parts I and II are a prose poem – perhaps the world’s first prose poem as Marshall Berman shows in All That Is Solid Melts into Air (1982). The energy of its style captures the power of the subject matter. In preparing this Missile, I found myself reciting The Manifesto aloud. It lends itself to declamation, helping Berthold Brecht to shape the text into a cantata with music by his fellow Communist, Hanns Eisler. 
The opening pages are a paean of praise for capitalism, and could be called ‘A capitalist manifesto’:
The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part …
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society.
Marx and Engels go on to reveal how capitalism makes possible its opposite in communism.
Speed traps
One trap in approaching the Manifesto is that its pace sweeps us along so that we miss much of what Marx and Engels are saying. We need to apply the brakes, starting with its opening sentence:
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
Stirring words. But wrong. Forty years later, Engels adds a footnote since not all history has been class struggle – only ‘all written history.’ Human beings had been remaking ourselves for tens of thousands of years before classes emerged. No classes struggled on the Australian continent before the late 1700s. Engels’s correction does not go far enough. What he calls ‘written history’ came after the emergence of classes. Evidence about earlier epochs is from archeology, not written records. Objects tell us next-to-nothing about what their makers thought or how their societies were organised.
Their first paragraph goes on:
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, Guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another,
What divided them? The pairings are of economic categories, which Marx and Engels sum up in terms of oppression, which indicates a broader set of power relationships. Although they do not say so, we can sense the long arm of the state enforcing economic relations. They describe the conflicts as ‘constant’ which means that they go on all the time. Then they introduce a vital qualification. The struggle might be relentless but it takes different forms:
carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight,
To be an historical materialist is to reject explanations which impose an ‘eternal, natural and universal’ order on human activity. The question around each time and in every place is ‘how more exactly?’
Since the struggle is relentless, one more point needs to be drawn out from ‘uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight’ 
The class struggle is not a pantomime dragon, stirring itself for the final act but otherwise snoozing through the drama. 1789, 1848, 1917 and 1949 manifested class conflict. Under capitalism, however, the struggle goes on every second of every day – and throughout the night. Working longer, working harder, working broken shifts, being out of work – all impact on the quality of our sleep, our dreams, our sex lives and our sociability. 
At the end of the first paragraph, Marx and Engels have a further shock in store. They see that the class struggle is ‘a fight’ which can end
in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large
to which they devote their lives. But what happens if we do not win? The answer is grim:
the common ruin of the contending classes.
Progress is not inevitable. Marx and Engels never fell for the cheery view that things, by and large, get better and better. They knew too much about the Ancient World to suppose that life always improves - more or less – and if not soon then later. A glorious socialist future is no sure bet. Like every other advance, its likelihood depends on how each side wages the class struggle, changing and interpreting our circumstances as we go. 
A fighting program
The Manifesto sweeps across thousands of years before proposing ten immediate demands. They ‘will be different in different countries.’ Once more, there can be no eternal, natural or universal. Four of the ten relate to agriculture, which might come as a bit of a surprise. Marx always includes agriculture under his definition of ‘industrial,’ (I:  ) having learnt not to restrict ‘industrial’ to steam-powered factories. 
Their final proposal might also shock. After insisting on the
Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form
they call for the
Combination of education with industrial production, etc. etc.
How does that differ from the bleats out of today’s employers and so-called education ministers for schools to mass produce students who are ‘job-ready’?
Marx makes the same call nearly thirty years later:
‘… an early combination of productive labour with education is one of the most potent means for the transformation of present-day society.’
I suspect that a few Marxists also might be taken aback.
These proposals are expressions of historical materialism. The German Ideology dealt with the links between with interpreting the world and changing it. Here, Marx and Engels apply that insight to education. We learn by doing. That Marx and Engels could not know how exactly that precept should be put into practice is clear from their lapse into ‘etc. etc’.  Only by doing could they fulfil   the third ‘Thesis on Feuerbach’: ‘The educator must be educated.’
To put The Manifesto into effect in the 2020s we must follow its lead with demands related to everyday life. The immediate and ceaseless concerns for working people are the ‘Five Pillars’ of housing, transport, work, health and education. The sixth is to weave the environment into each. Our bio-system is not a thousand miles away from our daily doings, in worksites and wildernesses, backyards and the Barrier Reef, front streets as well as forests.
The seventh pillar is the limited freedom to protest and to strike that our class has won from the capitalists and their state. Without them we cannot defend what we have left of the five pillars  or keep advancing our needs.
Deciphering the text
Slow reading alone is not enough to enjoy the ingredients that Marx and Engels stir into the rich pudding of The Manifesto. Their text is a short course on Western thought since the Greeks. In a notorious passage, Marx and Engels praise capitalism because it has
rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. 
The phrase ‘rural idiocy’ is not a swipe at people who live in the countryside for being naturally stupid. It combines Aristotle and Rousseau. 
‘Idiocy’ is not an IQ score. Aristotle is the source for the term ‘idiocy’ in contrast to his view of humans as ‘political, social animal.’ For him, only the active citizen could be fully human. This view links to The Manifesto’s call to even up the conditions of urban and rural life. 
The ‘idiocy of rural life’ whacks Rousseau for whom the ‘state of nature’ is happy and free while society corrupts. No. As Marx puts it in Capital: even if we are not Aristotle’s political animals, we are ‘at all events a social animal.’ Not Robinson Crusoe. Without society, there can be no speech. Only through interacting with others do we become human.
Which edition?
Helen Macfarlane made the first English translation in 1850. Engels supervised an English edition in 1888, with adjustments and corrections. A few of those which are significant. All the editions on offer today indicate these improvements. If all you want are the thirty pages of the text, pick any version to download from the Marx Archive. 
To locate The Manifesto in its historical context, however, two other considerations come into play. First, how insightful is its ‘Introduction’? Secondly, how much supporting material is given? On both those criteria, the 1971 edition from International Publishers in New York wins hands-down. The editor was the Dirk J Struik, a Dutch-born Marxist, mathematician and historian of mathematics and of technology, who provides a seventy-page Introduction and ninety pages of related writings by Marx and Engels. 
Read The Manifesto at full belt for its thrills. Go back and ponder it sentence by sentence – savour phrase after phrase. Be richly rewarded.


Saturday, March 25, 2023

South Australian First Nations Voice To Parliament Enacted


(Above: SA Voice signing ceremony   Photo: Evelyn Manfield  ABC News)

Written by: Ned K. on 26 March 2023

On Sunday 26 March, about 2,000 people gathered on North Terrace outside SA Parliament House in Adelaide to witness the SA First Nations Voice become law. 

Among the crowd were a large number of First Nations People, trade unionists and other non-Indigenous people. 

It is safe to say that 99% of people present were full of hope for the future regarding the well-being of First Nations People and the need to recognize in practice that we live on Aboriginal land, always was and always will be.

A sobering but powerful Welcome To Country from a Kaurna Elder was conducted on the steps of Parliament House rather than inside the Parliament House. 

Then the Voice legislation was passed unanimously inside the Parliament as people watched on large screens set up on the steps of Parliament House.

Next, the Governor of SA, remnant of unsettler colonialism, arrived to join other members of the Executive Committee of Government at a table on the steps of Parliament House. The Governor, representing the British Crown, gave her assent to the Voice legislation. The Voice document was then signed by the Committee which also included the Premier, Deputy Premier and Attorney General. 

This was followed by well-received speeches by Premier Malinauskas and Attorney General Kyam Maher, himself a First Nations person.

The SA First Nations Voice under SA law could be enacted without a Referendum.

The SA Voice will consist of 46 members covering six regions across the State, with an even number of men and women from the respective regions.

As to be expected of a document written by lawyers, the legislation is full of legalese - the usual lawyer speak of all Acts of Parliament - designed so the little people can't understand it. The new Voice law will exclude First Nations with a police record which will limit the number who can stand to be a rep. 

Then there are so many checks and balances that an elected person has to be aware of once elected.

And all this just for an advisory body!

That is what the SA Voice will be, and while it will have moral authority, neither the Parliament nor the Government of the day will have to include advice from the Voice in any decisions made on matters affecting the lives of First Nations Peoples.

The Premier in his speech made the point that there will be differences of opinion between the Government and the Voice advisory body on some matters.

Therein lies the test of the significance of the now legislated SA First Nations Voice. The Premier Peter Malinauskas and his Labor Government will have to make decisions where there is likely to be direct conflict between the Government's position and First Nations People.

An example of an issue that the SA Government should walk with First Nations People is the Federal Government's desire to have a nuclear waste dump at Kimba. That matter is currently before the Federal Court of Australia. The SA Government has so far just stated that First Nations People should "have a say" on the establishment of this proposed nuclear waste dump.

People who witnessed today's SA Voice becoming law will be expecting more than that from the current SA Government.

Honduras and the US-China inter-imperialist rivalry

Xiomara Castro    Photo by Redacción is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

 Written by: (Contributed) on 25 March 2023

The announcement that Honduras was changing its diplomatic allegiance to China and away from Taiwan has marked a further instalment in an unfolding Cold War drama taking place in Central America. The US has, historically, used Taiwan as a major player with their diplomatic control of the tiny region, sandwiched between the huge northern US and vast, sprawling south of Latin America.

The announcement from Tegucigalpa, therefore, formed part of a significant shift in the balance of forces away from traditional US-led hegemonic positions in Central America and their CAFTA trade bloc.

In mid-March President Xiomara Castro of Honduras announced she had instructed her Foreign Minister, Eduardo Reina, 'to undertake the opening of official relations with the People's Republic of China'. (1) The presidential administration promised they would, 'immediately open diplomatic and trade relations with China'. (2) The given reason for the diplomatic switch was due to Honduras negotiating a Chinese aid program to build a hydro-electric dam called Patuca II. China has stepped up infra-structure projects elsewhere across the southern half of the Americas, including the construction of another dam in Honduras, Patuca III. The Honduran government has been keen to facilitate economic development projects and the boosting of energy supplies remain a high priority.

Honduras, historically, had strong diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which formed part of a US-led alignment toward Central America. Slowly, however, a shifting balance of forces has seen the countries of the region shift toward China; Taiwan now only has full diplomatic links with Guatemala and the tiny UK-led enclave of Belize. In recent years Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic have severed their links with Taiwan.

Taipei, now, has only 'representatives' in Costa Rica and El Salvador.

The move by Nicaragua toward China proved particularly significant: presidential elections in 2021 saw a massive US-led destabilisation program, some of which was alleged to have been funnelled through Taiwanese diplomacy.

It is important, nevertheless, to place the recent example of Honduras into a more meaningful context: Honduras has had a difficult history with widespread US interference in their political system with serious implications for ordinary Honduran people. (3) Ruling presidential administrations have, historically, been right-wing and openly supportive of 'US interests', with little respect for lower socio-economic groups and Indigenous peoples.

The election of Xiomara Castro as president, however, marked a significant change. Bearing left-wing political credentials, she has maintained widespread support amongst the fifty per cent of the country who continue to live in poverty. Xiomara Castro is also the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, elected in 2006, who was toppled in a US-led military coup in 2009: the Zelaya administration opened diplomatic relations with both Cuba and Venezuela, which were assessed as counter to 'US interests'.

When former US national security advisor, John Bolton, admitted 'he has helped plan coups in other countries', Honduras was likely to be high on the list of examples. (4) He was noted as advocating US-led military intervention in Venezuela while in office. (5) It was not coincidental that political chicanery within the legal system, similar to other US-led initiatives in Venezuela, was also evident with the ousting of President Manual Zelaya. (6)

While a great deal of US-led interference in Honduras has been conducted in the form of covert operations, the same does not hold for the military and those with whom they remain associated, in Honduras. Studies of the CIA secret wars in Central America during the 1980s revealed US officials meeting the Honduran armed forces chief, General Gustavo Alvarez, 'who was in charge of the Honduran end of the operation … to invade Nicaragua … and topple the Sandinista government in Managua'. (7) So much for Nicaraguan sovereignty!

Honduras has long been regarded by Washington and the Pentagon as the hub for 'US interests' in Central America. And old habits, for organisers of US operations, die hard.

The same period also included the US using Honduras as a hub for drug-trafficking to finance covert operations with the Contra against Nicaragua. The problem has had a long-time history to the present day. It is also institutional: following Iran-Contra revelations decades ago, in 2019 the younger brother of the then President Juan Hernandez was sentenced to thirty years in prison in the US for cocaine trafficking. (8) It was followed by the extradition of the former president last year to face similar charges in the US together with massive money laundering, indicating corruption at the highest levels in Honduras. (9)

Behind the scenes, however, the tide would appear to be turning against the US: the election of President Xiomara Castro has provided Honduran people with a credible challenge to the neo-colonial type of economic relations foisted upon their country by Washington and the Pentagon. In 2005, for example, the US began moves to establish the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which was fully implemented the following year. Taiwan was a major player, with the main rationale being to undermine cheap Chinese exports into the US.

The switching of diplomatic relations with Honduras from Taiwan to China is, therefore, a major blow to the US. When an official statement was issued from the Foreign Ministry in Taipei announcing 'serious concern', it was, in reality, a joint diplomatic note from the Biden administration in Washington.

The implementation of CAFTA included the small region hosting large numbers of trade parks and other economic ventures based on massive exploitation of workers. It has also been held responsible for repression against those who seek to organise workers. In Guatemala a total of 68 trade unionists were assassinated over a seven-year period, without a single arrest being made. (10) Industrial relations in Honduras are little better.

CAFTA has been held responsible for destroying the livelihoods of small farmers and US textile workers and was a deal 'sold with false promises'. (11) Honduras remains a predominantly agricultural country. CAFTA has also contributed to the economic instability of Honduras and the wider region and created conditions for illegal migration of dispossessed and expropriated people, desperate for a better life for themselves and their families. The 'caravans' of asylum-seekers attempting to settle in the US, after walking across the Rio Grande have to be seen in this light.  

In conclusion, recent developments in Honduras and Central America can be viewed in line with a reaction against US-led tutelage of the economies and political systems of the region!

1.     Honduras turns back on Taiwan to establish diplomatic ties with China, Australian, 16 March 2023.
2.     Ibid.
3.     See: The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, (Boston, 1979);  Chart, The Sun and its Planets, inside cover, showing number of US-trained military personnel (1950-75), and, Total US Military Aid (1946-75).
4.     Coups?, I have helped plan several real ones: Bolton, Australian, 14 July 2022.
5.     Ibid.
6.     See: A Honduran coup comes full circle, The Los Angelos Times, 27 April 2005.
7.     Veil, The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-87, Bob Woodward, (London, 1987), page 231.
8.     See: Has Honduras become a 'narco-state'? BBC News, 22 April 2022.
9.     Honduran president's fall from grace, The Guardian (U.K.), 26 January 2022.
10.   See: Public Citizen – CAFTA, which contains numerous charts of economic information about the exploitation of Central America.
11.   Ibid.

The Australian Cotton Industry

(Above: Photo source ABC Rural    Jon Daly)
 Written by: Duncan B. on 23 March 2023

Cotton has been grown in Australia since the late nineteenth century. Cotton growing started to take off in the 1960s with trials of cotton growing in the Murrumbidgee area. Today there are about 1500 cotton farms, mainly in New South Wales and Queensland.

In recent years an increasing amount of cotton has also been grown in the Northern Territory. Strong concerns have been expressed by First Nations peoples and environmentalists about the amount of land being cleared for cotton growing and the amount of water cotton growing will require.

Ninety per cent of cotton farms are family farms producing eighty per cent of the crop. The rest are corporate farms owned by Australian and foreign companies, mainly Canadian, Dutch, Singapore and Chinese interests.

The Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) estimates that for 2022-23 the value of Australia’s cotton industry will be $2.6 billion. While this is a lot less than other industries such as horticulture, grains, beef and wool, the cotton industry is still attractive to investors.

Canadian Superannuation fund PSP has been buying up big in Australian cotton growing farms and processing plants, including a purchase of Austcott’s farming and ginning business. Recently the Chinese shirt manufacturer Smart Shirts Limited, (part of the $20 billion Youngor Group), paid S120 million for one of Australia’s biggest cotton properties in the Riverina. In 2022 an investment fund run by the Macquarie bank acquired 100% of Cubbie Station, (Australia’s biggest cotton farm), by buying out its Chinese partner in the enterprise.

Cotton is grown from seeds planted in spring .The seeds grow into a bush about one metre high which develops fruit known as bolls which contain fluffy white lint and cotton seeds. In summer these are harvested mechanically and transported to a processing plant known as a gin. Here the lint is separated from the seeds and pressed into 227 kg bales.

Because cotton spinning in Australia is almost non-existent, ninety-nine per cent of Australia’s cotton is exported to countries such as China, India, Vietnam and Bangladesh to be made into clothing, manchester and other cotton products to be re-exported to Australia.

About three-quarters of Australia’s cotton gins are owned by foreign companies such as PSP (Canada), OLAM (Singapore) and Louis Dreyfus (Netherlands). This industry is worth about $1700 million per year, so it is also very attractive to foreign players.

Cotton and Water Use
Cotton is a thirsty crop, requiring about 6-7 megalitres of water per hectare.  (Rice is even thirstier, requiring 11.5 ml/ha. Fruit and nut trees require 5.1 ml/ha.) It takes about 10,000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of cotton, or 2700 litres to make one T-shirt!

About one third of Australia’s crop is rain grown, the rest requires water from irrigation. Cotton Australia, the peak body for cotton growers in Australia claims that there has been a 48% increase in water-use productivity by cotton growers since 1992. Cotton Australia encourages growers to participate in its myBMP (Best Management Practices) programme, which according to Cotton Australia “demonstrates to the community the cotton industry’s improved farming practices and careful management of our natural resources.” Management of water and pesticides are included in this programme.

On its website Cotton Australia strongly condemns water theft. This is good to hear considering that in the past some large cotton growers were notorious for stealing water by illegal pumping and tampering with water meters.

Then there is the practice of flood plain harvesting, where the big growers at the northern end of the Murray-Darling Basin system direct large volumes of flood waters, estimated to be up to 40%, into dams on their properties. (Cubbie Station has built capacity to store 500 gigalitres of water.)   This reduces the amount of water making it further down-stream. Flood plain water is free and unmetered. Plans to regulate flood plain harvesting have been strongly resisted by the big boys. 

Cotton and the Environment
There are many environmental concerns about the cotton industry including use of excessive pesticides and fertilisers, water pollution from pesticide and fertiliser run-off into rivers, land degradation and soil erosion, greenhouse gas emissions and the high energy consumption of the cotton gins.

Australia’s environment has suffered from all these problems, but the problems of pollution from the cotton industry are far worse in countries such as India, Egypt and Central Asia. Here cotton has been grown for decades since cotton growing was established in colonial times. The main beneficiaries were the owners of the textile mills in Manchester.

In an Australia run by the people, workers and farmers would unite to ensure that agriculture is managed sustainably for the benefit of all Australians, not foreign exploiters. Planning would ensure that decisions about what crops are grown and where and the allocation of resources such as water would be made to protect the environment, not destroy it.



War or peace, sovereignty or subservience, truth or lies?

 Written by: Louisa L. on 22 March 2023

War or peace, sovereignty or subservience, truth or lies – these were immediate questions facing Australia, and the world, which brought over 400 people to inner Sydney Marrickville Town Hall.

The meeting marked 20 years since the invasion of Iraq, but the war drums beating right now were in everyone’s minds. 300 livestreamed the event.  

Speakers and audience targeted the US as the world’s greatest warmonger, with traitorous Australian “leaders” and a complicit media thieving hundreds of billions from schools, hospitals and every other service to the people, to fund submarines that wouldn’t defend Australia, but make us a wing of the US military, and a target for devastation.  

Former Foreign Minister and NSW Premier Bob Carr pointed out even PM Robert Menzies told our people and US leaders that Australia would not go to war over Taiwan, and that ANZUS didn’t require it. So a deeply anti-communist prime minister, on record before World War 2 as saying the Nazis were “a good thing for Germany and the German people”, is more left wing than Albanese! 

Two short statements from the floor show organisation is building. Newtown Labor Party Branch has condemned AUKUS and is reaching out to other branches. South Coast Labour Council Secretary Arthur Rorris said pressure against a submarine base in Port Kembla is growing. The May Day March will be held there this year. 

A full report of the meeting can be read here.


Monday, March 20, 2023

Gambling and Politics (or Pokies and Pollies)


Written by: Jed J. on 21 March 2023

The current debate about gambling in the NSW election campaign can be seen as a microcosm of the relationship between governments and businesses in capitalist societies.

That gambling in general and poker machines in particular are a blight on society is not hard to see.

One has only to look at the figures to see how widespread the problem is. $25 billion is lost annually on gambling. Nearly half of this goes into poker machines and it mostly comes from those who can least afford it.

NSW has the highest number of poker machines, 86,640 in pubs and clubs alone. The most money lost is in the Fairfield and 
Canterbury–Bankstown local government areas.

Fairfield is ranked Sydney’s most disadvantaged area and Canterbury-Bankstown is close behind.

Gambling does not take place in an even playing field. The chance of winning a jackpot on a poker machine is one in 35,640,000. 

Many people are enticed into gambling by the myriad of ads on all forms of media. These show how gambling can be fun and how easy it is to win. 

They don’t show the other side. How most losses happen in places where people can least afford it.

According to Charles Livingstone, associate professor at Monash University who has been researching poker machines for over twenty years, “They are enormously efficient at getting people to go on putting money into them. It is a highly addictive product and stimulates the release of brain chemicals that make people feel good.”

This shows poker machines are designed to addict people and the clubs and pubs bank on it.

Much of the huge profit from gambling goes to governments in the form of taxes. The NSW government is looking forward to rake in $3.26 billion this financial year. 

Some of the profit is donated to political parties no doubt to influence government policy towards gambling.

This might explain why political parties are wary of taking on those making huge profits from gambling.

In the NSW election campaign both parties seem to fear the power of organisations such as Clubs NSW and the Australian Hotels Association. 

They may be aware of how previous attempts of governments to do something about the problem have been abandoned in the face of hostility from the gambling lobby.

Those profiting from gambling have shown again and again that they are willing to go to any lengths to pressure governments to back away from reforms of their profitable businesses.

They have adopted the same tactics used by the gun lobby in the United States which have proved to be so successful.

Clearly, they prefer a laissez-faire arrangement whereby governments have no right to interfere in their commercial affairs.

This raises the question. Are governments elected to govern in the interests of the profit margins of businesses or for the welfare of people? 

In Australia in general and in NSW in particular, parliaments seem more intent on looking after the interests of a socially harmful industry and one which is linked to criminal money laundering than looking after the interests of people.

In capitalist societies it is clear that parliaments are part of an apparatus that prioritises furthering the interests of capitalists rather than the interests of the population at large.


Doing it Tough?

(Above: Housing Emergency Rally, Adelaide, March 19.     Photo: Anti-Poverty Network SA facebook page)

 Written by: John G. on 20 March 2023

 Prices are up! Groceries, power, petrol, rent and mortgages have gone through the roof. 

Home loan repayments have doubled for many. Rents are soaring.

Wages haven’t kept up with living costs. Buying-power we get to work has been going down for ages. Now it’s smacking head-on into raging inflation and pumped-up interest rates.

To feed, clothe and house ourselves, the challenge for people who work for their living’s become so much harder.

Growing hardships stalk the working classes at the same time as we make the economy work. Its time we made it work for us!

Bankers and governments have their answers to hardships people face

They rub salt into the wound. The salt of high interest rates, of rising prices, of the building industry being smashed as credit dries up, of hundreds of thousands of people thrown out of work, that salt, is being forced onto the wound of our hardships. 

Their remedy is to make things so much worse for people. 

Their story is they’re pushing the country through the bottom of the business cycle into blue skies of boom times beyond. 

The Reserve Bank has announced it sees the high interest rate regime is expected to last into and beyond the middle of next year. They say their goal is to wipe out over 400,000 jobs, keep wages way behind inflation, and exhaust household savings to reduce people’s consumption. By consumption they mean food, keeping a home, keeping clothes on our backs, educating kids, looking after people’s health, what we need to live. 

Their way is for business to scramble over the broken lives of hundreds of thousands, propped up by more hardships millions are facing, to get over the troubles their massive profiteering creates. 

In Covid they found billions to get over the crisis.

What a contrast to the response to the Covid emergency. Hundreds of billions of dollars were found and couldn’t be spent fast enough. 

Then, Australia’s central banker told a business lunch; ‘… we are seeking to play our full role in building that bridge to the time when the recovery takes place.

By doing all that we can to lower funding costs in Australia and support the supply of credit to business, we will help our economy and financial system get through this difficult period’ P. Lowe, Governor, Reserve Bank of Australia 19 March 2020 https://www.bis.org/review/r200319a.pdf 

Now they are happy to leave people’s lives in tatters. No bridge building for people working for a living. Bankers, governments and big business abandon us. 

We’ve been left to stand up for ourselves

Can we? 

You betcha! 

As one singer put it, ‘Every fire in the world starts with someone’s spark, when there’s a fire in all our hearts, we’ll be more than they can handle’.  

Where do we find that spark? How do we join the sparks into a fire raging through the country?

The hardships are grinding away at millions of us. People are hurting. People want answers for relief. 

The authorities work to make things worse for us. 

It’s the millions for ourselves, against them saving business for the next boom and bust cycle, wrecking hundreds of thousands of lives.  

Damn them and their system. 

Through Covid, it became very clear. We make it all work. 

Now’s a time to start organising to make it work for us.