Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The NT Intervention: a ten-year attack on Aboriginal sovereignty

Nick G.

June 21 2017 marks the tenth anniversary of the racist NT “emergency” Intervention. It is not an anniversary to be celebrated.

The Intervention was conducted by a force of 600 soldiers and detachments from the Australian Defence Forces representing the first time since the 1949 coal strikes that the Australian Army, as a key pillar of the capitalist state, had been used to take rights from Australian citizens.

Then Prime Minister John Howard and his Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough justified the Intervention as an “emergency response” to reports of Indigenous child sexual abuse contained in the Wild-Anderson Little Children are Sacred  report.

If that was the case, then one is entitled to ask why Howard’s government implemented only two out of ninety-seven of the report's recommendations.

The reality is that the case for the racist Intervention had been made nine months before in a Discussion Paper issued by Brough’s Department. The paper’s title, Access to Aboriginal Land Under the Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Rights Act – Time for Change? , forecast many of the changes that would be included in the twelve measures in the Intervention package.

The measures suggested a “land grab” to many people – scrapping the entry permit system, the seizure of Indigenous land for five years, the empty promise of “compensation” for lands not returned after the expiry of that five years, replacing communal title to land with individual title to homes on 99-year leases, or renting at market rates, and the scrapping of the CDEP employment scheme did nothing to advance the interests of Indigenous children, but everything to advance the interests of the big mining and pastoral corporations.

Aboriginal communities were used as guinea pigs for an experiment at controlling the financial independence of welfare recipients. Indeed,the Basics Card experiment, since rolled out to poor communities around the nation, required the suspension of the NT Anti-Discrimination Act for its enforcement.

Clearly the preferred option and the outcome that the Federal Government was seeking from its October 2006 discussion paper, the removal of the permit system and the normalizing of access arrangements to Aboriginal land, had been planned well in advance of the release in May 2007 of the Little Children are Sacred report.

According to Gavin Mudd, an environmental engineer with over ten years’ experience of visiting remote Aboriginal communities in which mining companies have an interest, “It is no coincidence that many of the communities targeted for ‘military style intervention’ are also areas that are heavily targeted for minerals exploration, particularly uranium, as well as for potential nuclear waste dumps.”

John Howard set up the Intervention, but lost the federal election less than six months later. Not surprisingly, if one understands the nature and role of Labor as a party of capitalism, the new government of Kevin Rudd committed to the Intervention’s continued implementation. It continued in all but name under Prime Minister Julia Gillard when it became the Stronger Futures program.

The policies enshrined in the Intervention must cease.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders want a genuine Treaty negotiated between equals.

They want their unceded sovereignty recognised.

They want their rights to self-determination upheld.

The combined voices of this country’s First Peoples will not be silenced.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Book Review: Catastrophe ALERT!

Ned K.
The above heading is the title of a book by German comrade Stefan Engel. It is a book that gives the reader a feeling of utter despair because of what capitalism has done to humanity and the planet, but also a feeling of hope as to what is possible when capitalism is forced off the world stage by the international working class and its allies for an alternative socialist society.
Engel's book dissects the factors responsible for the environmental crisis facing humanity and all living species:
# Rapid increase in the consumption of raw materials and energy
# New quality of radiation contaminations and of the poisoning by substances from mass chemicals production
# Exhaustion and destruction of fertile soil due to over fertilizing and the massive use of pesticides in agriculture
# Urban sprawl
# Extreme exploitation of nature in the neo-colonially dependent countries
# Reduction of investments in environmental protection measures as a result of intensified global competition
# Threatening destruction of humans and nature by imperialist wars, by militarisation and rising arms production.
Engel argues that the combination of these elements of the crisis calls the unity of humanity and nature into question in a general way.
He is critical of all parties claiming to be leaders of the workers in western Europe for not only ignoring the growing environmental crisis but actually distorting Marxism by saying that labour is the only source of wealth. Compare this with what Marx said in The Critique of the Gotha Programme: "Labour is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just  as much the source of use values as labour, which itself is only a manifestation of a force of labour, labour power".
Engel argues that this distortion of Marxism put the parties pushing this line in the same camp as capital and reformist parties who were comfortable with confining struggle to economist limits. This manifested itself in working class "Marxist" parties ignoring the great work of F. Engels, Dialectics of Nature, in which he pointed out the danger of ignoring or underestimating environmental issues.
Engels said in Dialectics Of Nature, "Let us not however flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory, nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first."
Stefan Engel gives numerous examples of this contradiction and how with the rapid development of capitalism and imperialism, the interchange between humans and nature underwent an essential change and caused major changes in the biosphere.
Engel enumerates dangerous changes in the three elements of the biosphere: Lithosphere - layer of rock and soil we walk on, drive on, build on; Hydrosphere – water-covered part of the Earth; Atmosphere - mass of air enveloping the Earth.
Engel argues that Marx realised that the development of capitalism disturbed the circulation of matter between humans and soil preventing the return to the soil of its elements consumed by humans in the form of food and clothing. Similarly, the impact of capitalist production impacted by thousands-fold the atmospheric climate. Engel describes climate "as the concrete mode of existence of the atmosphere in unity with the characteristics of the surface of the Earth in a certain region or zone. It developed over a long period of time in dialectical interaction with temperature, air pressure, atmospheric humidity, and the related circulation systems of air and water".
He says, "there is no homogenous world climate, only regionally differentiated climate zones which influence each other, can transform in to each other and produce a constantly changing weather typical of the respective climate region".
Engel argues that the Greens in all their various forms and shades of green can never solve the environmental crisis because they disregard the dialectical relationship between human labour and nature. They ignore the class struggle and that under capitalism human labour occurs in a relationship of exploitation by the capitalist class over the working class.  The predominant aspect of human labour under capitalism is not use value but exchange value, the selling of labour power and the capitalists’ need to extract ever more surplus value.
However equally, Stefan Engel argues that any alleged working class party that ignores or denies the twin sources of wealth, nature and labour and the unforeseen consequences of human victories over nature pointed out by Friedrich Engels, is doomed to failure and incapable of leading the working class to overthrow capitalism in its modern imperialist form.
He completes his book with a very impressive program of the German Party of the working class, the MLPD, which shows the way to the liberation of the working class from exploitation by imperialism and at the same time shows the way to build an international resistance front to save the environment from the profit system He calls this "a programme of struggle against the environmental catastrophe".
It contains an extensive number of demands to unite people. The demands include a radical stop to the clearing of forests, especially tropical rainforests and large-scale reforestation, complete elimination of fossil fuels and replacement by renewables, restriction on night and shift work, elimination of food speculation, expansion of public transport systems, ban on substances damaging the ozone layer, compulsory comprehensive recycling, ban on deep sea drilling, shutdown of all nuclear power plants, shorter working week with full wage time wage, protection of the world's oceans.
This is a program of struggle for a socialist society in which the unity of humanity and nature is society's guiding principle.
Engel’s highlighting of the unforeseen consequences of so-called "progress" extends to what happened in the Soviet Union and in China. He argues that both Lenin and Stalin strongly advocated protection of the environment, especially forests. Contrary to imperialist propaganda, Engel argues that Stalin, in particular, struggled to prevent deforestation but often did not get his own way as regional bureaucrats, convinced that Nature was there to be conquered and used without restraint by humans, often got the upper hand. Stalin's environmentalism ended when Khrushchev took over the leadership after Stalin's death.
Engel also says that the rapid advance of industry in the Soviet Union was powered mainly by hydro electricity plants, not fossil fuels. In this sense, the Soviet Union was ahead of its time.
Engel also refers to the documented policies of the Chinese Communist Party of the early 1970s about protection of the environment and contrasts this with post-Mao leadership and the reckless pollution of the environment under the guise of "development of the productive forces", ignoring what Engels had to say in Dialectics Of Nature.
In summary, the book is an extremely important work as it convincingly argues that working class leadership of both the class struggle between capital and labour and for environmental sustainability is a pre-condition for the successful struggle for harmony between humanity and nature.
Unfortunately, the book is not available in Australian bookshops. However, it can be ordered directly from the distributor (below), or readers who are members of libraries can request that it be ordered in.  The advantage of the latter option is that other users of libraries may also get the chance to read it. Publication details are:
Author: Stefan Engel
Title: Catastrophe Alert! What is to be done against the willful destruction of the unity of humanity and nature?
Date of publication: 2014
ISBN: 978-3-88021-403-3
Distributed by: Verlag Neuer Weg ( ; )

Monday, June 5, 2017

Fletcher Insulation workers: ‘One day longer – one day stronger’

Workers at a South-Eastern Melbourne factory have returned to work victorious following an industrial dispute spanning more than three months.

For ninety-seven days factory workers at Fletcher Insulation maintained a picket line at a Dandenong manufacturing plant, fighting to protect hard fought and won wages and conditions.

The 89 workers, members of the Australian Workers Union, manned the picket line at Fletcher Insulation through the near hundred day struggle, after negotiations for a new Enterprise Agreement had failed to produce satisfactory outcomes for the employees. 

The workers took up the fight, and maintained a seven day a week, twenty-four hour camp, in response to the company’s proposed attack. The company had attempted to impose savage cutbacks to working conditions. The workforce comprised many workers that had served long periods of employment at the outer Melbourne manufacturing plant; a third of the workforce have served more than thirty years with the company.

As recently as December, the workers set productivity records at the plant. Ben Davis, Victorian Secretary of the AWU stated “It defies logic that workers who have proved they are committed to the company and just months ago set new productivity records, could be treated so shabbily” 

The proposal offerred no wage increase for a three year period, aimed to slash redundancy provisions, and included a plan for the unlimited usage of casual labour. The workers also hit the grass in order to defend the glass industry standard of the 35 hour working week, which was under threat through the dispute.

Approximately one month into the dispute, management revealed their latest plan, which was to seek to have the current Enterprise Agreement terminated.

‘One day longer – one day stronger’ was the motto by which the group of workers in rallied, determined to defeat the company proposal, and prepared to defend all the hard fought conditions until they would eventually crush the company’s hopes and claim victory.

The AWU members returned to their factory triumphant, retaining the industry standard 35 hour week, after the company had attempted to impose a longer working week on the employees, and also maintained their uncapped redundancy provision, fending off the company plan to cap this provision.

Fletcher management had also sought provision for the unlimited supply of casual labour. This provision now has restrictions in place, another important victory in a period where more than 40% of workers in Australia are placed in this insecure, precarious form of employment. Workers will now receive a 2% wage increase for each year of the new agreement, following the company’s initial demand that employee’s settle on a pay freeze for a three year period.

This victory by the 89 Fletcher Insulation workers has been heralded as a victory for all Australian workers; a small group of workers that stood united and defied, and ultimately defeated, a large multi-national company in their quest to decimate the conditions of working people.

The Dandenong victory follows on from another win for workers; that of the CUB 55 and their protracted six-month struggle at the Melbourne brewery, another small group of workers that took up the fight of the working class and defended and maintained their rights for secure employment, and decent working conditions.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Uluru Statement: moving towards Treaty

Nick G.

Delegates at the Referendum Council at Uluru on Friday 26 May, 2017 issued a statement essentially rejecting the farce of Constitutional Recognition, and gave explicit support to the demand for a Makarrata or Treaty.

Taking place against the historical background of the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum on including Aboriginal people in the Census, and on allowing the Commonwealth government to make laws relating to Aboriginal people, the mood of the three-day convergence was clearly against a repetition of superficial changes to wording which leave longstanding injustices intact.

Bunerong man Bruce Pascoe summed up that feeling when he told ABC radio last Thursday that “I don't think much about 1967; it didn't stop the intervention, or deaths in custody or the stealing of children, or the institutionalisation of racism within the constitution…. Some see it as a light on the hill, but I see it as the glint off a businessman's false golden tooth.”

That false golden tooth has been quite influential in the push for Constitutional Recognition.  According to a Spirit of Eureka publication due to be available shortly, 'Driving Disunity: the Business Council against Aboriginal Community', the whole constitutional recognition saga had its birth in the Samuel Griffith Society. The Society was set up with key involvement of Western Mining Corporation boss, Hugh Morgan, a close friend of John Howard.

The Constitutional Recognition it proposed was more of the same: tokenistic, symbolic, a salve for hurt feelings, but scrupulously avoiding ATSI people’s rights to self-determination and sovereignty.

The Business Council of Australia, comprising the hundred biggest local and overseas corporations in the country, has been relentless in its push to develop a “new architecture” of Aboriginal leadership, of corporate-minded servants of finance capital within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

BCA Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott put on a brave face as she tried to minimise the significance of the rebuff to Constitutional Recognition, telling the ABC’s AM program on May 29 that “This is something that has got a long way to play out, I think…over history we’ve had many kinds of…I dunno, false alarms over things that turned out to work out in practice.  Let’s see the final form.  This is, you know, a matter for the Indigenous community.”  In other words, let’s hold our fire, bide our time, and see how we can work through “our” ATSI leaders to turn the process to our advantage.

While the Uluru Statement from the Heart (see below) supports “a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations”, it has not entirely broken from a desire for Constitutional change. The Noel Pearson-initiated proposal for “a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution” pushes self-determination and sovereignty demands into the quicksand of the parliamentary talking shop and takes precedence over progress towards a Treaty.

It was Pearson’s influence that led to some members of the Referendum Council meeting waking out on the first day. Ghillar Michael Anderson, one of the leaders of the original Makarrata movement from 1981 to 1985, walked out on day one and was refused re-entry and speaking rights on the two following days.

Allegations were raised that grass roots activists were denied entry and that the meeting was stacked. Some mobs like the Tanami Desert people and Wilcannia people either refused to attend, or disputed the selection of those chosen to represent them.

Senior lawmen from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yakunytjatjara communities said that the meeting had been held on their lands without their consent.

“As Chairperson of APY Law and Culture,” said Murray George from Fregon (Kaltjiti), “I have written to the Referendum Council to say the Tjilpis (old men, uncles, elders – ed.) are insulted that the Referendum Council did not respect protocol and procedure before they called a meeting for discussion on having Anangu/Aboriginal people all over Australia included in Australia's Constitution.

“We, the Traditional Owners for Uluru and Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara country argue that our Law is the Law of the Land in this part of the world and not the whiteman law. We know we have been controlled by the whiteman law because we didn't have enough warriors and clever Lawmen who can take the fight up to these people who occupy our lands illegally.

“We are only just learning about how to talk about sovereignty and the fact that the High Court of Australia in the Mabo case said our Law and Culture survived British sovereignty. So us Tjilpis are asking ourselves if the colonial power agrees that our Law and culture survived British sovereignty - well then what does that truly mean for us?

“This is what they should be talking about not trying to put us in their constitution so that they get power over us to pass laws for us without us really knowing what the real outcome will be for Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Law and culture.

“We don't want this meeting called by the Referendum Council to take place on our Country.”

Murray George’s statement that his community is still coming to grips with the implications of self-determination and sovereignty was echoed by Philip Wilyuka, a senior man from Titjikala, approximately 100km south of Alice Springs. He demanded that the consultation process be done proper way in the languages of the First Nations, when all options must be put on the table and both sides of the argument explained in detail. This way the communities can go forward fully informed. Wilyuka confirmed the need for proper interpretation into First Nations languages and more time to get it right.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart shows the direction in which ATSI people want to move, but the three-day meeting showed that different people have different ideas about which path to take to get there.

Even acknowledging the internal tensions and contradictions, it is clear that the course favoured by the multinationals and the BCA has been rejected and that a Treaty enshrining self-determination and sovereignty is clearly on the agenda for national discussion.

The desire for meaningful action, and not cheap words, is strong among First Nations peoples.  They will have plenty of trickery and false words to deal with but their own united voice can no longer be denied.  Quire correctly, they are setting the agenda for their own communities and are bound to achieve victory despite the false golden teeth of their opponents.

A meeting at the Aboriginal Embassy in Canberra will be held on 24
& 25 June to develop strategies going forward and to make First Nations’ voices heard.
In the interests of fully understanding the Uluru Statement from the Heart we reproduce the entire text below:


 We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.

This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.

How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?

 With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.

Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future. 

These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.

We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.

We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. 

Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination. 

We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Turnbull's 2017 Budget: a wolf in sheep's clothing!

Max O.

The recent 2017 Federal Budget catch-cries of "good debt vs bad debt" and "security, opportunity, fairness" pitifully fail to cloud the class antagonisms that afflicts Australia. From the disastrous 2014 Budget of "lifters and leaners", Turnbull's Coalition government has taken the 'Labor Lite' route to swoon support for this year's Federal Budget.

However the working class, who are becoming more and more impoverished, can clearly see a con when Treasurer Morrison offers hollow inducements such as: increasing the Medicare levy to fund the  National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); supposed increase of $18 billion for needs based funding of Australian schools; introduction of the First Home Super Saver Scheme that will enable first home buyers to direct some income into super accounts, at a lower tax rate than normal and allegedly 'assist' them to the purchase a house.

The philosophy of the rich is one of making the working class pay!

The reality is that these measures either cost Australian workers without touching the rich or corporations, or do pathetically little to improve the livelihoods of ordinary people. Tax payers will pay a 0.5% increase in their Medicare levy to finance the NDIS whilst the rich can now rejoice that the 2% deficit levy will be removed.

The increase of $18 billion for needs-based funding for Australian schools is in actual fact a $22 billion decrease from the original Gonski $30 billion funding recommendation for schools. Similarly, the First Home Super Saver Scheme will do little to make homes affordable to the working class, despite the Government claims that it will help first home buyers to save a deposit 30 per cent faster.

What would help first home buyers is ceasing Negative Gearing and Capital Gains discounts to investors who cash in on it and consequently dominate the housing market and push up prices, causing the housing speculation bubble to eventually crash.

Another pea and thimble trick is the 0.06 percent levy on the bank liabilities creating a $1.5 billion tax impost for the Big Four Banks. However, this will be compensated when the corporate tax cuts are introduced, a measure that will eventually give away $50 billion from the Government coffers when the company tax rate is reduced to 25%.

Much fan-fare has been placed on the Turnbull Government’s Budget commitment to boost and improve infrastructure. Here is where the Coalition posits the analogy of "good debt vs bad debt", counter-posing that spending on infrastructure is better than recurrent spending on social welfare, education and health.

Billions of dollars will presumably be spent on a mixture of energy, rail and road infrastructure projects throughout the nation. $5 billion will be spent on constructing Sydney's postponed second international airport.  It is doubtful whether all of these infrastructure commitments will be undertaken due to the current economic slump.

The 2017–2018 budget  is now the tenth that has vowed to achieve a surplus within a four-year budget cycle. With a large deficit of $29.4 billion and public debt out of control credit agencies and big business are not happy and are threatening to downgrade Australia’s current AAA rating. Australian businesses will then have to borrow at higher interest rates which will further weaken economic activity.

Capitalism's growth paradigm: the fool's paradise

The illusion of a 'return to surplus budget' is premised on the unlikely forecast of economic growth, both globally and in Australia. Turnbull's Budget envisages the expansion of the Chinese, Japanese and US economies over the next few years, thereby keeping up Australian export prices and government tax revenues from both company and personal income taxes, and attracting further inflows of foreign investment. Out of all this fantasizing about economic growth, Australian GDP apparently will climb from 1.75 percent in 2017 to 3 percent in 2020.

In continuing its commitments to keep Australia tied up to US-led wars of aggression, the Turnbull Government will maintain its escalating financial allocation to the military, intelligence and police. Their budget boosted military expenditure by 6.1 percent this financial year and will keep increasing it up till 2021.

Around $150 billion will go to the military over the next couple of years to pay for F-35 jet fighters, new surface warships, the start-up construction of 10 new submarines and the funding of Australia's continuing involvement in military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. In the next ten years, approximately $494 billion will be spent on the military by the Australian Government to further its inter-operability with the US war-machine and contribute towards American dominance of the world.

The economic reality for the Turnbull Government is that capitalism in Australia will be trapped in a low growth and a low profitability future. Because of the difficult task of imposing control over the working class and cutting public spending and wages there will be continuing political and economic turbulence for this and any future 'Shorten/Labor Government'.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Trump Administration: The new Cold War

A recent media release from the United States Defence Department has revealed a new generation of counter-insurgency training provision. It is specifically intended for use in the Asia-Pacific region and forms part of wider initiatives to reassert traditional US hegemonic positions.
The military planning has far-reaching implications for progressive-minded people and their democratic organisations with all the hallmarks of an attempted return by the US to Cold War positions.
New jungle warfare training at Scholefield, Hawaii
A media release in March, coinciding with the start of massive US-led military exercises off the Korean peninsula, announced the Pentagon was training personnel in 'the first jungle school the US army has established in decades'. (1) The training, at US Schofield Barracks, Waikiki, Hawaii, is a major military facility in the Asia-Pacific region and home of the 25th Infantry Division.
The Schofield military facilities, covering 18,000 acres, also has dense woods, cliffs and a waterway and their official website describes the base as being used for training personnel to 'prepare for deployment to the theatre of operations to perform combat operations as part of corps counter attack'.
It is, perhaps, not coincidental the Schofield military facilities are situated near to the US Pacific Command (PACOM), the regional defence and security base. The PACOM facilities have a stated command which includes the US 7th fleet with a range from South Africa to Australia, the 5th fleet which covers the northern part of the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf and the 3rd fleet with a range from Australia to Latin America.
The media release about the Schofield facilities also left readers with no ambiguity about US military planning for the wider region. It noted 'the course is part of a program to train soldiers for exercises and potential combat on terrain that looks more like islands and nations in the Pacific than arid Afghanistan and the deserts of the Middle East'. (2)
Jungle warfare training and counter-insurgency provision for US-led military drills tended to be superceded with developments following 9/11 and led to concentration upon the Middle East and wider planning to deal with supposed Islamic terrorism. Jungle warfare was also closely associated with the Vietnam War period and marked by brutality and repression. Following declassification of military documents in the 1990s the Pentagon sought to distance itself from unfavourable publicity.
Other factors also came into play for the maintenance and furthering of class and state power: the US tended to rely more upon the economic strategies during the New World Order during the 1990s as a means of controlling the vast region. Numerous so-called Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) were designed as a means of containing and encircling China. One layer of FTAs, therefore, tended to rest upon defence and security alliances centred upon allies. The planning has, however, been shown to have failed, in a spectacular manner. The continued economic growth of China has therefore thrown previous US military planning into disarray.
Western countries have had problems with low economic growth rates and decline for many years. There is little indication of any upturn in the foreseeable future. China dislodged Japan some years ago as the second-biggest economy in the world and is now set to topple the US within the next decade. Chinese diplomacy has also extended influence through the wider region effectively challenging traditional US hegemonic positions. For most countries across the region, a successful future now lies with strong links with Beijing, not Washington. 
The new US 'jungle school' military planning has to be seen in line with classic counter-insurgency provision and Cold War diplomatic positions. It is marked by neo-colonial ambitions and a preoccupation with military supply-lines in the most dynamic sector of the global economy. In fact, the defence department media release about the Schofield military facilities quoted Brigadier-General Stephen Michael, who stated, 'The jungle school gives that focus, it reinforces that we're in the Pacific', and, 'you got to fight in the tough environment of the Pacific'. (3) 
What the media release did not clarify is counter-insurgency provision has two specific military uses: to contain insurgency movements which threaten the existing status quo and to deal with remnants of previous political systems following 'regime change'.
The defence department media release did, however, reveal further information about the nature of training provision with their jungle school and direct linkage with previous brutality and repression. It was noted 'instructors in training pored over old army jungle manuals' as they sought to 'relearn everything' and to 're-acquire long-lost skills'. (4)
Declassified documents reveal imperialists’ fascist mindset
Studying some of the declassified documents from the US Defence Department provides a chilling picture of what the military regard useful long-lost skills. Adversaries, for example, are defined as 'those who oppose the US Defence Department' during 'peacetime and all levels of conflict'. (5) 
Adversaries, being monitored by US-led intelligence agents in civil society, were subsequently categorised onto black, grey or white-lists following the infiltration of 'a wide array of groups'. Training documents, from the period, show 'small group penetration', together with 'psychological warfare techniques' and 'interview and interrogation techniques' a major priority for military and other personnel. (6)
The definition of the 'enemy', from a variety of documents, would tend to indicate the US-led offensive was directed toward the whole of civil society not merely insurgents. The US Army's Project X, for example, was established in the mid-1960s as part of the wider program. Used initially in the Vietnam War, it was later used elsewhere. (7) In Vietnam, it included the Phoenix Program which was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians thought to be associated with the Vietnamese Communists. The program, later exported to Argentina, was used in the Dirty War period between 1976-82. Once again, the merest hint of contact with subversive elements through intelligence agents, was regarded as sufficient evidence to justify widespread detention and 'disappearances' of civilians. The Argentine military junta subsequently exported the counter-insurgency model to Central America under the tutelage of the US. Installed in Honduras, the US-backed training provision for the Contra to destabilise the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, resulted in tens of thousands of innocent civilians being abducted, tortured and killed. 
Democratic institutions, as defined by the project, were equated with terrorism: insurgents are regarded in the same light as 'political adversaries' of the ruling elite. Foreign policy objectives appear concerned with total control of a subject society and elimination of viable political opposition.
A sub-section of one declassified document dealing with 'impersonation' described the enemy in very broad terms as 'one assisted by his ability to hide his arms and merge at short notice into civilian population. He may disguise himself as a priest or woman or impersonate a policeman or soldier but is most likely to appear as a normal village peasant'. Presumably, using such a definition, US-led intelligence agents were expected to assess an entire civil population in the name of defending society from 'terrorism'.
Indoctrination procedures, accompanied by abductions of family-members to pressurise those being questioned, also included the indiscriminate use of Sodiopentathol (truth serum).
Another sub-section of a declassified document dealing with correct procedures for dealing with prisoners of war was immediately followed by a section dealing with 'burials'. 
Throughout the many declassified documents numerous references to the military working cooperatively with civil administrations has thrown light upon the concept of 'regime change'. One declassified document acknowledged limitations of military personnel: 'while the unit cannot undertake long term government functions, it is capable of exercising supervision over four civil affairs categories' and then listed government functions including labour and finance, economic functions, public functions and dealing with displaced peoples'. The senior military personnel concerned had a clearly defined role with the establishment of civil administration composed of 'puppets' to serve military interests.  
References, likewise, to correct conduct when military personnel deal with civilian populations is further evidence that newly installed puppet-type civil administrations serve the interests of the US and its allies. Numerous pages of 'Relations with Local People' contain lists of correct and incorrect behaviour including the 'mopping up' process of dealing with the remnants of the previous political system. It was supposed to be kept well-guarded, subject to higher levels of classification and noted 'deliberate mopping-up will be required even when the enemy is overrun and surrounded' and do not 'tell locals anything about military matters'.
If, however, sensitive information was revealed in the course of military matters, those concerned were expected to behave 'in such a way as to assure secrecy or concealment of the operation and its sponsor, and to permit plausible denial by the sponsor in the event the operation is compromised'.
Within a culture of lies and deceit, US-led forces were able to justify military occupation of a country under the pretext of countering terrorism to install puppet administrations with the specific intention of the exploitation of local labour and resources. It was nevertheless considered outside standard ethical behaviour to 'interfere with local women' and 'livestock belonging to local people'.
Following declassification of the sordid documents, the US Defence Department was forced to purge itself of those responsible for the repressive measures as a means of distancing itself from the disgrace. Highly unfavourable publicity, nevertheless, took place. It was noted at the highest level, for example, 'the CIA seemed to specialise in hiring murderous thugs and military officers' and it was due to 'the bad habits of the Cold War'. (8)
And now, with the passing of more than two decades, former military practices have been brought out of storage for future use in the Asia-Pacific region. It is also interesting to note how the previous military practices have been updated and the reasons behind the changes.
Modern-day Asia-Pacific countries have experienced rapid economic growth and have rising urban-based middle-classes in recent decades. In many countries across the region manufacturing has also taken priority over traditional rural agriculture. Well-educated, urban-based people, are more likely to rely upon China for their prosperity and cannot necessarily be regarded by the US as supporters of traditional diplomatic positions. 
The Philippines and South Korea are two recent examples of former pro-US puppet governments being toppled by the will of the mass of civil population and being recently swept closer into China's sphere of influence. Their governments now do not support traditional US diplomatic positions. Both countries nevertheless remain highly-sensitive and strategically-placed, for US military facilities and supply-lines. 
Imperialists switch training from rural to urban focus
It is therefore significant to note the changing focus of counter-insurgency training provision away from rural theatres of operations to urban areas. A recent military exercise for Special Forces from Australia, South Korea and Singapore, for example, included 'planning a mock city with multi-story buildings for soldiers to hone their urban warfare skills'. (9)
The military exercises also included provision for soldiers to 'storm and seize control of a terrorist hideout' in an urban area and were accompanied by Australia and Singapore strengthening defence ties. The joint Trident combat drills have also included new agreements for sharing intelligence. (10) 

Recent references in the Australian media about a newly established Urban Operations training Facility at Mount Bundey, outside Darwin in northern Australia (above), provide further evidence the development of new counter-insurgency doctrines is well under-way. (11) The role of the Pentagon is also quite clear. In April, about 1250 US military personnel arrived in Darwin to use Australian military facilities as part of troop rotation planning for six months training and for use in rapid deployment in the region.
Likewise, recent references to the Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative (ASSI), a Pentagon military plan for 'increasing US military presence in Asia' is also under-way. (12) Australia is set to increase defence budgets from $32.4 billion at present to $58.7 billion by 2025-6 as part of the same military provision. (13) References to areas of specific interest which include 'hot zones including North Korea' leave little ambiguity about the nature of the military planning. (14) One can but speculate which other countries across the region the US regard as 'hot zones' and the timespan of their planning. We have entered a dangerous phase: The present presidential administration in the White House is dominated by a man who is a megalomaniac and compulsive risk-taker.  
A new Cold War and all which accompanies it is taking place in the Asia-Pacific region. And those who forget the lessons of history will have to repeat them over and over again.
1.     US army gets grip again on jungle warfare, Weekend Australian, 18-19 March 2017.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Ibid.
4.     Ibid.
5.     Website: US Army Foreign Intelligence Assistance Program, Declassified 15 November 1993,
        Army Regulation 381-20, Section 1.5.
6.     The Whores of War, Wilfred Burchett and Derek Roebuck, (London, 1977), page 31.
7.     Army's Project X Had  Wider Audience,
Washington Post, 6 March 1997.
8.     Lead Editorial, The CIA Cleanses Itself,
New York Times, 4 March 1997.
9.     Singapore's military training area in Australia to be tripled under $2.25 bn plan,
The Straits Times, 9 May 2016.
10.   Singapore ministers hail strengthening of Singapore-Australia defence ties, The Straits Times, 6 May 2016; and, SAF's extended facilities, The Straits Times, 10 May 2016.
11.   Soldier 'died in live-fire attack',
Australian, 12 May 2017.
12.   Turnbull talks up US presence in Asia,
Australian, 10 May 2017.
13.   D-Day for defence's 10-year funding, 
Australian, 8 May 2017.
14.   Spy funds boosted in terror fight,
Australian, 8 May 2017.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Book review: Yezhov vs. Stalin

Nick G.

Joseph Stalin, the man who led the building of socialism in the USSR and saved the world from Hitlerite fascism, is to many people an evil, bloodthirsty dictator and tyrant.

Anti-Communists everywhere have had a field day demonising Stalin and using the demon so created to drive people from curiosity about, or positive feelings towards, Communism and Communist Parties.

Undoubtedly this demonisation has largely succeeded and derived credibility because the most vocal, fiercest critics have worn the cloak of Marxism and Marxism-Leninism. 

Trotsky spoke as a “Marxist” when he savagely attacked Stalin for adhering to the theory of “building socialism in one country”, for disallowing “democracy” (factionalism) in the Party, and for fostering a bureaucratic caste that took power away from the workers.

Following Stalin’s death, the Trotskyite attacks were largely confirmed by Khrushchev, the Soviet leader who succeeded Stalin.

Khrushchev delivered a secret speech to the Soviet Party’s 20th Congress in 1956, three years after Stalin’s death. Although the content was kept from the mass of Soviet Party members, it was leaked to a US capitalist newspaper and sent shockwaves through the international communist movement. It accused Stalin of fostering a cult of the personality behind which he cruelly suppressed and killed loyal Bolsheviks in their tens of thousands.
Anti-Communists could not conceal their glee.  Many Communists were so disheartened and disillusioned that they withdrew from revolutionary activity or adopted the revisions to Marxist theory that Khrushchev passed off as corrections to “Stalinist dogma”.

Reactionary authors such as Robert Conquest lapped up the secret speech and produced “histories” that established as “fact” that Stalin had been responsible for mass repressions in which some 20 million Soviet citizens were murdered.

The evaluation of Stalin was not all one-sided.  Trotsky’s writings had always been contested during Stalin’s lifetime.  After the 20th Congress, Khrushchev was criticised by genuine Marxist-Leninists in all Parties.  Great assistance was afforded by the Chinese and Albanian Parties and their defence of Stalin.

Even so, there was a grudging acceptance that Stalin had made serious errors.  Neither the Albanians nor the Chinese had access to Soviet records against which to judge the validity of crimes attributed to Stalin by Khrushchev.  The strongest criticism of the secret speech was that it “completely negated Comrade Stalin” whereas “his merits outweighed his mistakes” (On the Question of Stalin, Beijing, September 13, 1963). It was largely accepted among genuine Marxist-Leninists that Stalin was 70% correct and 30% incorrect.  In the latter component were departures from dialectical thinking; confusing the two types of contradictions (between ourselves and the enemy, and among the people); conviction of innocent people on charges of conspiracy and counter-revolutionary activity; and certain violations of democratic centralism within his own party and of comradely relations between the Soviet Party and other Communist parties.

In only relatively recent years has it been possible to access some previously unreleased archival materials relating to the Soviet Union.

By and large, academics working on history of the Soviet era have declined to visit this archival material. The demonisation of Stalin has been so widely and successfully spread that it is not worth risking one’s academic reputation to suggest that there could be a different appraisal.

One person who has tapped into the archives is Grover Furr, an American professor of Medieval English literature at Montclair State University. Furr’s first full-length book, Khrushchev Lied (2011) investigates each of the allegations made against Stalin (and Beria) by Khrushchev in his secret speech and provides documentary evidence that establishes their monstrous falsehood.

This was followed by The Murder of Sergei Kirov (2013) which undermined the so-called “scholarship” on which accusations that either Stalin had Kirov murdered, or that the murder was the act of a lone assassin, have been based.  Using again a mountain of documentary evidence, Furr showed that Kirov’s assassination was planned and carried out by a group loyal to an anti-Party clique headed by Zinoviev and others, and with ties to Trotsky.

The following year, Furr published a lengthy refutation of Timothy Snyder’s widely-read Bloodlands which had equated Stalin with Hitler and blamed both for the slaughter of millions in the Ukraine, Byelorussia and Poland. It is worth giving the full title of Furr’s book: BLOOD LIES: The Evidence that Every Accusation against Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union in Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands Is False. Plus: What Really Happened in: the Famine of 1932-33; the “Polish Operation”; the “Great Terror”; the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; the “Soviet invasion of Poland”; the“Katyn Massacre”; the Warsaw Uprising; and “Stalin’s Anti-Semitism”. Furr looked into every source cited by Snyder, and checked every one of his footnotes to produce a credible argument that Snyder was dishonest throughout his book.

A year later (2015) came Trotsky’s “Amalgams.” Trotsky's Lies, The Moscow Trials As Evidence, The Dewey Commission. (Trotsky's Conspiracies of the 1930s, Volume One). Trotsky’s own archives, as well as Soviet era archives, served to establish that he had maintained contact with Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin and that the assassination of Stalin and other top Soviet leaders was the object of their conspiracy. Given the successes of the First Five Year plan and Stalin’s and the Party’s great popularity with the people, this was the only way that Trotsky and other oppositionists could come to power.

Returning for a moment to the 70-30 evaluation of Stalin held by the Chinese and many other genuine Marxist-Leninists, a specific criticism of errors by Stalin was the following: “in 1937 and 1938 there occurred the error of enlarging the scope of the suppression of counter-revolutionaries” (On the Question of Stalin). Indeed, there was a sharp increase in the execution of alleged spies, conspirators and counter-revolutionaries during these two years.  Yet, argues Furr in his latest book, Yezhov vs. Stalin: The Truth About Mass Repressions and the So-Called ‘Great Terror’ in the USSR (2016), Stalin was unaware of the scale of the repressions and not responsible for Yezhov’s private war on loyal Party members and Communists.

Furr presents Stalin as determined to restrict the power of the Party bureaucracy by introducing through his 1936 Constitution a provision for multicandidate secret ballot elections. This, together with a guaranteed right to recall elected officials who had lost the confidence of their electors, was designed to show working people world-wide that the dictatorship of the proletariat was the most democratic system of government, and far superior to anything that bourgeois democracies practiced.

However, the powerful regional First Secretaries and other top officials frustrated and opposed Stalin’s attempted democratisation and, fearing the electoral influence of thousands of kulaks and others released from state prisons in 1935, quietly acquiesced  in Yezhov’s claims of a revived widespread conspiracy requiring new repressive measures. When the scale of Yezhov’s criminal activity became known to Stalin, he had him arrested and replaced by Beria who brought the repressions to an end.

As Furr makes clear in each of his books, it is almost impossible to dismantle what he calls the “anti-Stalin paradigm” which he defines in terms of the following:

• Stalin was a “dictator”. Therefore, he either initiated or could have stopped everything important that occurred. Therefore, whatever happened, happened because he wanted it, or something very like it, to happen. Stalin was always “in control”.
• The alleged conspiracies against the Stalin government were all fabrications. None of them really existed.
• It follows that the evidence produced in the testimony at the Moscow Trials, and in the interrogations and confession statements that have gradually been published since the end of the USSR in 1991, must be fabrications, and so are disregarded.
• Stalin never wanted democratic elections. The struggle by Stalin and his supporters for contested elections to the soviets (the legislative arm of the Soviet government) was either a sham or intended as a mechanism to get rid of entrenched local leaders whose power Stalin perceived as threatening in some way.

But “almost impossible” is not the same as “completely impossible”.  The mass reappraisal and appreciation of Stalin will not take place overnight, but take place it will.

History will be kinder to Stalin than to the Trotskys, Khrushchevs, Conquests and others who use a straw man, a caricature, a demonised Stalin, to attack and oppose the Communist alternative to capitalism.

And it will record the debt it owed to Grover Furr for pioneering this reeavluation.

Furr’s book is available from Erythros Press.  As an alternative to purchasing the book privately, those who are interested in Furr’s books, and who are members of their respective State or local libraries, might like to suggest the library purchase the book, thus helping to make it available to a wider audience.

If you wish to either purchase your own copy, or recommend it for a library purchase, the ISBN, publisher details and order arrangements are here: