Monday, February 20, 2017

Early Days – the Trump Administration


(Contributed)

The hasty high-level diplomatic visit of United States Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to Seoul has highlighted two issues in the early weeks of the Trump administration: the importance of South Korea (ROK) for foreign policy objectives and their duplicity surrounding the proposed siting of a US-led defence and security THAAD system in the country.

The issues are also inseparable from general hawkish and militaristic stance of the Trump administration and their supporters.

Early in February US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis travelled to Seoul for his first overseas diplomatic mission. It was no great surprise he chose the ROK. The southern half of the peninsula has remained a strategic centre for 'US interests' for over half a century. Its significance and importance has steadily risen on US agendas in recent times: the ROK has been chosen to host 'an advanced US missile defence system' the Theatre High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD). (1)
It was therefore to be expected the Mattis visit to the ROK was to discuss 'with the South Koreans a timetable for deploying' the 'advanced US missile defence system'. (2)

The THAAD forms part of a much wider US-led regional and global defence and security system. In the Asia-Pacific region it is linked into provision established by the recent implementation of the Global Transformation of Defence and Security (GTDS) planned during earlier Bush administrations. The US is linked into the regional in a triangular form with Australia and Japan being strategic regional hubs for 'US interests' with other countries subsequently linked into the hubs. The general aim of the GTDS is to reassert US hegemonic positions assessed as being threatened by China.

The recent period has been marked by the US reopening numerous bases and military facilities across the Asia-Pacific region. Their presence has not been particularly difficult to observe: 28,500 troops permanently based in the ROK are linked to a further 50,000 in Japan, numerous US-led and coordinated military exercises take place on the regular basis. (3) The annual Cobra Gold military exercises, ostensibly joint manoeuvres between the US and Thailand, 'now involve more than twenty countries'. (4)  

A central component of the US-led militarism is their X-band system: an 'early warning radar' used for regional monitoring and surveillance. (5) Sited in various locations the system has provided the US with the ability to assess the emergence of China as a major world power.  

The proposed THAAD system is a further addition to the already existing defence and security provision. Its proposed siting in the ROK has, however, been highly controversial. Most ROK residents do not want the system in place, they are well-aware of the implications. President Park has also been impeached on corruption charges, rendering the ROK a politically volatile US ally. 

There have been huge protests and demonstrations led by the political opposition together with trade unions and other progressive organisations mobilising hundreds of thousands of people. The whole of Seoul has been brought to a standstill on more than one occasion by millions of protesters. Those involved are 'deeply critical of the close strategic relationship South Korea has with Washington and its allies, including Australia'. (6) The US are clearly worried their position in the ROK is possibly becoming untenable; diplomatic options, to maintain existing positions, are limited. Influence, nevertheless, has been brought to bear.

A recent carefully-worded media release from Seoul noted 'the caretaker South Korean government has said it supports THAAD deployment, but the decision is in doubt because of approaching elections'. (7)  Those concerned are well aware 'the country's next leader will be from one of the left-of-centre opposition parties leading the charge against her'. (8) 

The lameduck ruling administration in Seoul would therefore appear more likely to serve 'US interests' even though it is highly unpopular: it is easier for the US to manipulate, and for good reason. The proposed siting date of THAAD falls within the set period of presidential office, due to expire at the end of the year.  

The present government in Seoul and their US advisors clearly do not want to allow the political opposition to make the proposed THAAD deployment an election issue. If they do so, they are likely to not only lose but also be implicated in publicising the highly sensitive nature of the system and the duplicity of the US position. 

Official media releases about the THAAD system tend to concentrate upon the northern DPRK as a major adversary and threat posed to the ROK. The US have consistently ignored or denied allegations the system is also intended to target both China and the Russian Federation. In fact, the recent media release about the Mattis visit to Seoul stated 'THAAD should be a worry to no nation other than North Korea'. (9)  

The information, however, runs counter to previous media releases which appear to originate from better placed and informed sources. Duplicity would appear to have already become a standard method of operation for the Trump administration.

An earlier official media release from the US Congressional Research Service during the Obama administrations declared they were 'laying the foundations for a regionwide missile defence system that would combine US ballistic missile defences with those of regional powers, particularly Japan, South Korea and Australia'. (10)

The statement was likewise supported with further incriminating information which included 'the focus of our rhetoric is North Korea', but, 'the reality is that we're also looking longer term at the elephant in the room, which is China'. (11) The fact most countries across the region possess effective diplomacy and extensive trading relations with China has been conveniently overlooked by the US. They continually seek to dislodge Chinese influence across the region through wave after wave of militarism. 

Intelligence collection, through western allies, is a central feature of the US-led defence and security provision. It is not difficult to monitor. The ROK and Japan have recently 'signed an intelligence-sharing pact, late last year'. (12) The planned visit of newly appointed CIA director Mike Pompeo to Canberra in early March also forms part of the same planning, with particular emphasis upon the use of military facilities at Pine Gap in central Australia which is a strategic link to US facilities on Deigo Garcia in the Indian Ocean. It is also significant Pompeo has been noted as 'a long-time supporter of expanding the government's surveillance powers'. (13)

It is, however, when observing the resurgence of far-right political positions and the diplomacy which has accompanied it that the picture becomes clearer:

Within the Trump administration one of the 'closest advisors' was Michael Flynn, appointed National Security Advisor. (14) There remains little ambiguity in the far-right nature of his political position, or the type of advice offered to the incoming president. Media statements have used terminology remarkably similar to 1950s Cold War rhetoric, referring to noted adversaries of US interests as 'political ideology akin to a malignant cancer'. (15) While the adversaries change, the terminology used to describe them has remained consistent.  

The fact Flynn lasted a mere 24 hours before being compromised and dismissed is evidence in itself of the deep-seated dysfunction within the White House. One face may have gone, but their supporters nevertheless remain in prominent decision-making positions. 

It has, however, been a recently released media statement about the Asia-Pacific region from the Hudson Institute which has provided a particularly far-reaching insight into US foreign policy and military planning. The institute, forming part of a strategic, far-right, outsourced, freelance intelligence service, issued a major statement in early February shortly after the Trump inauguration. While there was no reference to the proposed THAAD system in the ROK to avoid unfavourable publicity there was little doubt about the role of the US-led and ROK-based system in broader regional terms. 

Foreign policy toward the region was specified with the statement 'to restore US strength and prestige in the Pacific and rebuild trust and alliances, America needs to reassert its traditional presence and role in the region' with use of 'cutting-edge weapons systems that will increase America's defence advantage'. (16)    

The statement also highlighted a problem with existing regional alliances: it noted 'America's defence relationships with its Asian allies are bi-lateral, like spokes in a wheel. There is no multilateral security framework like NATO. Take away the US hub and the entire system falls apart'. (17) There is little doubt who is the puppet-master. The statement continued with a detailed specification about the role of the US with it having to 'show its friends the way forward', defining 'friends as Australia, Japan and South Korea'. (18)  

Make no mistake, the US are preparing to unleash war in the Asia-Pacific region. We should be on our guard. 

Those ROK residents who have protested across the country in recent months are heroes. Progressive people across the region should offer their support and applause. 

1.     Mattis issues sharp nuke warning to North Korea, Weekend Australian, 4-5 February 2017.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Ibid.
4.     US eyes return to south-east Asian bases, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 29 June 2012.
5.     U.S Seeks New Asia Defences, The Wall Street Journal, Friday-Sunday 24-26 August 2012.
6.     Potential crisis looms in Korea, Editorial, the Australian, 12 December 2016.
7.     Weekend Australian, op.cit., 4-5 February 2017.
8.     Australian, op.cit., 12 December 2016.
9.     Weekend Australian, op.cit., 4-5 February 2017.
10.   Wall Street Journal, op.cit., Friday-Sunday 24-26 August 2012.
11.   Ibid.
12.   New Defence Secretary's first trip settles nerves in Japan and South Korea, Australian, 6 February 2017.
13.   CIA chief's visit a bid to mend fences, Australian, 14 February 2017.
14.   Editorial, Stability goes out like Flynn, Australian, 16 February 2017.
15.   Donald's first casualty as security advisor falls on sword,  Australian, 15 February 2017, and   see, The Assault on the West, Ian Grieg, (London, 1968), Foreword by Sir Alec Douglas Home, as a good example of the demonisation of adversaries and western war-mongering. 
16.   Mattis takes reins as Americans face crisis of credibility in Asia, Australian, 2 February 2017.
17.   Ibid.
18.   Ibid.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

“Good on you Mum, Tip Top’s the one!”…or is it two?


Ned K.

"Good on you Mum, Tip Top's The One" used to be the jingle of Tip Top Bakeries, the biggest bread production company in Australia.

It is owned by George Weston Foods, a British based multinational food company. It is about to get a bigger controlling interest of the bread market. 

Its major competitor, Hong Kong owned Goodman Fielder in Australia has announced closure of bakeries in Queensland and Western Australia. The closure of its Western Australian bakery means about 100 workers will be looking for another job. The twist to this now familiar story of multinational corporations closing plants and destroying jobs is that Goodman Fielder bread in 
Western Australia will be made by Tip Top's Perth bakery!

So not only is "Tip Top’s The One", now "Tip Top’s The Two"!

Both Tip Top and Goodman Fielder produce bread for the big retailers Coles and Woolworths but they also make profits in other parts of the food production chain. Goodman Fielder makes millions of dollars out of production of food oils including palm oil, while Tip Top owns its own flour mills and agricultural grain crops as well yeast production plants. 

Workers in other Tip Top and Goodman Fielder plants around Australia are watching closely to see what other "rationalisation" plans these corporations are dreaming up. Food manufacturing, especially bread production, has been presented by the media and politicians as the future strength of the manufacturing sector in Australia to absorb lost jobs from other declining or extinct manufacturing industries here.

However the move by Goodman Fielder to close its WA plant and have its product made by its major competitor shows that not even employment in an industry producing a basic food like bread is secure in an economy where huge corporations are the decision makers, not the talking (or yelling) shops of the parliaments around the country.

No wonder people are attracted to try voting for someone other than traditional Liberal or Labor. 

People are looking for answers and the various new misleaders in parliament will be put to the test by the people too. 

Power for Profit Versus Power for People


Ned K.

The difficulties for the regional economy of South Australia regarding reliability of electricity have been the subject of considerable media space and parliamentary blame games. 

Renewable energy, coal, gas, nuclear have all been mentioned or championed by one group or another. For the people there is not only unreliability of power supply but escalating cost of it. Same applies for small business and even large corporations looking for abundant, priority supply are making noises about relocation due to high electricity power costs.

The fundamental cause of the problem is that the essential service of electricity supply and cost is determined by the big corporations who own and run it. Profit is their prime objective, not providing an essential service.

This is admitted by France’s Engie Corporation who owns the gas-fired power plant at Pelican Point (above) in the north western suburbs of Adelaide. On Friday 17 February the company issued a statement that said, "There is no commercial rationale to operate the second 240MW capacity Pelican Point unit in the current market environment in SA for a small number of high demand days across the year."

So "commercial rationale" (profit making) overrides the needs of the people in time of greatest need when there are extreme weather events.

This says it all. Corporations in the power industry will only provide power when it is profitable to do so, not when people need it.
An immediate demand on the SA Government should be to take over the power station at Pelican Point. 

Can't be done within capitalism? Under their own laws it most likely can be done as a previous Premier Tom Playford in the 1940s took over a private electricity company and formed the Electricity Trust of SA (ETSA).

People in the street are talking about this and wondering why, if a conservative Liberal Government could do this, can't a Labor Government whom many (although a declining number) still see as being more for the "little person".
T
he Premier has announced that the SA Government is planning to "intervene" in the electricity market to secure SA's power supply in the short and longer term.

People will be watching this one closely with a state election one year away.

Australia's electricity crisis demonstrates the madness of capitalism




Max O.

The famous French writer Andre Gide commented on the matter of deception with the following insight: "The true hypocrite is one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one lies with sincerity". 

The Australian people have now come to expect this behaviour from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who habitually performs malicious acts of dishonesty, with his foray into the electricity energy crisis being the latest example.

The progressive and urbane environmentalist has now contorted himself into a fossil-breathing, coal-hugger. Turnbull, and cabinet Ministers Frydenberg and Morrison, at the behest of the coal industry and the Minerals Council, went into attack over the electricity power blackouts in South Australia that occurred in July last year and February this year, 

They blamed the SA Weatherill Labor government for relying excessively on 'intermittent renewable energy' and putting the state's power supply in jeopardy. The implication being that South Australia's increasing use of renewable energy was the cause of blackouts, because when wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining turbines and solar panels don't produce electricity.

This assertion was mischievous to say the least, when in fact the July blackouts in South Australia were caused by storm damage to electricity towers which stopped power transmission to houses and businesses throughout the state. Reliance on fossil fuel generators wouldn't have stopped the blackout.

Who's really at fault for the blackouts?
This year's February blackouts in South Australia, where 100,000 households lost power, were the result of the Australian Energy Market Operator's (AEMO) blunder on a day of scorching temperatures and the consequent high demand. To avert a failure of the entire grid AEMO ordered load shedding, in other words rolling blackouts.

Despite AEMO calling for electricity generators to bid offers for providing power, none did. This seemed strange considering that there was "an unprecedented level of demand" and the market price for electricity was rising.

In the face of these facts the Turnbull Coalition government spewed forth the deceitful mantra, "Now more than ever, Australians need affordable and reliable electricity, affordable and reliable energy, as we meet our emissions reductions targets." Then in the next breath he goes onto the attack: "We’ve seen a shocking failure of leadership by Labor’s state governments and of course, we see in Western Australia the Labor opposition proposing a 50 per cent renewables target."

Whilst not fully opposing the need for carbon emission targets, the Turnbull Coalition government are in reality opposed to the concept and regularly rail against further emission reductions and any increase in renewable energy. Doing the bidding of the Minerals Council and coal industry, they have started to tout the dubious advantages of clean coal  generators, coal seam gas, pump hydro with battery storage throw in to make themselves look visionary.

What the Coalition government have dared not spoken about over the electricity crisis is the critical and more important matter of energy companies withholding  supply. What is stopping Australia having an 'affordable and reliable' electricity is the energy corporations 'gaming' the system by withholding power supplies to achieve electricity price spikes.

The energy economics consultant from CME (Carbon and Energy Markets), Bruce Mountain, stated that the primary cause of the South Australian blackout in early February was the same as what occurred in July last year; deliberately orchestrated low supply led to enormous spikes in wholesale electricity prices. He pointed out that the electricity market generation capability far surpassed the demand. Mountain noted that all the fossil fuel generators, except for Origin, carried on operating well below their capability, so as to sell electricity to the market at a very high price.

The electricity market's artificially orchestrated high energy costs to consumers has got so bad now that industry is complaining that it has become both unaffordable and unreliable. Big corporations such as aluminium smelters and steel manufacturers have, in particular, warned against the lack of stability and high power prices.

Privatisation and Nationalisation
The privatisation of previously state-owned power providers and the creation of an energy market is the actual cause of Australia's electricity crisis.
Both consumers and industry are feeling the effects of the anarchy that the capitalist mode of production causes.

After the Second World War Australian economic development required the capitalist state to carry out nationalisation of the multitude of electricity companies for the simple reason they would not undertake the electrification of rural and regional locations. This brings to mind Marx's pertinent comment: "This is why capital is productive; i.e. an essential relation for the development of the social productive forces. It ceases to exist as such only where the development of these productive forces themselves encounters its barrier in capital itself." Marx, The Grundrisse (1857)

Therefore energy production, especially electricity, needs to be operated as a public/state utility to achieve, using Turnbull's  appealing mantra, 'affordability and reliability'. Capitalism  is tottering from crisis to crisis and running on empty at the moment. Other than pillaging, it offers no solutions to the economic and environmental disasters it creates.

Electricity generation and distribution needs be nationalised for the good of society, although it is highly unlikely this will happen again by the capitalist state. This will only be achieved under workers' state power.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Our ultimate goal requires a working class state


Nick G.

Corey Bernardi’s defection from the Liberal Party illustrates an important part of the Marxist criticism of the bourgeois state.

The 1871Paris Commune afforded Marx and Engels their first opportunity to compare a working class state power with that of the bourgeoisie.

They observed how the bourgeois state had developed from an instrument of society in its struggle against feudal absolutism into a “state power making itself independent in relation to society” (Engels, Introduction to Marx’s The Civil War in France).

That process included an electoral system that privileged successful candidates over those who voted for them via a guaranteed fixed term of office, and an upper caste of highly paid officials (senior “public servants”) who were characterised by service to self: to “place-hunting and careerism” (Engels).

The state was indeed “nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another” (Engels) from which Marx drew the conclusion that shattered social-democratic, reformist and revisionist illusions: “But the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state-machinery and wield it for their own purpose. The political instrument of their enslavement cannot serve as the political instrument of their emancipation” (Marx,The Civil War in France).

The Commune introduced the right of recall

It was the practical measures of the Commune that contained the essence of the theories developed out of it by Marx, and restated 20 years later by Engels in his Introduction.

“From the very outset,” wrote Engels, “the Commune was compelled to recognize that the working class, once come to power, could not go on managing with the old state machine; that in order not to lose again its only just conquered supremacy, this working class must, on the one hand, do away with all the old repressive machinery previously used against itself, and, on the other, safeguard itself against its own deputies and officials, by declaring them all, without exception, subject to recall at any moment.”

This leads us directly back to Senator Bernardi.  He is not subject to recall, despite having six months ago, accepted second spot on the South Australian Liberal Senate team, and having been elected as a Liberal Senator for a period of six years. Bernardi is protected in his defection from the Government because the Parliament in which he sits is “independent in relation to society”, subject only to the periodic charade of an election in which candidates chosen by their party, and not by electors, seek the endorsement of the electorate.

(When we say, quoting Marx and Engels, that the bourgeois state is “independent in relation to society”, we refer to that formal separation of the elected representative from supervision, and if necessary, recall by those who voted for them. We do not mean that the political institution of the state is any way above the influence and power of the class which has created and controls it -  the bourgeoisie.)

Marx applauded the most significant of the practical measures of the Commune as representing “the reabsorption of the State power by society as its own living forces instead of as forces controlling and subduing it” (The Civil War in France) and recognised that one of the means by which this had come about was by “replacing the haughteous masters of the people into always removable servants…continuously under public supervision”.

Enter the power of the Soviets…

In October 1917, the Russian workers, peasants and soldiers ended Tsarism and “did away with the old repressive machinery previously used against itself”.  The Soviet revolution was the second time that workers were afforded the opportunity to make a completely new state apparatus. That apparatus grew out of democratically elected councils of workers and soldiers, the soviets, operating under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party.  Supervision of both the Soviets and the Party by the working class, a supervision into which the peasants were progressively drawn, was mandatory in the proletarian state.

Sir Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the British Trade Union Congress from 1926-1946, and no friend of the Soviet Union or the British Communist Party, visited the Soviet Union in 1925 and again in 1935, the year in which he was knighted.  He described the supervision of Communist functionaries within a factory he visited:

“The Commission is sent to the factory. The members of the Party are called up before them in front of the workers, both Party and non-Party. He is required to tell his life’s history, especially what he has done and is doing for the Revolution. Anyone can question him regarding both private and public matters, and after he has been turned inside out, the Commission then makes its decision” (Citrine, I Search for Truth in Russia, 1936).

The new Soviet Constitution of 1936 further consolidated these supervisory functions of the working class.

“In the preparation for the elections under the new Constitution,” wrote British author J.R. Campbell in his 1939 book, Soviet Policy and its Critics, “there were wide discussions in the Communist Party and all of the mass organisations in the country, and a re-election of all the leading officials…”

“Great reporting meetings and delegates of all categories reported on their work.  The reports were submitted to a prolonged and in some cases ruthless criticism, and on that basis the election of officials by secret ballot took place. One-third of the new officials have been elected for the first time. Many officials, both locally and nationally, who had got into a rut and were failing to attend to the requirements of the members were removed.  In these assemblies the Communist Party members had no special privileges. The workers judged them – as they judged other officials – on the basis of their work.”

The Soviet system of supervision of elected officials and deputies by those they represented through mass meetings to evaluate their contribution to the implementation of policies based on the needs of the workers has no equal in the contemporary Australian political system. There is no equivalent in our parliamentary system of that organic, structured and systematised supervision of the elected by the people that was characteristic of the Soviet system prior to its betrayal by the Khrushchev gang after Stalin’s death.

The democratic dictatorship of the Soviet state

But, may it not be objected (indeed, it certainly will be objected) was not Stalin’s Russia a personal dictatorship with near-unanimous (hint: fraudulent) votes for single, Party-approved candidates?

This is the year of the centenary of the Soviet revolution, and it behoves all Communists to be able to answer criticisms such as this.

Let’s look at the account of an American who was in the Soviet Union for three months prior to the 1936 elections.

“To start with it must be remembered that while the final elections took place on only one day, December 12th, the election campaign, as such, occupied two or three months of intense discussion and activity. Why was this necessary if most of the candidates were unopposed? Because the very process of selection of the candidates was a most important aspect of the election.

“In the United States candidates are proposed by political parties. The average citizen has darn little to say about who these candidates shall be.  This is all left to the ward heelers and the city, State and national bosses of the major political parties.

“Not so in the Soviet Union. According to the Soviet Constitution the right to nominate candidates resides in every pubic organisation, in every society of toilers. Trade unions, co-operatives, youth organisations, cultural and sports clubs and all other organisations of the people not only have the right but actually did nominate their candidates for the Supreme Council.

“Let us see how this worked in practice. In One election district a number of local organisations of that type nominated their own candidates. This took place many weeks before the final elections. Hence, as a result of such nominations by a number of organisations in this district, a handful of candidates were left in the running. Immediately widespread discussion developed around these proposed individuals. One organisations would send spokesmen to others to convince them to support their nominee. As the whole discussion was based on finding the person best suited for the post, some candidates were withdrawn, others declined, until finally, just before election, one candidate was left in the field, the unanimous choice of all the organisations of the people in that election district.

“Thus, if only one candidate was on the final ballot in this election district it was not because n others were nominated and discussed, but because prior to election day it had already become clear that this one person was the logical candidate and would emerge the victor” (Gil Green, The Truth About Soviet Russia).

The great virtue of our bourgeois parliamentary system, namely that we can engage in a process once every three years (or six in the case of Senators) of choosing from a field of candidates one to misrepresent our interests with, generally speaking, no prior involvement in their selection and no subsequent opportunity for thorough, systematised and on-going supervision is revealed rather as a vice in comparison with the genuine democracy for working people of a proletarian state.

Soviet democracy and Stalin

Stalin himself had to go through such a process of selection, albeit one in which his outstanding contributions at the head of the Soviet state and his enormous popularity, quite naturally predetermined an outcome in his favour. How well Stalin presented to electors of the Moscow electoral district his views on the differences between the bourgeois and proletarian democratic processes, and the inalienable right of voters to supervision and recall of those they elected:

“Never in the history of the world have there been such really free and really democratic elections—never! History knows no other example like it. (Applause.) The point is not that our elections will be universal, equal, secret and direct, although that fact in itself is of great importance. The point is that our universal elections will be carried out as the freest elections and the most democratic of any country in the world.

“Universal elections exist and are held in some capitalist countries, too, so-called democratic countries. But in what atmosphere are elections held there? In an atmosphere of class conflicts, in an atmosphere of class enmity, in an atmosphere of pressure brought to bear on the electors by the capitalists, landlords, bankers and other capitalist sharks. Such elections, even if they are universal, equal, secret and direct, cannot be called altogether free and altogether democratic elections.

“Here, in our country, on the contrary, elections are held in an entirely different atmosphere. Here there are no capitalists and no landlords and, consequently, no pressure is exerted by propertied classes on non-propertied classes. Here elections are held in an atmosphere of collaboration between the workers, the peasants and the intelligentsia, in an atmosphere of mutual confidence between them, in an atmosphere, I would say, of mutual friendship; because there are no capitalists in our country, no landlords, no exploitation and nobody, in fact, to bring pressure to bear on people in order to distort their will.

“That is why our elections are the only really free and really democratic elections in the whole world. (Loud applause.)

“Such free and really democratic elections could arise only on the basis of the triumph of the socialist system, only on the basis of the fact that in our country socialism is not merely being built, but has already become part of life, of the daily life of the people. Some ten years ago the question might still be debated whether socialism could be built in our country or not. Today this is no longer a debatable question. Today it is a matter of facts, a matter of real life, a matter of habits that permeate the whole life of the people. Our mills and factories are being run without capitalists. The work is directed by men and women of the people. That is what we call socialism in practice. In our fields the tillers of the land work without landlords and without kulaks. The work is directed by men and women of the people. That is what we call socialism in daily life, that is what we call a free, socialist life.

“It is on this basis that our new, really free and really democratic elections have arisen, elections which have no precedent in the history of mankind.

“How then, after this, can one refrain from congratulating you on the occasion of the day of national celebration, the day of the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union! (Loud, general cheers.)

“Further, comrades, I would like to give you some advice, the advice of a candidate to his electors. If you take capitalist countries you will find that peculiar, I would say, rather strange relations exist there between deputies and voters. As long as the elections are in progress, the deputies flirt with the electors, fawn on them, swear fidelity and make heaps of promises of every kind. It would appear that the deputies are completely dependent on the electors. As soon as the elections are over, and the candidates have become deputies, relations undergo a radical change. Instead of the deputies being dependent on the electors, they become entirely independent. For four or five years, that is, until the next elections, the deputy feels quite free, independent of the people, of his electors. He may pass from one camp to another, he may turn from the right road to the wrong road, he may even become entangled in machinations of a not altogether desirable character, he may turn as many somersaults as he likes—he is independent.

“Can such relations be regarded as normal? By no means, comrades. This circumstance was taken into consideration by our Constitution and it made it a law that electors have the right to recall their deputies before the expiration of their term of office if they begin to play monkey tricks, if they turn off the road, or if they forget that they are dependent on the people, on the electors.

“This is a wonderful law, comrades. A deputy should know that he is the servant of the people, their emissary in the Supreme Soviet, and he must follow the line laid down in the mandate given him by the people. If he turns off the road, the electors. are entitled to demand new elections, and as to the deputy who turned off the road, they have the right to blackball him. (Laughter and applause.) This is a wonderful law. My advice, the advice of a candidate to his electors, is that they remember this electors' right, the right to recall deputies before the expiration of their term of office, that they keep an eye on their deputies, control them and, if they should take it into their heads to turn off the right road, get rid of them and demand new elections. The government is obliged to appoint new elections. My advice is to remember this law and to take advantage of it should need arise.”

The Soviet state was a dictatorship alright, a class dictatorship of workers and peasants over the capitalist-roaders, the pessimists and obstructionists, the traitors and saboteurs.  The workers and peasants had guaranteed democratic rights as masters of this state.  This was sustainable during the Lenin-Stalin era because it embodied the Marxist requirement that such a state enact “the reabsorption of the State power by society as its own living forces”. 

Australians’ growing disillusion with parliamentary parties

Senator Corey Bernardi is the personification of that independence of bourgeois politicians from society of which Marx and Engels spoke.  Elected one day to represent the Liberals for a six-year term, it took only six months for him to feel quite free, quite independent of his electors to “pass from one camp to another, …(to) become entangled in machinations of a not altogether desirable character, (and to) turn as many somersaults as he likes”.

Recent surveys of Australian voters reveal a growing disenchantment with parliament, parliamentary parties and politicians. Professor Mark Evans of the University of Canberra Institute for Governance and Public Analysis said a survey last June showed Australians' trust in government and politicians are now at their lowest levels since 1993.  The joint survey with the Museum of Australian Democracy revealed only 37 per cent of Australians subscribe to a particular political party, the lowest level since 1967.

A second survey, the 2016 Scanlon Foundation survey, on the working of Australian democracy found low levels of trust in parliament and political parties.

An increased proportion of respondents agreed that "the system of government we have in Australia … needs major change", up from 23 per cent in 2014 to 31 per cent in 2016. A further 11 per cent would like to see the system replaced.

According to this survey, the lack of trust in the political system may in part reflect the failure to tackle socially progressive issues supported by a majority of electors. This is despite the fact that right-wing grouplets like Hanson’s and Bernardi’s seem to have benefitted electorally from the disenchantment.

And a January 2017 Ipsos survey painted a global picture of widespread resentment of the rich and powerful, distrust of traditional politics and pessimism about the future. The Australians it surveyed were reported to be “very much in tune with these sentiments”. 

According to Ipsos research, “Over two-thirds (68 per cent) believe "the economy is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful" and 61 per cent believe "traditional parties and politicians don't care about people like me".

Parliament, as the political institution of the capitalist state, and the processes by which it functions, will never serve the real interests of the Australian working class and people.  
Our choice is clear.

Either engaging fruitlessly in that inevitable cycle of hoping for a better deal under Labor than we know we are going to get from the Liberals, and then losing heart every time Labor wins office and backtracks on its promises to the point where it seems indistinguishable from the more open party of big business. 

Or having own independent political agenda which, while proposing immediate demands for measures to make life easier and better, never loses sight of the ultimate goal of an independent and socialist Australia.

Either engaging in the shallow and empty exercise of choosing between candidates selected for us by the parties and giving them free rein to do as they please between electoral cycles.

Or smashing the old and creating a new working class state power with genuine selection of our own candidates subject to ongoing supervision and recall.

Away with the bourgeois parliament!

For independence, socialism and a working class state! 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Coal Is Not the Answer in the Face of Racing Global Warming


Ned K.

When Karl Marx analysed the class struggle between workers and capitalists in the mid-1800s, he concluded that in that ever present struggle, sometimes the workers were successful but the capitalists would try and take back from the workers what they had won, whether it be a wage increase or some improvement in working conditions. He concluded that as long as capitalism existed, this would be the case.

The same thing is happening in the 21st Century regarding the struggle by the workers and their allies to protect the environment and retard global warming. The people have a win in forcing some concessions from the government of the day regarding their policies on renewable energy targets and decreasing dependency on fossil fuel as a source of generating electricity. Then the people see the government of the day retreat on policy and raise the flag for a fossil fuel future once again.

The latest example of this is Prime Minister Turnbull's announcement to put so-called "clean coal" as the solution to Australia's affordable electricity supply and to commit to subsidise “clean coal” power station construction. The “clean coal” plants are supposedly High Efficiency Low Emissions (HELE) producers of electricity which sounds pretty good compared with the contrasted “dirty” brown coal plants that are being deserted by big business and some governments.

Well not really. The business association, Australian Energy Council, responded to Turnbull's announcement by saying that “clean coal” power stations were "uninvestible". The Council's spokesperson said that as far as the cost of building the “clean coal” plants, they were "prohibitively expensive". He also said that while “clean coal” power plants emit less carbon per megawatt hour than “dirty” coal plants, the amount of carbon emitted was high, about 700 kilograms per megawatt hour.

He said that the life of such a plant was about 50 years which means a lot of carbon emissions over what scientists say is a critical time frame in the fight to reverse global warming. In fact some scientists argue the damage already done from carbon emissions to the atmosphere and temperature trends has passed the point of no return.

What about the cost of building a “clean coal” plant compared with renewable energy plants?

According to the Council, a “clean coal” plant capital and operating cost (called “the levelling cost”) is between $134-$200 per megawatt hour. 

The cost of building and running a wind farm is $61-$118 per megawatt hour.

The cost of building and running a gas plant is $74 to $90 per megawatt hour.

Why then is the Turnbull Government trying to "turn back time" to the "good old days" of coal fired power plants? To win a few votes perhaps in electorates that the Liberal Party are at risk of losing? To put the blame for the high cost of power in SA on that state’s Labor Government policy of a higher than Australian average component of renewable energy electricity? Or is it simply that powerful corporate interests from the fossil fuel and mining industry are threatening to get rid of him? 

Turnbull is playing a dangerous game by playing politics while the Earth heads towards a sizzling future. Even some of the biggest corporate exploiters of the Earth's resources can see the writing on the wall for coal as an energy source. Royal Dutch Shell corporation wants to move to a combination of renewable energy and gas. Last year Shell set up a new division to invest in bio fuels, wind and hydrogen. 

France's Total is investing heavily in solar and battery power. Danish fossil fuel firm Dong Energy is now the largest investor in off-shore wind farms and will be coal free in power generation by 2023. These multinationals can see dollars to be made in renewables and their purse strings are still attached to gas to some degree. 

They cannot be trusted to maintain their shift towards renewable energy. It is only people power that has moved them onto the renewable path. 

People power within capitalism is forcing progressive reforms towards renewable energy and away from carbon pollution of the atmosphere. The question is whether the constant struggle and small wins by the people against the incomplete commitment to renewable energy of corporate powers and their political parties in government will be enough to retard and reverse global warming?

My view is that it will not be and that the only hope is for the tremendous people's movement against global warming to become an integral and conscious component of the people's movement for a world based on the needs of the people and environment, not on maximizing profit for a small, ever decreasing but obscenely wealthier minority.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

US Imperialism Relies on Trade to Further Its Own Interests Whoever Is President


Ned K.

On 23 January President Trump signed a document to withdraw the US from any involvement in the Trans Pacific Partnership multilateral "free trade" deal. However as Alan Kohler of The Constant Investor said, as far as trade goes, for Trump, this was a "surgical withdrawal from one deal only".

According to Kohler, the Memorandum signed by Trump on withdrawal from the TPP said "Trade with other nations is, and always will be, of paramount importance to my Administration and to me, as president of the United States".

Trump withdrew from the TPP because he thought that the United States could not completely dominate it, despite it being a largely pro-US deal. Hence his comment about Brunei having the same voting strength as the US within the TPP!

A few days after the withdrawal from the TPP trade agreement, the WTO-brokered Trade Facilitation Agreement was passed. This Agreement focuses on loosening up border and customs barriers between nation states to facilitate faster trade. The Trump-led US Government and the Chinese Government (US's main rival on the imperial stage now) were among the first countries to sign the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Numerous capitalist economic commentators have also noted that the Muslim countries from which Trump did not suspend immigration to the US are countries where US corporations have important trade relationships.

The same is true of the relationship between the US and Mexico. While Trump raves on about building a wall to keep Mexican undocumented workers out of the US, this will be tempered in practice because undocumented workers from the US provide US business with even cheaper labour than the pitifully low legal minimum wage. Secondly the Mexican and US economies are interconnected to a greater degree than ever due to the NAFTA. For example, those US corporations like Ford that agree to assemble cars in the US rather than Mexico still rely on imported component parts some of which come from Mexico.

For all Trump's threats against China about keeping what he calls "international waters free" in the South China Sea, many of the ships from China in the South China Sea have freight which is manufactured product made in China in US corporation-owned factories, or factories sub-contracted to US corporations. One that comes to mind is Wal Mart.

China is in much the same boat, as the US is still a huge market for products of all descriptions made in China, and there is the existence of a US comprador element within the Chinese ruling class with a myriad of economic ties in the US.

The scramble between the US, China and other imperialist powers for the upper hand in capital markets and trade of material goods arises because of increasing overproduction within the world capitalist system. There are trillions of dollars floating around looking for somewhere to invest, not in the interests of the billions of poor people in the world, but in the interests of maximizing profits. 

It is competition between the big powers for more space for their corporations to expand and make profit that is the problem that the capitalist world-wide system cannot escape. Trade wars and/or free trade agreements are symptoms of this as is all out war.

Impact on Australia

The situation for Australia is different than what it was in 1939 on the brink of World War 2. Then Australia both economically and politically was tied to British imperialism and with minimal economic ties to British imperialism's main rival, Germany.

In 2017 with the outbreak of war between the still dominant imperialist power, the United States, and the rising comprador imperialist power China a real possibility, Australia's situation is different.
Australia is still tied economically to the United States which is by far the largest investor of capital in Australia. Australia is strongly tied militarily and therefore politically to the United States. However, unlike in 1939, Australia's trade relations with the opposition imperial power, China, is extensive and growing at a rapid rate. It is also the case that some of the regions in Australia most ravaged by US imperialism are now the most dependent on trade with China!

South Australia is the starkest example of this. 

The number one trading partner of South Australia is China. According to the Business Journal of the Advertiser (31 January 2017) two way trade with China exceeds $3.9 billion per year. The number of industry sectors dependent on trade with China is growing. The state's Minister for Industry and Trade describes South Australia's future as "joined at the hip with China". 

If there is a war between the US and China, will Australia have a Prime Minister saying "the US is at war, therefore Australia is at war" following Menzies’ "Britain is at war therefore Australia is at war" and keeping loyal to the US - Australia Alliance? Certainly, some state governments of both Liberal and Labor variety are screaming for Australia to stay out of such a war for fear of their regional economies plunging in to another crisis.

Which way will the Australian people sway? 

The horrors of war instigated by the US have in recent history seen staunch opposition by the people of Australia. The protests against Bush's war in Iraq in 2003 were some of the biggest ever seen in Australia. 

Now is the time to raise the and popularize the demands for:  

An independent Australian foreign policy!
US bases and troops out of Australia!
US keep its nose out of the South China Sea!
US continued recognition of Taiwan as part of China!
South China Sea islands dispute to be resolved through dialogue between the countries of the region!
China to respect the sovereignty of Australia with respect to investment in and trade with Australia!