Sunday, September 17, 2017

Strongly condemn the persecution of the Rohingya

Nick G.

The Rohingya refugee crisis requires the strongest condemnation of Myanmar and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Rohingya, originally from what is now Bangladesh, have lived for centuries in Myanmar, a Muslim minority in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country.

Always a persecuted minority, the Rohingya have suffered attempts over several years to drive them from their homes.  In this respect, the Buddhists are driven by a reactionary religious intolerance of other peoples that is no different to reactionary currents among Christians, Muslims, Zionist Jews and other religious belief systems.

The anti-Rohingya sentiment in Myanmar is also a legacy of British imperialism’s well-known policy of “divide and rule”.  Pushing the line of Buddhist purity and Buddhist exceptionalism, the reactionary Buddhist leaders are serving the interests of the imperialists and local Myanmar bourgeoisie by denying class contradictions within the Myanmar social structure.

Aung San Suu Kyi was embraced by global imperialism for demanding “democracy” and “independence” for Myanmar. She was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize and kept under house arrest by the military rulers.  Imperialism wanted to remove the military dictatorship’s obstacles to the free flow of trade and finance capital, and promoted Aung San Suu Kyi for their own ends, at the same time as her championing of an end to military dictatorship won her the support of wide sections of the Myanmar people.

Whatever she may have done for Myanmar Buddhists since her election as de facto head of state in 2015, she has not extended to Rohingya, referring to them as “Bengalis” and “terrorists”.  The reactionary Buddhists of Myanmar refuse to use the term “Rohingya” because it defines the Muslim minority as people of Rakhine state, a poverty-stricken part of Myanmar.  For the purposes of ethnic cleansing, it does not suit to imply any rights of residence in Rakhine for the Muslims.

Pathetic Australian government response

Australia has been well aware of the ethnic cleansing and persecution of Rohingya for several years.  It has provided authorities in Rakhine with small amounts of aid to “assist” the Rohingya.  However, it has prioritised Aung San Suu Kyi’s efforts to stabilise the murderous regime and “open” Myanmar ahead of the rights of the Rohingya. This was quite clearly the case in March 2017 when the Turnbull Government rejected a Senate vote calling for a United Nations commission of enquiry into the persecution of the Rohingya.  The Government said Myanmar should conduct its own investigation and referred to the “scale and complexity of the transition” that Myanmar is undergoing, and acknowledged “positive steps” taken by its government.

Several weeks later, it reversed its position and co-sponsored a resolution at the UN human rights forum for the UN to send a fact-finding mission to Myanmar.  The change was partly fuelled by an upsurge of reported atrocities against the Rohingya on one hand, and Australia’s hypocritical push for membership of the UN Human Rights Council from 2018.

China incites bourgeois nationalism at home to justify support for Myanmar

China is also well aware of the persecution of the Rohingya, but also prioritises its relations with Myanmar’s ruing circles above those of the Muslim minority. It has provided little coverage of the refugee crisis to its own people and the government online newspaper Global Times admits that Aung San Suu Kyi’s name could not be searched on Sina Weibo, the country’s main internet search engine.

Nevertheless, the paper yesterday (September 17) reported that the Myanmar leader had gained popularity with Chinese netizens, who praised her defiance against “outside pressure while safeguarding her people’s interest”.

Indeed, China should support any state that is standing up to “outside pressure”, but it should not support a state that is oppressing its own people.  Big power expedience and expansionist aims are driving Beijing’s response to the Rohingya crisis, not socialist ideals of proletarian internationalism.
This is clearly evident from the way Global Times has framed the debate: “Another reason for Suu Kyi’s rising popularity is her friendly policy on China which many did not expect. And since she has visited China twice, Chinese leaders might visit Myanmar in the near future, so the Chinese people and government don’t want to damage bilateral ties.”

Myanmar is a pivotal part of Beijing’s One Belt One Road initiative.  Chinese investments in the country include a cross-border oil and gas pipeline that is expected to become an alternative route for energy imports from the Middle East as it avoids the Malacca Strait, a shipping chokepoint in the disputed South China Sea.  Other projects include a port and industrial area in a Special Economic Zone in Rakhine which will expand China’s presence in the Indian Ocean.

No wonder Beijing has backed the military offensive in Rakhine. China’s Ambassador to Myanmar Hong Liang dismissed the issue as an “internal affair” for Myanmar.

The crimes by Myanmar’s army and government against the Rohingya are both a legacy of colonialism and an injustice overlooked by various imperialisms contending for influence and control in our region. At the very least we should demand a substantial aid package for the refugees now in Bangladesh and a rapid expansion of our intake of Rohingya refugees.

The Australian government, which to date has taken in only 37 Rohingya refugees since 2013, has no right to a seat on the UN Human Rights Council if its uses it merely to sit on its hands.

Discarded Car Industry Workers a Valuable Asset To Organize The Unorganized

Ned K.
 
In October this year the last remaining pieces of the car industry manufacturing mosaic closes in Australia with Toyota and Holden production plants in Melbourne and Adelaide respectively shutting their doors.

The first cut of one thousand, so to speak, came in the 1970s with closure of Holden's Woodville plant in Adelaide, putting thousands out of work. On that site now is a Bunnings store where nearly all the goods for sale are made off-shore.
 
In 2017 one of the largest car component plants in Adelaide's inner southern suburbs, Toyoda Gosei (formerly Bridgestone, Uniroyal and SA Rubber Mills) is also closing and the property has been purchased by ? Yes, you guessed it! Bunnings!
 
That pretty well sums up what has happened to the Australian large city economies with destruction of manufacturing skilled and semi-skilled jobs which were full time with reasonable pay and conditions won by workers’ collective strength and their replacement with warehousing and retail jobs selling imported goods of all descriptions.
 
Hundreds of thousands of car manufacturing jobs have disappeared as imported four wheel drive Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) steal the market and successive governments of both Liberal and Labor Governments facilitating the multinational corporations’ global plans which do not include making cars in Australia.
 
The changes to the nature of jobs available for workers in Australia with the decimation of manufacturing have caught unions lagging behind reality. Many of them have maintained models of membership and structures which were developed with the growth of manufacturing from the late 1940s and 1950s.
 
In those times, unions were built on a structure of union delegates or shop stewards elected by members and in some of the larger more militant manufacturing plants, factory or "shop" committees represented union members where there were thousands of workplaces with one hundred or more workers linked together by the very process of production itself.
 
Union membership dues were based on full time employment incomes and workers had wages higher enough to afford the dues based on an ACTU formula of approximately 1% of the average income of the industries covered by a particular union.
 
That model and structure has not won the hearts and minds of millions of workers in the post manufacturing world of capitalism in the 21st Century.
 
The new mobile worker required by capitalism today is one who has in many cases no show of having a permanent full-time job and is more likely to be working in a workplace with much smaller numbers of workers than existed when manufacturing in Australia was at its peak. Consequently, the outdated union dues model of many unions and their organisational structures that are stuck in the past is not resonating with a lot of workers.
 
Where union membership is strongest is in the professional employment areas such as nursing and allied health services, education and in what remains of large manufacturing.
 
However it would be wrong to conclude that there is no organisation among workers in the 90% non - unionized private sector. Many of them have incredible knowledge of the industries they work in and have networks that link them to other workers in the same industries and other workers in their communities. Their local pubs and sporting clubs are just two of the places that serve a dual purpose for many of these workers.
 
Workers thrown out of closed down manufacturing plants also take with them a basic experience of collective action and what it can achieve. They have a valuable role to play in organizing workers in the private sector to see that it is only collective strength that can prevent a downward spiral in wages and conditions, a collective strength that is needed whether workers are in an established union or take effective collection action themselves.
 

Book Review: Class in Contemporary China

Ned K.
 
In 1957, Chairman Mao stated, "Class struggle is by no means over...The proletariat seeks to transform the world according to its own world outlook, and so does the bourgeoisie. In this respect, the question of which class will win out, socialism or capitalism, is not really settled."
 
60 years later in 2017, Mao's statement holds true for China with many concluding that capitalism has won out. University of Sydney academic David Goodman's book Class In Contemporary China definitely supports the view that there is a ruling bureaucrat capitalist class in China. However he provides enough evidence in his book to suggest that he calls "the subordinate classes" are so many in numbers and so exploited that "the question of which class will win out" as Mao put it, is by no means over, done and dusted.

Goodman's book is full of useful information about the changing class composition and resultant class struggle in China today.
 
Using both external and Chinese government sources he provides a breakdown of the changes in occupation in China between 1988 and 2006. Some of the changes are significant changes in class composition during this period of expanding so-called "market socialism".
Individual business owners increased from 3.1% of the workforce to 9.5%. Office workers from 1.7% to 7%. Industrial workers declined from 22.4% to 14.7% and agricultural labourers from 55.8% to 40.3%. Commercial services workers and professional and technical workers increased in the same period from 11.2 % of the workforce to 16.4%.
 
Where do all these people actually work?
 
By 2013 there were still 110,000 State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in various stages of being corporatised or sold off to private business. The exception has been the 117 most strategically important to the government being owned by the Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.
 
10.59 million large and medium sized enterprises and 39.85 million small scale businesses providing 60% of China's GDP existed.
However, Goodman argues that this break down between SOEs and the private capitalist entities is blurred as 25% of private enterprises are part owned or fully owned by SOEs.
 
In 2013 within these enterprises there were 212 billionaires in US$ terms and 1.2 million millionaires, 20 % of whom were professional investors and 15% real estate investors. In 2006, the Organisation Department of the Communist Party reported that 90% of millionaires in 2006 were children of high ranking officials.
 
Within the ownership and management of these enterprises there has been increasing links both direct and indirect with the ruling Party cadres at both local and central level. Their influence on the direction of the Party is reflected in the resolution of the 17th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 2007 which saw private business change from an  "important component" of the national economy to one which the Party pledged to "unswervingly encourage, support and guide the development of the 'non-public sector'”.
 
How have these changes manifested themselves within the industrial working class, and agricultural labourers?
 
According to Goodman, in 2011, 60% of urban and 80% of rural industrial and agricultural labourers were in the "informal economy".
 
What does "informal economy" mean for these workers?
 
No protection of state labour laws, no job security, lower pay, casualisation, no retirement benefits, no workers compensation. In fact worse off than labour hire workers in Australia.
 
In 2011 these rural workers represented 53% (405.6 million) of the total working population, while in the urban areas these informal economy workers (218.2 million) represented 28.6% of the working population of China.
 
Some of these workers are migrant workers from rural areas looking for work in the cities, both in the private sector and even within what is still nominally an SOE.
 
The minority of the working class in China now is what Goodman calls 'regular workers" with secure jobs and reasonably regulated pay and conditions. These regular workers during the period 1988 and the present day are a declining proportion of the working class due to privatising of SOEs.
 
Finger In The Dyke
 
The ruling Communist Party is aware according to Goodman that the increasing number of strikes, peasant association revivals and community protests is the price it is paying for allowing the country to become increasingly out of control due to capitalist sector strength in the economy. One of the few things holding back a torrent of unrest and perhaps revolution is that the millions of peasants who alternate between work on the land and seeking work in the cities still have land use right in their villages to fall back on. However even this is increasingly threatened by developers and corrupt officials who redefine land use to suit their capital needs.
 
The Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has been forced to do something against corruption to quell the rising tide of unrest from the informal economy sector of workers and peasants.
 
Abandonment of the peasants' land right use would give them nothing to fall back on and risk a rebellion on a large scale. So the leaders have to live with relatively low productivity rates in agriculture and hold off the calls of the wealthy capitalist interests to "open up" large scale agriculture to huge agriculture conglomerates that we are familiar with here.
 
So while Chinese leaders have a big say on the world stage now, they need to take heed of Mao's 1957 assessment of the on-going presence of class struggle and which class rules. For in China classes and class struggle are very much alive for the majority of the working population.
 
As Yan Hairong (quoted by Goodman) said in 2008,  "Class as a spectre exists between absence and presence".

Anti-war Conference targets US imperialism

Alice M.

On the weekend of 8 – 10 September in Melbourne, close to 200 people attended the 2017 Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) National Conference War, Peace and Independence – Keep Australia Out of U.S. Wars.

Continuing to build on the successful 2016 IPAN anti-war conference in Alice Springs and protest outside the nearby Pine Gap U.S. military base, the 2017 Melbourne national conference lifted higher the call for an independent Australian foreign policy and decoupling Australia from the U.S. alliance. The Melbourne event further consolidated and broadened the alliance of anti-war groups across the country and attracted wide support from many concerned Australians and local activists.
 
The Conference took place at a critical time of increasingly belligerent U.S. imperialist military build-up in South Korea and the intensified provocations against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
 
Speaker after speaker criticised the Australian government’s collusion and subservience to U.S. global wars of aggression and strongly argued that it is time for an independent and peaceful Australian foreign policy and time to consider decoupling from the U.S. -Australia military alliance.
 
The main threat of war was clearly regarded by the speakers as coming primarily from the belligerent words and actions of US imperialism. While Trump and Turnbull have tried to sheet blame on the DPRK for conducting missile and nuclear tests, the fact of multiple US bases ringing the Korean peninsula and China cannot be denied. The insertion of the THAAD missile system into south Korea is a significant escalation that is aimed at China as well as north Korea. In spite of the alarm and original objections voiced by the new south Korean President Moon Jai-in, the US has bullied its way and installed all six THAAD missile units and imposed further US arms purchases on the Moon government.
 
All speakers presentations are now posted on IPAN’s website and can be listened to on http://ipan.org.au/conf2017audio

The list of speakers at the conference was extensive and covered many aspects of US political and military aggression, the subservience of both Liberal and Labor Australian governments, and the need to break from the so-called US Alliance and develop an independent foreign policy. While each speaker focussed on a particular aspect, their views and conclusions converged and were reflected in the final Declaration carried at the conclusion of the conference. (see below)
Associate Professor David Vine – American University Washington D.C.
Dr. Alison Broinowski – Australian Institute of International Affairs
Dr. Mike Milligan – Former Defence department expert
Professor Richard Tanter – Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability
Senator Peter Wish-Wilson – Greens defence spokesperson
Sung-Hee Choi – anti-war activist from Jeju Island, Korea
Warren Smith – MUA National Assistant Secretary
Dr. Vince Scappatura – Deakin University
Margaret Beavis - Medical Association for Prevention of War
Dr. James O'Neill - International law expert
Alex Edney-Browne – PhD candidate Melbourne University (drone warfare)
Olivier Bancoult – Leader of the Chagossian people expelled from Diego Garcia for a US military base
Murray Horton – Anti-Bases Campaign, New Zealand
Stephanie Rabusa – Anakbayan, Melbourne and Philippines
Bevan Ramsden – IPAN, Anti-Vietnam Moratorium
James Brennan – Disarm anti-war and weapons trade
Cate Adams – Wage Peace
 
Lidia Thorpe and her sister, Gunnai-Gunditjmara women, spoke of the unresolved war on indigenous people since the colonial invasion and the need for a just Treaty. Their powerful and moving message was an appropriate reminder that aboriginal resistance continues and calls on the anti-war movement for support.
 
Warren Smith, MUA National Assistant Secretary argued powerfully on why the struggle for peace and justice and against imperialism are fundamental to overall working class struggle.  “Peace is a class struggle….hence we are here (at the conference)…and the forces of capital that drive world wars are the same forces responsible for and driving ongoing exploitation and attacks on workers.  Peace and justice always have been and always will be union business and should be everyone’s business.”  He strongly debunked the social democrats argument that unions are not political organisations and should only concern themselves with immediate wages and conditions.

Sung-Hee Choi, South Korean peace activist attending the Conference made impassioned and informative presentations on the history of U.S. imperialist political and military intervention on the Korean Peninsula during the Korean War and subsequent division of Korea and the military and political domination of South Korea by the U.S.  Sung-Hee called for the immediate removal of U.S. THAAD defence system installations, U.S. bases and troops from South Korea, and called on the Australia government to withdraw its support for the U.S.-South Korean alliance.  She said the majority of people of both Koreas want to reach a peace agreement between North and South Korea that would lead to the eventual unification on the Korean Peninsula.
 
Dr Vince Scappatura’s presentation outlined the stronghold of U.S. imperialism on Australia politically, economically and militarily. He explained how the Australian “elites” were moulded into “adhering to a worldview that aligns with U.S. foreign policy interests".
 
A panel of international speakers from New Zealand and South Korea together with local activists from the Philippines and other young activists in the anti-war movement shared their experiences and lessons in the building of a broad based grass roots peace movement.
 
The Conference concluded with participants joining IPAN’s working group for building the movement.  Working groups are:  What would an independent foreign policy look like; Shifting people’ taxes from servicing U.S. wars to people’s needs; Peace and Justice are Union Business; U.S. Bases and troops in Australia; Building people’s movements for peace alliances in the Asia-Pacific region.
 
One of the many highpoints of this conference was the strong presence and participation by MUA members and officials.  Three MUA branches sent several delegates to the Melbourne conference.  Many at the conference were deeply moved by the MUA’s practical and political support for the conference, IPAN and commitment to building the wide national anti-war peace movement.  The involvement by MUA reinforced confidence in the necessity for working class leadership in the anti-imperialist movement.
 
IPAN Conference Declaration 2017
The declaration was passed overwhelmingly, with some minor amendments. Resolutions on the Philippines, Korea and West Papua were also passed as well as a solidarity message to the Chagossian people of Diego Garcia.
 
Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN), representing over 60 peace, anti-war, community organisations and unions around Australia held its 4th national conference in Melbourne on 9/10 September 2017.
 
This IPAN National conference is taking place on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people.   We acknowledge this country was violently seized from the First People 230 years ago.  We pay our respects to their long struggle for justice and self-determination.  We affirm that true independence cannot be achieved without a just and sovereign Treaty with the Indigenous people of this land.
 
We have a vision of an Australia that plays a positive and independent role in building peace in our region and beyond through peaceful resolution of international conflicts.
 
This national conference reaffirms that Australia urgently needs an independent and peaceful foreign policy that upholds Australia’s independence and ends successive Australian governments’ subservience to U.S. or any other big powers’ agendas.  We seek an independent foreign policy that respects the sovereignty and self-determination of all countries.
We believe the integration of Australia’s military facilities, defence forces and our foreign policies into U.S. military agendas threaten our sovereignty and security and contributes to global wars.
 
We believe that the continuing operations of U.S. military bases in Australia, the joint military exercises in North Queensland and the stationing of US marines in Darwin are a threat to the security, safety and sovereignty of the Australian people and integral to U.S. global wars.
 
We believe Australia can be self-reliant in its ability to safeguard our security and sovereignty.  The Australian people have the skills, knowledge and creativity to design and build our own self-defence industries and strategies, and do not need to depend on any big powers. 
 
We uphold the Australian people’s aspirations for global peace and security and call for an end to escalating militarisation of the world.  We stand in solidarity with the people of Korea, the Philippines, Japan, Guam, and many other countries in Europe and Latin America campaigning against wars of aggression, foreign military bases and troops, and for peace, justice and sovereignty.
 
 In moving towards an independent and peaceful Australian foreign policy:
• We call on the Australian government and the Opposition to end their unequivocal subservience to U.S. military and foreign policies that have made Australia a virtual rubber stamp, helping to legitimise U.S. foreign policies, military adventures and threats to peace. For example, Australia refusing to ratify the U.N. Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty; continued support for Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the blockade on Gaza, and voting with the U.S. and U.K. against calls in the U.N. for decolonising Diego Garcia U.S. military base and allowing the Indigenous people return to their homeland.
• We call on the government to immediately end Australia’s military engagements in U.S.- led wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
• We call on the Australian government to immediately sign the U.N. Nuclear Weapons Bans Treaty.
• We call for removing U.S. marines and warplanes from Darwin back to the U.S.
• We call for an immediate end to any contribution from the U.S. military intelligence base Pine Gap near Alice Springs to the drone assassination program.   Furthermore, we are deeply concerned that US military bases on our soil, including Pine Gap, integrate Australia into the US war machine and lock us into its wars against countries with whom we’re not at war, and jeopardise Australia pursuing friendly and peaceful relations with our neighbours and the international community. These bases deny Australia our sovereignty and our freedom to make foreign policy decisions independently of the US.  We support the call made by the former Prime Minister, the late Malcolm Fraser, to phase out U.S. military bases on Australian soil.
• We call on the government to re-direct public funds from supporting U.S. wars and the military-industrial complex into public and community needs such as health, education, income security for all, affordable housing, creating sustainable and socially useful local industries and jobs; and addressing climate change.
• We call for the removal of Lockheed Martin and other military corporations from Australian Universities and schools. We oppose the inroads made into the militarisation of education, manufacturing industries and the economy by military corporate conglomerates like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and others.
• We call for the ending of military tensions in the South China Sea by the removal of the military presence of countries not directly involved in the disputed territories.  Australia should not be used to provoke a conflict by sending our navy or airforce into the disputed areas.
 
This Conference welcomes the trade unions’ involvement in the broad people’s movement for peace and independence.  Australian unions have always been at the forefront of campaigns for peace and against wars of aggression.
 
We support the aspirations of people of Korea to remove U.S. troops, bases and the THAAD system from the Peninsula. This would enable the people of Korea to work on a peaceful resolution in their own country. 
 
This Conference calls for building and mobilising a broad united people’s movement against wars of aggression and nuclear weapons; for peace and an independent Australian foreign policy.
 
September 10, 2017, Melbourne
 
Tuesday 12th September US Consulate
At very short notice, Sung-Hee Choi and other IPAN members organised a small protest rally outside the US Consulate building in St. Kilda Road, complete with English and Korean placards calling for the removal of THAAD missiles and US troops out of Korea, and for a peaceful resolution on the Korean Peninsula. This capped off a very intense and successful week of anti-imperialist war activity.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

History in the early hours

Nick G.

Overnight radio is perhaps one of the last places you might expect to hear a discussion of the centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the role of the Communist Party of Australia,. ABC Radio’s Rod Quinn devoted an hour to the topic at 4am this morning.

The content was typically anti-Communist and not worth detailing here.  However, at about 30 seconds before the 5am news slot, a woman called to say that her uncle and another man had been gaoled by Menzies for printing an illegal Communist paper, and that a campaign to free the men had been instrumental in Menzies being voted out.
 
Quinn, to give him the benefit of the doubt, had just been talking about the attempt by Menzies,  after the war, to ban the Communist Party. With the news approaching, he quickly closed down the conversation saying “Oh that never happened – Menzies wasn’t voted out”. The caller had no opportunity for further comment.

In fact, she was right and Quinn was wrong.  Menzies lost government in 1941 and the campaign to free two interned Communists was a major factor.
 
The period prior to WW2 was one of struggle between supporters and appeasers of Hitlerite fascism on one hand, and opponents of war and fascism on the other hand. Menzies had visited Germany and professed his support for Hitler and his methods. That was why he found it such a “melancholy duty” to announce, as Prime Minister of the United Australia Party, that Germany had attacked Poland and that as a consequence of Britain declaring war on Germany, Australia too was at war.
 
The Communist Party had initially declared the war to be an imperialist war and they opposed proposals for conscription.  Their track record of opposition to fascism could not be faulted and the first stage of the war, from September 1939 to May 1940, was widely regarded as a “phoney war” with Britain and France still hoping that Hitler would strike east against the Soviet Union. To their surprise, he turned on France after invading Poland and did not attack the USSR until 22 June 1941, nearly two years after the start of the war.
 
With the attack on the USSR, the Communist Party devoted all its efforts to building unity against the Axis and in support of the war effort.
During and immediately after the “phoney war” period, Menzies and his Cabinet were unrelenting in their attacks on the Communist Party, seeing their anti-conscription campaign and any Communist-led industrial action as sabotage of the war effort. He adopted anti-democratic fascist measures to suppress the Party.
 
On February 7 1940, “Guardian”, the newspaper of the Victorian branch of the CPA was placed under censorship. In April, special censorship was applied to all Communist publications. Censored articles were sometimes replaced with Biblical tracts or left blank as a protest. “Soviets Today” was banned. On May 24, censorship was replaced with a total ban on all Communist publications.
On June 15, at 9.30 on a Saturday night, the Menzies Government declared the Communist Party an illegal body. The police, secretly mobilised beforehand, were sent out in swift cars to carry out raids on the homes of reputed Communists.  Books, papers, documents were seized, Communist offices and printing plants were occupied.
 
E.F. Hill, founding Chairperson of our Party, was active in the leadership of the Victorian branch at the time.  He later wrote: “Illegality is a hazard that all Communist parties face. This has been historical experience. Illegality of the Communist Party follows from the logic of capitalism, with its state machine used as it is for the suppression of opponents of capitalism.”  The lessons of this period helped shape the organisational form that the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) took at its inception in 1964.
 
From July 1940, Communist papers appeared illegally. Arthur James was sent to gaol for 6 months in Brisbane on September 24, 1940 for having been found with a Party leaflet on the night of June 15.  On June 21, a 23-year old woman, Phyllis Johnson, was arrested for making a speech against conscription and for having in her possession documents alleged to have been published by the Workers’ Educational association that did not have the required name and address of the printer. She denied being a member of the Communist Party (it was illegal), but said she believed in Communism and was speaking for the Central No-Conscription Committee established by the NSW Trades and Labour Council and the ALP. The police evidence against her included her having said “Mr Menzies admires Hitler, he is doing the very same things Hitler is doing in Germany.” When the magistrate asked whether she remembered saying this, she replied “Yes, and I believe it. I believe Mr Menzies is afraid of the anti-Fascists. I am sincerely anti-Fascist”.  She was fined £30 for her speech and £5 for possession of the leaflets. When she refused to enter into a bond to comply with the National Security Regulations, she was gaoled for one month. Johnson had one prior conviction for taking part in a raid on a bookshop run by Nazis. When the Party’s legality was restored, Johnson declared her membership and by 1943 was touring the country as a member of the Central Committee, urging support for the war effort.
 
Others to be persecuted during the Party’s illegality included Tom Garland, of Adelaide, fined £50 on October 21, 1940 for comparing Menzies to Petain, Chief of State of the German collaborative Vichy French Government; Horace Ratcliff and Max Thomas, caught printing Communist papers; A.F. Cant, President of the Perth branch of the Australian Society of Engineers, sent to gaol for one month for having a copy of the “Workers’ Star” in his possession; and Edward Crowe, a 65-year old man caught on the Melbourne waterfront with a copy of the “Guardian” and “Communist Review” and gaoled for six months.
 
Rod Quinn’s caller was the niece of either Ratcliff or Thomas. Both were union members.  On December 17, 1940, they were convicted and fined for having in their possession papers which did not show the printer’s name and address. A few days later they were charged at the same court with possession of illegal literature under the National Security Regulations and sentenced to 6 month’s imprisonment. They served their sentences.  Then some days before a broadcast speech by Menzies on June 17, threatening to intern offending trade union officials and others, Ratcliff and Thomas were secretly arrested and interned on the same charges.  The authority for the arrests was signed by the Minister for the Army, Mr Percy Spender.
 
Ratcliffe, 46, had served for four years during WW1 and had been at Gallipoli. He told the court that he had no apology to make for his opposition to imperialist war. Recalling the slaughter of his battalion at Gallipoli, he stated that he had spent all his time since fighting for socialism and against war. Thomas, 29, was gaoled with Ratcliff. Both men then began a hunger strike. After the first four days of their refusal to take food, Hughes, the Attorney-General, said that as far as he was concerned, they would not get out of goal one day earlier because of their hunger strike.  “A man who goes without food in a country like Australia, is a fool”, he said. “These tactics make no difference to me”.
 
Menzies had by this time established a War Council consisting of Government and Opposition politicians.  Dr H.V. Evatt (ALP) was a member. Both men lived in his electorate.  On July 10, he said that he would raise their case with the War Council and seek their release. Representations were also made by the Sydney Trades and Labour Council. Hughes and Ratcliff issued a statement declaring that they would continue their hunger strike until an appeal was heard by a committee under the National Security Regulations. Demands for their release grew.  A mass meeting of engineers at Leichardt Stadium demanded their release, as did the management committee of the Waterside Workers Federation, the Australian Railways Union, and their own union, the Printing Industry Employees Union.
 
On August 14, South Coast NSW unionists held a two-hour rally.  They sang “Solidarity Forever” and the “Internationale”.  Thomas’s brother said that although the men were weak, having lost about a stone (6.5 kilos), they were aware of the support and determined to stay on hunger strike. However, the following day, Ratcliff was taken to hospital in view of his worsening condition.
 
On July 17 it was announced that the War Council had refused to take any action over the internment despite strong representations that Australian citizens had a right to a public trial, and should not be punished twice for the same offence.  Menzies declared their hunger strike “irrelevant”. Now that Russia was in the fight against the Nazis there was no reason to release them, he said. “It is wrong to assume that subversive activities and propaganda have ceased to matter just because Russia is in the war,” he declared.
 
On 18 July the Ironworkers Union said that 10,000 South Coast workers would stop work for a day to secure the release of the two men and to “compel the Government to cease fire against the working class people of the country.”
 
That day, a 3-person tribunal began hearing the men’s appeal.  Both were now in hospital in the 16th day of their hunger strike and were carried in their beds to the hearing.  Protests now spread interstate with mass meetings on the Yarra Bank in Melbourne, while Newcastle miners called for a NSW-wide one-day strike. Wonthaggi miners called for a one-day strike on July 28, followed by a national general strike by all affiliated unions.  When Menzies refused to release the men on a bond, more unions decided to join the strike. 
 
The campaign against Menzies for the release of the two men, together with unpopularity within and without his own party fuelled by his support for appeasement, his admiration of Hitler and the ridicule he endured as “Pig Iron Bob” due to the actions he took against Pt Kembla wharfies in the Dalfram Dispute of 1938 made his political leadership of the country untenable. He resigned on 27 August 1941.
 
Ratcliff and Thomas were released, but not until October 21, 1941 and then on conditions that continued their deprival of elementary rights. The ban on the Communist Party was finally lifted on December 18, 1942.  Even then, the reactionaries of the UAP were unreconciled to their defeat.  On Sunday August 8, 1943, Opposition leader Arthur Fadden gave a foretaste of what was to come under the second, post-war Menzies government when he told a crowded meeting at Parkes that the Opposition parties would reimpose the ban on the Communist Party. At an earlier meeting that day at West Wyalong he said, “We put Thomas and Ratcliff in an internment camp, and the Curtin Government took them out. We imposed a ban on the Communist Party and the Curtin Government lifted it.”
 
Of course, Curtin acted because the Communist Party by now had hundreds of thousands of supporters, and Communists were playing an important part in the total war effort on both the home front and the front lines.
 
Phyllis Johnson’s brother Corporal Don Mather was pictured in the Party’s paper “Tribune” on 23 September 1943 in action in the jungle of New Guinea. He was depicted as a “Communist Hero” having joined the CPA in 1937 and the army in 1939.  He had fought in Libya and been mentioned in dispatches for bravery.
 
He was a far cry from Menzies who had resigned his commission during WW1 to avoid an overseas posting.
 
We should never forget this moment in the history of our movement in Australia.  It reflects the wisdom of the founders of our Party in modelling it on the iceberg principle – letting a little bit be seen above the class line but keeping the rest hidden from the Titanic of reaction, crisis and war.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Foreign Policy: US and the Korean Peninsula – a trial run?

(Contributed)

Many critics of the far-right Trump administration in Washington see recent developments on the Korean peninsula as an example of the confrontational foreign policy of US imperialism. There is, however, a great deal more to the problem than meets the eye at first glance.

The US foreign policy guidelines were established over fifteen years ago with the Bush administrations and their Global Transformation of Defence and Security (GTDS) as part of their so-called New World Order.
 
Now fully operational, the GTDS has set US diplomacy onto a war-footing in the Asia-Pacific region: from earlier planning by then Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the Bush administrations, to a more circumspect position adopted by the Obama administrations to the now more aggressive approach of the present Trump administration, a common strand has linked the three. And they target China.
 
Soon after taking office, President George Bush Jnr began preparations for confrontational military positions. Full-scale military interventions into Iraq and Afghanistan led to prolonged occupation of the two countries. The approach toward the Asia-Pacific region was to encircle and contain China as a threat to US hegemonic positions. It was no less aggressive than forays in Iraq and Afghanistan although based on longer-term planning.
 
A central feature of the preparations included planning and eventual implementation of the GTDS; Japan would be transformed into a fully-fledged regional hub for 'US interests' in the northern part of the region. The provision also included Japan being transformed from a somewhat passive 'client state' by rewriting parts of its pacifist constitution to serve Pentagon military planning.
 
Australia, likewise, was the regional hub in the southern part. The two hubs were then given responsibility for establishing effective diplomatic relations with allies as part of their triangular relationship with the Pentagon, maintained through regional diplomacy and trade agreements.
 
US planning also included both Japan and Australia being used for military training and logistics together with hosting sensitive facilities for use with drones and other equipment.
 
During the past decade-and-a-half the GTDS has been fully implemented and it should therefore come as no surprise that we see confrontation in sensitive areas of the region such as the Korean peninsula. For US military planning, however, the northern Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) would appear considered a softer, trial-run before bigger confrontations with China. 
 
During the early part of the Obama administrations despite official denial about China, Steven Hildreth of the Congressional Research Service was actually quoted stating 'the focus of our rhetoric is North Korea, the reality is that we're also looking longer term at the elephant in the room which is China'. (1)
 
The US diplomatic position was likewise also clarified by Admiral Denis Blair who was director of National Intelligence in the Obama administration. Following his retirement, he stated 'I'm not in the Pentagon anymore' and 'confirmed China is the principal target of a major US war plan'. (2)
 
A media release from the Pentagon laying out a twenty-year defence strategy in early 2006 also included the statement 'China is seen as having the greatest potential to compete militarily with the US'. (3)
 
During the Obama administrations US diplomacy was marked by two distinct features: an emphasis upon shifting away from military confrontations, and re-opening military facilities for later use with military hostilities across the region.     
 
The former was marked by the US leading by example and a seemingly less aggressive foreign policy. (4) It was a clever ploy, making extensive use of diplomatic silence. In fact, when President Obama made an official visit to the Pentagon in early 2012 he made not a single reference to China. It was noted, however, Obama was 'determined to beat back any Chinese bid for hegemony in the Asia-Pacific'. (5)
 
The latter, included favourable US diplomatic positions toward the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, together with other countries 'in response to a rising China'. (6) The US intended allies in the region to counter China, if and when required.
 
The period was also marked by a Pentagon project to transform the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) with 'hundreds of additional spies overseas' as part of a plan showing the 'Obama administration's preference for espionage and covert action over conventional force'. (7) The same Pentagon media release noted 'the DIA has long played a major role in assessing and identifying targets for US forces'. (8)
 
Australian foreign policy, likewise, has remained close to US positions through the alliance and its Asian allies. During the final stages of implementation of the GTDS Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews provided guidelines in a carefully worded lecture in London, where, the rise of China was considered 'a key consideration for Australian planning and policy-making' and how 'Asia responds to China's rise will be a major driver of the Indo-Pacific's strategic future'. (9) 
 
The southern Republic of Korea (ROK) remains a key part of US regional military planning; its primary role is for rapid deployment with the doctrine of “defence of Japan” at time of regional conflict. The two countries therefore have close intelligence links through US-led systems. The relationship between the ROK and Japan, however, is best described a problematic due to the legacy of Japan’s war-time atrocities. Secondly, the ROK has been allocated a role of maintaining a strategy of tension with the northern DPRK. It has not been popular with many ROK citizens.
 
The problem has also been compounded by decades of repression in the ROK where a succession of presidential administrations forced political opposition underground to serve 'US interests'. The ROK is a divided society, often where political allegiances are not openly acknowledged. Attempts by then President Roh Moo-hyun to repeal the National Security Law in 2004 proved highly controversial, for example, lifting the lid on past repression involving large numbers of Korean people. (10) Under most circumstances the legacy of the problem would have remained hidden.
 
It is therefore perhaps not surprising the Roh administration used the opportunity to assess the extent of the problem. A seemingly accurate survey found about twenty per cent of the ROK population 'would support North Korea if it came under attack by the US'. (11) The methods used by the US and their ROK cronies in dealing with this problem are interesting to monitor.  
 
In conclusion, with the GTDS now fully operational the US is on a war-footing in the Asia-Pacific region. It is likely to drag allies into military hostilities to serve 'US interests' as they seek to contain and encircle China.   
 
1.     US seeks new Asia defences, The Wall Street Journal, 24-26 August 2012.
2.     US war strategy 'targets China', The Age (Melbourne), 9 August 2012.
3.     US boosts elite forces in 'long war' strategy, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 10-16 February 2006.
4.     US signals foreign policy shift away from military might, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 6 June 2014, contains reference to a speech by President Obama to cadets at the US Military Academy, West Point, New York, and US foreign policy positions.
5.     China: the hidden agenda in US strategy, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 13 January 2012.
6.     US eyes return to south-east Asian bases, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 29 June 2012; and, US signs defence deal in Asia, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 2 May 2014.
7.     Pentagon plays the spy game, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 7 December 2012.
8.     Ibid.
9.     China's rise will drive defence policy: Andrews, Australian, 28 April 2015.
10.   Uneasy Korea braced for America's big squeeze, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 10-16 December 2004.
11.   Ibid.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Life is a Beach

John C

First there was the theft of water from the Murray-Darling Basis by corporations and a few shonky primary producers, now we have business “entrepreneurs” wanting our beaches.

A few weeks back the Charles Sturt Council which covers the Adelaide seaside suburb of Henley Beach made a decision to introduce paid street parking.
 
Henley Beach is a popular beach which is utilised by the local community and the broader Adelaide population for family leisure activities year round. It is especially popular in summer where people can take their family for some reprieve from the scorching Adelaide temperatures. It is one of the few remaining inexpensive family days out.
 
The decision to introduce paid parking met with stiff community opposition in the form of a well-supported petition and public protest. The council has now been forced to reverse its decision.
 
Two years ago, extensive and expensive ($8.4m) redevelopment and landscaping works were completed at Henley Square, next to the beach. One could argue that it looks nicer than before but quite frankly it was pretty good as it was, and no significant functionality has been added. One could question the need for such a project, given other priorities that must be met by councils.
What it has done, is make the area appear “trendier”. But why change the area in this direction?
 
In the struggle against paid parking, it came to light that a group of local business people linked to the Henley Beach Business Association have been making plans to turn Henley Beach into a Riviera style facility. It would only involve the rental of beach chairs, nothing more they said. No one believes this, and is seen by those with any foresight as a foot in the door to eventually make the beach an exclusive area.
 
This would mean paying to use the beach. It is strongly suggestive that the changes to parking and the seaside remodelling were part of the process of introducing this obscene idea by stealth, rather than outright.
 
A day at the beach is part of the fabric of the Australian lifestyle for ordinary Australians. The notion of paying to use something provided freely by nature and which has been traditionally seen as a public facility is the antithesis to the Australian way of life.
 
It might appear a bit trivial to write about such a seemingly minor issue as a day at the beach in a publication such as this when there are bigger concerns, such as housing affordability, wages and democratic rights. However it is related to this bigger picture.
 
As capitalism becomes more desperate in its search for sources of profit, it invariably leads to the expropriation of more and more of the things that we take for granted.
 
Take for example, the introduction of road tolls in parts of Australia in relatively recent years. This is criminal. Ordinary Australians pay their taxes, it should be a basic right that road use be free. We are paying road tolls because corporations do not pay their fair share of taxes, resulting in insufficient public funds to build infrastructure. The money collected from road tolls ends up in the coffers of these very same corporations.
 
Surely, having paid our taxes and after a day’s/week’s work we are entitled to unwind at the beach with our families without having to pay for it. Next we will be expected to wave our credit card each time we want to use the toilet in our homes. Better not give the capitalists more ideas!
 
This raises the question of what are the Australian values on which Malcolm Tamebull wants to test applicants for Australian residency? Perhaps there could be a postal survey on what working Australians consider to be Australian values! Business “entrepreneurs” can then sit the Australian values test and if they fail, they will be deported.
 
If a beach-use toll is introduced at one beach, it will only be a matter of time before this is duplicated in other parts of Australia. Worse still, it would not be beyond the realm of possibility for big capital to want control rights over our beaches.
 
Just as the community defeated the introduction of paid parking at Henley Beach, so will community action lay to rest any attempts to make a beach-use toll fly.
 
The people united will never be defeated.