Friday, 22 June 2007

Time to cut union funding to anti-union ALP!

The Rudd-ercoaster, the out-of-control freight train of ALP electoral desperation, driven by a well-to-do bureaucrat from Queensland, has just jumped up a gear this week, as it tries to prove that it's at least as anti-union as the Coalition. We'll get to the racism later.

A while ago, the Wombats brought word of the expulsion of Victorian ETU Secretary, Dean Mighell, from the ALP for using a bit of potty-language (and daring to admit that doing his job means taking on big business, at least a little bit).

Now, it seems, the 'moral crusaders' at ALP Inc. have detected more bad behaviour from those dastardly union bovver boys. The ALP, following Rudd's lead, has announced that it plans to expel Joe McDonald, assistant secretary of the WA CFMEU. The reason? The oh-so-heinous crime? He gave a boss an earful when he wasn't allowed on site to inspect safety standards. Read McDonald's statement in response here. Personally, the Wombats think the description of any exploitative, dangerous, boss as a '"thieving parasite dog" whose days are numbered' is an artful and erudite description of the situation as it should be.

The insipid union leadership and ALP, however, seem determined to keep the second part of that phras off the table for a while. For it's part, the ACTU, under new leader Jeff lawrence (now that Greg Combet has been invited to dine at the Big Table after this election), has responded like a wet fish.

Since then, word has slipped out about the rise of Labor's great new hope, to the tune that his career has been bankrolled by his millionaire wife. While he disputes the claim, the combination of his links with big money, his attacks on militant union leaders, and backsliding on promises to scrap WorkChoices, should give anyone with illusions in the ALP pause for thought.

The Socialist Alliance his released this statement (reproduced below) on the matter (the link also has petitions on the right to strike and other material):

Time to cut union funding to anti-union ALP!
After Dean Mighell, Joe McDonald to be axed by Rudd...
Dick Nichols, Socialist Alliance National Coordinator, today described Kevin Rudd’s decision to convene a special meeting of the ALP National Executive to expel Joe McDonald, assistant secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union in Western Australia, as marking “a new high tide of anti-unionism in the so-called party of the unions”.
He called on the ACTU and individual unions like the CFMEU to cut their funding to the ALP if federal Labor’s attacks on unionists didn’t stop.
“What exactly was McDonald’s crime?”, Nichols asked. “He swore at a manager from a building company that was using the anti-union police force of the Australian Building and Construction Commission to reduce the CFMEU’s ability to monitor health and safety in a dangerous industry—and for his pains he gets thrown out of the ALP.”
Nichols added: “This scandal has happened under anti-worker legislation which the ALP is formally committed to repeal, but which Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard now say they will ‘phase out’—against the opinion of former ACTU secretary (and ALP candidate) Greg Combet.”
The Socialist Alliance coordinator stated that it was impossible to defend people’s rights at work without breaking anti-union laws, especially laws as draconian as those that set up the ABCC—which even eliminate the right to silence.
Nichols added: “The Rudd-Gillard leadership’s surrender before corporate and Coalition pressure over industrial relations isn’t just cowardly and hypocritical—it’s also plain stupid from the point of view of winning the coming federal election.
“Every time Rudd tries to prove he’s as tough on ‘union thugs’ as Hockey and Howard he invites those scoundrels to intensify the attack against Labor on the industrial relations front. As a result the Coalition, which was put on the ropes by the Your Rights at Work campaign, could even make a comeback.
“It’s high time Rudd and Gillard stopped attacking unionists who are just doing their job, and started talking about what Work Choices is really doing to the lives of working people.
“For example, they might begin by expressing some concern about the work regime at Telstra, which as Four Corners showed this week, drove two workers to suicide.”
The Socialist Alliance spokesperson concluded: “The ACTU and individual unions like the CFMEU should demand that Rudd and Gillard stop their union-bashing drivel that just helps the Coalition. To ram the message home they should threaten a redistribution of union election funding away from the ALP towards those parties with a more principled pro-worker and pro-union stance.
“They should also decide immediately to hold another massive National Day of Protest against Work Choices which demands that Rudd and Gillard commit to really tearing Howard’s vile legislation—Australian Workplace Agreements, ABCC and all.”
For media comment: Dick Nichols (National Coordinator) 0425 221 565 Sue Bolton (Trade Union Coordinator 0413 377 978)

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Fidel Castro - "They will never have Cuba!"

The article below by Fidel Castro appeared in Granma a couple of days ago. Soon after, life-long revolutionary, veteran of both the underground and guerrilla struggles against the Batista dictatorship, founder of the Cuban Federation of Women and wife of Raul Castro, Vilma Espín, has passed away, after a battle with illness. Of the eulogies, perhaps this, from Granma, gives the best overview of the heroic life of the woman called by many "Cuba's First Lady".

Rather than reproduce articles on the past, however heroic, the Wombats have chosen instead to print a recent op-ed piece by Castro, which captures, from the mouth (or mouth-piece) of the same generation, the spirit of defiance that made the revolution, and that continues to sustain it, across the generations, and in the face of impotent Imperialist fury.

Reflection and Manifesto for the People of Cuba

They will never have Cuba

I hope that no-one say that I am gratuitously attacking Bush. Surely they will understand my reasons for strongly criticizing his policies.

Robert Woodward is an American journalist and writer who became famous for the series of articles published by The Washington Post, written by him and Carl Bernstein, and which eventually led to the investigation and resignation of Nixon. He is author and co-author of ten best-sellers. With his fearsome style he manages to wrench confessions from his interviewees. In his book, State of Denial, he says that on June 18, 2003, three months after the Iraq war had begun, as he was on the way out of his White House office following an important meeting, Bush slapped Jay Garner on the back and said to him:

“Hey, Jay, you want to do Iran?

“Sir, the boys and I talked about that and we want to hold out for Cuba. We think the rum and the cigars are a little better...The women are prettier."

Bush laughed. “You got it. You got Cuba.”

Bush was betrayed by his subconscious. It was in his mind when he declared what scores of dark corners should be expecting to happen and Cuba occupies a special place among those dark corners.

Garner, a recently retired three-star general who had been appointed Head of the Post-War Planning Office for Iraq, created by secret National Security Presidential Directive, was considered by Bush an exceptional man to carry out his war strategy. Appointed for the post on January 20, 2003, he was replaced on May 11 of that same year at the urging of Rumsfeld. He didn’t have the nerve to explain to Bush his strong disagreements on the matter of the strategy to be pursued in Iraq. He was thinking of another one with identical purpose. In the past few weeks, thousands of marines and a number of US aircraft carriers, with their naval supporting forces, have been maneuvering in the Persian Gulf, a few miles off the Iranian territory.

It will very soon be 50 years since our people started suffering a cruel blockade; thousands of our sons and daughters have died or have been mutilated as a result of the dirty war against Cuba, the only country in the world to which an Adjustment Act has been applied inciting illegal emigration, yet another cause of death for Cuban citizens, including women and children; more than 15 years ago Cuba lost her principal markets and sources of supply for foods, energy, machinery, raw materials and long-term low-interest financing.

First the socialist bloc collapsed followed almost immediately by the USSR, dismantled piece by piece. The empire tightened and internationalized the blockade; the proteins and calories which were quite well distributed despite our deficiencies were reduced approximately by 40 percent; diseases such as optical neuritis and others appeared; the shortage of medicines, also a result of the blockade, became an everyday reality. Medicines were allowed to enter only as a charitable act, to demoralize us; these, in their turn, became a source of illegal business and black-market dealings.

Inevitably, the “special period” struck. This was the sum total of all the consequences of the aggression and it forced us to take desperate measures whose harmful effects were bolstered by the colossal media machine of the empire. Everyone was awaiting, some with sadness and others with oligarchic glee, the crumbling of the Cuban Revolution.

The access to convertible currency greatly harmed our social consciousness, to a greater or a lesser degree, due to the inequalities and ideological weaknesses it created.

Throughout its lifetime, the Revolution has taught the people, training hundreds of thousands of teachers, doctors, scientists, intellectuals, artists, computer engineers and other professionals with university and post-graduate degrees in dozens of professions. This storehouse of wealth has allowed us to reduce infant mortality to low levels, unthinkable in any Third World country, and to raise life expectancy as well as the average educational level of the population up to the ninth grade.

By offering Cuba oil under favorable terms of payment at a time when oil prices were escalating dramatically, the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution brought a significant relief and opened up new possibilities, since our country was already beginning to produce her own energy in ever-growing amounts.

Concerned over its interests in that country, the empire had for years been planning to destroy that Revolution, and so it attempted to do it in April 2002, as it will attempt to do again as many times as it can. This is why the Bolivarian revolutionaries are preparing to resist.

Meanwhile, Bush has intensified his plans for an occupation of Cuba, to the point of proclaiming laws and an interventionist government in order to install a direct imperial administration.

Based on the privileges granted to the United States in Bretton Woods and Nixon’s swindle when he removed the gold standard which placed a limit on the issuing of paper money, the empire bought and paid with paper tens of trillions of dollars, more than twelve digit figures. This is how it preserved an unsustainable economy. A large part of the world currency reserves are in US Treasury bonds and bills. For this reason, many would rather not have a dollar crisis like the one in 1929 that would turn those paper bills into thin air. Today, the value of one dollar in gold is at least eighteen times less than what it was in the Nixon years. The same happens with the value of the reserves in that currency.

Those paper bills have kept their low current value because fabulous amounts of increasingly expensive and modern weapons can be purchased with them; weapons that produce nothing. The United States exports more weapons than anyone else in the world. With those same paper bills, the empire has developed a most sophisticated and deadly system of weapons of mass destruction with which it sustains its world tyranny.

Such power allows it to impose the idea of transforming foods into fuels and to shatter any initiative and commitment to avoid global warming, which is visibly accelerating.

Hunger and thirst, more violent hurricanes and the surge of the sea is what Tyranians and Trojans stand to suffer as a result of imperial policies. It is only through drastic energy savings that humanity will have a respite and hopes of survival for the species; but the consumer societies of the wealthy nations are absolutely heedless of that.

Cuba will continue to develop and improve the combative capacities of her people, including our modest but active and efficient defensive weapons industry which multiplies our capacity to face the invaders no matter where they may be, and the weapons they possess. We shall continue acquiring the necessary materials and the pertinent fire power, even though the notorious Gross Domestic Product as measured by capitalism may not be growing, for their GDP includes such things as the value of privatizations, drugs, sexual services and advertising, while it excludes many others like free educational and health services for all citizens.

From one year to the next the standard of living can be improved by raising knowledge, self-esteem and the dignity of people. It will be enough to reduce wastage and the economy will grow. In spite of everything, we will keep on growing as necessary and as possible.

“Freedom costs dearly, and it is necessary to either resign ourselves to live without it or to decide to buy it for its price”, said Martí.

“Whoever attempts to conquer Cuba will only gather the dust of her soil soaked in blood, if he does not perish in the fight”, exclaimed Maceo.

We are not the first revolutionaries to think that way! And we shall not be the last!

One man may be bought, but never a people.

Fate decreed that I could survive the empire’s murderous machine. Shortly, it will be a year since I became ill and, while I hovered between life and death, I stated in the Proclamation of July 31, 2006: “I do not harbor the slightest doubt that our people and our Revolution will fight until the last drop of blood."

Mr. Bush, don’t you doubt that either!

I assure you that you will never have Cuba!

Fidel Castro Ruz

June 17, 2007

2:03 p.m.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Socialist Canada; Police State Australia?

The Wombats, like most Antipodeans, have been known to make fun of our Maple-leaved cousins, but there have always been a few things that the Canadians have had over other parts of the english-speaking world (starting, notably, with the fact that some of them also speak French. Then there's the recognition of the indigenous population. And really good beer. And a healthier approach to foreign policy than their southern neighbours, on things stretching from overseas wars to Cuba. And so on. We don'tl ike ice-hockey, however.).

However, this week, we have discovered something else to take note of. A poll taken by The Globe and Mail, Canada's second largest newspaper, and largest circulation paper (with over 2 million per week) - and admittedly historically a left-liberal paper, although the past year or so indicates to the contrary - has 60% of respondents saying they believe that socialism is
"still a viable political alternative for the major industrial nations".

Admittedly the numbers aren't huge (8057 vs 5400), but it makes a welcome break from Australia this week.

On Monday, the SMH reported that NSW police "intelligence" have tried to recruit,
Daniel Jones, one of those charged over the G20 demonstrations in Melbourne to inform of his fellow protesters.

"I asked him straight out what agency he was from," Mr Jones, a socialist, said yesterday. "He said he was from intelligence and I said what's intelligence? He said NSW Police."

The article reports that when the spook was called and a
sked "about Mr Jones's allegations, he replied, after a pause: "You are not really supposed to be talking to me about this.""

The timeliness of this cannot be under-emphasised. Legislation is before the NSW Parliament this week to give police extra powers for the period of the APEC conference in Sydney this September, when protests are planned, in particular against US President George Bush. These wonderful powers, under the
APEC Meeting (Police Powers) Bill 2007 (NSW) include:

* “restricted” and “declared” areas in large parts of central Sydney;
* allowing the police to stop and search anyone in or around these areas and confiscate items considered “prohibited”, including 'banner-poles' of a metre in length;
* six-month jail terms for entering a restricted area without "justification"
* two years’ jail for carrying a “prohibited item” (as defined by the police, including the potential for them to declare anything as such);
* a presumption against bail (meaning people arrested could be detained for up to the two weeks of APEC).
* severely limiting police liability, (which raises the possibility that police will be allowed to break the law with impunity (especially important since the payouts to victims of police violence at the S11 protests in Melbourne in 2000 have finally been decided)
* allowing the police to create secret lists of “excluded people”, including those who fail to comply with a police order during APEC, and those who the police consider to pose a “threat” to people or property during APEC. These people will be prevented from entering parts of Sydney during APEC, and
may even be picked up even before the protest or conference, and held for the duration, without charge.

The unsettling response to the criticism came from NSW police came today from
a spokesman for the Police Minister, David Campbell - that those on the list "won't need to be informed - they know who they are". Furthermore, the May 18 Sydney Daily Telegraph reported that Federal Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock “dodged questions about whether the military will have shoot-to-kill powers during the Sydney APEC meeting."

Naturally, activists are not taking this lying down, and we will be taking to the streets regardless.

Meanwhile, in sunny Queensland, the trial of Constable Hurley for the killing in custody of Palm Island man Mulrunji Doomadgee continues.

The Socialist Alliance has a good collection of the current media coverage, as well as a chronology and history of the case. They are also selling (like hotcakes, apparently) yellow Justice for Mulrunji wristbands, as a response to the Qld police wearing blue wristbands ("the thin blue line") in support of Hurley, even (especially?) into aboriginal communities.

The latest claim from Hurley's defence (after he changed his story to match the evidence given in court, and admitted that he fell on Mulrunji, not next to him) is that it is a political campaign and poor Chris Hurley (who is ever so sorry about having not killed Mulrunji) is that the entire case is politically motivated (although when several hundred aboriginal people have died in custody in the past couple of decades, and Hurley is the first policeman even to be charged, the concept isn't so far fetched. In fact, it's high time the political establishment got motivated to do something about it. And more importantly, it's time the rest of us did.)

The trial concluded today, and the jury will likely retire tomorrow to prepare a verdict. Regardless of the outcome (likely a slap on the wrist) there is a going to be a political fallout to deal with.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Australian workers yearn for "good old days" of 1850

According to an article in todays Sydney Morning Herald, more than 2.5 million Australian workers long for the "good old days" of the 1850s, when the 8-hour day was first won.

According to research paper by
Dr Brigid van Wanrooy, a post-doctoral fellow at the Workplace Relations Centre at the University of Sydney, entitled "A Desire for 9 to 5: Australians' Preference for a Standard Working Week", men work an average of 45 hours a week, and women an average of 40. Rather surprisingly, only 37% claimed they wanted to work shorter hours.

However, reading between the lines of this set of figures from the ABS on working hours in Queensland, which claims that Qld workers are "happy" with their hours, you find that amongst the sectors who actually want more hours of work are those generally most vulnerable to shift cancellation, casual hours, firing, and lack of job security - Accomodation and Food Services workers. So it's hard to take the story from the figures alone.

Perhaps more worrying is this quote:
This week the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed almost a third of Australians work unsocial hours and 37 per cent do extra hours, about half of them for no extra pay.
While, again not too surprising, it all points towards the gradual slide in wages and conditions, a slide that began well before Howard and WorkChoices, but which can only get worse without a significant change in orientation and values.

This should be particularly clear after seeing this graph and Ross Gittin's article in today's paper. All the more reason to sign the Right to Strike Petition and to join the fight for workers' rights.