Monday, 30 June 2008

NEW! Links Dossier #2: Class Struggle and Resistance in Zimbabwe

In the second Links Dossier, in an easy to print a PDF format, Links - International Journal of Socialist Renewal makes available essential historical background material on the struggle for socialism in Zimbabwe, the degeneration of the regime and party of Robert Mugabe and the views of the Zimbabwean socialist movement on the way forward for the struggle for democracy and radical change.

Contents:

Revolutionaries, resistance and crisis in Zimbabwe

His Excellency Comrade Robert: How Mugabe’s ZANU clique rose to power

Zimbabwean socialists: `No to a government of national unity! Only united mass action will defeat Mugabe!'

Click HERE to download.

Please forward the following link: http://static.links.org.au/dossiers/2008-06-26-Zimbabwe-Dossier.pdf

For other Links Dossiers, please click here.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Ecuador, ALBA and the FARC


From Scoop via Ecuador Rising Blog,

by Toni Solo, 15 June 2008

Recent remarks by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez on the civil war in Colombia and Ecuador's decision not to join the Alternativa Bolivariana de las Americas (ALBA) solidarity based cooperation initiative (1) shows progressive leaders are taking stock on Latin American integration. President Rafael Correa suggests his government's decision is linked to efforts to revive the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) group which Venezuela abandoned when the Peruvian and Colombian government's insisted on negotiating bilateral "free trade" agreements with the United States.

Aporrea.org reports Correa as admitting that he told Chavez in 2007, "you return to the CAN and Ecuador will immediately join ALBA". Venezuela's government may well be quietly relieved, since Ecuador's decision is very ambivalent, keeping its options open and continuing to develop close bilateral trade links with Venezuela. It may well suit the ALBA countries - Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Nicaragua and Venezuela - to consolidate gains so far and to develop ALBA's closely linked PETROCARIBE preferential energy and trade programme covering most of the CaribbeanCentral America. and much of

Ecuador's announcement comes shortly after the recent European Union-Latin American summit in Peru's capital Lima and follows typically bullying remarks by European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair's legacy-man in Brussels.(2) Mandelson is alleged to have threatened, in a private meeting, to exclude from EU trade negotiations with the CAN group, any country insisting on alternatives to a free trade agreement. This comes at the same time as the US government has announced the reactivation of the US navy's fourth fleet - a massive escalation of the military threat against the ALBA countries in general and Venezuela in particular.

So Western Bloc countries are exerting pressure on all fronts against regional efforts to build autonomous alternatives to corporate globalization. In Nicaragua this week, the interim Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Manuel Coronel Katz felt it necessary to urge foreign diplomats in the country not to intervene in the country's internal affairs.(3) To which the Italian ambassador is reported to have responded, "Nicaragua needs the help of donor countries", as much as to say, "we'll make them an offer they cannot refuse" - no change to Western Bloc soup du jour gangsterism there.

To that background, one has to add Colombian narco-terror President Alvaro Uribe's fierce efforts to internationalize his country's civil war. Uribe's government followed up their March 1st attack in Ecuadoran territory, which killed FARC peace negotiator Raul Reyes and others, with concerted efforts to implicate Ecuador and Venezuela as supposed FARC accomplices. Such accusations have been dismissed even by corporate globalization fellow travellers like José Miguel Insulza Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

But those accusations are readily echoed in Western Bloc corporate media and avidly exploited by the US government as part of its regional destabilization strategy. The latest episode involved a clumsily staged operation to frame an alleged Venezuelan national guard member on the Colombian border in an attempt to "prove" the Venezuelan authorities supply the FARC. Such efforts would be farcical if their consequences were not to provide copy to corporate media propaganda sheets like the New York Times, whose columnist Simon "Judith Miller" Romero, has been acutely criticised by Stephen Lendman.(4)

One should also take into account the recession affecting the United States and Europe which is likely to worsen sharply later this year and well into 2009. As the drive towards corporate globalization stalls, the Western Bloc governments that hoped it would sustain their global economic dominance will be less reluctant to use military force - hence the menaces and military intimidation towards Iran and Venezuela. That is the broad context in which President Chavez recently declared, more forcefully than ever before, that it was time for the FARC to release all prisoners unconditionally and that their guerrilla campaign was no longer a valid strategy.(5)

It may be worth noting that President Chavez did not withdraw his earlier calls for the FARC to be recognized internationally as a belligerent force in Colombia's civil war, now over 40 years old. The FARC's response to the Venezuelan President's appeal (6) repeated the offer they have made for years of a prisoner exchange, although the statement did not rule out the unilateral release of Ingrid Betancourt and other civilians held by the FARC. Among the prisoners they hope will be part of any such exchange are Ricardo Palmera ("Simón Trinidad") and Anayibe Rojas ("Sonia").

Both Ricardo Palmera and Anayibe Rojas were extradited from Colombia to the US on what observers like the lawyer Paul Wolf (7) regard as trumped up charges of narcotics dealing. Rojas was convicted on the evidence of Colombian government officials, paid informers and alleged FARC deserters. The case against Palmera had to be dropped.

Little has been written about the collapse of the case against Ricardo Palmera, presumably because it is extremely inconvenient for all those people who parrot the accusation that the FARC finance their guerrilla campaign by narcotics dealing. Here was an important FARC leader extradited on narcotics charges and the case against him on those charges had to be withdrawn. One might have thought that was worth looking at.

When one does try and find evidence that the FARC finance their guerrilla campaign with profits from the drugs trade one finds that Anayibe Rojas seems to be the only FARC member ever convicted of narcotics offences in the US. Her conviction - for conspiracy not for any actual transaction - was based on the evidence of the FARC's political and military enemies. When Rojas was pressed by US officials in Colombia to accuse her FARC comrades of narcotics dealing she refused to do so. So in over 40 years, only one FARC member has ever been convicted - and then only on a charge of conspiracy to import 5kg or more of cocaine - in a narcotics case in the US.

What, then, is the origin of the routine assertions that the FARC finance their guerrilla campaign with narcotics dealing? The main sources of the accusations seem to be the US military's Southern Command, the Drugs Enforcement Agency and the Presidential Office for the National Control of Drug Policy - zero out of ten for political independence. If one tries to find the origins of that accusation it gets harder and harder not to conclude that it is yet another convenient USColombia to the US. government promoted distortion of the reality of narcotics dealing from

That reality became very clear on May 14th this year when the Colombian government agreed to extradite 14 leading right wing paramilitary commanders to the US on narcotics charges.(8) One of them, Salvatore Mancuso, had been wanted by the US authorities for nearly ten years on charges of importing 17 tons of cocaine into the US. The obvious reason for their sudden extradition is that they were key witnesses involved in trials in Colombia linking Alvaro Uribe and almost 60 indicted politicians, mostly Uribe supporters, many of them in prison, to mass murder and narcotics dealing. Their removal to the US was mighty convenient for the Uribe regime.

That fact tends not to figure readily in the blithering propaganda fog justifying the US "war on drugs" industry and the multitude of organizations and individuals that thrive on its funding. Propaganda outlets like the New York Times or the UK Guardian are hardly going to report persistently or in any depth that their governments support, arm and train at a cost of billions of dollars each year a government up to its eyes in drugs and mass murder. The New York Times acted fiercely to discredit Gary Webb's "Dark Alliance" revelations of US official complicity in the drugs business. So it should come as no surprise when accusations against the FARC of sustaining their guerrilla campaign by exporting cocaine to the US fail to hold up against the facts.:

Item: One solitary convicted FARC member fitted up by paid informers for conspiracy.

Item: One failed narcotics case against Ricardo Palmera. Charges dropped.

Despite over US$5bn in US military aid in the last six years , the FARC continue to defy Colombia's armed forces totalling over 400,000 soldiers and armed police. By not winning, in effect President Uribe has lost the war against the FARC. So it suits him and his European and United States backers to use his rotten paramilitary and narcotics based regime - completely isolated within the region - to internationalize his failed internal war and attack regional integration processes that threaten to hinder or even stop corporate globalization in Latin America.

Underpinning all the Western Bloc propaganda justifying their governments unjustifiable support for the Uribe regime in Colombia is the determination to continue the war. The FARC have repeatedly offered to negotiate both the immediate issue of the prisoner exchange and the wider issue of the civil war itself. Even when the two prisoner exchanges took place earlier this year, Uribe's forces continued bombing areas where they knew the released hostages were en route to freedom. The murder by bombing of Raul Reyes in Ecuador killed the FARC's leading negotiator for the prisoner exchange.

Neither the Uribe regime nor the Bush regime want peace in Colombia. Just as in Palestine, on Colombia too the US and its allies use double-speak. That is why, whether in Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Somalia or Colombia all the freedom and democracy rhetoric ends in murder and oppression. This procedure is global Western Bloc government policy. It consistently accompanies their programme of corporate globalization. Any resistance to this hypocrisy and its sadistic practice is branded as terrorism.

Andy Worthington points out (9) "In a further attempt to stifle dissent, the Military Commissions Act defined an “enemy combatant” as someone who has either engaged in or supported hostilities against the US..." That twisted logic, defying well-established international law, was rejected and challenged by the FSLN government in Nicaragua when it granted political asylum to three survivors of the murderous Colombian incursion into Ecuador on March 1st. The Mexican Lucía Morett, and the Colombians, Doris Torres Bohórquez and Martha Pérez Gutiérrez, currently remain under the protection of the Nicaraguan authorities. (10)

The FSLN government's support for the survivors of Colombia's illegal attack in Ecuador is just one more example of why it is a target, along with the governments of Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez and to a lesser degree perhaps that of Rafael Correa of the Western Bloc military, economic and diplomatic offensive. Currently, the right wing and centre right parties are cranking up accusations that the FSLN government is moving towards dictatorship. It is the same script used in Haiti, Bolivia and Venezuela. Managua's Radio Ya station reports (11) shock groups have been trained in the US and are now at work preparing destabilization activities around the country.

Western Bloc countries are deploying their military, diplomatic and economic power to undermine the solidarity based ALBA integration initiative and to target directly member countries like Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The recent fabricated hysteria over vague messages in mysterious laptops allegedly captured during Colombia's criminal foray into Ecuador was part of that. The collapse of the trial against Ricardo Palmera set back attempts to morph Venezuela's mediation role in the prisoner negotiations with the FARC into Venezuelan complicity in cocaine imports to the US.

No wonder, in such a context, that Rafael Correa and his government colleagues have decided to hedge their bets. At the same time as trying to coax Venezuela back into the Community of Andean Nations they are negotiating bilateral deals with the government of President Chavez. Nor is it much of a surprise that President Chavez himself, as James Petras has noted, has decided to echo the Cuban official line on the FARC.

The FARC too have survived worse difficulties than they face currently. In terms of regional diplomacy, progressive governments like Ecuador and Venezuela and its ALBA allies seem to be hunkering down. They are preparing for whatever economic or military intimidation the crisis-ridden Western Bloc imperialist countries may have in store before the plutocrats change guard in Washington.

*************

Toni writes for tortillaconsal.com

Notes
1. "Ecuador
dice que no se adherirá al Alba", Aporrea / Agencias 13/06/08 - http://www.aporrea.org/internacionales/n115475.html
2. "Denuncian amenazas de Peter Mandelsoncontra Bolivia y Ecuador", Bilaterals.org, May 21st 2008
- http://www.bilaterals.org/article.php3?id_article=12190
and
"Europa impone un TLC a los países andinos y amenaza con marginar a Bolivia
" Bolpress, May 15th 2008 - http://www.bolpress.com/art.php?Cod=2008051510
3. "Embajadores ignoran advertencia oficial y preparan documento sobre política interna", Radio La Primerisima, June 13th 2008 - http://www.radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias/general/31440
and
"Nicaragua pide respeto a su soberanía", Multinoticias, June 13th 2008 -
http://www.multinoticias.tv/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=949&Itemid=18
4. "The New York Times v. Hugo Chavez ", Stephen Lendman, Countercurrents.org, April 1st, 2008
- http://www.countercurrents.org/lendman010408.htm
5. "Chavez: "La guerrilla pasó a la historia" BBC Mundo.com, June 9th 2008
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_7443000/7443091.stm
and
"Chávez pide a las FARC la liberación unilateral de los rehenes", Publico.es, June 9th 2008
- http://www.publico.es/124270/chavez/pide/lider/farc/liberacion/unilateral/rehenes
6. "FARC insiste en canje secuestrados por rebeldes presos en respuesta a Chávez", Unionradio.net, June 13th 2008 - http://www.unionradio.com.ve/Noticias/Noticia.aspx?noticiaid=244543
and
"Sonia ejemplo de dignidad revolucionaria" - http://www.conbolivar.org/antigua/conbol/preso/sonia.htm
and
"El montaje judicial contra Simón Trinidad y Sonia en Estados Unidos", Paul Wolf, Partido Comunista de Colombia - http://www.pacocol.org/es/Inicio/Archivo_de_noticias/Marzo07/10.htm
7. "FARC not a terrorist group", Paul Wolf, Colombia Journal, January 12th - http://www.colombiajournal.org/colombia270.htm
8. "Colombia
extraditó a 14 paramilitares pese a estar acusados de crímenes de lesa humanidad", Gara, Rebelion, May 14th 2008 - http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=67385
9. "The Supreme Court's Gitmo decision" Andy Worthington, Counterpunch, June 13th - http://www.counterpunch.org/worthington06132008.html
10. "Procurador Estrada explica a diputados asilo político legal a las mujeres FARC" Radio La Primerisima, June 4th 2008
- http://www.radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias/general/30865
11. "Comienzan a funcionar grupos de choque facistas en el país" Nuevo Radio Ya, Juen 14th 2008 - http://nuevaya.com.ni/index.php/2008061416178/Noticias-de-Portada/Comienzan-a-funcionar-grupos-de-choque-facistas-en-el-pais.html

Online classes: reading Capital with David Harvey


Via Socialist Unity blog, the wombats are delighted to point readers to this excellent new resource on the web.

David Harvey, the Marxist urban theorist and geographer, has been teaching a course on Marx’s Capital (Vol. 1) to postgraduate students at CUNY and John Hopkins University for more than thirty years. This is a (slightly) famous course and several noteable Marxist academics have taken it at one point or another.

This year, Harvey is making the whole course available online for free.

Each of the lectures, including questions and discussion from his postgraduate students, is being filmed and put on his website soon afterwards. The course consists of 13 two hour lectures. The first two are already up, an introductory lecture and a lecture dealing with Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. The idea is that people will read two chapters of Capital and then listen to the lecture before moving on to the next two, as if you were taking his class in CUNY. If anyone is thinking about reading or re-reading Capital this will probably be of great assistance. Harvey is a very interesting thinker and also an engaging lecturer and he knows Capital inside out. 26 hours of lectures look like they will be a fantastic resource. The third lecture is due to go online in three days.

Here it is: http://www.davidharvey.org

Nationalise big oil, enemy of people and planet

by Dick Nichols

The latest surge in the spot price of crude oil (to $US139 a barrel—87.4 cents a litre) dramatises the urgent need for society to wean itself off “black gold”. The longer we remain hooked the greater the devastation both to our environment and to the living standards of millions, especially the poorest peoples of the planet.

The challenge is huge. The response must combine defence against the threat to livelihoods from price rises with a plan to restructure economies and ways of living so that oil-intensive production and transport becomes a thing of the past.

Many pro-market commentators—and not a few environmentalists—welcome the latest oil price hike (which means the real price of has risen 400% in the last six years, greater than in 1970s oil crises) as bringing us closer to that goal. They bemoan the “cheap populism” of the Coalition’s proposed five cents a litre cut in petrol excise and the Rudd government’s FuelWatch scheme.

The Financial Review’s economics editor Alan Mitchell says: “What our leaders should be telling voters is that the price of petrol has nowhere to go but up, and that they should take that into account when they buy their next car and make their next decision about where to live.”

And what about those billions of consumers of fossil fuels whose lives aren’t focused on getting out of a gas-guzzling 4WD and into a Toyota Prius? Can the urban poor of Jakarta react to the Indonesian government’s planned 28.7% increase in fuel prices by switching to solar panels? How should the Yorkshire fisherman whose weekly fuel bill has gone from $4000 to over $9000 in the space of a year respond to this “price signal”?

What should be done about the $700 a year increase in the average Australian family budget that recent petrol price rises are reckoned to bring?

Defending living standards

The most immediate challenge the oil price surge creates is how to stop the burden of the crisis being placed on the shoulders of working people and the poor. But defence of people’s livelihoods is also critical to make sure that the shift out of fossil-fuel dependent energy wins the mass social support it will need if it is actually to happen.

Here those environmentalists who think that increases in oil prices are to be welcomed because they are producing a (still minor) shift into diesel and hybrid cars and public transport are dangerously deceived. If the movement against global warming doesn’t propose its own treatment for the pain of oil price hikes, it abandons the field to the Brendan Nelsons and even worse anti-environmental political rogues.

Take, as a warning sign, the recent demise at the polls of London mayor Ken Livingston, who with the best intentions in the world introduced parking fees in the inner city, but without sufficient improvements in public transport to reduce people’s car and petrol dependence.

Here it’s important to grasp is that it’s not true in the short term that the retail price of petrol “has nowhere to go but up”. And that’s not just because the latest oil price hike contains a big speculative bubble that will burst sooner or later.

It’s because there’s a huge difference between the cost of extraction of crude oil and the final retail price of petrol. In between come the profits of the oil corporations, the wholesalers (often the same companies), the shippers and government taxes.

Start with the cost of oil extraction. According to the Bank of Kuwait crude oil at $100 a barrel yields the following astronomical rates of profit, which are based on the production cost of a litre (given here in brackets): Kuwait 488% (11 cents); United Arab Emirates 300% (16 cents); Saudi Arabia and Qatar 233% (19 cents); Canadian oil sands 203% (21 cents); and Bahrain and Oman 150% (25 cents).

Next along the chain comes refining. According to the December 2007 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report Petrol Prices and Australian Consumers, “the major refiners have established a comfortable oligopoly” which conducts a “policy of pricing locally refined petrol on the basis [of] an imported equivalent product rather than the actual cost of domestic refining or even the actual cost of imports.”

The ACCC calculated that when unleaded petrol retailed for 121.6 cents a litre in 2007 this suspect "import parity price" was 56.1 cents, the refiner margin 3.7 cents, the wholesale margin 8.1 cents, government taxes (petroleum excise and wholesale and retail GST) 49.2 cents and the retail margin 4.4 cents.

These figures make nonsense of Kevin Rudd’s claim that the federal government has done everything “physically possible” to contain oil price increases. A government that was concerned to confront the impact of such surges could:

  • Set a maximum retail price and adjust fuel excise and consumption tax rates accordingly (presently being considered by the Italian, Spanish and French governments).
  • Set limits to retail price movements and the various margins (refiner, wholesale and retail). In June 2007, the refiner margin in Australia jumped to over 12 cents, provoking the ACCC inquiry. Regulation along these lines has been introduced in Belgium and is presently being pushed in the Portuguese parliament by the Left Bloc. According to Bloc spokesperson and economist Francisco Louça simple anti-speculative rules like these could cut prices at the pump between 10 and 14 cents a litre.

    Nationalise the oil corporations

    Nonetheless, in today’s world of long-run rising oil extraction costs these sorts of measures will only bring temporary relief given the ever-present likelihood of a long-run shortfall in supply and as long as the industry remains profit-driven and in private hands. Seriously tackling the impact of oil prices on living standards will require the nationalisation of big oil (in Australia Shell, Mobil, Caltex and BP).

    This is not just the only way to know the true accounts of the oil corporations (which the ACCC was never sure it had in its hands). Nationalisation of big oil is also critical to carrying out the program for energy sustainability that will have eliminating oil dependence at its core.

    The movement against global warming needs to fight for the nationalisation of big oil for exactly the same reasons that it fights the privatisation of carbon-intensive electricity generation in New South Wales—without public ownership of the commanding heights of energy production the capacity to plan the rapid transition to renewable technologies disappears.

    It is also the only framework in which a right price for oil-based products can be found—not so low as to provide no incentive to reduce consumption, and not so high as to undermine the livelihoods of workers, family farmers, the self-employed and people on welfare.

    In November 2006, the world price of crude was US 38 cents a litre and retail prices ranged from Venezuela’s three cents a litre (i.e., involving a subsidy of 35 cents a litre) to Iceland’s 186 cents a litre (with the highest fuel taxes in the world).

    On January 21, 2007, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez told the audience of his weekly TV program Aló Presidente that the price of petrol was far too low. “We haven’t touched the price of petrol for eight years. It’s really gross to sell petrol the way we’ve been selling it, it would be better to give it away.”

    Our case in Australia is the complete opposite. Confronted with a Rudd government determined to do practically nothing about soaring petrol and food prices the union movement must demand full compensation for the increases in the cost of living they produce.

    Indeed, the oil price surge is a sharp reminder of the need for full indexation of wages and welfare payments, a position that the trade union movement should never have abandoned. As the world economy again faces a 1970s prospect of "stagflation" (rising unemployment and inflation) and the central banks move to make working people--especially those with mortgage debt--pay the price of controlling the price level, the Australian union movement cannot defend working people if it maintains support for the Reserve Bank's inflation-targetting regime.

    There’s only one solution to the oil price crisis: the union and environment movements must fight side by side against the devastation the Shells and Exxons are wreaking on our planet and the livelihoods of its peoples.

    Dick Nichols is the national coordinator of the Socialist Alliance. For sources used in this article contact: Socialist Alliance National Office

  • NEW! Links Dossier #1: PSUV: Birth of a mass revolutionary party


    The first in a series of occasional Links Dossiers, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is making available a selection of its key articles on the exciting development of Venezuela's United Socialist Party (PSUV). The dossier is in PDF format, to allow easy downloading, printing and distribution.


    To download Links Dossier #1 -- PSUV: Birth of a mass revolutionary party, click HERE

    Links Dossier #1 -- PSUV: Birth of a mass revolutionary party

    Contents

    • Revolution, party and a new international
    • PSUV vice president Alberto Müller Rojas: The party is a `political necessity'
    • Asamblea de Socialistas: `The left has to be inside the PSUV to wage the ideological battle'
    • Marea Socialista: `We need to insert the working class into the PSUV'Draft program of the PSUV

    Monday, 16 June 2008

    NSW power sell-off: workers prepare response to parliament vote

    By Dick Nichols

    SYDNEY—A mass meeting of Central Coast power industry workers voted on July 11 for an “immediate stoppage of work by all members across the industry If the sell off legislation is passed by the Lower House of NSW Parliament”.

    The meeting also resolved to lift current overtime bans and “comply with the terms of our awards and agreement” and that “if any member is disciplined or has their employment harmed in any way there will be an immediate set cessation of work by all members.”

    Before the mass meeting discussed the resolution it was addressed by Greens Member of the Legislative Council (upper house) John Kaye, the most prominent parliamentary opponent of the Iemma government’s electricity privatisation plan.

    As the behind-the-scenes battle for MPs votes continues in Macquarie Street the “word” is that Iemma could well lose the numbers in the Legislative Council—provided the Liberals don’t vote to support the power sell-off. The Central Coast mass meeting resolution seems aimed at putting spine into wavering upper house ALP MPs: if enough join the Nationals and Greens and the Liberals also vote against the power sell-off it will be dead.

    Speculation is also rife as to if and when the sell-off legislation will next be debated in parliament, with many convinced that there is no way it Iemma will reintroduce it in this session if he is not certain of “the numbers”.

    In the meantime the Stop the Sell-Off Community Group, which meets weekly in Sydney and brings together rank-and-file ALPers, Greens, socialists and union activists, decided to prepare an afternoon protest picket outside Parliament House during the present parliamentary session. The group will ask Unions NSW and individual electricity sector unions to advertise the action when the details are finalised.

    The group also continues to organise Saturday stalls in Sydney shopping centres, gathering signatures against the sell-off and keeping people up to date on the campaign. Details of the stalls are available of the Socialist Alliance web site at www.socialist-alliance.org.

    Meetings of the Stop the Sell-Off Community Group take place every Wednesday in the AMWU building, Chalmers Street, Surry Hills. For details contact Colin Drane on 0419 698 396.

    Friday, 13 June 2008

    NSW Labor - Et tu, Carmel?


    The wombats aren't in the habit of swallowing any old tidbit or piece of unsubstantiated trash that floats to the surface of the corporate media trough, but this one's a doozey.

    According to the gossip-mongers at News.com.au, an amorphous team of "rebel Labor MPs" are positively slavering at the prospect of overthrowing the current order, and supplanting Premier Morris (I can only muster 28% support) Iemma et al with "a new "dream team" of former minister Carmel Tebbutt and rising star Nathan Rees."

    Of course, Carmel - whose husband is Federal MP, and left-faction heavyweight (read, head-kicker) Anthony Albanese - would never dream of such a thing. She wants to look after her son, after all. Mind you, that WAS in May, and many an Iguana has been licked since then. And there was that travesty called "the Budget". And we still haven't seen all the fallout of that great big Circus - the one with the elephants, and christian-eating lions, and all those delegates. What was it called....? Ah yes... STATE CONFERENCE.

    Mind you, even if, as a "cheeky" "left-wing source" told the Sydney Morning Herald of Tebbutt: "The only bad thing you can say about her is she's Anthony's partner", that's bad enough for me. Pity the others are worse, really.

    More than anything, this all shows the woeful state that NSW Labor had led itself into: ministers found guilty or accused of speeding, drink-driving, drug use and pedophilia, graft and corruption, wife-beating, drunken loutish behaviour, and worse (I still haven't mentioned the abomination which is Mick Costa, or the generalised ineptitude with which the Government "runs" the state).

    On top of all this, we have the blood-feud that's sprung up with the unions around the proposed electricity privatisations, and there is now another juicy piece of gossip to hand, which if true may well blow the lid right off the pressure-cooker. The NSW Government is planning (or at least seems more or less willing) to refer its industrial power to the Commonwealth, further undercutting the state powerbase of the unions, and saving the Government a small mint (some $20 million) along the way. The plan also has the added bonus of being a direct attack on John Della-Bosca (as if he needed MORE trouble), as well as the unions - just what Iemma and Costa wanted.

    So, the stage almost seems set for a bit of High Drama (preferably the kind with plenty of bloodshed). I wouldn't be surprised if there was a move to shift Iemma (and hopefully Tripodi, Sartor and Costa). If there is, you'd better hope it comes soon - there is a building sense of imminent implosion about NSW Labor. If Tebbutt and Watkins are the best they can do, well so be it.

    Just so long as noone has any illusions that the corruption, bribery, intrigue, backstabbing, privatisation and corporate thievery is going to stop anytime soon.

    The stage is set, the actors upon it.
    "Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war!"

    Eyes on the Maobadi: 4 Reasons Nepal’s Revolution Matters

    From Revolution in South Asia

    By Mike Ely

    Something remarkable is happening. A whole generation of people has never seen a radical, secular, revolutionary movement rise with popular support. And yet here it is – in Nepal today.

    This movement has overthrown Nepal’s hated King Gyanendra and abolished the medieval monarchy. It has created a revolutionary army that now squares off with the old King’s army. It has built parallel political power in remote rural areas over a decade of guerrilla war – undermining feudal traditions like the caste system. It has gathered broad popular support and emerged as the leading force of an unprecedented Constituent Assembly (CA). And it has done all this under the radical banner of Maoist communism — advocating a fresh attempt at socialism and a classless society around the world.

    People in Nepal call these revolutionaries the Maobadi.

    Another remarkable thing is the silence surrounding all this. There has been very little reporting about the intense moments now unfolding in Nepal, or about the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) that stand at their center. Meanwhile, the nearby Tibetan uprisings against abuses by China’s government got non-stop coverage.

    There are obvious reasons for this silence. The Western media isn’t thrilled when people in one of the world’s poorest countries throw their support behind one of the world’s most radical movements.

    But clearly many alternative news sources don’t quite know what to make of the Nepali revolution. The Maobadi’s mix of communist goals and non-dogmatic methods disturb a lot of leftist assumptions too. When the CPN(Maoist) launched an armed uprising in 1996, some people thought these were outdated tactics. When the CPN(Maoist) suspended armed combat in 2006 and entered an anti-monarchist coalition government, some people assumed they would lose their identity to a corrupt cabal. When the Maoists press their current anti-feudal program, some people think they are forgetting about socialism.

    But silent skepticism is a wrong approach. The world needs to be watching Nepal. The stunning Maoist victory in the April elections was not, yet, the decisive victory over conservative forces. The Maobadi are at the center of the political staqe but they have not yet defeated or dismantled the old government’s army. New tests of strength lie ahead.

    The Maoists of Nepal aren’t just a opposition movement any more – they are tackling the very different problems of leading a society through a process of radical change. They are maneuvering hard to avoid a sudden crushing defeat at the hands of powerful armies. As a result, the Maobadi of Nepal are carrying out tactics for isolating their internal rivals, broadening their appeal, and neutralizing external enemies.

    All this looks bewildering seen up close. This world has been through a long, heartless stretch without much radicalism or revolution. Most people have never seen what it looks like when a popular communist revolution reaches for power.

    Let’s break the silence by listing four reasons for looking closely at Nepal.

    Reason #1: Here are communists who have discarded rigid thinking, but not their radicalism.

    Leaders of the CPN(Maoist) say they protect the living revolution “from the revolutionary phrases we used to memorize.”

    The Maobadi took a fresh and painstakingly detailed look at their society. They identified which conditions and forces imposed the horrific poverty on the people. They developed creative methods for connecting deeply with the discontent and highest hopes of people. They have generated great and growing influence over the last fifteen years.

    To get to the brink of power, this movement fused and alternated different forms of struggle. They started with a great organizing drive, followed by launching a guerrilla war in 1996, and then entering negotiations in 2006. They created new revolutionary governments in remote base areas over ten years, and followed up with a political offensive to win over new urban support. They have won victory in the special election in April, and challenged their foot-dragging opponents by threatening to launching mass mobilizations in the period ahead. They reached out broadly, without abandoning their armed forces or their independent course.

    The Maobadi say they have the courage “to climb the unexplored mountain.” They insist that communism needs to be reconceived. They believe popular accountability may prevent the emergence of arrogant new elites. They reject the one-party state and call for a socialist process with multi-party elections. They question whether a standing army will serve a new Nepal well, and advocate a system of popular militias. And they want to avoid concentrating their hopes in one or two leaders-for-life, but instead will empower a rising new generation of revolutionary successors.

    Nepal is in that bottom tier of countries called the “fourth world” – most people there suffer in utter poverty. It is a world away from the developed West, and naturally the political solutions of the Nepali Maoists’ may not apply directly to countries like the U.S. or Britain. But can’t we learn from the freshness they bring to this changing world?

    Will their reconception of communism succeed? It is still impossible to know. But their attempt itself already has much to teach.

    Reason #2: Imagine Nepal as a Fuse Igniting India

    Nepal is such a marginalized backwater that it is hard to imagine its politics having impact outside its own borders. The country is poor, landlocked, remote and only the size of Arkansas. Its 30 million people live pressed between the world’s most populous giants, China and India.

    But then consider what Nepal’s revolution might mean for a billion people in nearby India.

    A new Nepal would have a long open border with some of India’s most impoverished areas. Maoist armed struggle has smoldered in those northern Indian states for decades – with roots among Indian dirt farmers. Conservative analysts sometimes speak of a “red corridor” of Maoist-Naxalite guerrilla zones running through central India, north to south, from the Nepali border toward the southern tip.

    Understanding the possibilities, Nepal’s Maobadi made a bold proposal: that the revolutionary movements across South Asia should consider merging their countries after overthrowing their governments and creating a common regional federation. The Maobadi helped form the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) in 2001, which brought together ten different revolutionary groupings from throughout the region.

    A future revolutionary government in Nepal will have a hard time surviving alongside a hostile India. It could face demands, crippling embargos and perhaps even invasion. But at the very same time, such a revolution could serve as an inspiration and a base area for revolution in that whole region. It could impact the world.

    Reason #3: Nepal shows that a new, radically better world is possible.

    Marx once remarked that the revolution burrows unseen underground and then bursts into view to cheers of “Well dug, old mole!”

    We have all been told that radical social change is impossible. Rebellion against this dominant world order has often seemed marked by backward-looking politics, xenophobia, lowered sights and Jihadism. And yet, here comes that old mole popping up in Nepal — offering a startling glimpse of how people can transform themselves and their world.

    Some of the world’s poorest and most oppressed people have set out in the Nepali highlands to remake everything around them — through armed struggle, political power, and collective labor. Farming people, who are often half-starved and illiterate have formed peoples courts and early agricultural communes. Wife beating and child marriage are being challenged. Young men and women have joined the revolutionary army to defeat their oppressors. There is defiance of arranged marriage and a blossoming of “love matches,” even between people of different castes. There is a rejection of religious bigotry and the traditions of a Hindu monarchy. The 40 ethnic groups of Nepal are negotiating new relations based on equality and a sharing of political power.

    All this is like a wonderful scent upon the wind. You are afraid to turn away, unless it might suddenly disappear.

    Reason #4: When people dare to make revolution – they must not stand alone.

    These changes would have been unthinkable, if the CPN(Maoist) had not dared to launch a revolutionary war in 1996. And their political plan became reality because growing numbers of people dared to throw their lives into the effort. It is hard to exaggerate the hope and courage that has gripped people.

    Events may ultimately roll against those hopes. This revolution in Nepal may yet be crushed or even betrayed from within. Such dangers are inherent and inevitable in living revolutions.

    If the Maobadi pursue new leaps in their revolutionary process, they will likely face continuing attacks from India, backed by the U.S. The CPN(Maoist) has long been (falsely!) labeled “terrorists” by the U.S. government. They are portrayed as village bullies and exploiters of child-soldiers by some human rights organizations. Western powers have armed Nepal’s pro-royal National army with modern weapons. A conservative mass movement in Nepal’s fertile Terai agricultural area has been encouraged by India and Hindu fundamentalists.

    Someone needs to spread the word of what is actually going on. It would be intolerable if U.S.-backed destabilization and suppression went unopposed in the U.S. itself.

    Here it is: A little-known revolution in Nepal.

    Who will we tell about it? What will we learn from it? What will we do about it?

    * * * * *

    Mike Ely is part of the Kasama Project (http://mikeely.wordpress.com) and has helped create the new Revolution in South Asia (http://southasiarev.wordpress.com/ ) resource. Mike’s email is m1keely (at) yahoo.com

    Queensland Politics: the Watermelon or the Pineapple?


    Followers of politcs in the "Red North" (as Queensland was once known, usefully) will be aware of the impending Anschluss (sorry, "merger") of what's left of the Queensland National Party and the Liberal Party in that state. It's not really news, having been on the table (in the fruitbowl) for years.

    Apparently driven by the desperation of realising that the right-wing union mafia (sorry, "Qld ALP") could rule the state for another century, if not longer, these clever folks are now on the verge of deciding whether to get together and form something with the imaginative name of the "Liberal National Party". Some sharper wits are calling it "the Pineapple Party".

    However, all is not well in tropical paradise, as has been pointed out at Larvatus Prodeo and elsewhere. Queensland National (and supposedly "maverick") Senator Barnaby Joyce told us why only recently. He's more positive on the project for a People's Pineapple Party (or whatever such a beast might be known as) than some are. As Joyce points out, though, the two parties are odd bed-fellows:

    "The National Party is a party based on agrarian, socialist principles, as can be seen in the single desk for the orderly sale of wheat, drought aid and regional development.

    The Liberals believe in the free market and it is probably in their economics where they are truly liberal. They believe in pure market principles and that the consequences of what happens next are, in the long term, the best outcome.

    The Nationals believe greed is a higher order driver than market principles and market power ultimately destroys market theory. The Liberals believe the market will look after you; the Nationals believe, unguided, it will walk over you."


    That's right folks. Forget the Greens - the biggest socialist party in Australia outside the ALP is the National Party! (I always knew they were secretly state socialists).

    And all those cane-farmers accusing the Greens of being watermelons (democratic Green on the outside, Moscow-red on the inside) have never seriously been worried about a Bob Brown-led communist revolution (Queensland is, after all, the only state to have elected a Communist Party member to State Parliament).

    No, in actual fact, they know that the Greenies are inner-city latte-sipping wannabe-Maoist types, who wouldn't know how to administer socialism or manage the environment if their life depended on it. Certainly not like Uncle Joh did, anyway...

    Of course, Queensland Socialism suffered a harsh blow with the fall of the Soviet Union and Uncle Joh, and the rise of the social democratic ALP. Many Nationals lost their way, caught in the false, revisionist, hope of John Howard's "battler politics". But now Howard has gone, and the crisis has worsened (farmers in the bush are starting to vote Green for Chrissakes!!! Must be all that rhetoric about saving the Murray).

    The final liquidation may have begun.

    Of course, faced with such a betrayal of principle by the leadership there is also the danger that disaffected Nationals, outraged by their leaders selling them up the river to the Free Marketeers of the Liberal Party, might jump ship and form "a
    new One Nation-style force".

    Perhaps out past Roma, on Finland Station, north of the Brisbane Line, the Henry Lawson is back on the shelves, the Kingaroy peanuts are being sharpened, the pumpkin scones are being stacked, and the rifles are being oiled for the last battle. Perhaps.

    But down on the pineapple plantation, it looks like all stations go. The merger is apparently being driven by the Nats,
    particularly party leader Lawrence Springborg and some of those shady figures from the "Joh for PM" campaign from all those years ago.

    In the meantime then, we must wait to see if the new party becomes a Red Pineapple (that's: Ananas b.), or some kind of insipid, suburban bromeliad, gone feral. Watermelon Greens, look out!

    Fiesta Latina - GLW dinner Granville 5-7-08


    Fiesta Latina

    Live Salsa Band "Los Amigos"

    Green Left Weekly solidarity fiesta
    7pm, Saturday 5 July

    Granville How Hall,
    10 Carlton St, Granville

    Join us for an evening of great entertainment to help keep Australia's leading progressive paper alive.

    Entry: $15 concession/$30 waged/$50 solidarity (includes food)
    ($10 after 9pm)

    To book, phone 9690 1977, 9687 5131.
    www.greenleft.org.au

    Germany: Die Linke hold historic first conference

    On the weekend of 24-25 May, Germany's new left-wing party "Die Linke" ("The Left") held it's first ever conference in Cottbus. Below is an article from Green Left Weekly summarising some of the conference (although a lot more went on, I'm sure).

    For more information Die Linke also has some material
    in english on their website, some of which has been reproduced in LINKS, and the wombats have covered the rise of Die Linke here before (as a quick search will show).

    **************************************************

    Germany's Die Linke: ‘We have the wind of history in our sails’

    By Duroyan Fertl

    May 30, 2008 -- After a year of stellar successes, almost 600 delegates from Germany’s new left-wing party, Die Linke, came together for the party’s first ever congress, held in the east German city of Cottbus on May 25 and 26. Former East German communist Lothar Bisky and former Social Democratic Party (SPD) national president Oscar Lafontaine, once dubbed by the media as “Europe’s most dangerous man”, were re-elected as co-chairs of the party, and a social justice-oriented platform was adopted for the coming period, which includes state elections in Bavaria this September and federal elections next year.

    Die Linke was officially formed in 2007 as a fusion between the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS — the successor to the former East German ruling party) and a collection of militants, unionists and socialists from the west organised as the Electoral Alternative for Jobs and Social Justice (WASG). Die Linke now has almost 80,000 members.

    Anti-neoliberal revolt

    The PDS, still popular in the east, had failed to win electoral support in the west. However, the anti-social “Hartz IV” laws of the SPD government of Gerhard Schroder led to a grass-roots rebellion against the SPD in the west. Thousands of militant unionists and community activists revolted against Schroder’s neoliberal policies, forming the WASG. They were joined by Lafontaine and a left-wing split from the SPD in the lead up to the 2005 federal elections.

    After the PDS-WASG joint ticket out-polled the Greens in these elections — winning 54 seats — the two groups fused into Die Linke. Having won representation in 10 out of 16 state parliaments, it is now Germany’s third largest party, after the right-wing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the centre-left SPD. While it is polling at around 14% nationally, in Saarland, Lafontaine’s home state, Die Linke has reached 29%, almost double the support for the SPD.

    Die Linke’s success can be attributed in part to the failure of Germany — with Europe’s strongest economy — to translate economic gains into social benefits. While the neoliberal policies of the CDU/SPD “grand-coalition” government have cut unemployment, they have done so by increasing the working poor — forcing many people into extremely low-paying jobs.

    According to a government report, up to 18% of Germans were living in poverty in 2005, and a quarter of the population earns less than US$24,000 per year. The country has also been rocked by a series of tax avoidance scandals, while the gap between rich and poor continues to widen drastically.

    While this travesty continues, Die Linke has begun to set the political agenda. Their policies, such as introducing a minimum wage, higher taxes for the rich, and paid maternity leave — once considered taboo among the other parties — have suddenly re-appeared on the mainstream national agenda in an attempt to neutralise Die Linke’s popular appeal.

    As a result, Lafontaine is now referred to by many as “Germany’s secret chancellor”.

    At the Cottbus conference, Lafontaine gave an electrifying speech laden with references to Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and the Polish-born revolutionary Rosa Luxembourg. He slammed the “perversity of financial market-driven capitalism” for causing unemployment and poverty in the name of profit, and argued that fighting the influence of markets is “the central question of our times”.

    In April, Lafontaine also proposed including sections from the Communist Manifesto in Die Linke’s program. Conference delegates also called for greater public expenditure on health, education and environmental repair, a ban on layoffs by profitable firms and higher property, corporate and inheritance taxes.

    Die Linke remains the only German party opposed to the war in Afghanistan, and Lafontaine — who has called US President George Bush a terrorist and praised Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez — railed against NATO at the conference, calling it a US-led machine that violates human rights around the world.

    Die Linke is also the only German party to oppose the new European Union constitution, on the grounds that it is entirely pro-business, and was the sole opposition in the Bundestag (the national parliament) to a recent proposal to increase politicians’ salaries.

    ‘Extremists’

    The rise of Die Linke has lit a fire under big business, which is worried about a left-turn in Germany, and the German media has led an ongoing attack on the party. The security services have taken part in the onslaught — a recent security report decried “extremist” elements within Die Linke.

    While these attacks have failed to dampen support for Die Linke, the party has vulnerabilities. Where it has entered coalition government with the SPD, in eastern states like Berlin, Die Linke has joined in the implementation of neoliberal policies, causing a revolt by local members.

    While in the west, the SPD has refused to deal with Die Linke, the left-wing party remains open to coalitions with the SPD. There is a danger that Die Linke might be drawn into fruitless governing coalitions unless the party adopts a set of clear policies in relation to the question.

    There is a potential fault line in Die Linke between a more moderate wing and a radical wing that includes Lafontaine, many unionists and a number of smaller, explicitly socialist platforms. The direction Die Linke takes will be determined in the struggle to forge a party with a platform that seems to genuinely put people before profits, both in the streets and in coming elections.

    Until then, as Lafontaine argued in Cottbus – “the wind of history is in our sails”.

    From International News, Green Left Weekly issue #753 4 June 2008.

    Wednesday, 11 June 2008

    "Y Maniffesto Comiwnyddol" yn Cymraeg

    Diolch yn fawr iawn a Plaid Sosialaidd Cymru y Leftwing Criminologist:

    Y Maniffesto Comiwnyddol, ysgrifennwyd gan Karl Marx a Friedrich Engels ym 1848 yw dogfen arloesol Marxiaeth. Ers ei gyhoeddiad gwreiddiol cyfieithiwyd ef i sawl iaith; cyhoeddwyd y cyfieithiad cyntaf Cymraeg ym 1948, gan Blaid Gomiwnyddol Prydain, i ddathlu canmlwyddiant y Maniffesto.

    W.J. Rees a gyyfieithodd y Maniffesto o’r Almaeneg i’r Gymraeg. Ganwyd e yn Nhyddewi ym 1914, graddoedd yn Hanes, o Brifysgol Aberystwyth, ac oedd bellach Uwch-Ddarlithydd mewn Addysg ym Mhrifysgol Leeds. Cyhoeddodd e sawl papur academig, yn ogystal â bywgraffiad Lenin mewn cyfres Y Meddwl Modern (Gwasg Gee 1981).

    Mae’r Maniffesto Comiwnyddol, cyn berthnasol heddiw ac erioed, yn cael ei gyhoeddiad newydd yma i nodweddu penblwydd 160ydd y Maniffesto, yn ogystal â phenblwydd 60ydd y cyhoeddiad Cymraeg cyntaf, ac i’w wneud ar gael unwaith eto i Sosialwyr a myrfyrwyr Marxiaeth.

    Ailgyhoeddwyd cyfieithiad wreiddiol Cymraeg W.J. Rees, ar-lein, gan Blaid Sosialaidd Cymru, gyda chytundeb y Blaid Gomiwnyddol Cymreig (Pwyllgor Cymreig y CPB)

    Ni'n unig sy’n gyfrifol am unrhyw camgymeriadau yn nhrawsgrifiad tecst W.J. Rees. Os hoffech gopi ar bapur, cysylltwch â Phlaid Sosialaidd Cymru.

    Geoff Jones a Kate Jones
    Plaid Sosialaidd Cymru
    Mehefin 2008

    Darllenwch y ddogfen ar y sgrin

    Llwythwch y ffeil i lawr (.pdf)

    Free the Cuban Five! - Emergency rally in Sydney


    Free the Cuban Five!
    Protest rally outside US Consulate
    Martin Place, Sydney
    5pm Thursday 12 June

    On June 4 the US Appeals Court upheld the convictions of Gerardo Hernández, René González, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labañino, and Fernando González who are internationally known as the Cuban Five. These revolutionaries have spent a decade in US prison on political frame-up charges.

    Before their arrest, the five—two U.S. citizens and three Cuban immigrants—were gathering information on right-wing Cuban-American groups that have staged violent attacks against Cuba with Washington’s complicity.

    Arrested by the FBI on Sept. 13, 1998, they were denied bail and kept in solitary confinement for 17 months. Adriana Pérez and Olga Salanueva, have been repeatedly denied entry by U.S. authorities to visit their husbands, Gerardo Hernández and René González.

    The U.S. government falsely charged them with “conspiracy to commit espionage,” “conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent,” and—in the case of Hernández—“conspiracy to commit murder.” Although none of the main charges were proven, they were convicted and given sentences ranging from 15 years to a double life sentence.

    The Appeals Court did rule that the life sentences of Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González, and the 19-year sentence of Ramon Labañino were too harsh given that “no top secret documents were gathered or transmitted.” Their sentences will be reviewed and reduced. However, the double life sentence of Gerardo Hernández and the 15-year sentence of René González were upheld.

    Australia-Cuba Friendship Society, Free the Cuban Five Committee, Leonard Weinglass Tour Committee & Committee in Solidarity with Cuba- Western Sydney
    For more information: 0424 652 802 or 0411 732 824
    Check out http://www.antiterroristas.cu/ and http://www.freethefive.org/ for more information on the campaign.

    Monday, 9 June 2008

    End the Intervention! National Day of Action on Saturday June 21!


    from Aboriginal Rights Coalition


    Endorsed by the national conference called by the Aboriginal Rights Coalition on Sunday May 25 in Sydney attended by over 200 people.


    • Repeal all “NT intervention” legislation

    • Restore the Racial Discrimination Act

    • Fund infrastructure and community controlled services

    • Sign and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples- Aboriginal Control of Aboriginal Affairs

    June 21 will mark one year since the Howard Government announced the NT intervention. Far from improving child welfare, the intervention has created a new wave of dispossession and is compounding social problems.


    The Racial Discrimination Act has been suspended, land taken over and business managers imposed on communities.

    The universal quarantining of welfare payments, the closure of many Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) and the compulsory acquisition of Aboriginal property has forced thousands of people from their communities into urban centres.

    Bagot town camp in Darwin, for example, has increased in population from 500-1200 people since the intervention. People are facing extreme hardship without jobs, services or stable accommodation.
    While the Rudd Labor government made a symbolic apology for the Stolen Generations, in practice, it has retained and expanded Howard’s explicitly racist intervention laws. The government refuses to acknowledge the social break down taking place. They continue to deny protection under the Racial Discrimination Act.

    Aboriginal people are suffering stark discrimination as they are forced to stand in segregated queues in Centrelink, in supermarkets and in schools. The practice of traditional culture is becoming impossible for many, unable to travel due to welfare restrictions. As Lyle Cooper, Vice President Bagot Community has said, “I thank you Prime Minister Rudd for your apology…(but) it’s an invasion all over again. We are being told where to shop, what to eat, how to act and how to live”.

    Communities continue to stand up against the intervention. Scores of representatives from “prescribed areas” traveled to join the 2000 strong Canberra Convergence at the opening of the new Parliament. Many more will come from communities around the Northern Territory to protest in Alice Springs and Darwin as part of the national protests on 21 June.

    One of the strongest examples is Yuendumu, where a strategy of non-cooperation has held off repeated attempts by the government to take over local programs and implement “income management”. Jeannie Nungarrayi Egan from the community council has said, “No body likes it, we have to control our own community, we’re going to push out the quarantine”.

    Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma recently released a report which demonstrates how NT intervention legislation contravenes numerous UN charters to which Australia is signatory, including International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

    In July Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will begin a review of the Intervention. We need to bring thousands of people out onto the streets around the country to ensure grass-roots voices are no longer ignored. The new Government must break with the assimilationist policies of the Howard era. They must act on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A massive injection of funds and resources into communities is badly needed, but cannot come at the expense of basic human rights. Only an approach which respects self-determination will lead to improvements in community life.

    Stop the intervention, Stop the Racism - Human Rights for all!

    Sydney: 11am, The Block, Redfern

    contact Monique Wiseman 0415410558 or Paddy Gibson 0415800586

    Alice Springs - Mbantua: 2pm Court House Lawns

    contact Barbara Shaw 0401291166 or Marlene Hodder 0889525032

    Darwin: 10am Raintree park

    contact Liv 0401955405

    Perth: 11am Wesley Church, cnr Hay and William st

    contact Natasha Moore 0434303248

    Brisbane: 11am State Parliament, George st

    contact Lauren 0413534125

    Melbourne: 12pm State Library

    contact Michaela 0429136935

    Wollongong: 10am Lowden Square (east side of Wollongong Station),

    contact Sheree Rankmore 42281585 or Tina McGhie 0415504589

    Adelaide: details tba,

    contact John Hartley 0424943990 Sue Gilby 0431112898

    Rally endorsed by the Aboriginal Rights Coalition National Conference on Sunday May 25 in Sydney attended by over 200 people.


    Support from Aboriginal leaders and activists includes: Barbara Shaw (Mt Nancy town camp, Alice Springs), Lyle Cooper (President of Bagot community, Darwin), Harry Nelson (President, Yuendumu community council), June Mills (Long-grass association, Darwin), Pat Eatock, Brian Butler, Shireen Malamoo, Millie Ingram, Pastor Ray Minniecon, Mitch, Peta Ridgeway, Heidi Norman, Shane Phillips


    Supportive organisations include: Maritime Union of Australia (MUA NSW & NT), Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), Railway Tram and Bus Union (RBTU NT), Australian Services Union (ASU NT), Top End Aboriginal Conservation Alliance, Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR NSW & NT), Indigenous Social Justice Association, Alliance for Indigenous Self Determination Melbourne, Intervention Rollback Action Group (Alice Springs), Aboriginal Rights Coalition (Darwin, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth), Socialist Alliance

    Che Guevara’s Final Verdict on the Soviet Economy

    By John Riddell

    from Socialist Voice, June 8, 2008

    One of the most important developments in Cuban Marxism in recent years has been increased attention to the writings of Ernesto Che Guevara on the economics and politics of the transition to socialism.

    A milestone in this process was the publication in 2006 by Ocean Press and Cuba’s Centro de Estudios Che Guevara of Apuntes criticos a la economía política [Critical Notes on Political Economy], a collection of Che’s writings from the years 1962 to 1965, many of them previously unpublished. The book includes a lengthy excerpt from a letter to Fidel Castro, entitled “Some Thoughts on the Transition to Socialism.” In it, in extremely condensed comments, Che presented his views on economic development in the Soviet Union.[1]

    In 1965, the Soviet economy stood at the end of a period of rapid growth that had brought improvements to the still very low living standards of working people. Soviet prestige had been enhanced by engineering successes in defense production and space exploration. Most Western observers then considered that it showed more dynamism than its U.S. counterpart.

    At that time, almost the entire Soviet productive economy was owned by the state. It was managed by a privileged bureaucracy that consolidated its control in the 1920s under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. Managers were rewarded on the basis of fulfilling production norms laid down from above; workers were commonly paid by the piece.

    Political economy of the transition

    Che’s analysis was more pessimistic than most Western commentators, pointing to problems rooted in the Soviet economy’s fundamental nature. Far from being socialist in character, he said, this economy actually yoked together incompatible elements, both capitalist and non-capitalist. He also pointed out that the “political economy” — that is, the political and economic laws of motion — of societies in transition to socialism “has not yet been formulated, let alone studied.”[2]

    His diagnosis, unique in its time, identified key weaknesses that contributed to the Soviet economy’s stagnation, decline, and finally, only 25 years later, its total collapse.

    In “Thoughts on the Transition,” Che traces the troubles of the Soviet economy back to the introduction in 1921, under Lenin’s leadership, of the New Economic Policy (NEP), which “opened the door to the old capitalist production relationships.” Che notes that “Lenin called these relationships state capitalism.”[3]

    In the final period of his life, Lenin questioned the “presumed usefulness” of NEP categories such as “profits” in relations among state enterprises, Che says. Further, Lenin was disturbed by ominous divisions inside the Communist Party, to which he drew attention in his final writings. “If [Lenin] had lived, he would have quickly altered the relationships established under the NEP.” But in fact, “the economic and legal framework of Soviet society today is based on the NEP, and incorporates the old capitalist relationships.”

    Incompatible elements

    Che says that the capitalist features of Soviet society may be termed “pre-monopolist” because they lack the dynamism of competition and cooperation that produced capitalist trusts like General Motors and Ford. “The current system restricts development through capitalist competition but does not abolish its categories or establish new categories on a higher level,” he says. Individual material interest has supposedly become the lever for development, but is robbed of its effectiveness by the fact that Soviet society “does not exhibit exploitation,” Che says.[4] Given the presence of these capitalist features in Soviet societies, he states, “humanity does not develop its spectacular productive potential and does not emerge as the conscious architect of the new society.”

    Capitalist competition and exploitation having been abolished, what can serve as the driving force of economic development?, Che asks. The USSR relies on material incentives, but these reproduce the social irresponsibility characteristic of capitalism.

    Moreover, material incentives are extended to “non-productive economic sectors” and applied also to the “leaders,” thus “opening the door to corruption” — a phenomenon that was to become pervasive in the Soviet bureaucracy.

    It follows logically that such a privileged officialdom will develop distinct political interests and goals antagonistic to those of working people in the Soviet Union and worldwide. Che’s well-documented criticisms of Soviet foreign policy — for example its failure to lend effective assistance to Vietnam, point to such a conclusion.[5] Forty years earlier, Leon Trotsky, leader of the Bolshevik opposition to the rise of Stalinism, held that the Russian revolution had been undermined by a self-interested and privileged bureaucratic caste. Che, however, did not say that bureaucratism in the Soviet Union had proceeded to that point.

    Law of value

    Economic management through material and profit-based incentives cannot bring the desired results, Che says, because in the Soviet context “the law of value does not have free play.” (The law of value is a principle of Marxist economics that holds, broadly speaking, that the prices of commodities are proportional to the amount of socially necessary labour time required to produce them.)

    In the Soviet Union there is no competitive free market to reward the efficient producers and remove the inefficient, Che says. Instead, in the Soviet economy, in the last analysis, social needs take priority over market forces. The Soviet “must guarantee that the population receives a range of products at set prices,” and these prices thus “lose their link with capitalist value.”

    Che offers no explanation of why Soviet authorities must subsidize the production of such consumer necessities. Among Cuban Communist leaders of the time, this fact required no explanation. They considered that, whatever the distortions of the Soviet state of the time, the working class remained in power, and had sufficient leverage to prevent the triumph of capitalist exploitation.

    Soviet claims to be surging ahead of the United States economically, Che says, are based on references to higher Soviet production of steel and other basic industrial products. But this is misleading. “Steel is no longer a basic factor in measuring a country’s efficiency, because we now have chemistry, automation, non-ferrous metals — and besides, there’s the question of the steel’s quality. The U.S. produces less steel, but a great deal of it is of superior quality.”

    Technological stagnation

    Technical innovation in the U.S. reflected “a giddy advance” of capitalism based on “a range of totally new technologies far removed from the old productive techniques.” However, in the Soviet Union, “in most economic sectors, technology has remained relatively blocked.”

    Che writes that “new societies achieve brilliant successes thanks to the revolutionary spirit of their first moments. But after that, progress is less swift, because “technology no longer operates as the driving force of society.”

    There is, however, one area where Soviet technology has scored great successes, and that is precisely in the sector where social priorities hold unquestioned sway: defense production. “This is because it is not held to the standard of profitability.” Rather everything is structured to serve the new society by assuring its survival.

    “But at this point the mechanism breaks down,” Che cautions. “The capitalists keep their defense apparatus closely united to their productive apparatus [as a whole].”

    “All the great advances of the science of war pass over immediately to civilian technology, producing gigantic leaps forward in the quality of consumer goods. None of this takes place in the Soviet Union: the two compartments are walled off from each other.”

    These weaknesses of the Soviet economy have been transplanted to the more economically developed societies of Eastern Europe, where they have sparked a reaction against “the plague of bureaucracy and of excessive centralization.” But the result is to give the enterprises “more and more independence in the struggle for a free market.” Meanwhile the state in these countries “begins to be transformed into a guardian of capitalist relationships.”

    Factories are closed, and “Yugoslav — and now Polish — workers emigrate” to Western Europe. “They are slaves,” Che remarks acidly, “offered by the socialist countries [to serve] the technological development of the European Common Market.”

    Two principles

    As an alternative to this course, Che counterposes two principles for which he had argued in Cuba’s debate on economic management during the previous three years.[6]

    First, “communism is a phenomenon of consciousness” that cannot be captured by “quantitative economic measures.” There is no identification between communist society and high income per capita, and such income calculations are in any case is an abstraction.

    The second principle concerns technological innovation, the basis for expanded production of material goods. The “technological seeds of socialism are found much more in developed capitalism than in the old system of so-called economic calculation” which then prevailed in the Soviet Union. This system was “taken over from a capitalism that has now been superseded but that is nonetheless taken as a model for socialist development.”

    Guevara is probably thinking here of the emphasis in Lenin’s post-1917 writings on the need to adopt the most modern techniques and organizational principles of the Western capitalist world of that time. In his view, these principles then became inalterable principles of the Soviet economy.

    Resistance to automation

    The Soviet economy’s weakness is evident in its “backwardness … in adopting automation, compared to its truly startling progress in the capitalist countries.”

    Che poses a hypothetical example: an oil refinery that needs to close down for a year for a complete technical overhaul. “What happens in the Soviet Union? Hundreds and perhaps thousands of such automation projects are piled up in the Academy of Science, but are not implemented because the factory directors cannot afford the luxury of not fulfilling their plan during a year.” What is more, “if the factory is automated, they will be ordered to get more production.”

    Soviet factory managers were rewarded in terms of fulfillment of production norms set down in their ministry’s plan. In Che’s example, the manager of the automated factory gets penalized for the year of downtime and receives no compensating reward. “For them, achieving higher productivity is fundamentally of no concern.” Applying capitalist incentives to socialized enterprises thus obstructs technological advances while bringing none of the benefits of a true capitalist market.

    The way forward is to “eliminate capitalist categories: commercial transactions among enterprises, bank interest, use of direct material incentives as a lever, etc., while adopting capitalism’s latest administrative and technological advances.”

    Administration and technology

    Che sees an example of such advanced administrative techniques in dominant capitalist corporations like General Motors, which, he points out, employs more workers than the entire Cuban nationalized economy. In such enterprises, administration is tightly linked to technology, and both are constantly in flux, adjusting to the development of capitalism as a whole. In socialism, by contrast, administration and technology “have been separated off as two different aspects of the problem, and one of them has remained totally static.”[7]

    Referring ironically to the destructive effect of material stimulants, Che concludes that the challenge is “how to integrate people into their work in such a fashion that what we call ‘material disincentives’ will be unnecessary, that every worker will feel the urgent need to support the revolution and will thus experience work as a pleasure.”

    Worker management

    Che concedes that this is far from the case in Cuba. His critics, he says, are correct in pointing out that “workers do not participate in drawing up plans, in administration of state enterprises, and so on.” But the critics see the remedy for this in material incentives.

    “This is the nub of the question. In our opinion it is an error to propose that the workers manage the enterprises … as representatives of the enterprise in an antagonistic relationship to the state.” Each worker should manage the enterprise “as one among many, as a representative of all the others [in society].”

    Che’s concept of worker management based on revolutionary consciousness rather than material incentives is a decisive advance. It contrasts strikingly with all the models of economic management then current in the USSR and its allies, including both the top-down administrative centralization identified with the Stalin era and the profit-seeking self-managed enterprises of Yugoslavia.

    Yet Che leaves his suggestion tantalizingly undeveloped. His text concludes on a note of puzzlement at the unresolved nature of the issues he is addressing — a tone reminiscent in some ways of Lenin’s final writings.[8]

    Che endorses the widely held view that a centralized plan must utilize each element of production in a rational fashion, “and this cannot depend on [decisions of] a workers’ assembly or the outlook of a worker.” Still, he concedes, “when the central apparatus and intermediary levels have little knowledge, action by the workers is more useful, from a practical point of view.” One suspects that Che, in his practical experience, must often have found rank-and-file workers to have had more knowledge and better judgment than administrative cadres.

    A note of uncertainty

    Che’s text ends by emphasizing the unresolved nature of the problem. “Our experience has taught us two things that have become axiomatic: a well-place technical cadre can achieve much more than all the workers of a factory, and a leadership cadre assigned to a factory can transform it, for better or worse.” But why is it that a new factory manager can change everything? “We have not yet found any answer [to this question],” Che admits. The answer must be closely related, he concludes, to the still unformulated political economy of societies in transition to socialism.

    The collection of Che’s writings in Apuntos critiquos makes available much of Che’s work devoted to laying foundations for such a political economy. It includes his trenchant critique of the official Soviet Manual of Political Economy and extensive minutes of Che’s meetings with collaborators in Cuba’s Ministry of Industry from 1962 to 1964. (Ocean Press has announced a forthcoming English-language edition.)

    Yet when Che sent Fidel Castro these “Reflexiones,” he was not retiring to a period of study but advancing to the fields of revolutionary battle in Africa and Latin America. He evidently believed that the economic challenge he highlighted would be resolved above all through new revolutionary advances internationally.

    ‘21st Century Socialism’

    More than 40 years ago after Che fell in battle in Bolivia, his spirit is triumphant in the rise of revolutionary struggles in Latin America. The publication of Apuntes críticos is evidence of new attention in Cuba to Che’s theoretical writings, as the country searches for ways to continue its socialist experiment. Meanwhile, Venezuelan revolutionists have initiated a discussion of “21st Century Socialism” that builds on Che’s thought, while going beyond it in significant ways.

    Like Che, Venezuela’s revolutionary Bolivarians reject the model of the Stalinist Soviet Union and aim instead to build a socialism founded on the initiative of the ranks. Like Che, they recoil from the danger of a bureaucratic layer of privileged officials. But where Che writes of “communist consciousness,” the Venezuelans talk of “protagonism.” This shifts the emphasis from individual awareness to agency, that is, to initiative, responsibility, and decision at the base. And the great campaigns of the Venezuelan revolutionary process — the “missions” — have implemented vast centralized projects for health care, education, housing, etc., by devolving authority downwards to rank-and-file committees and councils.

    To be sure, Venezuela is still a capitalist society, in which the challenges of conquering the foundations of capitalist power and instituting workers’ management in the factories remain unresolved.

    When capitalism has been overthrown and the main elements of the economy socialized, the political economy of the transitional society must resolve more than the challenge of properly balancing national planning with rank-and-file initiative. Economic problems must be solved: among them, how investment funds will be allocated; how the efficiency of investment will be measured; how raw materials will be allocated and their supply assured; and how prices will be set, as a basis both for accounting in the nationalized economy and for exchange in consumer markets.

    A full answer to these questions, which would provide us with the “political economy of transition” that Che called for, has not yet been elaborated, and can be developed only through struggle and experience. Che’s insights, however, help pose these questions in a framework in which a solution can be formulated.


    Footnotes

    [1]. Ernesto Che Guevara, “Algunas reflexiones sobre la transición socialista,” in Apuntes críticos a la economía política, Ocean Books: Melbourne, 2006, pp. 9-20.

    [2]. Che and other Cuban communist leaders of the time considered the Soviet Union and Communist-led states in Eastern Europe, North Korea, North Vietnam, China, and Cuba to be states that had overthrown capitalism and established the foundations for a transition to socialism. Some Marxists term such societies “workers’ states.” The Cuban view was contested in the workers’ movement at the time, above all by the Maoist leadership in China, which argued that the Soviet Union and its allies had by the 1960s returned to capitalism.

    [3]. For Lenin’s final comments on this topic, see Lenin, Collected Works, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1965, vol. 33, pp. 419-421 (“Fourth Congress of the Communist International” and 472-473 (“On Cooperation”). These and other writings by Lenin are also available at www.marxists.org.

    [4]. The common, dictionary meaning of “exploitation” is mistreatment of people for the benefit of others. By that definition, the social privilege Che describes in the USSR would qualify as “exploitation.” But he was using the word in its Marxist sense, which refers to an inherent characteristic of wage labour under capitalism. Marxism holds that a portion of the value produced by a worker, the “surplus value,” is appropriated as profit by the employer, the owner of the means of production. Many Marxist opponents of Stalinism, including both Leon Trotsky and Che Guevara, denied that exploitation in this sense of the word took place in the USSR. This is disputed by who claim that the USSR had by Che’s time returned to capitalism.

    [5]. In “Message to the Tricontinental,” published in 1967, Che wrote “Vietnam, a nation representing the aspirations and hopes for victory of the disinherited of the world, is tragically alone. This people must endure the pounding of U.S. technology — in the south almost without defenses, in the north with some possibilities of defense — but always alone. The solidarity of the progressive world with the Vietnamese peoples has something of the bitter irony of the plebians cheering on the gladiators in the Roman Circus. To wish the victim success is not enough; one must share his or her fate. One must join that victim in death or in victory.” Che Guevara Reader, Melbourne: Ocean Press, 2003, p. 352.

    [6]. Seventeen contributions to this debate are collected in Bertram Silverman, Man and Socialism in Cuba: The Great Debate, New York: Atheneum, 1971. Che’s concluding article in this discussion, “Socialism and Man in Cuba,” is posted at www.marxists.org/archive/guevara/1965/03/man-socialism.htm. A similar collection is available in Spanish from Ocean Press under the title El Gran Debate. For an incisive discussion of Che’s economic thought, see Carlos Tablada, Che Guevara: Economics and Politics in the Transition to Socialism. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1989.

    [7]. The decline of General Motors since the 1960s suggests that its internal regime may have been less optimal than Che suggests and may have suffered from some ills analogous to those of the Stalinist Soviet economy.

    [8]. See volumes 33, 36, 42, and 45 of the edition of Lenin’s Collected Works published by Progress Publishers in Moscow in the 1960s or go to www.marxists.org. These writings are collected in Lenin’s Final Fight, New York: Pathfinder Press, 1995.