CP of Australia, Guardian 1855 2019-02-06

2/5/19 3:18 PM
  • Australia, Communist Party of Australia En Oceania Communist and workers' parties

INDEX

 

  1. Capitalism – The real Murray-Darling culprit
  2. Perth rallies for Nicolas Maduro & the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
  3. Editorial – Respect sovereignty
  4. Friendship shared – Timor Leste and Cuba
  5. On climate change and revolution
  6. Taking Issue – Power a class question
  7. Taking sides
  8. Capitalism and Sport – Part 2
  9. Beacon of Solidarity – Final Declaration of the 36th Southern Cross Brigade 2019
  10. CPA solidarity with Venezuela

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01.Capitalism

The real Murray-Darling culprit

Peter Mac

The report of the South Australian Royal Commission Inquiry into the Murray-Darling Basin has laid bare a river management system riddled with corruption and wide-open to abuse by rapacious irrigation corporations. The report’s release follows the recent horrific mass death of fish in the River Darling and Menindee Lakes in NSW.

In 1900 under the proposed new federal constitution, the federal government was responsible for the environment, and each state was responsible for the extraction of river water for the use of farmers and river communities, including Aboriginal communities, for whom the rivers are sacred. But river water is a priceless national asset, and under the Constitution upstream states can legally deprive their downstream neighbours of water to the point where communities are wiped out and native wildlife die en masse.

Fast forward to 2007, a long drought and the death of much of the river system’s wildlife prompted the then federal Howard government to introduce the Australian Water Act, which decreed that river water flows had to be adequate to support the natural environment, based on scientific advice.

In 2010, in order to implement the Act, the Rudd government introduced the science-based Murray-Darling Basin Plan, under which irrigation companies would have to return between 3,980 and 9,000 gigalitres of water to the environment through a series of government water licence “buy-backs”, in order to avoid environmental devastation.

Irrigation agribusinesses fear buy-backs because they could in theory be used to stifle their growth or even wipe them out. They therefore organised the burning of copies of the Plan outside the offices of the newly-created Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA). In 2012 the Gillard government finally buckled and the Authority arbitrarily reduced the amount of extra water for the environment to 2,750 gigalitres.

That decision has contributed to the mass death of fish, as well as other flora and fauna, and a drastic reduction in water available for communities.

Corrupt from the start

The Royal Commission inquiry concluded that the MDBA and the eastern state governments have been guilty of maladministration, gross negligence and breaches of the law, and have failed to take into account climate change impacts.

The Authority has been pressured by irrigators and their government backers to place limits on water extraction in the interests of the irrigators, not the environment. According to the report the Authority breached the Water Act by ignoring scientific warnings from CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation) against the reduction of environmental water flows, and in justifying its decisions it made “unattributable, blank assertions”, refused to reveal the scientific modelling underlying its decisions, acted with obsessive secrecy and failed to consult with Indigenous owners or local communities in determining water flows.

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The report argues that the Authority and state and federal governments have acted illegally because they have not given priority to the environment and their recommendations and actions have not been based on the best scientific advice.

Successive federal governments have deliberately misinterpreted the word “compromise” in the Water Act, arguing that the Act requires water extraction judgements to be a compromise under which social and economic considerations are balanced against environment considerations, and that environmental water flows can be reduced if social and economic outcomes are improved as a result. In fact, the Act has the opposite intention.

It gives environmental considerations top priority, and says that the best available science must be used to set a limit on the amount of water extracted so the environment is not compromised!

The NSW government claims the solution to the lack of water for communities is to reduce environment water flows. For example, it wants to transfer extra water for community use from Menindee Lakes to Broken Hill; The Lakes have already been partially drained in an attempt to lower evaporation by reducing their surface area, and this undoubtedly contributed to the recent mass fish death. But the government still wants to proceed with the plan.

The irrigators are now bitterly attacking the Royal Commission’s findings. The conservative governments of the eastern states have refused to comment on them, but in some cases they have issued veiled threats that if more buy-backs are introduced they will quit the Plan and return to the pre-2012 arrangement, when up-stream state governments accepted no responsibility for allowing the flow of river water downstream to other states.

The MDBA director and representatives of state and federal governments deny they have acted corruptly or illegally. But the Royal Commission’s report demonstrates clearly they have violated the Water Act.

The disastrous results of policies formulated to serve the interests of the irrigation corporations, are visible to the naked eye. In Queensland near the NSW border there are massive reservoirs filled with water for cotton crops, while just over the border the river is reduced to a series of moribund ponds. And the entire nation has seen the horrific mass fish kills in the stagnant or barely-flowing stretches of the rivers.

The Inquiry’s report also notes that the policing of water extraction is in some areas non-existent, and that so-called water-saving measures are highly profitable for the irrigators, but no-one checks whether they actually work after they’re implemented.

The Commissioner has expressed doubt as to whether any government can gain rational control of the rivers in the nation’s interest. But the river system is dying because of insatiable, irrational corporate greed and the solution lies in changing Australia’s political economy.

A similar message leaps from the pages of another Royal Commission document, the report into the banks and financial institutions which was released this week. If we are to save the rivers we will have to get rid of not just the government but also capitalism, the political economic system that currently has the nation in its iron grip.

 

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  1. “We stand with the Bolivarian Revolution”

Perth rallies for Nicolas Maduro & the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Vinnie Molina

A coup d’état manufactured in the United States is underway in Venezuela with Juan Guaido, president of the Venezuelan National Assembly self-proclaimed as interim president. The US rushed to recognise Guaido challenging the legitimacy of the democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro who was sworn in for a second six-year term on January 10, 2019, was elected with more than six million votes on May 20, 2018. Some countries like Australia have followed the US dictates and recognise Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela.

Solidarity groups in Australia called for rallies last week in support of President Maduro and to demand that the Morrison Government withdraw its recognition of the coup president.

The Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) and the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society (ACFS WA) held a speak-out on Friday February 1 outside the Elizabeth Quay Station in Perth. Some 60 activists gathered with banners, placards and flags in support of President Maduro and calling for the Australian government to withdraw the shameful recognition of the coup president Guaido.

Protesters were confronted by a small group of right-wing Venezuelans who expressed support for the US coup and the Australian recognition of their puppet president. They filmed and photographed all present, aggressively confronting people. During the speeches the members of the violent right-wing group chanted “go to Cuba” and “death to all communists”. It clearly shows the intolerance and the lack of political will to resolve their differences.

The Communist Party of Australia has issued a statement in solidarity with President Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

On January 23, to mark the international day in solidarity with the people of Venezuela and President Maduro, the CPA branch in Western Australia rallied in front of the US Consulate on Adelaide Terrace, Perth.

We stand with President Maduro and the Bolivarian revolution.

We demand the Australian government withdraw recognition of the coup puppet president.

We support the efforts of Uruguay and Mexico to host a dialogue, peace and self-determination meeting; Juan Guaido rejected the invitation to the talks,

Hands off Venezuela!

 

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03.Editorial – Respect sovereignty

To Senator the Hon Marise Payne,

Minister for Foreign Affairs, PO Box 6100

Senate, Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600

I am writing on behalf of the organisation Just Peace Queensland Inc. Our 17-year-old organisation is focused on finding alternatives to war in resolving conflicts and seeking justice for its victims. We applaud the sentiments expressed in the first part of the last sentence in your Statement on Venezuela (January 28) namely: “We now urge all parties to work constructively towards a peaceful resolution of the situation”. Indeed, this is a guiding philosophy of my organisation.

However I read the remainder of your Statement on Venezuela with great disappointment and alarm. Your support of the President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó in his bid to assume the interim Presidency of Venezuela, is no way to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Quite the opposite in fact.

Guaidó was persuaded to proclaim himself as interim President in phone calls from US Vice President, Mike Pence and Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland. The Venezuelan Constitution does not sanction these actions of Guaidó in any way. He is second in accession after the Vice President, Delcy Rodríguez. Before that can happen however both the President and the Vice President must be “permanently unavailable to serve”.

Furthermore, Juan Guaidó is known to be associated with several Venezuelan and international organisations whose ultimate aim is to change Venezuelan society.

Once again New Zealand has shown its independence on the global stage by refusing to takes sides in the escalating leadership crisis. It has declined to give official recognition to either Nicolás Maduro Moros or Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez. I was also hoping that Australia would join with Mexico, which recognises Maduro as the President “for the time being”. Mexico is an influential member of the largely conservative Lima Group and did not sign the Lima statement.

The January 4 meeting of the Lima Group was attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by video link, and there are concerns that he was exerting undue influence upon the actions of the Group, to which the US does not belong. It seems certain, in view of subsequent statements by Pompeo, that his opinions would be forcibly expressed at the Group’s meeting.

The United States has a chequered history of interfering in the internal workings of Venezuelan society, which is inextricably linked to the fact that the South American country has the world’s largest oil reserves. John Bolton, America’s National Security Advisor said in a television interview on the January 28 that - “We’re in conversation with major American companies now... It would make a difference if we could have American companies produce the oil in Venezuela. It would be good for Venezuela and the people of the United States”.

I urge you to focus on a diplomatic resolution of the crisis, in which “all parties work constructively towards a peaceful resolution of the situation”. This must surely begin with a decision from Australia to avoid interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. I would also like this to continue with a pledge from Australia to help with the humanitarian crisis playing out across the border between Venezuela and Columbia.

Yours sincerely

Dr Michael P Henry

Co-Convenor

Just Peace

 

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  1. Friendship shared

Timor Leste and Cuba

The friendship shared by Timor Leste and Cuba unites two distant countries. More than 950 young Timorese trained in the Latin American School of Medicine are already serving their people. The brotherhood shared by Cuba and Timor Leste is consolidated every day, the country’s ambassador here, Maubere Lorosae da Silva Horta, (Loro Horta), stated to Granma International, while expressing his gratitude for the preparation received by his young compatriots in Cuban universities.

He described bilateral relations between the nations as close, based on equality and mutual respect, exemplified by the more than 950 young Timorese trained in the Latin American School of Medicine, who already provide medical assistance to their people.

“The commitment made by the leader of the Revolution Fidel Castro to prepare more than a thousand doctors from our nation, will soon be fulfilled, since in Cuban classrooms right now there are about a hundred of them,” the diplomat said, noting that higher education institutions have trained technicians, agronomists, and other specialists, who are playing a leading role in the economic development of the country.

Additionally, a Cuban medical brigade of more than 300 health professionals is assisting the population in remote areas, and its results are evident in better quality of life and improvement of health statistics. ”Official relations between Cuba and Timor Leste began around May 20, 2002. Cuba was the second country after China to recognise our independence from Indonesia, but relations between our peoples were established many years before, during the national liberation struggle,” Horta said.

He gave as a personal example his parents’ participation in the XI World Festival of Youth and Students held in Cuba in 1978. “Over the last 16 years, all our governments have consistently defended relations with Cuba and we have provided our support in the fight against the unjust US blockade,” he added.

He also highlighted that the Timorese people have genuine affection for Comandante Fidel Castro and upon his death, November 25, 2016, spontaneous activities took place in Timor Leste to honour his memory. Masses and commemorations were organized in the country’s 13 districts.

”I think Fidel Castro impacted the independence struggles of many countries in the world. Our young people approach the thought and work of Ernesto Guevara and they look very happy wearing clothing that bears the image of that great Argentine-Cuban fighter or the Comandante en Jefe. The contribution of these leaders to the oppressed peoples of the world is well known,” the ambassador stated.

On the occasion of the celebration in Havana of the 43rd anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Timor Leste ending Portuguese colonialism on November 28, 1975, it was emphasised that the nation was defined as anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist, and pursued strategies for economic development that had as their first priority human beings.

Thus the focus remains on the well-being of the people, with the right to education, health, and a full life, promoting culture through those social goals. In his speech, delivered at the headquarters of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, the ambassador affirmed that cooperation between the Cuban and Timorese governments and peoples will continue, recalling that his country’s infrastructure was devastated after the national liberation struggle, and Cuba has been able to provide important cooperation in efforts to rebuild.

”We have achieved some important milestones in our history as an independent country, which gives us great pride. At the moment, we have one of the highest rates of doctors per resident in Asia, one for every 1,300 inhabitants,” he said. Likewise, Timor Leste has one the lowest crime rates in Asia and economic development is advancing, though challenges exist, including providing more employment opportunities for young people, he added.

The ambassador concluded his remarks affirming that both countries will continue to contribute to peace and sovereignty for the world’s peoples: “We hope that the friendship between Cuba and Timor Leste will remain very deep and close for many generations,” he said.

Granma

 

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  1. On climate change and revolution

Wayne Sonter

Human civilisation is at a crossroad as future life on the planet is threatened. Humanity must reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases to ZERO by 2050 if we are to have a chance to limit global warming and save the world for future generations!

The United Nations Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently warned that even 1.5°C of warming will have “brutal consequences” – but urges us to keep warming to that level so young people and the next generation at least have “a fighting chance” for the future!

At the moment, the world’s governments have given the United Nations a “pledge to cut emissions, but the targets they set themselves, even if they achieved them, would deliver a disastrous 3°C of global warming by 2100. These pledges are yet to be made enforceable. Worse, the current rate of emissions is on track to deliver 4°C warming!

This level of warming will trigger an unprecedented ecological catastrophe – pushing us past possible “tipping points” that could cause uncontrollable runaway heating and lead to extinction of all life on the planet.

The IPCC says that “technically” we have the ability to reduce emissions sufficiently to keep global warming to 1.5°C (it has already risen 1°C above pre-industrial level), but if we are to do so, humanity MUST ACT NOW – at a speed and scale without “documented historic precedent”.

The problem is

political and systemic

The IPCC delivered its urgent recommendations to a United Nations climate summit in Poland at end of Nov 2018, attended by 200 governments. This summit however, ignored the key question – how can governments readjust their emissions targets to keep global warming to 1.5°C.

The United States and Australia, provocatively, joined into a “celebration of coal” at the summit. The United States, under the Trump administration, has sworn to pull out of any further climate agreements!

Back in Australia, Liberal-National Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared he had no intention of spending money on global climate conferences and “all that sort of nonsense,” but said he would not follow the US out of the Paris climate treaty because that would be “catastrophic” – not for the climate, but for Australia’s attempts to land a free trade deal with Europe!

Politicians and governments seem unwilling or unable to do anything substantial about the impending and self-made threat to civilisation and life on the planet. This stems from an increasingly obvious fact – that governments no longer even attempt to appear to serve the people!

They serve the masters of a system that ruthlessly exploits humanity and nature in a relentless, worldwide pursuit of profit.

This is the capitalist system and it cannot and will not prevent global ecological catastrophe; its heedless drive for profits and growth regardless of social or environmental costs has created the crisis in the first place!

Uncontrolled emission of greenhouse gases is just a symptom of the depth and extent of the crisis in which this system has placed humanity.

The present global political-economic system is dragging us inevitably toward a global disaster that includes:

Impending environmental catastrophe – global warming, ocean acidification, widespread habitat destruction and a march to mass extinction;

Extreme and growing economic inequality; and re-emergence of a global economic crisis, that will feed revolt and affect the livelihood of billions;

And exacerbating all other environmental and economic crises – societies increasingly taking on the features of police-surveillance states; growing militarisation and re-emergence of fascism, and a drift towards disastrous, worldwide, nuclear war.

Power to the People

Most people sincerely desire to live in a sustainable – and sustaining – society, but this society, geared to serve the insatiable needs of profit and the aggrandisement of capital, is deeply hostile to the life forces on the planet.

We need to challenge this brutal, exploitative system and to overcome the power of those who – with their wealth, power and greed – confront the rest of humanity, across the whole range of social, economic, political, ethical and existential values.

The IPCC has declared that we must act now, at a speed and on a scale that has “no documented historic precedent”.

This is, effectively, a call for a deep and vast social revolution – one that fundamentally changes society; one that changes us. It is a call to change the world!

We, the world’s people, can no longer remain in the thrall of the global profit takers and the planet’s despoilers. We must resolve to take a path towards sustainability: we the great majority of humanity, whose labour creates the world’s wealth, must wrest power back from the global, corporate elites, into our own hands;

We must establish a society that serves people’s needs, not corporate greed: the key to this is to bring the largest corporations under public ownership and control;

We need to bring about a society based on cooperation and planning, not exploitation and brutalisation.

It is in our power, collectively, to create the means to live in a civil, enlightened, global society, harmoniously with nature and with each other, but nothing less than a conscious and determined effort by common humanity will achieve this; and nothing less than achieving this will give humanity a chance to pull back from the ecological disaster towards which the present course is sweeping us.

We can force the pace of change by building broad unity among people demanding change – and we need to isolate and undercut the most reactionary elements of the capitalist class. We can link up nationally and globally, as well as focus on community and the workplace and industry.

We must confront the exploiters! We the people must take the power – we must dare to win! We can lose everything if we don’t!

We can change the world! Help us create a better future!

 

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  1. Taking Issue – Seamus Carey

Power a class question

I must strongly oppose the inclusion of the article by Philip Giraldi in the recent issue of the Guardian, entitled “Registering Israel’s lobbyists.” On my first read I was immediately struck by the incorrect analysis and apparently careless phrasing. Giraldi’s analysis is completely contrary to Marxism, with no genuine anti-imperialist analysis, no class analysis, and conflation of Zionist interests with “Jewish” interests ... he does not even use the word Zionism a single time independently, only a couple times in the first paragraph when naming two Zionist organisations.

Giraldi poses the question of why the US state does not use its powers to monitor or control Zionist groups operating within the US; the broader question would be, why does US policy and action in general align with Israeli interests? The simple answer that should be obvious to us is, because Israeli interests are an extension of US imperialist interests, the interests of the imperial bourgeoisie. But Giraldi cannot see this.

Instead his first thought proffered is, “Jewish power in the United States.” This is nonsense, this is nothing but anti-Semitism. Do we imagine that should Israeli and US interests diverge, the Israeli interests would win out, thanks to the influence of this alleged “Jewish power?” Of course not! If Israeli state interests were to diverge – and as Marxists we must surely understand “Israeli state interests” to mean the interests of the minority of the Israeli ruling class, and not of the masses of working people – US imperialism would immediately seek to crush this turn to independence, as they have done everywhere else.

After making this analysis by reading the article without further context, I naturally investigated further – maybe I was overreacting! But no, the author Giraldi is a former CIA officer and although he may criticise US policy, he does not do so from a progressive standpoint. He has the world outlook one would expect of a CIA officer. He has written dozens of articles for “The American Conservative!” I should not be surprised his analysis is contrary to Marxism.

His anti-Semitism is much more overt in some other articles, and it is clear he does not believe that anything bad in the world proceeds from within the US state, no, it’s all thanks to “Jewish Power” (and in other articles he capitalises the P.)

If we want to know what Giraldi means by “Jewish Power,” we can ask the man himself. From his article entitled “Understanding Jewish Power” (also available on Information Clearing House at www.informationclearinghouse.info/49628.htm):

“It does not take a genius to figure out that the United States is deeply involved in a series of seemingly endless wars pitting it against predominantly Muslim nations even though Washington has no vital interests at stake in places like Syria, Libya and Iraq. [!] Who is driving the process and benefiting? Israel is clearly the intended beneficiary of a coordinated effort mounted by more than 600 Jewish organizations in the US that have at least as part of their programs the promotion and protection of Israel.”

“Heavily armed Israeli settlers run amok on the West Bank, beating and killing Arabs and destroying their livelihoods. That is what Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are all about and that is precisely the kind of a nation that America should not want to become, [!] but unfortunately the role of Washington as Israel’s obedient poodle [!] has our once great country [!] moving in the wrong direction. [!!] This has all been brought about by Jewish Power and it is time to wake up to that fact and address it squarely. [!!!]”

This is pure anti-Semitism. We cannot allow the waters to be muddied between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Blurring the lines between these two things is a well known Zionist propaganda tactic, as well as a fascist one. What ideological leg do we have to stand on if we commit the error ourselves!

This anti-Semitism was not overt in the article published in the Guardian and I can understand why a casual reader might miss it – based on the contents of the published article alone, I could have given the author the benefit of the doubt as simply being sloppy. But we cannot afford to be merely casual readers. I read closely, I sensed an incorrect analysis, I made further investigation, my analytical intuition turned out to be correct. I hope other comrades acted similarly. This degree of scrutiny must especially apply to articles from non-socialist sources.

I hope you’ll excuse my tone, and know that my critique is coming from a friendly place (although certainly not friendly to Giraldi). I am a young Party member and while I was at first reluctant to be too assertive in stating my case on this issue, I have seen a disturbing growth in anti-Semitic and fascist views (with both pro- and “anti”- Zionist forms) amongst many sections of young people, and am increasingly forced to be aware that combatting these views and being well informed on the issue should be something we prioritise.

Seamus Carey is a member of CPA Perth Branch.

 

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  1. Taking sides

The following Maritime Union resolution on Venezuela was passed unanimously:

This monthly meeting of the Maritime Union of Australia Sydney Branch, a Division of the CFMMEU (Construction Forestry Maritime Mining Energy Union), held on Tuesday January 29, 2019, condemns the Australian government in its decision to recognise the unelected Juan Guaido as the interim President of Venezuela. The Australian government’s support for the self-appointed Venezuelan President in Charge, Juan Guaido is an act of anti-democratic bastardry, international criminality and grand political opportunism.

Supporting Guaido is the same as supporting General Augusto Pinochet’s assassination and overthrow of democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende. The two events are joined in a historical lineage of US manufactured coups against people’s governments, not just throughout Latin America, but around the world.

The United States, acting as the economic hitmen of global capitalism, is carrying on its ignominious history and right-wing celebrated tradition of freedom and democracy for the elite and privileged and forcing capitalist dictatorship against the rest of us.

The unelected US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked the world to pick a side. The MUA Sydney Branch has chosen our side, and it is with the people of Venezuela and their elected President Nicolas Maduro. The working class of Venezuela have suffered tremendously as a consequence of US intervention, economic crises, instability due to poor policy settings, capitalist sabotage and corruption.

This will never be fixed by investing and injecting more imperialism and foreign intervention into Venezuelan society but only through working class democracy and self-determination of the Venezuelan people. We see, as those before us have seen, the dire consequences of the empty and shallow rhetoric of liberal democratic leaders whose regime change semantics results in catastrophic failed states. The people of Latin America have suffered enough American freedom and democracy, resulting in exploitation, cultural theft and disaster capitalism, they need their own course, one set out bravely by the Venezuelan working class.

The Maritime Union of Australia has always chosen the side of the oppressed and fought against the oppressors. We chose our side against Pinochet, we chose our side against the Greek Junta, we chose our side against apartheid in South Africa and in Palestine, all of these crimes have been supported by the same people who are supporting the overthrow of Venezuelan democracy and President Maduro.

We condemn the Australian government, we condemn all who support the anti-democratic forces in Venezuela, throughout Latin America and the rest of the world.

We throw our entire support behind the people of Venezuela and support their democratic will and emancipation through self-determination. We support President Nicolas Maduro as the elected President of Venezuela as we support the strengthening and consolidation of the Bolivarian Revolution and the working class struggle for socialism throughout Latin America.

In Solidarity

MUA Sydney Branch

 

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  1. Capitalism and Sport – Part 2

Sport as commodity

Bob Treasure

Champing at the bit, the cash-strapped European Premier League high fliers went on a spending spree purchasing players and coaches from across the planet, causing a crisis of identity for many loyal fans. Teams with restrictions to two or three overseas players were now swamped by them.

Once players, coaches and team regalia remained constant, loyal, and tribal. Now the shifting sands of transfers, debt recovery, sponsorship, image promotion and the desperate adjustment needed for success made teams almost unrecognisable ... and now fans’ loyalties also began to grow fickle. It’s hard to pin a loyalty badge on constant flux!

Some argued that the importation of expensive foreign players lifted the quality of the sport and that meant “success” i.e. debt recovery, or “keeping the dogs at bay” (survival of the club) which provided fans with the ability to watch their team’s beautiful skills and appreciate a higher quality of play. Or did it?

Increasingly the cost of actually attending sporting events has risen, often beyond an average family’s means. Partly because attractions like comfortable seats, luridly dressed-up pre-and half-time entertainment as well as colourful pyrotechnics are expensive to provide, but mainly because of the personnel cost of maintaining a competitive team (buying players, trainers, fitness technicians, physios, psychologists etc etc).

It is arguably cheaper and more comfortable to sit at home and watch your favourite sport on large screen TV, with close-ups, “expert commentary” and replays of every crucial event, along with time-saving record/play-back facilities.

Thus there is a trend now being entrenched, of gradual decline in overall attendance at all Australian sporting events (Bureau of Statistics). Of course, the “big ticket” events such as Grand Finals, State of Origin, Melbourne Cup and the Australian Open, can always boast record attendances and “great atmosphere” because of the hype surrounding them with the corresponding ratings hikes and ads bonanzas. It is all dressed-up Bread and Circuses, complete with conga-lines of A-Lister celebrities in attendance.

Yet at the crucial base-level, the suburban and town-level nurseries of talent and the hardly-noticed minor league matches, support, engagement, involvement and enjoyment – all are languishing.

The Corruption of Sport

Some years ago scandal erupted around FIFA’s allocation of the soccer World Cup to Russia and Qatar. Much wealth and prestige comes to a nation hosting the football World Cup – it is the most watched event on global television (3.572 billion for the Russian World Cup – over half the world’s population). Money had changed hands and Football Federation Australia too, was implicated in using some $5 million of its futile $46 million bid to bribe members of the Hosting Committee.

Funnily enough, US agencies (mainly the FBI) carried out the investigation into FIFA corruption – Sepp Blatter and his cronies were given their marching orders with much outraged flim-flam, but Russia and Qatar held their right to host the World Cup while the much greater corruption continued all around.

Watching the World Cup in Russia, it was noticeable that garish and ever-present new sponsors now appeared at every game: the red and yellow garbed McDonalds kiddies escorted the players onto the field and Budweiser beer ads filled each stadium. These were on top of the already dominant Coca-Cola and Visa sponsors, making the US mega-companies’ presence there ominous. Sure enough, the announcement came through during the course of the tournament: the USA would host the 2026 World Cup.

Soccer’s Association Football is not a major part of the American sporting calendar. The US had already hosted the World Cup in 1994, and had hosted numerous summer and winter Olympics. There were many other countries: Morocco, China, Japan, Iran, Chile and yes, Australia, who had a “culture” of football and an entitlement to host for the first time, yet there was no uproar, no challenge, no claim to injustice – the power of empire had made the decision for 2026 a foregone conclusion.

Corruption in modern sport is a lot more insidious than a few greedy administrators, dodgy cricket bookies or poorly-behaved footy boofheads – it is now endemic, in the blood and the thinking of every sports official in the country, anxious to promote their fixture, their club, their sport, their “brand” in the only way allowed to them: wedded to capitalist investors bent on success, or more honestly, profit.

Capitalism has always seen competitive sports as its own expression: Social Darwinism in action, where the strong devour the weak and national leagues succumb to World Cup matches being played every week, in distant venues that can only be (conveniently) televised.

So it should come as no surprise that our current “Summer of Sport” appears to us in very limited, controlled fashion. Australian Open Tennis is now owned by the 9 Network, which clearly prefers American expert commentary to our own humble brand – Nine has always had a tendency to “Make America Great”, regardless of reality. Our cricket is confusingly divided between Test, One Day International and Big Bash categories, with some being unavailable on ‘free-to-air’ television.

Even more galling is the fact that Socceroo matches in the Asian Cup are totally restricted to Foxtel pay-for-view and don’t even get a replay on free-to-air. This is because our craven Federal government has now decided the criteria to ensure “events of national importance and cultural significance” no longer apply to Australia’s national football team, current holders of the Asian Cup!

It is clear that Murdoch’s political clout extends way beyond his New York headquarters and that this feat has been achieved through buying global sports. Once News Corp sought dominance through sex and scandal, but by 1996 the strategy had changed, as Murdoch informed his shareholders: “Sport absolutely overpowers film and everything else in the entertainment genre ...”

And so Murdoch has sold his film interests to Disney and poured more into sports and pay TV news. The course ahead is no mystery: hook viewers with sport, brainwash with hate-fear news, keep the world turning in a rightward political direction, maintain influence. There is a strong correlation of pay TV news expansion and western societies’ tearing themselves apart with resurgent nationalist/populist/racist impulse politics.

Fighting Back

Securing exclusive rights does not guarantee success, however. When England Cricket handed the Ashes series to pay television in 2009, their audience fell from 8 million free-to-air to 2 million, and fell further in 2013 to 1.3 million. Evidence exists of similar declines happening here.

Australians are well aware of the political intentions of Murdoch and his corporate ilk’s exploitative “paywalls” and they have resisted immense pressure to sign up. Many have given up their allegiances to their favourite teams and headed to their local grounds for a fair dinkum game, or given up altogether on the over-staged and dramatised soap operas that high-level sports are coming to – hence the drop in participation mentioned at the start of this article.

Many have sought refuge in quiet and personal pursuits such as walking and jogging, running in the “City to Surf”, cycling etc etc, and many are pursuing the personal challenges of gym-fitness, itself a boom industry in the suburbs.

Yet it is difficult to see our overall national fitness and health improving to any great degree when reliant on such casual, individualised and subjective exercise. All too frequently, the lack of social pressure and inspiration means that such pursuits become fads, lacking lifelong commitment.

One thing’s for sure: both our national health as well as our beloved sports will surely be ruined if we continue on this corrosively destructive path of “bigger, more professional, more expensive, more alienated” capitalist sport.

 

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  1. Beacon of Solidarity

Final Declaration of the 36th Southern Cross Brigade 2019

We, the 36th Southern Cross Brigade of Australia and New Zealand, having come to the end of their three week stay at Campamento Internacional Julio Antonio Mella, wish to express our gratitude to all who have made this unique and fulfilling experience possible, and to the Cuban people, who have consistently greeted us with warmth, openness and in the truest sense of solidarity.

We feel so fortunate to have visited during such a pivotal moment of celebration, remembrance and renewal – encompassing both the 60th Anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution and the final weeks of the extensive and far-reaching process of renewing the Cuban Constitution.

We have been deeply moved, again and again, by the revolutionary vigour and courage of the Cuban people, and their deep commitment to honouring their brave forebears “from Cespedes to Castro”, and most especially at being warmly welcomed at events to honour the Caravana de Libertad in Ciego de Avila, Santa Clara and Havana.

We’ve been witnesses to the outpouring of revolutionary pride surrounding the 60th anniversary of the events of the First of January, 1959 and the subsequent Convoy of Victory, and recognise with a deep sense of gratitude the willingness of the Cuban people to allow us to stand alongside them during these poignant and exhilarating moments.

A profound highlight for many Brigadistas was the opportunity to meet and speak with veterans of Cuba’s revolutionary struggle.

We are also deeply impressed by what we’ve seen, heard and learnt about the process to rejuvenate the country’s Constitution. recently through the democratic process to update its constitution which will be put the Cuban people in a referendum on 24 February 2019. The referendum has been proceeded by an extensive period of consultation during the past year including among the Cuban diaspora. This resulted in over 2,100 suggestions being received of which 750 were included in the document which is being circulated to the Cuban people and if approved by the referendum by a majority of the people will become the new constitution.

The rigorous process of discussion around the new Constitution and subsequent amendments displays an exceptionally high commitment to a truly participatory democracy, the likes of which is unheard of in our own countries. The proposed new Constitution will be put to the Cuban people in a referendum on February 24 this year.

We’ve heard from distinguished scholars, historians, authors and physicians, who have used their expertise to bring so many aspects of the history and current reality of Cuba to life. We’ve been honoured by cultural performances across the country, including a gala performance of the Cuban Ballet, and been welcomed into the Barrio of Caimito by a local branch of the CDR.

We’ve visited monuments of intense significance, such as the Che Guevara Mausoleum in Santa Clara, and the Memorial to the Martyrs of Moncada in Artemisa. Through our visit to a provincial Hospital in Ciego de Avila and to the Central Unit of Medical Co-operators in Havana, we’ve learnt about Cuba’s radical and long-standing accomplishments in providing health care as a fundamental human right, as well as the exemplary commitment to internationalism that sees Cuba send tens of thousands of health care practitioners to many of the most underserved parts of the world.

We’ve gained insight into Cuban civil society through representatives of political and civil society organisations such as the Cuban Communist Party, the Federation of Cuban Women, the Federation of University Students, the Young Communist League and many others.

The Southern Cross Brigade strongly reiterates its solidarity with the Cuban people. We will return home renewed and re-inspired by the courage and revolutionary spirit of this great country, ready to work at every turn to strengthen the friendship between the peoples of Oceania and Cuba and to counter anti-Cuban propaganda.

As extremists and demagogues proliferate around the world, the humanist principles the Cuban project is based on take on ever more global significance and urgency.

We take with us from Cuba the messages we’ve learnt from this dignified and sovereign society that centres humanity, that fosters a community that cares for one another, that provides free education and access to health care as core human rights, prioritising from the very start of its existence the struggle to eliminate illiteracy, disease, poverty and discrimination.

We loudly declaim the brutality of the absurd and devastating US Blockade on Cuba, the impacts of which were painfully visible at every turn, from daily minutiae to life saving medical equipment.

We call on the Australian and New Zealand governments to deepen their economic and diplomatic relations with Cuba, for an immediate end to the blockade, the return of occupied territory at Guantánamo Bay and an end to the hostilities and regime change policies sponsored by the US government.

We are deeply grateful to the excellent emissaries of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People (ICAP) who served as leaders, translators, historians, guides, teachers and friends. ICAP Brigade Director Rafaela Valerino, our interpreter and veteran of many Brigades, Ezequiel Morales, and Amistur official and interpreter Candida Rosa Sanson Abascal all worked with the utmost professionalism and kindness to ensure our Brigade was such a success.

The stimulating and varied program came off with barely a hitch, and the level of thought and preparation that went into creating the plethora of experiences was evident.

We also extend our gratitude and affection to the many staff at CIJAM who went above and beyond to facilitate our successful brigade and highly enjoyable stay at this beacon of international solidarity.

 

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  1. CPA solidarity with Venezuela

The Communist Party of Australia stands squarely with the people of Venezuela, its elected government and the democratically-elected President, Nicolás Maduro. It condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of the US in “recognising” its anointed would-be usurper of political power, Juan Guaido. Concerned about this gross interference in the affairs of a sovereign nation, country after country has rushed to re-affirm their recognition of Venezuela’s elected President Maduro. Only the US and a tiny number of puppet states have seen fit to recognise the so-called “interim president of Venezuela”.

Venezuela has been subjected to an incessant campaign of sabotage and worse, including a coup in 2002. The US administration will not rule out the military option to smash the Bolivarian Revolution begun in 1998. The hardships being suffered by the people of Venezuela are harsh, undeserved and unjust. They are clinging defiantly to the gains of their grassroots democracy but confronting the fact that their revolution was not complete; that the question of state power was never resolved and that it is not possible to advance to socialism without completing the task of wresting control of the state from the ruling capitalist class.

The CPA demands that the Australian government recognises Nicolas Maduro as the legitimate elected President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The CPA will continue to rally support for the legitimate government of Venezuela and against imperialist intervention. It calls on members and supporters to do all they can to express this solidarity in these very challenging and dark days facing the people of Venezuela.

Bob Briton

General Secretary

 

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The following articles were published by The Guardian, newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia, in its issue #1855 of February 6, 2019.

 

Reproduction of articles, together with acknowledgement if appropriate, is welcome.

 

The Guardian, Editorial, 74 Buckingham Street, Surry Hills, Sydney NSW 2010, Australia

Communist Party of Australia, 74 Buckingham Street, Surry Hills, Sydney NSW 2010, Australia

 

The Guardian guardian@cpa.org.au

 

CPA General Secretary: Bob Briton gensec@cpa.org.au

 

Phone (02) 9699 8844    Fax: (02) 9699 9833    Email CPA cpa@cpa.org.au

 

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