Workers United – Will never be defeated
After 52 days, six picket lines across five sites, and more than 1,500 courageous striking workers, the Alcoa dispute has ended with AWU (Australian Workers’ Union) members securing the job security provisions they were seeking.
The new agreement endorsed last week ensures permanent full-time workers cannot be replaced by contractors, labour hire, casual, or part-time workers.
Richard Titelius reports:
On September 24 the CPA WA Branch visited the Alcoa picket line in Kwinana. Party President Vinnie Molina delivered a message of solidarity.
Workers covered by an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement with Alcoa were into the seventh week of their picket outside two bauxite mining sites at Huntley and Willowdale near Pinjarra and three refineries at Pinjarra, Wagerup near Waroona and at Kwinana. The union representing the 1,500 workers, the AWU, began negotiations with Alcoa nearly two years ago.
At the time of the Party branch visit, workers were waiting for an outcome of negotiations between their union and Alcoa about the picket and the shape of their conditions and rights.
One of the workers, Tony, told me one of the biggest problems the AWU has with the proposal is Alcoa’s position to strip hard won employment conditions and rights from the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. Alcoa also wants to introduce powers for the employer to use forced redundancies and to exclude from being specified in job descriptions.
Alcoa would be able to use people to undertake work on lower pay scales to do higher level work with no requirement to pay them according to their knowledge, skill and ability.
Alcoa wants to remove all union structures within the Alcoa workforce which currently has a union convenor whose job it is to attend to union business on all work sites at all times. With the abolition of the convenor the situation would revert back to elected delegates who are only allowed to use 16 hours on union business per week.
In relation to health and safety workers must be constantly vigilant to the risks and hazards such as chemical exposure from the smelting process. Many workers at the refineries have suffered burns from the caustic soda used in the smelting and cleaning process. Each shift currently has its own Occupational Health Safety and Welfare delegate which is usually a trained union member.
The aging infrastructure and exposure to other chemicals and chemical processes also presents hazards including increasing numbers of leaks from corrosion and movement of pipes and tubing.
The workers at a mass rally agreed to retain the same EBA with the same structures but with no wage rises for three years. But when the offer was communicated up the chain all the way to the head office of Alcoa in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania it was rejected.
The Alcoa workers have been disappointed with the lack of coverage by the mainstream media of their strike, picket lines and rally outside the Fair Work Commission (FWC) in the second week of September, in the Perth CBD, where for four consecutive days the workers were there with their banners and leaflets. Where the dispute did feature, however, was in social media as concerned members of the public uploaded images of the workers’ rally outside the Fair Work Commission.
Tony said the threshold that enables employers to go to the Fair Work Commission in order to shift employees from their Enterprise Bargaining Agreement is quite low. The FWC is seen as an institution set up predominantly to ensure the interests of capital are met: in the last financial year 2016 - 17 Aloca’s profit was US$1.1 billion.
The AWU members took indefinite protected industrial action as Alcoa had applied to the FWC to have their current terms and conditions terminated. The AWU representing the striking workers met with the management in the days leading up to September 28, in an effort to resolve the dispute and protect the conditions and rights attached to their EBA.
The Communist Party of Australia joins with ACTU Secretary Sally McManus and the rest of the Australian union movement in congratulating the Alcoa workers and their families on their victory and resolve.
The unity and solidarity of the workers and their families demonstrated that the collective strength of the organised working class is the force which can be successful in defending workers’ rights, wages and conditions.
Australia’s coalition government has allocated $200 billion for military development over 20 years. Although our population is small, we’re the world’s 19th biggest arms exporter. Our $35 billion military budget is bigger than that of any Southeast Asian nation, and is due to rise to 2 percent of Australia’s gross domestic product by 2020.
Apart from “big ticket” items like the 72 F-35 fighter aircraft, nine frigates and a new submarine fleet, the government’s shopping list includes 211 reconnaissance vehicles, 1,100 lightweight Hawkei armoured vehicles, supply trucks, troop carriers, heavy tanks, drones, helicopter troop carriers, and mobile hospitals.
Australian universities are offered contracts to develop training programs in military robotics and autonomous systems. But the government also wants the Defence Department to control the transfer of all research information, not just that relating to the military, from Australian universities to overseas institutions.
Military propaganda emphasises defending Australia against foreign aggression. But in the 73 years since WWII we’ve entered into numerous overseas wars, almost always for the United States.
Those wars have involved countries with limited military capabilities. But Michael Shoebridge, Australian Strategic Policy Institute director, recently commented: “If [our] army faces an adversary who has transformed its approach to technology, it is very likely that our small army will suffer very large combat losses ... The US no longer has a large technological advantage ... neither do we.”
The solution, according to the arms industry, is to regain that advantage. However, technologically well-armed nations include nuclear-armed China or Russia. The idea of preparing for war against either of them is insane, but that’s the direction of current US and Australian policy.
Shoebridge also warns about underdeveloped nations acquiring weapons like “low-cost swarming technologies”, which could inflict unacceptably high casualty rates on Australian troops. He observed enthusiastically that for Australia “much deeper use of semi-autonomous lethal and non-lethal systems in and around the combat front lines ... reduces the need for modern militaries to expose their people in this ‘bleeding edge’ of combat.”
But the real enemy, the military industrial complex, is already here. For them, war is a question of military procurement economics. They promote and profit from war and ignore its hideous human cost.
Military analyst Richard McGregor recently observed: “Australia and other Asian countries are only able to increase their defence spending because they are benefiting from the growth of China’s economy. In ... order to defend themselves against China they actually need China to succeed.”
But those who benefit directly from military spending are the military corporations, not the ordinary people of Australia and other Asian nations.
Australia’s Chief of Army, Rick Burr, who acted as Deputy US Army Commander in the Pacific, says Australia constitutes a strategic bridge between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and our military development should focus on north-western Australia.
That would facilitate the launch of strikes against North Korea or China by the US. On the strength of promises by US President Trump, North Korea has now eliminated part of its military facilities but the US and its allies still conduct annual war games around its land and maritime borders.
Under Trump’s administration, Japan and other countries are boosting military spending, and Japan is considering amending its constitution to allow it to invade other nations. The Australian government’s massive military spending will now include space and cyber warfare. The Queensland government has set up Defence Industries Queensland to promote military industrial development there.
Australia’s current military development centres on aggression against other countries, rather than defence of this one. The implications are potentially disastrous. Left unchecked, the policy will result in a never-ending state of war with other nations, on-going military and civilian casualties, and the impoverishment of non-military sectors of the national economy, including health and education.
Australia hosts the key US tracking facility at Pine Gap, as well as military facilities used by the US in northern Australia. That makes us a strategic target, with potentially catastrophic civilian casualties if we’re dragged into a US-led war with China, North Korea or Russia.
We must dump the coalition and vote in a government with an independent policy dedicated to peaceful development, genuine defence rather than aggression, and above all the pursuit of world peace.
03.Amazon’s wage slaves
The announcement that Amazon will raise wages in the USA and UK shows that the company’s workers are starting to win the argument for fair treatment, says the ITF.
However, while this move is welcome, it has only been made after widespread criticism of Amazon’s employment model, and serious problems remain across the company’s transport supply chain – including in Australia.
Research by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) shows that Amazon spends more on transport and logistics than most of the world’s largest transport companies. In addition to its warehouse operations, it directly runs van delivery and air freight services and uses a vast subcontracted trucking network, as well as moving huge volumes of goods through ocean shipping.
Although some workers will receive a pay rise as a result of these measures, they stop well short of creating an employment model that respects basic worker rights.
ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton said: “All Amazon workers across the world deserve decent pay and conditions, and crucially the right to be represented at the negotiating table by independent unions. If Amazon was serious about reform it would make sweeping changes to its transport supply chain.
“That would mean overhauling the employment status of Amazon Flex drivers, who work under ‘pay per delivery’ contracts that are among the most precarious in the gig economy. It would mean enforcing a credible due-diligence system across its trucking supply chain to ensure that labour standards are upheld. And it would mean only using shipping lines covered by ITF agreements, as this is the only way to prevent labour violations at sea.
“Amazon has a long way to go until it can be considered a truly responsible employer. Along with our allies across the labour movement, transport unions worldwide will continue piling pressure on the company until that day arrives.”
“Why did it happen?”, the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry asks in its interim report. “Too often, the answer seems to be greed – the pursuit of short term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty. How else is charging continuing advice fees to the dead to be explained,” the Commission concludes.
The Commission has got to the essence of capitalism – the pursuit of private profit no matter what suffering it causes or how corruptly the financial institutions behave. The pubic hearings did reveal a few of the thousands of examples of the suffering the financial institutions have caused through their illegal, corrupt and dishonest practices.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg drew the amazing conclusion that the financial institutions had put profits before people!
However, it did not require the spending of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money and heart-wrenching public hearings to discover this.
The pub test or a reading of Lenin’s Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism was all that was needed. Lenin’s work would also have explained the source of the power of finance capital and hence why the big banks and insurance companies are “too big to fail” and “too big to touch”.
“From the executive suite to the front line, staff were measured and rewarded by reference to profit and sales.”
The public hearings revealed a litany of horror stories – of fraud, dishonesty, of theft of people’s property, of loans that could never be repaid, payment for services that were never delivered and corruption.
The law requires them to “do all things necessary to ensure” that the services they are licensed to provide are provided “efficiently, honestly and fairly,” the Commission said. “Much more often than not, the conduct now condemned was contrary to law.”
But they have treated the law with contempt; that they have nothing to fear from breaching regulations or the law. As Richard Denniss from the Australia Institute points out, there is nothing to stop our regulators from being as focused on preventing malfeasance in the banking sector as they are when it comes to welfare overpayments.
“When misconduct was revealed, it either went unpunished or the consequences did not meet the seriousness of what had been done. The conduct regulator, ASIC [Australian Securities and Investments Commission], rarely went to court to seek public denunciation of and punishment for misconduct.
“The prudential regulator, APRA [Australian Prudential Regulation Authority], never went to court,” the report noted, shifting much of the blame onto the “enforcer” and the financial sector “regulator.”
“Much more often than not, when misconduct was revealed, little happened beyond an apology from the entity, a drawn-out remediation program and protracted negotiation with ASIC of a media release, an infringement notice, or an enforceable undertaking that acknowledged no more than that ASIC had reasonable ‘concerns’ about the entity’s conduct. Infringement notices imposed penalties that were immaterial for the large banks.”
Power of finance capital
Labor Treasurer Paul Keating commenced the privatisation of the Commonwealth Bank in 1991 and deregulation of the financial sector. State insurance offices were privatised during the 1990s.
This opened the way for a free-for-all for the private sector as well as the newly privatised institutions. Australian banks, as far as returns on equity are concerned, are amongst the most profitable in the world.
The finance sector (banking, insurance, investment, etc) holds 56 percent of the wealth of the ASX top 100 Index. (As measured by capitalised value) (S&P/ASX 20 List).
The power of finance capital is principally derived from the vast amount of capital it has at its disposal. It can decide what investments go ahead and bankrupt corporations, farmers and individuals.
The pubic hearings of the Royal Commission have illustrated how inhumanely it exercises some of its powers against farmers, small businesses and individuals in the pursuit of private profits.
The interim report also asks “what now”, but does not provide solutions to rectify the situation.
Instead it asks a host of questions with particular reference to banks, loan intermediaries (eg brokers) and financial advice. Superannuation is not dealt with in this report.
One of the themes that comes through is the question of simplifying the law as if this might solve the problem. It won’t. It is not the cause. Changing the regulations or law will not eliminate the capitalist profit motive. Far more fundamental change is required.
As a first small step, the financial institutions that committed the crimes and the individuals responsible should be subjected to appropriate penalties including jail sentences and massive fines. They should be forced to fully compensate the victims of their crimes for their losses and suffering.
APRA and ASIC have proven to be paper tigers. They should be shut down and replaced by new, well-funded bodies with greater powers led by people not afraid to impose the law.
But even such measures will not be enough as long as the scourge of private profit remains.
People before profits
The Communist Party of Australia is calling for the separation of financial advisers, investment managers and banks. Banks should be limited to their banking role as intermediaries handling savings and loans.
As a first step towards complete nationalisation of the financial sector, the CPA is also calling for a People’s Bank, a public insurance office and national superannuation fund.
These should be publicly owned and managed with strong social characteristics that focus on services for their clients. They should be run along democratic lines with elected boards, including representatives of trade unions and other community groups.
Such institutions would put the interests of their clients/members first and play a progressive role in the community assisting states with loans at reasonable rates for the construction of public housing, schools and other public infrastructure.
The Royal Commission invites the public, financial institutions and advocacy groups to make submissions by October 26 in response to its report.
The federal government’s plan to cut $500 million in funding from the early childhood sector is expected to come under increasing scrutiny in the lead-up to the next federal election.
A recent two-day lobbying blitz in Canberra by early childhood teachers and parents has left federal MPs in no doubt about the need for long-term funding for the sector.
Responsibility for preschool funding is shared between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments. However, since 2013, the government has only guaranteed the funding for its share of the scheme for 12 months at a time, creating great uncertainty for the sector, teachers and parents.
Australia already has one of the lowest-funded Early Childhood sectors in the OECD, and now plans outlined in the federal budget to slash nearly $500 million from the early childhood education budget in 2020 put the opportunity for all children to benefit by attending preschool under major doubt.
The Australian Education Union (AEU) took its campaign to secure permanent funding to Canberra in Parliament’s first sitting week after the winter break. Teachers and parents spent time talking to MPs from all parties to explain the value of the 15 hours in providing a solid foundation for later years of schooling.
Early childhood education is a fundamental right for every child, says Martel Menz, the AEU’s federal executive early childhood representative.
The problem is that the government sees early childhood education simply as child care, and as a way to increase workforce participation, says Menz.
“At the heart of it, we’ve got a federal government that doesn’t understand the importance of investing in young children.”
Data proves value
Kindergarten director Danielle Cogley can see the positive results for herself at her kindergarten, which is part of the Box Hill North Primary School campus in Melbourne.
“With 15 hours per week the children become more resilient and confident and we see that effect right through their years at the school. And the results are even more noticeable among children learning English as their second language,” she says.
“We get the time to have more high-quality interactions with the children. We’ve got dedicated teachers and educators who can spend that one-on-one time with them, supporting each child’s needs.”
But parents, preschools and teachers are left frustrated by the funding uncertainty, despite the wealth of evidence from respected researchers – as well as those working in the sector – proving the link between quality early childhood education and improved long-term outcomes.
For David Coulter, principal at Darlington Children’s Centre in Adelaide, the lack of long-term funding can be dispiriting.
“We go through a cycle from about this time of the year onwards as we’re starting to enrol new families, where we’re saying: ‘Yes, we can offer you a preschool program, but we can’t guarantee the exact amount of time’.
“I just don’t know why the government don’t lock it in. My guess is that, in the great scheme of things, it’s not that much money,” Coulter says.
The constant fear that funding will end is stressful for educators and damaging to their wellbeing, says Menz.
It’s also offensive to families, she says. “It’s a political football and the government thinks that parents won’t really understand what’s going on. They’re wrong. All parents care about early childhood education and want to make sure that every child gets the opportunity.”
The Community and Public Sector Union says the resignation of ABC chairman Justin Milne has underlined the need for an independent inquiry into political interference at the national broadcaster.
Milne tendered his resignation last week, four days after the ABC Board announced the surprise sacking of ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie.
Pressure had been mounting on Milne over reports he had ordered Guthrie to sack two senior ABC journalists because the Coalition government “hated” them.
CPSU ABC section secretary Sinddy Ealy said: “CPSU members working at the ABC had publicly called for Justin Milne’s resignation and we believe this was a necessary step to begin repairing the damage from what’s been an enormously traumatic week for ABC staff.
“But this resignation won’t provide a ‘release valve’ as the departing chairman has claimed unless there is also a fully independent inquiry into the level of political interference at the ABC.”
“We need a forensic examination, not mere denials from the outgoing chairman and Coalition politicians to have confidence that the ABC is being allowed to operate in the interests of Australians not in the interests of the Liberal Party. Milne’s denial of interference rings hollow, particularly when he hasn’t adequately responded to reports he demanded that senior journalists were sacked.”
The union said that Justin Milne and Michelle Guthrie both failed the ABC and the Australian public with such public squabbling, but are far more concerned at the ongoing attacks on the ABC by the Liberal Party and the Morrison government. The broadcaster has been devastated by Budget cuts and it now appears the government has used its funding powers as leverage to improperly influence the ABC’s operations. That is a deeply disturbing possibility and a probe reporting directly to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield was not going to resolve this.
“The suggestion that an ABC chairman would order the sacking of senior journalists because the government of the day hates them marks a disturbing low point,” Ealy said. “It is the fiercely protected independence of the ABC that makes it the most trusted news source in Australia, and all ABC Board members must be upholding that standard not interfering at the direct or implied direction of the Morrison government or anyone else.
“The CPSU believes David Anderson is a good choice to lead the ABC through what was already a challenging period, and will be pushing for a Chairman who is similarly committed to the broadcaster and not compromised by political or other considerations. The ABC’s future leadership must put the national broadcaster, its hardworking staff and of course the Australian public first.”
The union representing Family Court workers says detailed reforms recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) will only succeed in improving outcomes for children and families if there’s an urgent increase in staffing and resources.
The ALRC last week released a discussion paper including more than 100 recommendations to reform the family law system, having considered submissions from various stakeholders including the Community and Public Sector Union, which represents staff working at the courts.
The discussion paper has been released as the Coalition government continues to push on with another disruptive restructure of the courts system, with the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court to be combined from the beginning of 2019.
CPSU acting director Emma Groube said: “Courts’ staff are encouraged by this detailed and thoughtful discussion paper from the ALRC, but dismayed that the federal government is pushing on with its damaging and pre-emptive shake-up. This is the fifth major restructure in these courts in a decade, and absolutely should not proceed until the ALRC has completed its important work.”
The unions says that the Law Reform Commission has made a number of excellent recommendations to improve Australia’s family law system and the outcomes it provides for families and particularly for vulnerable children, but does not believe it has engaged directly enough with the chronic under-staffing that has severely hampered the fair and efficient operation of the courts for years.
“Endless restructures have made this problem of under-resourcing worse not better, as each has resulted in job cuts that mean there are fewer staff than ever to deal with an ever-growing workload,” said Groube. “Our submission to the ALRC showed at least 126 jobs have been cut from the Federal, Family and Federal Circuit Courts in the past five years, which is more than 10 percent of the total workforce.
“This constant reshuffling and the cuts that have come with it has added to the pressure on judges and staff while ignoring the underlying problems with the Federal Courts system, which is continuous cuts to funding while dealing with an ever-increasing workload. It is lunacy.
“It’s an absolute insult to children and families caught up in the family law system that the government would direct the Law Reform Commission to conduct this review, then completely pre-empt that work with a restructure that seems to be all about slashing jobs and cutting costs not improving outcomes.”
CPSU members working in the courts are calling on the government to halt the disruptive restructure until the ALRC’s review has been completed and implemented, and instead provide the additional staffing to keep the family law system running in the meantime.
Compulsory conciliation and arbitration existed in Australia for over 100 years. In that time there were a number of changes but in essence it remained the same with the same objectives – to prevent and settle industrial disputes by conciliation or when that failed, by arbitration and enforcement by an industrial Court governed by industrial law outside of the common law and corporate law systems.
Soon after Federation in 1904 the Australian government on behalf of the ruling class created an arbitration system to control unions and moderate the class struggle (State systems were already in existence). The turbulent time and strike action of the 1890s was firmly in the minds of Australia’s bosses and rulers. Trade unions had taken a thrashing at the time and also called for a system of compulsory conciliation and arbitration.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act provided for legal registration of trade unions and employer organisations. Arbitration provided centralised awards which were legally binding on trade unions and employers. Awards which tended to cover an industry or occupation eventually contained most of the issues related to wages and working conditions that arose. Despite its role being to prevent and limit strike action, compulsory arbitration from time to time failed in that objective, and in some periods strike action reached high levels.
As a consequence the penalties imposed on trade unions for strike action and for failing to observe decisions of the Court, were steadily increased by both Labor and Liberal governments.
The Hawke Labor government, elected in 1983 commenced the process of dismantling the centralised award system, a process continued by the Howard government’s Workplace Relations Act which limited the scope of awards to 20 “allowable matters”. Awards are subsequently being stripped and further eroded today.
The Hawke government introduced “enterprise agreements” which broke down the dominance of awards as the basic industrial instrument. The flow-on effect of this movement away from all-encompassing industry agreements was the introduction of individual contracts, Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) by the Howard Coalition government, and an attempt to enshrine this form of individual contract as the primary means of specifying wages and working conditions. Howard’s WorkChoices laws effectively did this and the Australian people through the union and community campaign for “Your Rights at Work” were successful in removing the Howard government, largely because of their unpopular industrial legislation.
One of the main features of the Hawke and Keating governments was the advocacy of collaboration between the government, trade unions and the employers. This process which took the form of a Prices and Incomes Accord (the Accord) relied upon removing basic and irreconcilable differences between capital and labour. The process could not achieve this but succeeded in disarming the rank and file of the trade union movement who were withdrawn from struggle, particularly strike actions, while trade union leaderships assumed their place at the table negotiating on behalf of workers under the false illusion that there were common interests between labour and capital.
This destructive period of class collaboration resulted in huge decreases in trade union membership density and the loss of wages and working conditions in many areas. The trade union movement is yet to fully recover from this period.
The Your Rights at Work campaign was a proven positive influence on trade unions and saw a re-engagement of trade union members in the huge campaign to get rid of the Howard government. The workers who participated were more interested in getting rid of WorkChoices; the removal of the Howard government was necessary to get rid of WorkChoices.
Collective to individual
The Howard government’s Australian Workplace Agreements shifted the move from collective to individual agreements to a new level by making this individual form of employment arrangement the very basis of their industrial relations policy.
All governments since the Hawke government have been part of the process of moving away from broader industry type arrangements for workers. The Howard government accelerated the process toward individualism and the exclusion of trade unions in the process of determining wages and working conditions.
Successive governments have been implacably opposed to any form of industrial action by trade unions and supported and encouraged the use of the penalty provisions. The Workplace Relations Act and then with WorkChoices, in particular, further increased penalties against trade union activity.
Many forms of industrial action were for all intents and purposes banned. The Rudd Labor government signalled its intention of merging and further dismantling awards by reducing them to 10 minimum standards and maintaining them purely as a safety net.
The creation of specific forms of state organisation such as the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) under the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act was – and is – used to control and penalise unions and individual workers in that industry.
The formation of a special industrial police force, the ABCC, to monitor trade union activities and to spy on individual workers was implemented by Howard.
Your Rights at Work
Industrial Relations was the main issue at the federal election in 2007 which saw Rudd become PM, moving many thousands of people to alter their vote and shift to removing Howard and the WorkChoices laws. The Australian people expected to see the removal of WorkChoices with the removal of the Howard government and with the ascension of a Labor government. Many were bitterly disappointed.
This is instructive as a federal elections looms in 2019 with Bill Shorten held up as the “alternative”.
The CPA believes we need to continue to campaign around IR issues to eventually see industrial relations legislation enacted which provides working people with the best opportunity to take on the forces of corporate greed prevalent in society today.
Collective bargaining as an absolute right for all workers, negotiations between trade unions and employer organisations with rank and file involvement. All forms of individual contracts to be abolished and replaced by collectively bargained union agreements.
Collective agreements to cover all workers in an industry. NO restrictions on pattern bargaining.
The right to strike to be incorporated in law.
Trade unions to have right of entry to workplaces to represent workers and to organise the workforce in appropriate forms.
Legislation banning secondary boycotts and strike action be repealed.
The abolition of “Greenfield” agreements.
Legislation targeting a specific union such as in the building and construction industry’s ABCC, be repealed.
Labour shortages to be overcome by skills training of Australian workers as the priority. The importation of guest workers be arranged through international cooperation and international agreements between trade unions. Guest workers to be guaranteed established Australian rates of pay and conditions.
An Industrial Relations Commission be retained with appointments to the Commission comprising an equal number of trade union and employer representatives.
On September 29 outside Auburn train station a rally was held to free Chan Han Choi. Chan Han Choi is an Australian citizen born in South Korea who was arrested last December because of his support for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The unjust law he is accused of breaking is that he was supporting the DPRK by facilitating the sales of North Korean products in Australia in violation of the UN sanctions.
Chan Han Choi has been imprisoned in South Korea for the last eight months without being convicted of any offenses. Not only has he been denied bail but he earlier went through a 50-day waiting period where his own lawyer was denied access to him.
The government has made it almost impossible to visit him, he had five whole months without a single visitor and it took his friends who visited him in July four months to get their visit approved. Meanwhile when Chan Han Choi’s wife speaks to him by telephone they are forced to speak in English even though they are much more fluent in Korean. When they do break into Korean the authorities immediately cut off the call.
Recently Chan Han Choi has been put in the Hospital section of Long Bay jail because his support for the DPRK is supposedly a symptom of a “mental illness”. The most recent allegations against Chan Han Choi is that he has been trading coal and weapon components with the DPRK.
The idea that a 59-year-old hospital cleaner would be able to do all this is laughable. The groups at the rally supporting Chan Han Choi were the Communist Party of Australia Western Sydney Branch, Trotskyist Platform, Stalin Society of Australia, the James Connolly Association, Australian-DPRK Solidarity and the Lebanese Communist Party. Future events to free Chan Han Choi are being planned.
At the end of September the CPA was pleased to receive a visit from Comrade Kostas Papadakis, member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece, KKE, and member of the European Parliament. Below the Guardian is reprinting a section of his address to a public function held at the MUA in Sydney on Saturday 29th of September.
This section of Comrade Papadakis speech focuses on recent political developments in Greece and the KKE’s strategy in response to these developments. Comrade Papadakis makes clear the lessons of events in Greece have broad significance for Communist parties worldwide. In this part of his speech he explains the KKE’s assessment of the role of SYRIZA and other social democratic and opportunistic forces in the anti-people developments in Greece.
The full text is available in English and Greek on the CPA website,
Dear comrades, trade-unionists, friends of the CPA, cadres of the Australian trade-unions.
On behalf of the CC of the Communist Party of Greece [KKE] we want to thank the CC of the Communist Party of Australia for organising this meeting. We hope that this meeting will contribute so that through our exchange of experience we obtain more tools for the struggle we are waging in the two countries. This year, the KKE completes 100 years of life and activity and KNE [Communist Youth of Greece] its 50 years.
The Festival of KKE and KNE was just held with over a hundred thousand of participant workers and youth, dedicated to the 100 years of the Party and to the 50 years of KNE.
The experience that we have accumulated contributes to the strengthening of internationalist solidarity and common activity, elements very important for the struggle against the capitalist system, the capital and its political representatives, for the great cause that we serve, the struggle for socialism.
The KKE has a heroic history.
It led the class struggle in the ‘20s and ‘30s, it was the organiser and main lifeblood of the National Liberation Front (EAM) and of the People’s Liberation Army (ELAS) in the Resistance against the Nazi occupation – in the armed, class struggle of the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE) 1946-1949, in the decades that followed in conditions of clandestine action and under harsh persecution, during the military dictatorship in 1967-1974, until today.
The communists, men and women, in the prison cells and in the exile islands demonstrated great endurance and self-sacrifice that stem from the exalted communist ideals, from the faith in the working class, that is the vanguard force of society.
Their contribution was immense, with thousands of honoured dead in the fields of battle and in the execution sites of the bourgeois state, thousands of uncompromising combatants of class struggle.
The developments in Greece have been many times in the forefront of public attention, have generated a lot of debates in the international communist movement, many myths were cultivated and then were torn down during the deep capitalist crisis that began in 2008.
We want to underline that the capitalist crisis has been the pretext so that the bourgeois governments voted and applied decisions of the EU that were already set on course regarding the abolition of working class and people’s rights, for the consolidation of Greek and European monopolies in order to be able to cope with the international competition.
In Europe and other parts of the globe, as well as in Australia, a whole mechanism of bourgeois, opportunist and Trotskyist forces were set in motion that not only obfuscated the KKE’s positions but also slandered them while at the same time presented SYRIZA** as a force of resistance and of social progress. In this campaign of lies and speculation the European Left Party, this opportunist formation, played and continues to play the leading role in which SYRIZA participating.
Essentially, a small opportunist party that was under mutation since 2012 into a social democratic party was intended to be presented as a factor of radical change.
We remember speeches that were calling on the KKE to cooperate with SYRIZA, to support its policy against the “troika”, against the “right”, against “neo-liberalism”, as they were saying at that time, but these positions went bankrupt.
The KKE maintained a principled stance, respecting its history and the interests of our people. We tried to inform on the concrete situation in Greece, with well-founded arguments we underlined that SYRIZA is an establishment party, a pillar of capitalism, a representative of the capital.
Abroad there were forces that took to heart the words and actions of the KKE, others that were left behind, cultivated expectations, saying that in Greece the “golden recipe” was uncovered. A recipe that will resolve the people’s problems and give an example to the rest of the countries.
But class struggle has its own laws. After the victory of SYRIZA in the elections and the formation of government with the nationalist party of the “Independent Greeks” (ANEL) in 2015, SYRIZA showed its real colours.
In these four years it has been proved in practice that this government is a government of bourgeois management that ruthlessly uses all available means of misleading and manipulating the workers and the people, and that precisely is why it is the most useful government for the capitalist class, for the USA and the EU.
Essentially SYRIZA robbed blind the loot from the hands of the New Democracy Party and took the place of the old social democracy of PASOK.
Altogether they voted in favour of the third Memorandum and applied (together) the anti-people’s measures of three Memorandums, (together) they led vast sections of our people, working men and women, poor farmers, small professionals of the cities to poverty. They undermine the future of our youth.
The current government, as well as the previous ones, is to blame for the dramatic cut-downs in salaries and pensions, for the increase of the retirement age to 67 years of age, for the applying of harsh taxation against the people, for the privatisation of public enterprises of strategic importance such as ports, airports, railroads, the water and electricity networks, natural gas, the giving up of precious public plots of land and even archaeological monuments to private owners for up to 99 years, for the downgrading of health-care and education, for the abolition of the Sunday day-off, for the auctions of people’s houses. The unemployment rate is still very high while the flexible working relations are expanding.
It was this government that passed the law in parliament for the limiting of the right to strike and many times has resorted to repression and authoritarian measures against the workers on strike and against demonstrators, against members of the KKE and of KNE that were informing the people, they protected the statue of [former US] president Truman – executioner of peoples, the butcher that gave the order to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This government rejected together with the rest of the bourgeois parties a draft law tabled by the deputies of the KKE presenting the positions of 530 trade unions regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreements.
The support of big capital with funding, tax exemptions, reducing the taxation of the big companies further underscore the anti-people policy of SYRIZA.
Now, with the ebbing out of the capitalist crisis and in view of weak steps towards the recuperation of capitalist economy they are using the argument of “fair growth” as a trump card, trying to convince with a fairy tale that an economy where the means of production are in the hands of the capitalists and that is functioning with profit as its criterion can resolve the popular problems.
It is a method of misguiding the people that is used to hide that, in an unfair, exploitative society there can be no fair development.
This past August, officially the financial program of the EU and the IMF ended. Now the government is projecting another myth, of the so called “New Era”.
But, the 700 memorandum application laws remain intact, the total of anti-people measures is here, a new cut-down of pensions is being prepared, a new lowering of the non-taxable income will be put in effect, the supervision of the economy by the EU and the IMF remains. The breadcrumbs that the governments are promising are good only to recycle extreme poverty.
* Member Central Committee, KKE
** Social democratic (Labour Party)
The Communist Party of Australia was visited on Saturday October 6 by comrade Kostas Papadakis, member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and member of the European Parliament. Comrade Kostas met with members of the Central Committee of the CPA at its headquarters and later attended a welcoming function hosted by the Party at the MUA building. The function also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the KKE and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of its youth organisation, the KNE.
At the Party-to-Party meeting, comrade Kostas and CPA General Secretary Bob Briton exchanged views on three broad topics: developments in our two countries and internationally, cooperation between our two parties and issues in the international Communist movement.
There was agreement about heightened dangers in our regions and the increasingly aggressive role of the US and its allies, which includes the governments of Greece and Australia. Both leaders highlighted the anti-worker agendas of their national governments and the need for an independent, militant, class-conscious response.
This year, the CPA will be sending four representatives to the 20th annual International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties to be held in Athens in late October. Fundraising is currently being conducted within the Party to meet this commitment. Both parties agree that more advantage for coordinated work should be taken of the international meetings. This year’s meeting will bring together over 70 parties from around the world.
Comrade Kostas explained at some length the danger presented by the emergence of SYRIZA, the opportunist party that currently governs in coalition with a right populist party, ANEL. He pointed out that, had the KKE set aside its principled opposition to participation in capitalist governments and joined SYRIZA, it would now be held responsible for the austerity imposed on the people of Greece and the stridently pro-US foreign policy of the Tsipras government. He emphasised the need to build the social alliances and the leading role of the Party.
Bob Briton outlined the attacks being made on the trade unions in Australia and the need for the lifting of the ideological consciousness of the fight back against them. He noted good initiatives by Party leaders in the trade union movement and the imminent launch of a CPA campaign within the unions. He also reported growth in membership of the Party among the youth and their eagerness for active engagement.
Comrade Kostas and CPA representatives noted the long and strong relationship between their two parties and looked forward to future cooperation. Bob Briton mentioned with satisfaction the outstanding contribution to the Party of members of Greek background.
The following articles were published by The Guardian, newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia, in its issue of October 10, 2018.
Reproduction of articles, together with acknowledgement if appropriate, is welcome.
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