The following articles were published by The Guardian, newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia, in its issue #1908 of March 23, 2020.
Reproduction of articles, together with acknowledgement if appropriate, is welcome.
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The federal government was slow to respond to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis and is still falling far short of what is required.
This is an emergency.
People’s lives and health are at stake. Unemployment is set to skyrocket; many people face a loss of income, a cut in living standards, poverty, and homelessness.
The Governor-General has declared a “biosecurity emergency” and given the government extra powers to deal with the crisis and some state governments have declared a state of emergency.
The government could still do much more to protect and provide for the well-being of the people of Australia.
The $17.5 billion allocated in its first stimulus package provides a one-off payment of $750 for welfare recipients. It also includes provision for businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million to be able to write off purchases of up to $150,000 and a specific allocation for the tourism sector.
There are other provisions to support apprentices and grants of up to $25,000 available for small businesses. This is to keep workers in jobs, but it is not clear what, if any, guarantees there are that this money would be used to do that.
Shortages are leaving doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients, due to limited access to supplies such as gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons.
Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others. The private/public structure of the health system adds to the problems of distribution, testing, and allocation of beds and resources.
The Spanish government has announced measures to take over private healthcare providers and requisition supplies such as personal protection equipment and COVID-19 test kits. At the same time, fourth-year medical students are being co-opted to help.
At the time of writing the government had still failed to heed the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) call “to test every suspected” case.
The Australian government should also requisition the private health sector, putting it in a position to allocate resources on a rational basis for the testing and treatment of the virus and other urgent medical treatment.
It is criminal that more Australians have not been trained as nurses, aged care and NDIS workers, and community workers. Australia relies heavily on migrant and visa workers from poorer developing countries – a brain drain from countries that need those staff.
The lack of centralised planning and co-ordination have seen large sectors of the population completely overlooked. In particular, disabled people appear to have been forgotten. The federal government, unlike some state governments, does not even have an Auslan interpreter present when making critical announcements.
While the measures announced last week kept schools and university campuses open, an increasing number are going over to on-line teaching.
All workers should be granted paid special leave if they are required to go into self-isolation or contract the virus. This is an area where the government could assist small businesses.
The Work Health and Safety Act require employers to ensure the health and safety of employees and other persons so far as is reasonably practicable. This is achieved through employers managing risks to health and safety. As a highly contagious virus, COVID-19 is a hazard to the health and safety of employees and others.
It can cause severe illness and even death in more vulnerable “high risk” people. At this stage, the most effective control is to identify potential carriers of the virus and support them to self-isolate to avoid exposing others.
“This requires full cooperation of employers and employees and it is essential that employees feel supported to declare potential illness. Workplaces that do not provide support to employees to declare potential illness are increasing the risk to employees and others,” the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said.
“It is essential that workers are supported to take the measures necessary to help control the spread of the virus. Workers who are not supported to isolate are at great risk of not identifying themselves. All workers need access to paid special leave and be supported to identify potential exposure and isolate at home. Casual workers, and others without access to leave, are more likely to attend work whilst sick for fear of a loss of income or future shifts.”
Some large and smaller employers, including several state agencies, have signed up to offer special paid leave and other support. There is a list on the ACTU corona website.
The government has failed to protect workers who have lost their job or have had their hours at work cut. Almost one-third of the workforce is casual, labour-hire, or work in the gig economy. They have no protection under the Fair Work Act – a situation that needs rectifying as soon as possible.
The layoffs have started as people cut back on their activities and businesses make cuts or close. Airlines, tourism, and education have already been struck with losses of Chinese students and the hit from the bushfires. Staffing cuts are becoming widespread as services are wound back or even cease.
The government has agreed to waive the waiting period for unemployment benefits. Forty dollars a day is not enough to pay the rent, electricity, put food on the table, and meet other expenses. Newstart must be increased now, by at least $95 a week as called for by the Australian Council of Social Service. This would not only assist the unemployed but also be immediately spent and hence inject a much needed stimulus into the economy.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk as the economy heads into deep recession. Stock markets are in free fall, with the odd short-lasting partial rise. Trade is grinding to a halt adding to the problems of shortages in some areas. International travel is out, and domestic is a fraction of its former level.
State government packages include such measures as spending on public health, capital works expenditure, waiving or delaying payroll tax, and freezing utility bills and council rates. This will go a little way in contributing to employment and helping small businesses and families.
The public has received contradictory information from state and federal governments and medical experts. This has fuelled confusion and concern in the community that sees the measures being taken overseas and the rapid spread of the virus elsewhere.
The government is fuelling anxiety and panic responses in people, and the media is playing it up. The Morrison Coalition government says that between twenty and sixty per cent of the population will become infected with the virus.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly, said that under the “best case scenario” of a twenty per cent infection rate, about 50,000 people out of 5 million infected with COVID-19 would die. In a “moderate scenario” of 10 million infections – forty per cent of the population – would mean 100,000 dead, Kelly said.
This “best case scenario” paints a grim picture of what lies ahead, and shows little confidence in the government’s handling the situation. The official number of deaths in the People’s Republic of China is less than 5,000.
So it is not surprising that people who have the financial means are rushing the supermarkets and hoarding in preparation for self-isolation. The millions of Australians who are struggling daily to pay bills cannot do this. They should not be denied essentials.
Supermarkets have made a killing out of the massive hike in sales. Trollies stacked with large bags of rice, or disposable nappies or long-life milk, etc. are continuously wheeled out the door. People can be seen returning to fill another trolley, and then another and so on. Sanitiser and soap have not been seen on the shelves for weeks in some stores.
At present, the number of virus cases is doubling every four or five days. Much more could be done to educate the public and provide transparency about the situation and reasoning behind decisions. This would assist in building trust and understanding.
The measures announced on Wednesday 18th March restrict outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people and “non-essential gatherings” of 100 people indoors. The medical experts strongly advise on good hand hygiene and social distancing– maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres.
How this can this be done in schools, especially with younger children, is not as easy as it sounds. For example, how many classrooms are big enough for social separation?
The latest travel advice is not to travel overseas, with the possibility of even stricter measures on the way.
Risk to health care workers
Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, prices of medical equipment have surged. Surgical masks have seen a six-fold increase, N95 respirators have trebled, and gowns have doubled.
WHO has warned that severe and mounting disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) – caused by rising demand, panic buying, hoarding and misuse – is putting lives at risk.
Healthcare workers rely on PPE to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others. But shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients.
Special provisions must be made for people who do not have the means to pay rent, mortgage repayments, electricity, and other essential bills.
“Banks must be forced to suspend mortgage/rent payments. Emergency housing must become a top government priority, programs such as these will not only ensure a persons’ right to housing, but also significantly increase employment and affordable housing,” the Communist Party of Australia said in a statement on the virus. (See page 3)
All evictions must be stopped, and phone, energy and finance companies must back off households trying to survive on reduced incomes during the coronavirus crisis, Tenants Victoria and a coalition of more than thirty community groups said.
The chair of housing group Homelessness Australia, Jenny Smith, has also called for the federal government to immediately deliver emergency payments to casual workers who lose their income during the pandemic, to prevent a “tsunami of homelessness.”
“Tens of thousands of Australian households have lost the wages they need to pay their rent because of the mass cancellation of events, and the requirement on growing numbers of people to self-isolate or quarantine,” Smith said.
More than thirty social services organisations around Australia have urged companies that provide essential services – energy, water, finance, phones and rental housing – to support people affected by the pandemic.
For petitions to the government and other information for workers and trade unions visit the Australian Unions website.
Some health experts warn that Australia has yet to see the worse of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), now dubbed a pandemic. However, since the beginning of March, China is reporting the lowest number of new cases since they started to release figures in January. On the other hand, across Western Europe, the Americas, and Australasia, the pandemic has worsened. Here, the inevitable question arises: Are socialist countries better equipped at handling crises? If so, why?
To start: the pandemic is thought to worsen here because we have yet to enter winter, unlike the northern hemisphere, where the Coronavirus spreads a lot more effectively. Thus, with the foresight of how dangerous COVID-19 could be, what has Australia done? For the most part, it has done little. It was only last week when the gravity of the situation hit the Morrison government that measures were drawn up – a typical response from a government that has been reactive, rather than proactive. The first measure is a stimulus package worth $22.9 billion, is virtually worthless. Of the $22.9 billion, only $4.8 billion is directed to our most needy, who will receive a one-off $750 payment. Those entitled include Newstart recipients, disability support pensioners, those on carers’ allowance, youth allowance, veterans support payments, family tax benefits, those with Commonwealth senior health card-holders, aged pensioners, and casual workers. However, as many have noted, the one-off payment hardly helps.
A spokesperson for the Disabled and Neurodiverse Workers’ Alliance (DNWA) stated: “$750 doesn’t cover the expenses of the healthcare that people with chronic illnesses or disabilities need. Instead, we need a raise in Newstart, to scrap the plans to abolish sickness allowance, and make the Disability Support Pension (DSP) more accessible.”
Additionally, to highlight how inadequate the stimulus package is, the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union (AUWU) started the hashtag #My750 with many people tweeting that the payment would immediately go to existing debt rather than stimulate the economy.
Last Monday, the Morrison government stated that state leaders need to start to implement bans on mass-gatherings over 500 people, except for schools, universities, and airports. Conveniently, this ban occurred after a Hillsong conference that happened over the previous weekend – exposing where the PM’s interests and concerns lay.
However, is this measure enough, given that we see several Western countries, like the Netherlands, completely shut down outside of a few essential stores like pharmacies?
Let us Juxtapose our government’s response to China’s. Almost as soon as COVID-19 became identified, China’s response was rapid. It built whole hospitals within weeks and Wuhan, where COVID-19 was first reported, was wholly locked down. Many were sceptical of the reporting coming from China, including those in at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and surprised to find the reports were accurate. WHO stated: “China’s bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic,” adding, “This decline in COVID-19 cases across China is real.”
What is perhaps even more revealing of socialism in action is China’s international humanitarian aid to COVID-19. With Italy being the worst effected European nation, China has stepped up to help where other European countries won’t. China has sent medical experts and doctors, as well as medical supplies to help the COVID-19-stricken country through this rough period.
Much like the bushfire crisis that plagued Australia earlier this year, the Morrison government’s response is lacking. The Communist Party of Australia sees the sluggish response by our government as “largely as a consequence of the failure of capitalism to solve any crisis.” We must make sure to stand in solidarity with all health professionals and the rest of the working-class. We must maintain the pressure on our government to act!
Comrades and Guardian readers the safety and health of Party members is our priority; therefore, the whole organisation must prepare to confront the coronavirus.
The capitalist system has failed the people time and time again. The system is trying to survive at the expense of workers worldwide. This period is very dangerous as capitalist greed has no limits and makes profit out of workers’ misery and poverty.
The world is witnessing the approach to the pandemic by socialism, where China’s successful drastic measures stopped the spread, with workers and families subject to social distancing being looked after.
We are also becoming aware that China successfully used Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2b as one of the medicines. For several years now Cuban biotechnology has provided to the world a number of vaccines and other medicines despite the US blockade.
Interferon 2b is now the medicine of choice for many countries approaching Cuba for supplies. Two weeks ago, we learnt about the Chinese, Cuban, and Venezuelan doctors who are currently in Italy, providing care and medicines to the Italian people. Unfortunately, capitalism has also let down the European people whose governments decided to save the economy at the expense of the people.
In China, Cuba, Vietnam, and Venezuela the interests of the people have been put first, and those governments have ensured safety and health ahead of profit. Workers have a guaranteed roof over their heads, free access to medical aid, and income to stay put once the call is made to isolate.
In Australia, governments have been caught unprepared to deal with the crisis. Lack of logistical planning and last-minute decisions have contributed to the spread.
Unions have done a great job demanding legislation to guarantee special sick leave for all workers regardless of whether they are permanent, casual, labour-hire or in the gig economy. This is a priority. Workers have already been hit by the misinformation and the lack of action. A young worker, who I met on Sunday, was fearful of the possibility of a shutdown. Despite being a permanent employee, some workers don’t have enough sick leave accrued, and most people live week by week. The government’s role is to ensure workers are protected, and unions are not criminalised respecting the right to organise.
The Communist Party of Australia stands with the working class and will work with other forces to ensure the rights of workers and their families are upheld (see CC Statement page 3).
While the Guardian and other Party activities might be suspended, postponed, or delayed the Party and its members will not go into hibernation. All-Party organisations must discuss the continuity of Party work, taking care of the most vulnerable and ensuring the 100 years’ old Party continues to operate.
I wish all readers and comrades a successful fight against the COVID-19,
We shall overcome!
Vinnie Molina is the President of the Communist Party of Australia.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
Covid-19 is spreading throughout much of the world, largely as a consequence of the failure of capitalism to solve any crisis. The Communist Party of Australia recognises the significant contribution made by health workers at the frontline of this developing pandemic and stands in solidarity with them, along with working class victims, denied their basic human rights, and all people fighting for universal access to life’s needs.
Whilst the structural contradictions of capitalism require revolutionary transformation of society into one of ensuring the health and safety of the global population, it is necessary to combat this current crisis in ways immediately available to us. Governments across Australia have been too slow to act, relying on market forces, including manipulating the stock market to stop the haemorrhaging of the economy, instead of investing to stop the health impacts of the latest pandemic.
Reforming those aspects of the health care sector driven by the profit motive. Immediate steps can be made to eliminate the waste, speculation and commodification of private health care through the nationalisation of the entire sector. Health care is a right and the Communist Party calls upon parliament to legislate universal access to all our medical requirements.
Meanwhile, the economic impact of the virus is already hitting Australian workers and communities.
We can benefit from the experience of China in dealing with the Coronavirus involving drastic social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. This has shown to be an effective approach with the number of new cases reducing daily. It would be wise to look to their model and consult them for advice.
The duty of the government in this scenario is three-fold: protection of the people from the COVID-19 virus; responsibility for providing the necessary treatment for those who are hit by the virus; and protection of the people from the economic impact of the virus.
We strongly believe that a two-week shut-down must be implemented now alongside the following:
Governments, state and federal must implement a sound containment policy. The health and safety of the people must be the top priority in implementing such a policy, especially those most vulnerable. Ensuring hoarding of essential items, price gouging and other deliberate profiteering must be minimised to the extent possible through legislative change. Continuously rewarding greed must be abolished now.
The government must ensure a public educational outreach about the disease using electronic and print media to subdue the current confusion that has come with the panic and media overload.
Unions must be at the forefront of working-class responses to this latest failure and crisis. It is essential that workers at the frontline such as health care workers be involved in the decision-making processes through their unions. Legislating for workers’ ability to strike against unfair employer practices during this period is essential to minimising abuses, exploitation and further employment insecurity and attacks on wages and conditions. Workers must not pay for capitalism’s crises.
Many people are already feeling the brunt of the pandemic losing jobs or having their hours reduced resulting in lost income. We demand the government abolish waiting periods for unemployment benefits. We support the demand for an increase of $95 to Newstart as an immediate measure to reduce the pain experienced by working class people. We demand that no worker is disadvantaged as a consequence of this crisis made worse by government inaction.
The CPA endorses the ACTU demand for special paid leave for all workers in case of quarantine or lock down, including casual and labour hire workers. The government’s stimulus package with a one-off payment to welfare recipients falls short of the assistance required, and does nothing but provide a band-aid instead of meaningful distribution of wealth protecting the vulnerable and minimising community spread.
Governments must also ensure people are not forced into homelessness through an inability to pay mortgages or rent. Banks must be forced to suspend mortgage/rent payments. Emergency housing must become a top government priority, programs such as these will not only ensure a persons’ right to housing, but also significantly increase employment and affordable housing.
Testing and treatment of the virus must be universally accessible and free. Governments need to redirect funds towards health care centres and hospitals as a top priority. Bulk-billing by doctors and pathologists should be compulsory and the government must temporarily convert private hospitals for public use as long as the crisis lasts.
Employers and in this instance the government are required to provide a heathy and safe workplace. Workers and workplace health and safety is a crucial issue that workers need to be consulted about and new protections put in place to protect workers and the public. This is a key industrial issue across all industries. This requires the immediate development of new safety practices, supply of resources and workers’ compensation recognition.
The Australian government also has a global role. Currently there are countries under sanctions limiting access to medical supplies, including Cuba, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). In light of the global pandemic Australia must play its role to end these criminal blockades and allow these countries to import the much-needed supplies.
We salute the efforts and solidarity of Cuban, Chinese and Venezuelan doctors and other health professionals who despite the US economic sanctions are working in Italy helping the people with care and medicines such as Cuba’s Interferon 2b to overcome the current pandemic.
The government appears to have no logistical planning in place to develop the capacity required to deal with the crisis confronting the health system in Australia. Without the critical planning for emergency beds, staffing, face masks and respirators in place to treat the potentially thousands of critically ill patients’ we risk having to make choices like in Italy as to who will live or die. Who will confront the panic and guarantee supplies and support to people in the community stranded and isolated when sent home without an income?
The Communist Party of Australia will work with all organisations seeking to ensure that the working class does not pay for the crises being inflicted upon us all as a result of capitalist exploitation of the people and nature to secure riches for the ruling class. We will work with all organisations nationally and internationally who will defend universal access to life’s needs including best available health care to protect us against these escalating global crises.
WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!
Communist Party of Australia, CPA
16th March 2020
On 4th March, there were plans to have a rally against the privatisation of the public housing estate on Walker street, Northcote – just north of Melbourne (Narrm). The rally was organised by Friends of Public Housing, one of the groups in the Save Public Housing Collective (SPHC). Unfortunately, due to concerns about COVID-19, the rally was cancelled – but the fight continues.
The Victorian government began a Public Housing Renewal Program (PHRP) in 2017 that aims to “upgrade” public housing estates with private developers. The public housing at Walker street is one of the ten sites undergoing “redevelopment” listed on Housing Vic’s website, the others include:
Ascot Vale estate
New Street, Brighton
Gronn Place, Brunswick West
Bills Street, Hawthorn
Tarakan and Bell Bardia estates, Heidelberg West
Abbotsford Street, North Melbourne
Oakover Road and Railway Place West and Stokes and Penola Streets, Preston
Bangs Street, Prahran
Flemington estate (walk-ups only).
The Victorian government describes this redevelopment on Housing Vic’s website as a project to “create at least 1,800 new public housing homes, including social, private and affordable housing.” The first thing that leaps out at you when you read this is: wait – 1,800 public housing homes, including private housing? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Also, what is “social housing”? Who decides what “affordable” is? What happened to, you know, public housing?
In 2015, the Victorian government started to publicly discuss their plans to “redevelop” public housing and to transition into what they call “social housing.” The Andrews government made this official in the 2016 Housing Act which was based around “social housing” – a combination of both public housing (state-owned housing) and “community housing” (owned by private not-for-profits). The waiting list for public housing in Victoria is now for social housing, a list combined of both private and public housing options. There are more than 15,000 applications for social housing in Victoria, with currently 7,267 in total on the transfer list, 3,687 priority access, and 3,580 register of interest applicants. The government has hidden its move to privatise public housing under the “social housing” terminology.
This is housing that, according to the government, has transitioned from the public sector to the “community sector.” SPHC has elaborated on just what exactly the community sector is – private, not-for-profit organisations. Rental costs under community housing increase from twenty-five per cent of renters’ income to thirty per cent. SPHC also note that renting conditions are not as secure as under public housing. The collective emphasises that this thirty per cent of income can just be a baseline for rent – the not-for-profits can add extra fees on top of this, or request that a tenant’s Rent Assistance is paid fully to their organisation. Community housing also does not guarantee accessibility modifications on units for tenants with a disability.
It is undeniable that there are much-needed improvements and upgrades to public housing so that public tenants are not living in poorer conditions than those in the private market. However, under capitalism, the state government needs to find a way to turn the money spent into a profit. It is clear that it has found its path to profit through transitioning properties into the “community sector” and selling off the rest. For Walker Street, Northcote, this redevelopment means a total loss of the 87 public housing units to be replaced by 143 private units and 106 community units, according to an RMIT University report.
The RMIT report also notes how the case study on a public estate in Kensington, north-west of the city, showed results that completely contradicted government rhetoric on the positive outcomes of transitioning to the “community sector.” The Kensington buildings were in some cases falling apart due to government neglect, and so the government went about to “redevelop” the land from 2002 until 2012. This resulted in the 694 public units dropping to 429 public units. The rest of the redeveloped property, 512 units, became private – with fifteen of those becoming community housing. Only twenty per cent of the previous public tenants returned after the development. Meanwhile, the developer was able to make a return of over $44 million, and an estimated net profit of fifty-one per cent – much greater than the industry standard of twenty per cent. There are now very few owner-occupiers in the private units, and private tenants mostly occupy the private units. The two groups socialise separately as well – public tenants keep to themselves and their community organisations and private tenants go out to what is now gentrified Kensington.
Friends of Public Housing posted an update about how the public estates in Heidelberg West, northeast of Melbourne (Narrm), are now new apartment blocks, of which only fifteen per cent remained public. Many people lost their homes in their process. These transitions to social and community housing are causing financial and emotional strain on public tenants that can lead to suicide. The state is complicit in these deaths as it continues down the path of privatisation.
It’s important to note that the Kensington case study was conducted three years before the 2016 Housing Act and four years before the Public Housing Renewal Program. It’s evidence that the government chose to move ahead on this trend so that it can turn a profit, even while knowing that it would cost public tenants’ livelihoods. In order to do this, they have created the “social housing” spin to make it seem like a positive transition to the general public.
The current housing crisis is full steam ahead – over 24,000 people in Victoria and 116,000 nationwide are homeless (2016 Census) – with women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, youth, and disabled people most at risk of homelessness. The current struggle for secure public housing under the Victorian government echoes struggles around the country.
As a response, the Andrews government opened an Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria last year. In Friends of Public Housing’s submission to the inquiry, they emphasised that the push towards social housing is “ideological and not based on any evidence or reason” – as shown by the Kensington case study. They demand an end to the combined waiting list of both public and community housing and pointed out that “public housing is a healthy restraint on the cost of the high private rental market.” This is an important point to make, because not only does privatisation create an immediate profit for the capitalist class, it also lifts the bottom floor of rent prices, causing the rental market to become even more expensive. Saving public housing is an issue for all, not just for public tenants.
In Fair Go for Pensioners’ submission to the inquiry, they also note that of the thirty per cent of Australian’s who rent, three per cent is through public housing, down from six per cent two decades ago. This correlates with the beginning of mass privatisation that began in the 1990s mentioned in article “Solidarity with RTBU VIC! NO PART-TIME” (Guardian #1902)
Daniel Andrews may have promised us to stop privatising public services before his re-election last year, but we are yet to see Victoria Labor slow down on selling out what is ours.
The Communist Party of Australia demands that governments make emergency housing a top priority during COVID-19 public health crisis and reverse the present trend where governments spend six times more on private housing – through grants and subsidies to home buyers – than they spend on public housing.
Despite the century of saturation by propaganda against the name of socialism throughout Western countries, its political relevance is intensifying.
Anti-communist propaganda has often taken two different (and, I would argue, logically incompatible) lines: socialism is evil; socialism is politically irrelevant.
The two lines had coexisted right from the emergence of socialism as a political fact in the 19th century. The relative prevalence of each has varied according to political opportunity – the greater and more imminent the threat posed by socialism to bourgeois power, the less tenable the “irrelevant” line, and so the more the “evil.”
The collapse of the Soviet Union and many other allied socialist states was heralded by the imperialist propagandists as the “end of history” – the final victory of the so-called liberal democracy (read: imperialism) over socialism. The mainstream political discourse leant hard towards “irrelevant.” But despite the “end of grand narratives,” the voracious imperialist need for war to prop up the ever-sinking ship of capitalism meant that a new enemy needed to be invented. The “clash of civilisations” narrative found that enemy in Islam, or rather a particular artificial construct of “Islam.”
A few independent governments overthrown, a few million people dead, a few new markets opened up to foreign exploitation later, and this epic inferno of clashing civilisations has burnt out. Which is not to say that the violence and destruction of livelihoods have ended; on the contrary, around the world terrorist violence, in many cases with direct US backing, continues. However, I am not talking about facts, I am talking about liberal politics.
Do you remember five years ago when all that was on the television was the war on terrorism, refugees, “Islamic extremism”? I do. I also remember that five years ago if China was discussed on television, they would speak of “the Chinese government.” Now far more often I hear instead “the Chinese Communist Party” and even sometimes how it is the “central threat of our times” (regards to Mike Pompeo).
Do these changes in political discourse reflect any objective shift in conditions in the Middle East or China? Not so much. Indeed the level of aggression towards these places has remained consistent. It reflects a change in the political climate in the West instead.
The alternative conflict narrative failed; socialism vs capitalism is back on the agenda. So too, is the Cold War mentality.
Figures like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders have appeared, vocally promoting “socialism.” Their surges of popularity among large sections of the population, if temperamental, show a growing desire of the people (particularly young people) for socialism, or at least for an alternative to the current form of capitalism. Of course, what they propose is far from what we would call socialism and does not intend to change the basis of capitalist society. Yet it is clear that much of the ruling class consider even their views enough of a threat to carry out defamatory media campaigns and underhanded political manoeuvering against them.
The phenomenon of the so-called “democratic socialists” is not a new one. Engels’ 1847 draft entitled The Principles of Communism (rewritten with Marx into the famous Communist Manifesto) mentions “the democratic socialists” who share some similar ideas to communists in terms of short term policy objectives. However, they view those objectives not as a stepping stone to revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist class and a thorough economic transformation, but as entirely sufficient to indefinitely curb the excesses of capitalism.
Engels describes these democratic socialists as “either proletarians who are not yet sufficiently clear about the conditions of the liberation of their class, or they are representatives of the petty bourgeoisie, a class which, prior to the achievement of democracy and the socialist measures to which it gives rise, has many interests in common with the proletariat.” This description remains strikingly accurate.
Why are the objectives and outlook of the democratic socialists insufficient? There are two main reasons.
Firstly, they do not sufficiently recognise the class basis of our society. Although they frequently obliquely refer to class and for this we can acknowledge the overall progressive nature of their rise in popularity they do not recognise the extent of bourgeois class power in economy and politics. No matter what reforms they could put in place, without destroying the power the capitalist class has over our entire society, any reform that touches bourgeois profits will be repealed in the end.
This does not mean that such reforms are entirely worthless. Many of the benefits enjoyed by working people in much of the Western world were achieved by worker’s struggles in the 1930s and ’40s, fought for by both social democrats and communists, particularly in the union movement. This was a time when the workers’ movement (both the unions and the Communist Parties) was very strong – the CPA reached 20,000 members. Many decades later, a lot of these benefits still linger. However, it is clear that with the weakening of the union movement and left politics, the capitalist class has been clawing back every one of these reforms piece by piece.
So long as the capitalist class remains in power, both via their political control over the state and their economic power, any victory for the working class will remain a precarious and ephemeral one.
Secondly, they do not have a robust scientific analysis of the economic basis of capitalism. They view exploitation as an aberration of capitalism and not its core mechanic. In this way, they uphold the essence of bourgeois political economy. They rely on redistribution via increased taxation, but no fundamental restructuring of economic relations. This dooms their policies to failure.
So long as the entire economy is based on the dominance of private property and wage labour, the profit motive will remain the overriding dictator of the whole society’s economic life regardless of the thoughtful words of the government. So long as the base of this system remains the same, any policies aimed at bettering the working class are bound to cut into short-term private profits, which will mean the bourgeoisie will only intensify exploitation in whatever other ways they can find. This includes forcing other countries to open further to increased imperial exploitation via political and economic pressure, and the threat of military intervention or its reality - aggressive war. The chequered track record of the democratic socialists with regards to foreign policy, and tendency to fall perfectly in line with imperialism on these questions, reminds us that they are unlikely to inhibit the latter effectively.
We’ll never find out precisely what a Corbyn-led UK would have looked like, and we probably won’t find out what a Sanders-led US looks like. There is every chance it would end in disappointment.
Does this all mean that we should adopt a hostile attitude towards the democratic socialists? Not at all. Indeed we can find an answer to this in the Australian context. Unlike the UK and the US, we have in fact not seen a similar ideological development of comparable magnitude. There is not yet any Australian Bernie Sanders. Despite my criticisms of the democratic socialism, it can be recognised that it does contain sprouts of an independent working-class perspective and socialist objectives, if in an unpolished form. However the continued ideological dominance of the Australian Labor Party over the Australian working class, with a class-collaborationist outlook, inhibits even this level of ideological development. If there were to emerge an Australian equivalent, it should be seen as a progressive development and an ally in this stage of the workers’ struggle.
If such a trend achieved victory at the polls, even if it did end in disappointment, that disappointment would not necessarily doom us to another two steps back. It would present us an opportunity for the working class to push forward towards greater demands – revolutionary demands.
Our party paper, The Workers’ Weekly Guardian, in its many iterations across Australia, has been the voice of the working class. Here, we look back to an article written on the 40th anniversary of our party paper where we look at the paper’s history and its significance.
Communist movements and states have long led the way on women’s liberation. Here, for your reading, we have an article from our archives on how the material conditions for women have been improved in socialist states, namely the USSR and China.
A great record to build on!
This newspaper you are reading is the product of forty years of battling BY people like yourself, FOR people like yourself.
That makes 1963 an important year for the working people of Australia, for on June 22, 1923, there was founded in Sydney by the young Communist Party the Workers’ Weekly, the first mass-circulation weekly Communist newspaper.
Today the Tribune (circulating nationally from Sydney), Guardian (Melbourne) and Queensland Guardian are the descendants of Workers’ Weekly.
Every week they provide for tens of thousands of Australians the only extensive coverage of the activities of the working class and other people for peace, economic gains, liberty and socialism – both in Australia and overseas.
They present the policies and ideas of the Communists, and others who may serve the interests of the working people, concerning the present situation and the future.
They fight for the working people, and against those who harm their interests – monopoly capital and its various agents.
Workers’ press tradition
The workers of Australia have produced, distributed and supported journals and newspapers that in some way defended them against their exploiters, over many generations.
As far back as 1883, William Lane was publishing a paper in Brisbane (the Boomerang) that was based on socialist ideals.
Later (in 1890), Lane edited the old “Worker”, organ of the Labor Party, but with the motto “Socialism in Our Time”.
Trade unions developed journals for their own members. Some of these have a long and glorious history.
The Labor Party in its early years developed various publications, even some daily newspapers, which for a time reflected the militancy of the rising working class. These passed out of existence after they, coming under right-wing or even direct capitalist control ceased to inspire the support of the workers.
The Communist Party of Australia, formed in October, 1920, experienced an initial period of disunity, during which there were two journals – the International Communist (previously International Socialist) and the Communist (previously the Australian Communist).
Following the unification of the Party, the Workers’ Weekly appeared as the central organ on 22nd June 1923 and was developed as a real newspaper of the workers.
During the period to 1939 – and thereafter under the name Tribune – it developed as a truly national newspaper – a feat which no millionaire capitalist newspaper concern of today can equal, since their newspapers circulate only within separate states.
The Communist Press has been written, printed, circulated, sold and financed solely on the basis of the efforts of the working people, and especially the Communists themselves, who have seen it as a priceless weapon of their cause, in the class struggle and the broad movements for peace and democracy.
Tribune has appeared both weekly and bi-weekly, and for a period in illegal form, under the early wartime ban of the Menzies Government. A number of its press workers and sellers have been gaoled.
But it has never failed to tell the story of the struggles of the working people over those forty years, and so its files are the main documentary of the modern Australian working class and people’s movements.
A feat to be proud of!
Life in Australia has shown that in the conditions of our society and country, only the Communist Party, leading the advanced working class and people, has proved capable of sustaining and developing a truly independent newspaper, embracing all sections of the working people, which serves the true national interests in the struggle for peace, national independence, higher living standards, democracy and socialism.
This is a great feat, of which all working people can be proud. In a country where capitalist monopolisation of press and other propaganda organs is very highly developed, the Communist Press of the working people can prosper and grow as a fighting weapon, despite all difficulties.
That is something that should be constantly explained to those who may be intimidated by the apparent power of big daily newspapers or disillusioned by the disappearance of one-time Labor daily and weekly newspapers.
This 40th anniversary is an occasion for great celebration because it demonstrates that the working class and other progressive people, in Australia as elsewhere, can overcome all obstacles.
They will continue to build and develop their own newspapers and other publications, increase their circulation, quality and size, and will undoubtedly produce also daily newspapers that will live and grow with the working people, serving their interests still more effectively.
The time to begin is now, this anniversary year, this month, even while planning functions to celebrate the forty years’ achievement.
Selling more copies each week – that is the essence of the way forward – for every reader!
How to do it? – that is the question that must be answered. Tribune will, in the coming weeks, publish as many suggestions as possible, put forward by some of the most experienced sellers and supporters.
At this moment, many Communist Party branches and committees have begun special discussions to find the answers, in the workplace or locality that concerns them.
Recently, members of one Sydney waterfront Communist Party branch threw out a challenge that all of them could lift their weekly sales, better than “all comers.”
What do YOU say to that challenge?
By the time the June 22 anniversary comes around, and given the will to do it, friends of Tribune can give a real lift to circulation figures, and lay the basis for a big drive upward in the second half of the year.
That is the way to begin the SECOND forty years of the Communist press – a period that will certainly take Australia a long way towards the socialist transformation and a developed Socialist Society.
Article originally appeared in Tribune March, 1963.
As soon as the Russian workers took power in 1917, their government, the Soviet Government, brought about a complete revolution in the laws affecting women.
“Of the laws which placed women in a subordinate position, not a trace has been left in the Soviet Republic” said Lenin to a conference of women workers in 1919.
Since then, in all other countries where the people have taken power (now comprising one-third of the world’s population) their governments have assured women complete legal, social and economic equality with men.
In the Soviet Union, and those countries of People’s Democracy which have already adopted new Constitutions, such equality is written into the Constitutions.
Article 122 of the Constitution of the USSR states:
“Women in the USSR are accorded equal rights with men in all spheres of economic, government, cultural, political and other public activity […]”
It is one thing to have formal equal rights, and another to enjoy them in everyday life. Equality of women under Socialism has been assured by their own struggles and the full assistance of the State.
That is why Article 122 continues:
“The possibility of exercising these rights is ensured by women being accorded an equal right with men to work, payment for work, rest and leisure, social insurance and education, and by State protection of the interests of mother and child, State aid to mothers of large families and unmarried mothers, and the provision of a wide network of maternity homes, nurseries and kindergartens.
Because of such special provisions, and assistance, the women pictured on this page are not unique in their own countries. They are representative. In 1949 Soviet statistics showed:
277 women Deputies of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR; more than 1700 of Supreme Soviets of Union and Autonomous Republics; half a million Deputies of local Soviets.
Millions of women workers, masters of highly skilled trades, 280,000 engineers, technicians, skilled factory workers. Hundreds of thousands awarded Orders and medals.
Many thousands in charge of collective farms, leading field teams, managing stock-raising farms. Tens of thousands driving tractors, harvester combines and other complex agricultural machines.
Widely exercising their right to education, women have grown into a great cultural force of Soviet society. Forty-four per cent of total graduates from higher educational establishments were women; 237 had won Stalin prizes for outstanding work in the sphere of science, inventions, literature and art.
Motherhood and the rearing of children in the USSR are honoured and respected. The Soviet State assigns enormous funds to aid mothers with large families and unmarried mothers.
Freed from thousands of years of feudal oppression and slavery, in the three years since Liberation China’s women have responded to the new life open to them with an enthusiasm and initiative that has astonished the world.
The People’s Government immediately swept away the old marriage laws which kept Chinese women in complete bondage.
“Women shall enjoy equal rights with men in political, economic, cultural, educational and social life. Freedom of marriage for men and women shall be put into effect,” says Article 6, Common Program (basic law).
China’s women are now working with enthusiasm and success in every branch of the national economy, in fields where they were unknown before. Many have achieved nation-wide fame and honour for their new working methods.
In Northeast and East China alone, over 6400 women have been promoted to workshop and factory managers.
In the countryside, the 40 million women who joined the peasant associations were an important force in carrying out the now completed land reform. As a result millions upon millions are working whole-heartedly to create record harvests. To help their work, seasonal nurseries and creches are organised on a wide scale; new methods of midwifery and childcare have been introduced. Women are learning use of agricultural implements and scientific farming methods.
As eagerly the women have joined in the great construction projects. To take but two examples. Over 300,000 women took part in the Huai River and Chinkiang flood control projects.
Last year women already numbered fifteen per cent in primary government units throughout China and more in the cities. Many women occupy important posts in the government at all levels. The majority of women, still illiterate, are taking the keenest part in the general campaign to end illiteracy.
Women workers and workers’ wives are entitled to maternity benefits. A network of child-welfare centres, creches and nurseries is gradually spreading over vast China.
And in the towns and cities, for the first time in their history, China’s workers are beginning to leave their primitive huts and move into modern flats and homes.
When the Australian people take control of this country into their own hands, Australian women will also have legal equality and play their part in building a Socialist Australia — which alone will assure them full status as human beings.
Article originally appeared in
The Tribune, March 1953.
“Not a single great movement of the oppressed in the history of mankind has been able to do without the participation of working women.”
“There can be no true emancipation of women without the victory of the working class and socialism.” — V. I. Lenin.
Palestinians deserve better
Last month, Seamus Carey wrote an insightful and spot-on article on Trump’s “Peace Plan” (Guardian #1902) that got me thinking. The Trump “Deal of the Century” is just another attempt to crush the Palestinian Resistance, to force the Palestinians to accept further oppression, occupation. It’s an attempt to coerce them to submit to a sham US/Israeli imposed “peace deal” which will only result in further loss of land and rights.
Palestinians have admirably and bravely responded with defiance to Trump’s plan to defeat their righteous resistance. The Palestinians have already lost over seventy-eight per cent of historical Palestine to Israel. The remaining twenty-two per cent of the Palestinian territories consists of the Israeli blockaded Gaza Strip and fragmented segments of the Israeli occupied West Bank, with Israeli settlements, forts, walls, fences, roads, and other infrastructure surrounding them, under the control of the Israeli army, settlers and police.
It seems the only issue to discuss in “peace” talks is what small morsels of land Israel will allow the Palestinians to have for their illusory state. Why illusory? Because Israel and the US will accept no peace deal without strict controls and fixed conditions on the establishment of a Palestinian state. With such demands, what is there really to discuss in Trump’s plan or any “peace” talks?
More than 775,000 Israelis now live in Jewish settlements beyond Israel’s 1967 borders, on Palestinian land in the West Bank and Jerusalem captured during that war. Israel intends to continue to expand its illegal West Bank settlements and keep building in the major settlement blocs. Israel is adamant that it intends to keep them and Jerusalem in any future peace agreement.
What sort of future Palestinian state is possible considering the fact that Israel has created in the occupied territory? On the West Bank, Israeli rule is pervasive, with bits and pieces of Palestinian territory encircled by Israeli settlements and military bases. The West Bank has been described appropriately as a portion of Swiss cheese, the Palestinian areas being the small holes, surrounded by the larger Israeli part. Israeli military forts and positions sit on the hilltops; Israel controls the road network and checkpoints, aquifers and other resources. Daily life, movement, the economy, everything is dependent on the whim of Israel’s repressive military rule, its laws, regulations, and curfews.
The Israeli government also wants any future Palestinian state to have only limited independence, have no military forces, with Israel’s army retaining control of the state’s borders, airspace, and the fertile Jordan Valley. Israel also wants its military forces to have free reign to operate in the Palestinian areas. These are precisely the policies that Trump’s Plan supports. These and the continued settlement construction are precisely the main obstacles to peace and a lasting solution to the Palestinian problem.
Given this stark situation, a viable Palestinian state cannot be built on such a minuscule area. Trump and Israel’s “peace deal” would only create a micro, mini-state lacking any actual political, social, military, economic independence, and any real resources – exactly the kind of Palestinian state they want to establish.
This is not an independent, genuine Palestinian state, nor is it a just, legitimate solution to the Palestinian problem.
Since the publication of this Trump “Peace Plan” the mainstream media in Australia have been full of opinion pieces by various pro-Israeli and Zionist writers promoting this US and Israeli plan. The reason for this is that it is an excellent deal for Israel, strengthening and entrenching the colonial settler state’s dispossession of and rule over the Palestinians. And the Israeli lobby is relentlessly trying to rally public backing for it and in doing so to pressure the Palestinians to give in.
Israel’s image is not what it once was though, as many more people see the real face of Israeli repression and its callousness, making it challenging to attain support even in Australia. So instead of a diversity of opinion on this question that presents readers with different views of the issues involved we only get various pro-Israeli and Zionist commentators pushing the Israeli position on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, with almost total neglect of the Palestinian side of the story.
There is usually no attempt to allow the Palestinian narrative or voice to be heard on the question. Indeed, it is as if the outlook of one of the central participants in the conflict that has gone on for over 60 years is almost completely missing from the dialogue. There are of course in Australia and elsewhere many articulate and eloquent Palestinian voices that exist and are worthy of space in our media. And hearing them speak would permit Australians to be better informed and get another stance on the conflict.
The resolution of such conflicts begins with an understanding of the viewpoint of both parties, not by ignoring one side. Palestinians deserve to be listened to, as there can be no peace or just resolution to this tragic situation without attention to their point of view and recognizing that Palestinians do have rights. History shows this is the key to settling such disputes. In a society that says it encourages democratic values and free speech, it would be a more persuasive statement if those in power allowed more balanced news coverage on the Palestine struggle and a diversity of information and views on this vital matter.
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