As the economic crisis continues to unfold, the government is already talking about a budget surplus and a return to its neoliberal agenda. Its plans will only deepen and prolong the economic crisis and create even more hardship for working people who are on the receiving end of these policies.
More than one in five workers is either unemployed and looking for work or underemployed. Since February 2020, 838,000 jobs have been lost. Young workers aged fifteen to twenty-four are the hardest hit, with an official unemployment rate of 16.1 per cent as their employment plunged by a whopping 102,900. (ABS 6202.0)
Close to 3.6 million people receive the JobKeeper payment. They have either been stood down or are still working but not necessarily for the same hours or paid as much as before.
These are just a few of the cold, hard statistics released earlier this month. Every single one of those hundreds of thousands of affected workers and their families represents real people, facing an uncertain future.
Prior to the pandemic, almost four decades of neoliberal economic policies and the attacks on the trade union movement had already taken a substantial toll on working arrangements, job security and wages. Australia had the third highest rate of insecure work of any OECD country with three million or more workers employed as casual, contract, labour hire, and gig workers.
These workers are denied basic rights such as sick leave, annual leave and other forms of paid leave. They are less likely to be organised in a trade union or to benefit from collective bargaining or occupational health and safety protections. Their hours and income could fluctuate from zero to fourteen hours or more in a day, with no certainty of enough work to pay the bills.
Prior to the pandemic, the Australian economy was already heading into a recession. The private sector was experiencing reduced demand for goods and services. There was excess capacity in the economy. Since then the influx of migrants, international students and visa workers has dried up, further restricting growth.
The Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Phillip Lowe had been begging the government to provide a stimulus to the economy, all to no avail. It had even called for higher wages.
With the massive increase in unemployment and underemployment there will be even less demand and a tendency by many workers and their families to only spend on absolute necessities for fear of what the future holds.
Excess capacity does not require measures to increase capacity which is the neoliberal approach. Giving the corporate sector more tax cuts will not result in new investments. The private sector will only make new investments when it believes it will be profitable to do so. At present it sees no point in doing this.
Nor can the crisis be addressed by giving the rich further tax cuts. That money will not flow back into the economy creating demand.
Job creation will not and cannot come from the private sector in the present conditions. It must be a public sector-led recovery with the public sector taking responsibility for job creation and the future direction of the economy.
Role of public sector
The anarchistic nature of capitalism is such that the economy is not planned. It is left to the “markets” – meaning foreign monopolies. As a result Australia’s economy is distorted, in particular, lacking in sophisticated manufacturing and a technology sector.
Australia does not have a public pharmaceutical industry as such, it relies heavily on the privatised Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and over-priced imports. Both the pharmaceutical industry and manufacturing were seen wanting from the onset of the pandemic.
The private hospital system was not in a position to handle the health crisis. It was necessary for the state to take over their hospitals.
It quickly became apparent when the crisis hit just how heavily Australia relies on imports for many of life’s essentials. The consequences of the destruction of Australian shipping also became apparent.
The resources sector been able to buy-off successive governments, and build an economy heavily reliant on mining, turning Australia into a large quarry without consideration of the environmental consequences, the loss of fertile farming land, the theft of Aboriginal land, and the destruction of sacred Aboriginal sites.
The Australian government also has failed to adopt measures to address climate change, loss of biodiversity, let alone plan for a just transition to sustainable energy sources.
Government planning for the use of land and allocation of resources is vital to a recovery and Australia’s long-term future.
The higher education sector has been increasingly starved of funding, and as a consequence the reliance on foreign students left it very vulnerable, by a government that does not value education.
Neoliberalism found the public sector unprepared for such a pandemic. The private sector, on which the government relied, had not found it profitable to take the necessary measures such as stockpiling personal protective equipment. The manufacturing sector was found wanting. It had largely gone offshore, again hampering measures to address the coronavirus.
Corporate tax cuts and expansion of fossil fuel industries, as the government plans, will not work. Apart from increasing Australia’s carbon footprint and creating relatively few jobs, it robs the budget of finances to do what is necessary.
Keep jobkeeper and jobseeker
If the government shuts down JobKeeper or begins to wind it back at the end of September, it will not only drive hundreds of thousands of workers into poverty, but will reduce their prospects of a return to work in the near future or ever.
JobKeeper and JobSeeker and the cash payments to people on low incomes have and still are playing an important role in reducing the severity of the crisis. They not only are of benefit to their recipients but play a critical role in keeping some businesses afloat and provide people with the means to purchase goods and services.
This was understood at the time the Treasurer introduced them, but has been quickly overlooked as the pressure mounts to remove them from the hard right within the Coalition.
Any reduction in JobSeeker would be catastrophic for the unemployed, as would a return of the Youth Allowance and Austudy to their former levels. Prior to the introduction of an additional coronavirus payment of $550 per fortnight, the unemployed were expected to survive on $40 a day, and students and unemployed youth (aged 18-24 living away from home) on $33 a day.
JobKeeper should be extended until the end of the year as a minimum and the JobSeeker payment remain at $1,100 per fortnight. This is important for the wellbeing of their recipients and for the economy.
Job security and living wage
At the same time, the millions of “casual” workers who are in ongoing roles should have permanent full-time or part-time work, as they request, and be paid a living wage. Body hire should be restricted to where it is absolutely unavoidable. All workers should receive full leave entitlements and other benefits of union negotiated industry agreements.
All casuals, visa workers and others who were excluded from JobKeeper should be included. This punitive, “blame the victim” approach, is unjust and based on the lie that it is the fault of the unemployed that they are unemployed. It’s not. The capitalist system is the cause of unemployment.
The recent decision to increase the minimum wage by a miserly $13 per week falls far short of what is needed. All workers should be paid a living wage. It is scandalous that in a wealthy country such as Australia, there is a large strata of working poor, many of whom rely on charities to get by.
There is an immediate need to increase household spending, which means putting more money in people’s pockets, increasing the purchasing power of people to boost demand.
Governments at all levels must take the lead, provide the wherewithal for job creation and ensure that people have money for every day basics. The superannuation funds can also play an important role in this. Funding should be allocated to the public sector. These projects should include construction and additional staffing for:
aged care centres
schools and early childhood education centres
preventative health care
services to regional and rural areas.
If Australia is to have a highly educated and skilled workforce, then there should be free early childhood education and abolition of TAFE and university fees with an increase in Austudy.
Centre Link requires a complete overhaul. It has been deliberately run into the ground, making it almost impossible to get through on the phone due to lack of staffing. Contracting out of job placement and other services should cease. The built-in layer of profits could be redirected to the employment of more staff.
At the same time, job creation programs should be based on a just transition to renewables, with jobs and retraining provided to workers in the fossil fuel sector. No worker should be left behind and no worker should see their income decline.
Trade union rights
Job creation, improvements in living standards, and protection of wages and working conditions will not come from a Coalition government or from the bosses. It will take a struggle in the workplace and the wider community.
One of the priorities in this struggle is the right to strike and the repeal of all anti-union laws. The government has not given up on its Ensuring Integrity legislation. Its contents will reappear, perhaps in a bill by another name with even harsher measures.
At the same time it is essential to rebuild a strong, militant trade union movement prepared to advance the class struggle and political struggle. Without that, it will be a “recovery” for big business, not a people’s recovery.
The Communist Party of Australia is committed to supporting that struggle. It is also committed to changing the system from capitalism to socialism. Only under socialism can people’s needs become the priority.
Two weeks ago, education minister Dan Tehan announced that the Morrison government would double student fees for courses in the arts and humanities, as well as in commerce and law. The alarming hike in student fees comes as the government intends to lower the costs for STEM degrees.
Tehan also announced that an extra 39,000 university places for Australian students would be funded by 2023.
While this may sound like the government is contributing more to our education system, they are actually contributing less. The Commonwealth currently contributes fifty-eight per cent to the financial cost of degrees which will drop to fifty-two per cent under the new overhaul. Not surprising, students will be forced to pick up the slack as student contributions to university degrees will be raised from forty-two per cent to forty-eight per cent. Additionally, those extra placements come at no cost to the government. According to the ABC, Tehan plans for “the cost of the extra places [to] be borne by student fees.”
What is the logic behind this move? According to the ABC “the government says its priorities have been defined by pre-pandemic modelling showing [sixty-two] per cent of employment growth in the next five years will be in health care, science and technology, education, and construction.”
There is no doubt that these sectors will grow in the next five years. However, the question left lingering is this: does our government have “priorities” in increasing the employment growth in these sectors?
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “the 2015 staffing cap on the public service has left the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) unable to keep up with the demands of its own scientific projects.”
As a result, CSIRO, our chief scientific agency, has been unable to hire recent graduates directly and instead as had to increase the number of external contracts “which [are] costly for taxpayers and fails to offer secure employment.”
According to public think tank Percapita in its submission to the Senate, “The latest budget was relatively sparse on scientific investment with [...] just over $45 million over the next three years” to be spent “on the industry, innovation and science portfolio.” Most of which ($31 million) was front-loaded for the 2019-20 financial year.
This underinvestment has led many of our recent graduates to find employment overseas in such countries as Germany.
Does this sound like a government concerned with increasing employment? Hardly.
Furthermore, the devaluing of the arts and humanities is nothing new. Right-wing ministers and governments have always taken umbrage with the education delivered at our universities, and one doesn’t have to look far to see the phrase “Marxist indoctrination” when it comes to claims that students are being brainwashed. While their claim that students are trained to be communists is absurd, it reflects a level of understanding of what is taught in these faculties. Many of these fields deal with the study of society’s most maligned: women, LGBT+, and people of colour. In a lot of instances, these fields highlight society’s historical and on-going oppression of these people, mostly without a Marxist perspective. In fields such as philosophy, critical thinking skills are developed, which allow students to challenge our understanding of the world.
Knowledge is power. Education is the means by which we acquire it. By systemically destroying these areas of study with unacceptable fees, our government is attempting to deny access to knowledge that will ultimately challenge its hegemony.
ACTU President Michele O’Neil will tell the Senate Inquiry into the government’s response to COVID-19 that the response has fallen short on wage subsidies, sick leave and OHS while ignoring the impact of the pandemic on women and young people.
The ACTU call for paid pandemic leave will be a key focus of Ms O’Neil’s testimony. The ACTU has been calling for two weeks paid pandemic leave to be made available to all employees, including casuals, but despite both the Queensland and Victorian government’s introducing a similar scheme the Morrison government has not acted.
Ms O’Neil will tell the Inquiry the Government was slow to act in introducing a wage subsidy and has failed to expand the system to those who are excluded or extend it beyond September despite under-spending by $60 billion.
The Morrison government has failed to address the gaps the pandemic has exposed in our OHS system, and despite evidence – including polling conducted for the ACTU which showed only a tiny proportion of businesses were ready for workers to return – has failed to update the system to ensure that working people are kept safe.
The government has also failed to recognise the disproportionate impact the pandemic is having on young people and women, who have lost the majority of jobs and hours of work since the beginning of the shutdown.
ACTU President Michele O’Neil said:
“Calls to expand and extend JobKeeper, provide pandemic leave, close loopholes in the OHS system and provide support for women and young people have fallen on deaf ears.
“We have seen two of the biggest states introduce a form of paid support for workers without paid leave entitlements to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and to encourage testing and isolation yet the Morrison government refuses to help the more than three million Australian’s at risk of falling ill and potentially spreading the virus without access to sick leave.
“Now the Morrison government is already talking about winding up JobKeeper while we set new records for those out of work and needing more hours. We need to be doing more to support working people and the economy, not less.
“The ACTU has published an eight-point plan which addresses all of these issues and we stand ready to discuss it with the government.
“The fight against the virus isn’t over, and the Morrison government must do more to ensure that Australian workers are protected.”
Inequitable decision for low paid workers
United Workers’ Union.
Many United Workers Union members are award-reliant and are impacted by the minimum wage decision. Many United Workers Union members are cleaners, security guards, early childhood educators, food services workers, farm workers, hospitality workers and aged and home care workers.
Many essential workers are also some of Australia’s lowest paid. Australia has been able to manage the public health crisis of COVID-19 because of the frontline workers we have all relied on.
Countless United Workers Union members have worked during the pandemic for less than they would have received under JobKeeper – and many are supporting families on their low wage.
Whilst this very modest rise will lead to some relief for the sectors eligible from 1st July, the staggered approach will lead to greater inequality across our workforces in this damaged economy.
We welcome the Fair Work Commission recognising our cleaners as essential service workers included in the first phase of the award rise, alongside early childhood educators and aged and home care workers. But it is a troubling decision for our security guard members, excluded until the second phase and our hospitality and food services members who will face a rising cost of living whilst excluded from any wage relief until 1st February 2021.
Minimum wage increases are not saved, they are spent in local businesses. Staggering the payments pulls spending out of the economy at a time when it is desperately needed.
Workers know we are in uncertain economic times, but it is not up to the lowest paid to carry the can for that – not when they are the ones out there working every day – and night – to keep us safe, and keeping so many sectors vital to the Australian economy functioning.”
Statement from Sofia Floros, award-reliant cleaner: “I’m very, very disappointed in this decision and my husband has lost his job.
“It’s nothing for workers on the Cleaning Services Award. We work very hard, and it’s very low pay. Those business people who say we should not get a pay rise, they should come and live in my shoes. Cleaners have bills, mortgages, groceries. The cost of vegetables has increased so much.
“We haven’t had the right amount of pay rise for years, we are invisible people that no one can see and no one thinks about what we are earning.
“Cleaners have kept everyone safe during coronavirus, all my colleagues are heroes, we deserved more than an extra 36 cents an hour for our essential work during this crisis.”
Note: The Cleaning Services Award base pay is currently $20.82 an hour, this will rise by 36c an hour from 1st July 2020.
Our youths have been at the forefront of being unemployed, under-employed, and homeless; soon, they will be joined by some of the low waged workers. The homeless youths are the most vulnerable. Their situation often has disruptive effects on their education, ability to find employment, and establishing a stable social network. These individuals face a higher mortality rate from mental health, injury, violence, communicable diseases, substance abuse, and lack of consistent medical care and basic hygiene and sanitation. They are often sexually exploited, increasing the risk of sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.
With growing inequity and austerity in Australia, a new innovative approach is urgently needed to protect workers of all ages from the disruptive effects of the moribund capitalist system, which victimises the victims.
To implement permanent supportive housing, all politicians, in both federal and state governments, need to start developing policy to provide the additional funds needed. The additional costs of delivering income assistance would be minimal and outweighed by its economic benefits to society.
People on skid-row in the land of the free – what can be done?
The Los Angeles Times reported 16th May that US District Judge David O Carter ordered city, county, and homelessness officials to provide space in shelters or alternative housing for the estimated 6,000-7,000 county residents living near freeway overpasses, underpasses, and ramps. The judge’s ruling compels local governments to develop a plan for doing so by 26th June.
In his ruling, Judge Carter wrote in part: “Homeless residents living near freeways are not only at risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading the disease throughout the community, but also of being exposed to lead and other carcinogens as well as being hit by cars.”
As with many issues involving individuals experiencing homelessness, no party appears to be addressing this problem with any urgency, Judge Carter wrote.
While the figure provided to us by the four-year census may be an accurate measure of the number of homelessness people in Australia, the figure could be higher. Some individuals may only be homeless for a short period or a couch surfer. Thus, many people who experience homelessness may not be indicated on the census or, if they have not made contact with a shelter, never recorded at all. Therefore, the figures may be much higher.
Since the Great Depression of the ’30s there has never been a government program to prevent homelessness and give permanent rent and mortgage assistance within the intrinsically defective capitalist system.
There is an urgent necessity to persist in the most challenging task of educating our local and federal Australian politicians. We must also inform the public about food insecurity and the devastation of being hungry, the inability to pay high rent, and being homeless.
Wage theft off the menu in Victoria
Thanks to the efforts of unionists in Victoria wage theft is now a crime. On Tuesday 16th June legislation passed the upper house with crossbench support. Effective from 1st July 2021, business owners who are found intentionally withholding payment from their employees will face fines of $991,320 per offence and individuals will face fines of $198,264 per offence. A maximum jail sentence of ten years may also be applied.
These fines are large and designed to place accountability at the level of company managers – no more blame shifting to an accountant or payroll officer, or what have you. These laws pertain to current and future wage theft but not wage theft in the past.
These laws are welcome. I work in hospitality, an industry in which wage theft has been the norm. This legislation will do much to force the hands of sloppy and unscrupulous businesses to straighten up. As a worker you can make this happen by joining your union. Anecdotes of $5 per hour pay rises are trickling in from around the industry as bosses suddenly find the cash to pay award wages.
In the bourgeois press these laws have been ridiculed and lampooned as “dead on arrival.” There are a couple of reasons for this: The bourgeois press pushes the class interests of employers; News Corp doesn’t like the Victorian Premier; and the federal government is making noises about its own wage theft laws.
In February the office of Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations released a discussion paper setting out the scope of wage theft legislation federally which was said to “be introduced in the coming weeks,” a timeline presumably extended by COVID-19 in Australia.
Wage-theft legislation from the federal government will not be as rigorous as the Victorian legislation. For example, the Victorian law gives the Wage Inspectorate the option to apply for and execute search warrants among other powers. This goes beyond the scope of the existing Wage Inspectorate Victoria and the Fair Work Ombudsman. In contrast the federal government proposes giving the Fair Work Ombudsman “the necessary tools to ensure compliance with the Act.” It is hard to conceive of the current government coming up with a set of wage-theft laws which prevent on-going wage theft. The paper uses equivocating language when discussing wage theft and makes repeated references to reducing costs in dispute resolution.
Perhaps the most egregious issue with the paper is it seeks legislation to “criminalise the most serious forms of deliberate worker exploitation and wage underpayments”. The Victorian legislation, however, criminalises all future wage-theft that is deemed deliberate.
A possible stumbling block in the drafting of the Victoria legislation is references to “dishonest” conduct. This provides a way for “honest” theft of employees’ wages and will be used as a loophole by employers because they find the Award system too hard to understand.
Hundreds of street stalls, thousands of phone calls and door knocking by dozens of unions and thousands of union activists produced this outcome. Congratulations to the organised Victorian workers. We will be watching the Federal legislation closely.
1st July has been announced as the date of voting on amendments to the Russian Constitution. Some of them are important and promising. However, on the whole they are not conducive to renunciation of presidential rule by fiat and the power of the oligarchy. The amendments introduced do not make Russia a social state. They do not protect society from the destructive impact of Russophobia and anti-Sovietism.
The position of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) on the “all-Russia vote” is based on concrete conclusions and firm principles.
We did not vote for the Yeltsin constitution rammed through in 1993. This document is saturated with the blood of the defenders of the House of the Soviets, the smoke of the war in Chechnya and the tears of the humiliated and the robbed. It legitimised the thievish privatisation, opened the floodgates for decimation of the economy and healthcare, science, culture and education. Ever since that time our party has been staunchly fighting for a revision of the constitution on the basis of the key principle: power and property to the people.
When the constitutional reform was launched we immediately joined that work. The CPRF submitted 108 amendments to the Main Law. We called for a broad discussion of these amendments. The authorities have in fact ignored fifteen key provisions aimed at a drastic change of the socio-economic course. The United Russia parliamentary majority rejected all our laws that would have improved the position of the working people.
The amendments put to the vote on 1st July do not change the essence of the Main Law under which Russia has been made to live over the last quarter of a century. The “governing party” effectively refuses to change the course of the ship “Russia” in a peaceful and democratic way. The new edition of the constitution strengthens presidential diktat and consolidates oligarchic rule which leads the country towards a catastrophe. Unless the course is changed in the interests of the people today the country will see deepening cleavages, a severe crisis and chaos. We see that global speculative capitalism is in disarray. It is time to stop taking the cue from senile capitalism and head towards a society of justice and all-round progress, towards a socialist society.
Amendments to the Main Law cannot be adopted in haste. We have already called for convening a Constitutional Assembly and submitted a draft law on how to form it. Instead United Russia rushed amendments through the State Duma. They have been promptly endorsed by the Federation Council. The President has announced that they have been approved. Under these conditions the 1st July vote has largely a ritual character. It does not have the status of a referendum and is at odds with the electoral law. All this is added proof of the falsehood of bourgeois democracy.
The Central Electoral Committee organises the “all-Russia vote” under a dubious procedure. The vote will not be taken on each concrete amendment. One can only vote “for” or “against” all amendments at once. The door is wide open for vote-rigging. Voting will last several days. The authorities are urging people to vote electronically or by mail, which puts the process outside public control. It is a testing ground for new methods of falsifying future elections.
What is taking place undermines the legitimacy of the results in advance. The authorities evade a full-fledged dialogue and step-by-step put into question the legal framework on which the Russian state should be based. This gives a free hand to political adventurers who are prepared to undermine civil peace and put their stake on chaos according to the Maidan scenario of the Banderovites. Russia must not repeat the tragedy of the Ukrainian people.
Real politics call for active participation of the masses. A boycott of the “all-Russia” vote will be of no avail. To be a citizen means to struggle for the country’s destiny. The authorities must know the position of the citizens and reckon with their will. We are sure that everyone should express their opinion as their conscience and concern for the future of their children and grandchildren bid them. Everyone must decide whether to vote for a new edition of the Yeltsin constitution. Our answer is no. We cannot support this document. This was the case in 1993, and this will be the case now.
The CPRF comes out for a thorough overhaul of the Main Law. Cosmetic changes will not do. The key needs of the country and the people cannot be ignored. Therefore we will continue to advocate the calling of a Constitutional Assembly. An honest and legitimate vote. A full-fledged referendum. A constitution of people’s rule and justice.
Our alternative is a programme to mobilise Russia to ensure dynamic forward movement. It envisages the creation of a Popular Trust Government, nationalisation of key sectors of the economy, strategic and tactical planning, making of a development budget, revival of science and culture, education and healthcare, scrapping of plans to raise the retirement age, support of people’s enterprises and a range of other measures.
The coronavirus pandemic and the surge of panic have aggravated crisis phenomena in the world economy. This breeds discontent of millions of people. It has erupted even in the USA which has been swept by street rioting. Global capitalism is unable to deal with the problems it has itself engendered. The systemic crisis poses a mortal threat to the world. Socialist principles alone can ward it off. The CPRF wants to see them included in the Main Law and implemented confidently and steadfastly.
Gennady Zyuganov, Chairman of the CC
Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF)
The theory is bobbing up regularly in the capitalist press lately that the world has too many mouths to feed and that it would not be such a bad thing if an atomic war or a black death wiped out a few of the allegedly “excess millions.”
There’s a “plague of people” – “an epidemic of men” wail the capitalist ecologists.
An ecologist deals with the mutual relation between plants and animals and their environment.
According to these gloomy (and false) prophets we’re heading straight for mass starvation unless the human race is decimated by some means instead of continuing to multiply.
Some of the means of decimation are suggested by Lord Bertrand Russell, hailed by capitalists as the “greatest of living thinkers.”
“Birth control is not the only way of stopping the population from growing,” says Russell. “War, hitherto, has proved disappointing in this respect, but perhaps bacteriological warfare may prove more effective.
“If the Black Death could be spread throughout the world once in every generation the survivors could procreate freely without making the world too full.”
This despair cult has been trotted out by capitalism’s greatest thinkers (read apologists) since the days of the Reverend T R Malthus (1766-1834).
But is it scientifically true that the world is “too full?”
The simple fact is that the early capitalists had to have an apology or “explanation” for the capitalist paradox of poverty amidst plenty – and Malthus filled the hill.
He came up with a theory that human mouths multiplied faster than the earth’s ability to feed them.
Bacteriological weapons and atom bombs were not available then; contraceptives were still crude and unreliable so Malthus got the bright idea of separating working men from their wives to keep down the population.
Indeed, the Reverend held that procreation was too good for the poor!
Today, revolt is rising among the hungry millions of Asia and unemployment and want is spreading through the capitalist lands of the Western world.
In “explaining” this, one of America’s disciples of the despair cult William Vogt, actually laments that cholera plagues are not still decimating Asiatic populations the way they used to because of the practice of purifying water.
Vogt bemoans that Africa is “over-populated” and expresses fears that some meddling medical men will launch a DDT attack on the deadly tsetse fly and so reduce the native population’s high death rate.
Vogt justifies this human approach with the claim that the world has “too many mouths.”
But back in his capitalist homeland, the American Government complains of “too much food” and stores away eggs, wheat and grain galore to rot in warehouses, abandoned ship hulks and remote caves.
Such capitalist madness is mercilessly assailed by Soviet writer M Ilyin in his pamphlet “The Earth And Man.”
Ilyin shows that under a socialist economy there is no Malthusian fear of rising population, that quite on the contrary the rapid development of the earth’s resources far outstrips the people’s food requirements.
Basing his assessment on the actual experience of production under socialism, Ilyin points out that harvests could be increased four-fold in size while vast areas of untitled land throughout the planet could be placed beneath the plough.
Taking a conservative estimate, ILyin says: “But let us suppose that average world harvest yields will increase only two and a half times over and the cultivated area will be trebled. In that case our Earth will be able to provide ample food for not only 900 million (as American “experts” claim) but for 6600 million.”
“This means,” Ilyin continues. “That even today, without any startling scientific discoveries, man is in a position to wipe out hunger from the earth even if its population trebles.”
The facts are that under socialism, where capitalism’s greedy quest for “immediate profits” no longer stifles national development, vast stretches of desert, tundra and tropical forest are being turned into arable, food-yielding areas.
As Soviet Foreign Minister Vyshinsky has pointed out, atomic energy is being put to work on this task of paving the way to abundance for all by “levelling mountains, changing the course of rivers and watering deserts.”
“There is work without end to be done on Earth,” says Ilyin, “yet the capitalist world has 45,000,000 unemployed, who do not know where to find work that would save them from starvation.” In contrast to the despair cult of capitalism, Ilyin’s “Earth Ana Man” inspires the reader with a bright hope for humanity’s future – and backs it all with solid, scientific fact.
Ilyin gives socialism’s ringing answer to capitalism’s philosophy of hunger, war and death. “No, hunger and poverty are not inevitable,” he says. “They are unknown in the land of Socialism and they will disappear in every land when all the peoples tackle the job of the planned, scientific re-making of Nature, when the man of Labor comes to look on planet with the eyes of a master.
Tribune April 1954.
Victory, progress are Curtin’s memorials
Australia lost her greatest Prime Minister when John Curtin sacrificed his life in the stress and strain of leading his people to victory over fascism.
[The Communist Party of Australia] can pay this tribute to the nation’s lost Labor leader the more sincerely because, from the time Mr Curtin took over the task of mobilising the nation for war and survival, Communists loyally supported him in all measures needed for victory and progress.
John Curtin’s greatness was the greatness of the Australian people in their crisis; they found in the dark hours of 1941 and 1942 the leader who reflected their democratic will to triumph over difficulties.
John Curtin graduated to national leadership from the stump of an Australian gum-tree. He addressed shearers at their camps, spoke on the Yarra bank in Melbourne, the Esplanade in Perth, on many a street-corner.
He battled up the hard way. With an invalid father to support, he became a “printer’s devil” at 14, was page-boy at a club, copy-boy for the Melbourne Age, pottery apprentice and odd-jobs lad.
Before the war he became Timber Workers’ Union Secretary, and wrote in the Union’s paper:
“All our troubles begin once we forget we are Socialists.”
He was in the Victorian Socialist Party; he sat at the feet of the great Tom Mann, who died a Communist Party member, to learn Socialism.
Young John Curtin threw himself into the No Conscription fights, and in 1917 was arrested on a sedition charge. He spent a night in a Melbourne gaol, but popular outcry forced the Hughes Government to release him and drop the charge.
In 1918, intervention against the Russian workers’ revolution provided a sharp test for all Labor men. To his eternal credit, John Curtin saw the light of Petrograd through the murk of newspaper-made confusion, and on the Esplanade in Perth and at many other meetings, defended the right of the Soviet Union to live. As an AWU editor, he needed moral courage to campaign for “Hands Off Russia.”
While, in later years, Mr Curtin lost some of that spice and salt that had seasoned the militant Labor lad of No Conscription and “Hands Off Russia” days, he steadfastly rejected all overtures in 1940 and 1941 to join a “National” Government with Labor’s opponents.
After the USSR had brought the might and force of progressive Labor into a world conflict against fascism, Mr Curtin took over leadership from those who had failed to proclaim an anti fascist mission. Luckily for Australia, he was already in office when the Japanese fascists struck.
With the nation’s survival at stake and Municheer defeatism rampant, Curtin proved neither stone nor shaken reed, but a firm leader with flexible policy. He honoured Australian Labor traditions when he dropped all imperialist “inhibitions” and turned to the American Republic for brotherly aid – “free of tags as to our traditional links of kinship with the United Kingdom.”
This robust, independent diplomacy was Australia’s salvation. Soon after the Diggers had turned the Japanese near Port Moresby, far beyond the “Brisbane Line” fixed by Labor’s predecessors, and carried Australia’s victorious standards over the Owen Stanleys, powerful American forces joined them in battle. The Coral and Bismarck Sea battles were memorials to Mr Curtin’s courageous policy.
Mr Curtin dropped the isolationist mantle, and made diplomatic history by exchanging Ambassadors with the Socialist Soviets.
When the Japanese could no longer rock Australia with their bombs and harass our coasts and harbours with submarines, Mr Curtin’s Government turned more to post-war planning and social progress.
The Curtin Banking Bills, giving the opportunity for Australia to advance to strength, prosperity and freedom, will stand as one of Mr Curtin’s finest monuments.
He also decided to nationalise airways, in which overseas control was threatened; before he died the Rehabilitation Bill, which planned for work and opportunity for ex-Servicemen, was carried through, and there were hints of a Commonwealth Shipping Line.
The Curtin path
It was an Australia free from the shadow of Japanese fascism, an Australia advancing toward Tokyo and total victory, that lowered the lost Labor leader into an honoured grave.
John Curtin’s was a bold spirit in a democratic breast. He will live in fame because, like the Diggers on the Kokoda Trail, he sacrificed his life in Australian democracy’s cause.
But newspaper tributes are not adequate to the late John Curtin. We who sincerely mourn his loss will vow to carry Australia along the progressive path of post-war work, happiness, and unity which Mr Curtin had helped to map out for the Australian people.
This article originally appeared in Tribune July, 1945.
Thousands in action for a living wage
Strikes by 4000 Naval dockyard workers and 1000 gas-workers stand out in a wave of industrial struggle which this week reached heights not seen for years in NSW.
These struggles are being waged against employers and courts’ attempts to peg wages while the prices workers must pay for necessities are rising.
The strikes continue despite court penalties and sometimes despite Industrial group leaders’ treachery and cowardice.
The bread price-rise and threats of rises in butter and doctors’ fees have told the workers what to expect.
They know that their wages were pegged by the arbitration court in September 1953, so wage increases can’t be the cause of these price-grabs.
The. real cause was indicated by Communist Party secretary L L Sharkey when he told the last CPA Congress that “as a consequence of the huge armaments expenditure inflation has not been controlled [...]. Prices of the necessaries of life and the small amenities […] have continued to rise
“This, together with the abolition of quarterly wage adjustments, has reduced the real wages, of the working class.”
The huge profits of BHP and other monopolies have also stung the workers into action.
Firemen only took action after long and fruitless negotiation. They scored a decisive victory, gouging a 42-hour week out of their employers, with the additional two hours to be paid for at overtime rates.
For Builders’ Laborers also, unity and courage yielded a lightning victory. Within a few days the Master Builders surrendered on the main demands – payment for public holidays in addition to the present allowance; up to eight hours per week wet-weather money and weekly hiring.
Printers, not generally known as militants, are demanding increased wages from Truth and Sportsman Ltd, who, as we go to press, are getting the other press barons’ aid in trying’ to break the strike – so far without success.
In the chemical industries, 100 ironworkers from ICI Botany plant are standing firm in their battle for more pay from this giant profit-hungry monopoly.
At their strike meeting, on Monday, they decided to bring their wages demand into line with the general demand of all ICI workers for an increase in the chemical disability rate of 12/6; this presenting a common demand on the boss, with the Ironies spearheading the struggle at this stage and receiving united support from the job.
Out 20 weeks
All workers applaud the iron determination of the Morts Dock Iron workers, now in the 20th week of their strike for a £1 a week increase. The company could meet the claim for £15 a week or less, but prefers to lose £9000 per week (on its own story) to beat the men.
Others in the strike wave include Quality Castings moulders (seeking £1 per week rise) Mortlake gas-workers (for a wage rise) and Newcastle gas-workers (protesting against victimisation – the 4th strike there this year after 80 years without a strike.)
All Abattoirs unions are combining to secure a general agreement to get better wages and conditions for all. Tradesmen held a short strike last week. Riverstone workers have threatened a 24-hour stoppage.
Leichhardt bus mechanics struck to get a vehicle builder reinstated.
The dockyard workers stepped dramatically into the fight in stop-work meetings last Monday where they decided to strike until demands are met.
They were driven to it by no less than eight years of fruitless efforts to get negotiations on their log of claims.
The mighty movement is spreading to ever-new sections of the workers – for example to the ambulance men.
Marching through the streets to the Labor Council meeting (which supported them) these highly-responsible workers drew attention to the fact that only a seventh of ambulance funds comes from the Government.
The rest they have to raise by charity – raffle tickets and chocolate wheels.
They are talking of industrial action if their claims aren’t met.
Two deputations, the second consisting of more than 50 delegates – to the Health Minister, combined with decisions as to what might follow rejection of their claims, won a complete victory for Hospital employees.
Workers at Austral Bronze, Australian Aluminium, and other factories have kept the non-ferrous metal shops well in the picture with 24-hour stoppages and a short strike.
Other sections of the industrial army in action recently or currently include such diverse elements as Commonwealth Rolling Mills cranes drivers (Port Kembla) loco engineers at BHP (Newcastle) Sanitary Carters and Clerks at Australian General Electric (Auburn) and Poole and Steel shipyards.
This overall picture, incomplete as it is, shows the workers on the march. It also shows that unity can defeat all attempts at repression, legalistic or otherwise. It can also defeat grouper-Menzies treachery.
It can frustrate the wage-slashes which stem from Menzies war-policy and go on to defeat Menzies himself.
This article originally appeared in Tribune July, 1955.
Was Australia really attacked by China?
On the morning of the 19th June, Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a statement to the press on “malicious cyber activity against Australian networks.”
Morrison claimed that “[b]ased on advice provided to the Government by our cyber experts, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), Australian organisations are currently being targeted by a sophisticated state-based cyber actor.”
Morrison pointedly avoided naming which “state-based” actors are suspected of the attack, saying “Australia doesn’t engage lightly in public attributions and when and if we choose to do so, it is always done in the context of what we believe to be in our strategic national interests.”
The hypocrisy of this claim is laughable, given how readily and on such flimsy grounds the same Liberal government has made public attributions for all sorts of problems, real and fictional, to China. And its hypocrisy is apparent even taking only this one incident into mind – while Morrison avoided explicitly naming them, the implication of blame on China was immediately obvious, and the topic dominated the questions asked to Morrison by reporters after his statement.
A few hours later, the ABC News headline read “China behind major cyber attack on Australian governments and businesses.” Despite being an article about Morrison’s statement, and even acknowledging that Morrison did not make any such claim about China, the ABC faithfully reported the headline that Morrison’s statement clearly sought to produce.
It is rather disturbing to live in an Australia where the ABC has sunk to lower standards of evidence, self-consciousness of political spin and basic diplomatic dignity than a Prime Minister from the Liberal Party’s right wing.
The only further information the ABC article cited in reference to their claim was unnamed sources from unnamed “Federal Government agencies.”
So what links these supposed “large-scale, sophisticated” cyber attacks to China? We will have to follow the argument in reverse.
The ASCS’ strongest claim is that the attacks are “state-based,” and it is only other observers which have made the leap from that claim, to blaming China in particular. This is despite there being no evidence whatsoever. The only “evidence” being pointed to is the supposed “precedent” of China’s involvement in prior similar attacks. However, no proof has ever been found for any such past claims either. So the only precedent is the precedent of the Australian government, organisations and media repeatedly pointing the finger at China without evidence, and never finding any evidence!
Instead of the ancient philosophical question of what accumulated number of grains of sand constitutes a “heap,” here we have the question of what accumulated number of groundless accusations constitutes “evidence” in politics.
China’s foreign ministry has denied any Chinese involvement, and pointed out the likely role of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in spreading the baseless rumour. ASPI is a right-wing think tank which was originally founded by the Howard government, and energetically promotes rabidly anti-Chinese policy and views. It receives funding from the Australian Department of Defence as well as the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, as well as other Australian government agencies, but also, and openly, from the US Department of State and from several US arms manufacturers including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Gruman and Raytheon.
So our tax dollars are being given to this organisation that spends much of its time spreading accusations and fear about alleged foreign interference in Australian affairs by China, while itself receiving funding from a foreign government and foreign arms manufacturers, whose main interest in politics is pushing for new wars so they can profiteer further off human misery.
This is real foreign interference and real abuse of democracy, but our government not only ignores it but continues to throw public money at it.
To take a further step back in the argument, what is the evidence that the attacks are state-based at all? In his statement, Morrison said that “[w]e know it is a sophisticated state-based cyber actor because of the scale and nature of the targeting and the tradecraft used.”
Despite his also claiming his statement was made to “promote awareness,” there were virtually no details given of what was targeted or what sort of attacks these were.
But the ASCS website has some more details. The document “Advisory 2020-008: Copy-paste compromises – tactics, techniques and procedures used to target multiple Australian networks” pertains to the matter, and states:
“The title ‘Copy-paste compromises’ is derived from the actor’s heavy use of proof-of-concept exploit code, web shells and other tools copied almost identically from open source.”
So despite a core of the argument being that this attack’s supposed “sophistication” of its “tradecraft” constitutes part of the evidence for its being state-based, the actual method used by the attacker according to the ASCS itself was mostly to copy and paste from open source. Given that state-based actors are unlikely to release their espionage tools to open source, this means they were instead developed by non-state actors.
So the remaining part of this leap in the argument is that it is the “scale” of use of these tools that points to a state-based actor. But the idea that only states can carry out a particular large scale of cyber attack is becoming more out of date by the day. Not only are cyber-criminal gangs and even individuals known to have the capability to co-opt huge networks of third-party computers in order to carry out attacks, but the unfettered expansion of the financial, political and legal power of trans-national corporations (TNCs) has meant that the largest TNCs have power and capabilities rivalling or exceeding those of states. The persistent lack of scrutiny of TNCs and their influence is a major ideological blind spot, and is bound to increase in severe consequence as they continue their parasitic expansion.
The argument that the scale of the attack necessarily indicates a state-based actor makes an extremely dangerous assumption that because the ACSC is not aware of any non-state actors having carried out such an attack in the past, it could not happen now – as if the area of cyber-technology is not one where unprecedented leaps forward in unexpected places are the daily norm. “Promoting awareness” indeed.
Taking one last step back in the argument, we must finally scrutinise the claim that there was indeed an attack of a scale and potential impact large enough to warrant a public statement by the Prime Minister at all. The ASCS web page mentioned above states, “the ACSC identified no intent by the actor to carry out any disruptive or destructive activities within victim environments.” Furthermore, Morrison responded to a question about the number of targets of the attack by saying “there are many that have been targeted, but in terms of their success, that is not as significant.” In response to a question about whether the public’s personal or financial details have been compromised, Morrison was quick to retort that “the advice I have been given is that the investigations conducted so far have not revealed any large-scale personal data breaches.”
Morrison responded to another question about whether the scale of the attack was “unprecedented,” saying “I don’t know if I’d use that word.”
So what exactly warranted this public spectacle? Morrison simply stated “today is about raising the awareness”, and specifically made a point to “thank particularly the private sector operators that we’ve been working closely with”. He also mentioned the hundreds of millions of dollars of public money his government has spent on cyber-security, including on the private sector.
What role has the private sector played in establishing the facts and the messaging? How closely exactly are these private firms working with Australian government agencies on matters of national security? We will probably never be informed; Morrison will probably not choose to “raise our awareness” on this matter. But it is very interesting indeed that the private sector has been somehow involved in the discovery and communication of this supposedly news-worthy cyber-attack. However, we are unlikely to see the headline “Private cyber-security firms encourage more spending on cyber-security.”
The following articles were published by The Guardian, newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia, in its issue #1921 of June 29, 2020.
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