NO MORE PRESIDENTS

This article first appeared in The Anvil Vol 9 No 5, published on 31/10/2020.

Credit: Washington Monthly

As we go to press, the US Presidential election is fast approaching. Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, is further ahead in the polls than Hillary Clinton was four years ago and his lead is pretty stable. Trump can only win by either a massive last-minute shift in opinion or by undemocratic means. These could include the Electoral College, semi-legal methods of voter suppression or an outright illegal refusal to count postal votes. So many conventions of US politics have been broken in recent years that we hesitate to rule out any scenario as impossible. There is even discussion about whether Trump would be prepared to recognise an election in which he was defeated.

With our limited resources, picking a winner would be a mug’s game, so we will reflect on the meaning of the election and the point at which US society finds itself. The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group believes it is impossible to hold executive office in the capitalist state on a principled basis. Being President of the USA involves being Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful imperialist military, maintaining a deadly repressive domestic and foreign security apparatus and administering myriad unjust laws. You could institute the world’s most thorough reform program, but you’d still be committing crimes 24 hours a day. It is impossible to ever support any candidate for US President, even one whom it might be permissible to support for election to a legislative body.

Donald Trump was elected in 2016 because five decades of neoliberalism had produced the worst inequality in the US in over a century. Far from reversing inequality, Trump has aggravated it and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated even further the transfer of wealth to the very richest. Simultaneously, Trump is incrementally abolishing the checks and balances within capitalist democracy that protect it from open dictatorship. Meanwhile, Joe Biden is promising to be “a normal President” – i.e. to continue the same policies that created the conditions for Trump to be elected. Neither candidate offers anything to the working class.

The current situation is unsustainable. The balance of power between capitalists and workers is so uneven that US inequality will increase until the working class revolts and builds powerful new organisations. Until then, the sectors of the population who have a stake in the system will progressively reduce. The political centre will continue to dissolve. Society will polarise into Left and Right and, at some point, a showdown will occur.

What should Anarchists do?

The task of Anarchists in the United States is to build the struggle of the multi-racial, multicultural and gender diverse working class against poverty and against racism, sexism and all other oppressons. If Biden wins, the growing Fascist movement in the US will react with great violence, though perhaps not immediately. If Trump wins, his re-election will be greeted with rage by a growing grassroots movement that already rejects US institutions as illegitimate. The need for revolutionary struggle will be more obvious.

In either case, it is by building working class struggle that the threat of Fascism will be best addressed. Struggle against a re-elected Trump would be necessary as he accelerates the class polarisation of society and moves further towards dictatorship. Struggle against a President Biden would explode the poisonous identification of the Left with the Democratic Party that Republicans make and from which Fascists benefit.

The United States is headed for a crisis which, one way or another, will destroy it as the sole super-power. A vote for neither candidate would change that for the better. Only the working class can save the US from Fascism and war. And this can only be done by destroying the United States in a workers’ revolution.

NO TRUMP

NO WALL

NO USA AT ALL

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NO WAR ON CHINA!

This article first appeared in The Anvil Vol 9 No 4, published on 31 August 2020.

The capitalist media in Australia are full of news and opinion designed to create fear and suspicion of China and its so-called “communist” government. To advance this agenda, many real and alleged instances of bad behaviour by Beijing are cited. This is having the desired effect. Public opinion is shifting against China and giving the Liberal Government (aided and abetted by the Labor “Opposition”) more room to join the United States in its anti-China military manoeuvres.

And here is the link to the bigger picture. The United States has taken an increasingly anti-China stance in recent years because it is afraid of losing its global dominance. The US remains the single most powerful country by a long way, despite receding from its overwhelming superiority in the 1950s and facing a declining position in recent decades. The USSR collapsed in 1991. Other potential imperialist rivals rose to a threatening position, but their challenges faded away.

The great size of the US, its control of world institutions, its multi-national corporations and its massive rent from intellectual property forced first Germany, then Japan and finally the European Union to concede a subordinate position. Germany and Japan, being substantially smaller in population and stuck on a lower GDP per capita figure, have no prospect of overtaking the US. The EU, though a promising project which had the necessary scale to compete with the US, has fallen victim to intractable conflicts between its constituent capitalist classes.

China is a different kettle of fish. With a population more than four times that of the US, it can surpass the United States without becoming as rich. Even if its GDP per capita hits a ceiling of half that of the US, China’s total GDP would be more than double the US. Apart from exerting a stronger economic influence on the world economy than the US, it could build a stronger military with a lower share of GDP devoted to paying for it. The advantages which enabled the US to defeat previous challengers may not be enough to prevent this scenario.

This prospect is, of course, intolerable to the US capitalists. As a result, they have united against China. While US Congress is bitterly divided under the Trump regime and is stalemated on virtually every other question, the Democrats and Republicans have repeatedly combined to pass anti-China resolutions almost unanimously. This is not just one of Trump’s solo frolics.

It is necessary to step back and take in the entire international picture. In order to preserve its global dominance, US imperialists are attempting to prevent China becoming a developed country and its people acquiring the standard of living that goes with that. To force China deliberately to stay underdeveloped, and so to keep the bulk of its people in poverty, would be a crime of staggering proportions. It is an objective which would probably require war. All the actions of the US and Australia, as well as the actions of China, have to be examined from this perspective.


USS Carl Vinson, flagship of Carrier Strike Group 1 of the US Navy Third Fleet, a key instrument of US imperialism in the Pacific Ocean (Credit: US Navy via Wikipedia)*

Complaints from Australian politicians and in the media about China’s behaviour have mostly fallen into two categories: complaints about genuinely poor behaviour by the Beijing Stalinists, and complaints about their violation of the rules-based international order. The repression of the Uighurs and the Tibetans have to be Beijing’s worst crimes. In both cases Beijing is swamping the local population with ethnic Han migrants who have immense privileges and establish dominant economic positions. In the case of the Uighurs, the repression amounts to an attempted cultural genocide. A somewhat lesser crime, though a total disgrace in itself, is the suppression of civil liberties in Hong Kong. Beijing’s violation of the “one country, two systems” agreement isn’t designed to integrate Hong Kong into the People’s Republic, but to give Hong Kong the worst of both worlds – to combine Beijing’s political tyranny with a billionaires’ free market paradise. In the process, of course, they are blowing away any chance of a voluntary reunification with Taiwan, the province which the Kuomintang dictatorship retained in 1949 and which has subsequently had its own political evolution.

Beijing’s violations of the rules-based international order are more complex. This order didn’t arise in a vacuum. It expresses the institutionalised power of the United States, both in its rules and its mechanisms for enforcement. It is particularly galling to see the US complaining that China is violating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea with its fortifications in the South China Sea, given that the US is one of only a handful of States that have refused to sign, let alone ratify, it. China’s alleged theft of intellectual property is no crime at all. Property is theft and intellectual property is perhaps the worst kind of theft, since it is the legal protection of an unnatural monopoly that impoverishes the world so that capitalists can collect rent. Finally, although many of China’s alleged cyber-attacks are genuinely objectionable, we need to consider what we’re not being told. Anyone who thinks the United States isn’t doing the same, or worse, to China is so naive they should never buy a used car. Beijing just keeps quiet about it all so that the US doesn’t find out how much Beijing knows.

Certain complaints from the Australian media, though, have revealed the real agenda. China’s Belt and Road initiative has been attracting many beefs from capitalist politicians and pundits, with very thin justifications. And recently Australian media published objections to China’s aid to South Pacific countries to fight the coronavirus. What they’re complaining about is not China’s misbehaviour, but China’s development and growing international prominence.


China (Credit: ChinaTravelGuide.com)*

What should Anarchists do?

The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group believes that the US objective of preventing the development of China is indefensible. Anarchists oppose the US war drive and the anti-China campaign of which it is part. In Australia, the media are demonising Chinese capitalists for being Chinese rather than for being capitalists and Anarchists must oppose this. And crucially, we fight the Australian Government’s participation in US provocations against China such as their military exercises in the South China Sea.

There is more. Unlike Stalinists (and certain Trotskyists), we don’t manufacture excuses for the crimes of the Chinese so-called “Communist” Party. The MACG takes the side of the Uighur and Tibetan peoples in China who are struggling against Beijing’s national chauvinist repression and the people of Hong Kong struggling against political tyranny. We point out, though, that their only road to liberation is to ally with the Chinese working class. Appealing to US imperialism is worse than useless. This would only support the US war drive against China and invite their own destruction in the process.

The Chinese working class are the primary victims of the Chinese so-called “Communist” Party and have the most to gain from its overthrow. Their liberation requires an iron commitment to democratic rights and the rights of national minorities. Only the Chinese workers have the ability to defeat the “Communist” Party – and only they have the right to say what succeeds them.

As Anarchists, we argue for workers’ revolution across the world and take as our primary duty the fight against the capitalists where we live. Here in Australia, we must fight against the Australian Goverment’s military alliance with the US, including the ANZUS Treaty, the 5 Eyes intelligence group and the spy base at Pine Gap. And we must fight to build a labour movement that can link up with the working class across the region to make revolution against both the capitalists and the Chinese so-called “Communist” Party. There is no other way.

FOR WORKERS REVOLUTION

* Note: Pictures slightly modified to reproduce better in black & white.

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CHOCOLATE FISH, RED HERRINGS & BILLIONAIRES

This article is republished by agreement from the blog of the Aotearoa* Workers Solidarity Movement. We think they’re AWSM:

CHOCOLATE FISH, RED HERRINGS AND BILLIONAIRES

The rich become that way because they work hard to provide the everyday things that our nation needs. So runs the story that underpins the economic system we live under. It’s something that is so taken for granted, it often goes uncommented upon. It seems as natural and obvious as sun in summer or chocolate fish tasting like chocolate rather than fish. Other times you will see the corporate media actively propagating this idea somewhere in the business section of your paper. By the way, that’s the bit you often skip over to get to the crossword at the back, in case you weren’t sure what that was. Overall, it feels like there’s not much to be said about it, right? Wrong.

The National Business Review (https://www.nbr.co.nz/) is one of the key information organs of those who run capitalism here. It’s worth reading now and then. It tells you what our masters think is important. The NBR publishes an annual list of the local richest individuals. At present the top person on that list is Graeme Hart, with a fortune of approximately $10 billion. However, the news of the moment is that he may be eclipsed by somebody called Peter Thiel. If you know who he is, that’s great, but chances are most of us don’t. Stop and think about that for a second. Here is nearly the richest individual on these islands and you probably don’t know his name, what exactly he does or what he looks like.

So who is Thiel? He was born in Germany but mostly grew up in the United States and was living in California when he first came to attention here. That’s because it was discovered in 2017 that he had been granted fast-tracked New Zealand citizenship in 2011 despite only having spent 12 days here! (https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11883554). The reason was not that he had escaped a war torn country and desperately needed asylum, but simply he had put lots of money into some businesses here.

There are some aspects of his investment history that (if you wanted to be very generous), you could argue have been relatively benign and possibly even useful, such as PayPal. In other cases he got in on the ground floor of things and did well for himself, such as an early stake in Facebook. On the other hand, there are some downright dodgy aspects to how he accumulated his wealth.

In 2004 Thiel co-founded an outfit called Palantir. This is a software company that could best be described as handmaidens to the totalitarian surveillance society. That’s because they work closely with an alphabet soup of nice organisations like the CIA, NSA, ICE and the FBI to mine huge amounts of online data from electronic surveillance. As for a connection to local spies, according to media sources here, the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) will neither confirm or deny if they are clients of Palantir. However, they have an office in Wellington and the GCSB have advertised for staff that know Palantir’s software. That’s about as close to a smoking gun as you can get! Other research has exposed that the NZ Defence Force has spent millions of dollars with Palantir (Daily Post 9/7/20). At this point it’s not exactly clear how much of Palantir Thiel owns, but part of the reason he may overtake Hart as the richest person here is that there is talk of listing the company on the stock exchange.

Thiel was also an early financial backer of Clearview AI. This is a company involved in facial recognition technology. It can match faces to billions of images scraped from the internet.
Clearview AI has been controversial since its inception due to its links to neo-Nazis, data leaks, lawsuits, questions about its accuracy, bans and strong opposition from various organisations. The American Civil Liberties Union, for example, labelled its technology a “dangerous and untested surveillance product”. Interest locally comes from the fact that the police here contacted the company and conducted an unauthorised trial of the technology earlier this year (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/416483/police-trialled-facial-recognition-tech-without-clearance).

Apart from his delightful business involvements, Thiel has also taken an active interest in the formal political arena. He has long been a supporter of the Republican Party in the USA and contributed financially to a range of conservative and right-wing activists and politicians from Ann Coulter, Ron Paul, Ted Cruz and Trump. What he has done in this regard in Aotearoa is not known.

So that’s the soon-to-be richest person here.

What does Thiel’s biography tell us about how things really are? Firstly, in 2020 you don’t actually have to make tangible, useful stuff that exists in the real world like tables or bread, in order to be mega-rich. Secondly, despite rhetorical claims to be interested in social ‘freedom’ and the economic ‘free-market’, business and government often work together to control those who actually do produce real stuff, that is, the vast majority of us. Surveillance technology is only the latest in a long line of tools used to keep us under the thumb of the rich and powerful. Thirdly, the behaviour of our rulers gives the lie to their own myths. They want us to believe that being born or living long-term in a particular geographical space separates those people from others elsewhere. There’s a nation called New Zealand, ‘we’ are Kiwis and ‘they’ aren’t. It’s a useful way to divide and rule. Clearly however, if you can spend less than a fortnight in that place and magically be included among ‘the nation’ on the basis of having lots of money, it shows the whole thing to be the nonsense that it is.

It could be argued that Thiel is just one guy, that not everyone among the ruling class likes him and that he has provided money that has helped provide people with jobs. Well, obviously he is an individual and yes, sometimes there is contestation and squabbling among differing factions among our rulers. The indisputable truth is, however, that if the economic and political system had a fundamental problem with an individual like him, he wouldn’t be in the position he is in. As for the money he has, this has come from the collective efforts of other people, since no single person could literally do everything him/herself. The jobs this money has in turn created are either not really conducive to social freedom or in the few cases that they are, could be arrived at without the intervention of a billionaire autocrat.

We read about the amazing feats of the rich and powerful and are encouraged to accept them. Their existence is seen as natural and beneficial. Thiel’s story shows we don’t need to buy into this and shouldn’t, whether you like chocolate fish or not.

* If you don’t know where Aotearoa is, remember that settlers call it “New Zealand”. But Aotearoa is the name given by the people who were there first.

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JUSTICE FOR GEORGE FLOYD

This article first appeared in The Anvil Vol 9 No 3, published on 7 June 2020.


Adam Berry/Getty Images

The United States is aflame with rage over the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May. A cop who had arrested him over a minor crime knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, killing him. Starting in Minneapolis, demonstrations have spread nationwide, often linking up with local grievances against police violence and racism.

George Floyd’s murder didn’t come out of the blue. Police in Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs, like many others in the US, are key instruments for the violent imposition of the racist social order that enables capitalism. Their anti-Black racism is infamous, inflicting countless daily humiliations and injustices. Even in the last few years, it resulted in the murder of Jamar Clark in 2015 and Philando Castile in 2016. Both previous cases provoked angry mobilisations, but the murderers of Clark were never charged and the cop who killed Castile was acquitted. Minneapolis police have enjoyed impunity when they kill a Black man, while the quick arrest and conviction in 2017 of a Black Minneapolis cop for the murder of Justine Damond, a White woman, stands in stark contrast.

Protests began in Minneapolis the day after the murder and gradually escalated as the news, including videos taken by witnesses, spread. As well as growing, they got angrier. People reflected on the injustice of it, considered how it could have been them – or it could well be next time – and remembered the failure of the capitalist law either to hold police murderers responsible or to prevent subsequent murders. The increasingly violent police response to the demonstrations provoked growing resistance amongst Black people in Minneapolis and their supporters. The highlight of the resistance so far has been the capture of the 3rd Precinct Police Station, which was torched after the cops evacuated it.

By the weekend of 30 and 31 May, demonstrations had spread to hundreds of cities across the United States. A number of them were quite militant. Police tactics varied considerably, all the way from symbolic solidarity with the demonstrators to unprovoked attacks on peaceful assemblies or even passers-by, journalists or people observing from the front porch of their own homes. At some demonstrations, police did both in quick succession. In Minneapolis, police were bent on revenge for losing their station. In Washington on Monday, Trump announced he was calling in the military. As this article was being written, demonstrations were ongoing and the situation was still in flux.

Police violence in the US and the community rage against it cannot be divorced from the economic situation. Black people, economically segregated into low income ghettos, suffer disproportionately from unemployment, precarious employment and poverty wages. The coronavirus pandemic has caused mass unemployment in the US, far more than Australia (unemployment hit 14.7% in April there and will go higher in May). Further, the economic response to the pandemic has concentrated on aid to corporations, not households. And the pandemic itself has killed mainly Black and other minority people in the US. When universal moral outrage meets a generalised economic grievance, a social explosion is the result. The murder of George Floyd provoked the outrage, but the coronavirus crash provided the grievance.


newsreaderweb.com

Here in Australia, Aboriginal people have similar stories of police violence and racism. The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody reported in 1987, but governments since then have cherry-picked the recommendations, ignoring the most important. And deaths have continued. Joyce Clarke was shot by cops last year. So was Kumanjayi Walker. Cameron Doomadgee was bashed to death in 2004. Tanya Day died in Castlemaine Police Station last year while in “protective custody”. David Dungay was asphyxiated in gaol in 2015. His last words were “I can’t breathe.” These, as well as Ms Dhu, Mr Ward, Wayne Fella Morrison and more are the result of the need to protect a capitalist system built on genocide and dispossession. Australia, like the United States, is a crime scene.

The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group believes it is the duty of Anarchists everywhere to join demonstrations against police brutality and racism that are arranged locally and to help the affected communities defend themselves against police violence. And the affected communities have the primary role in determining the issues and deciding the demands. In Australia, this means supporting indigenous organisations engaged in struggle over deaths in custody. It is not the proper role of Anarchists to initiate violence at rallies on these issues, but instead to do everything in our power to ensure that, when the police start it, they lose. Collectively, these thugs in blue need to be taught a lesson. Individually, they need to be convinced to get honest jobs.

More, though, needs to be said. While demonstrations against racist police murder are totally justified, and their militant defence against police attack is necessary, they are insufficient. We need a more effective way of striking back than to pit our bodies against their tear gas, capsicum spray, riot gear and armoured vehicles. If this is the limit of our tactics, we will eventually be driven off the streets by the weight of overwhelming violence. There is another way.

Bus drivers in Minneapolis and New York have refused to transport police to demonstrations or to transport arrested demonstrators to police stations. The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers issued a statement condemning the murder of George Floyd, as has the Atwood Centre, which organises Amazon warehouse workers locally. These actions are the tip of the iceberg of workers’ power: the ability of workers to take action in the workplace that cuts off the flow of profits or directly deprives police of the ability to use murderous violence. This needs to be built on.

The most effective response to racist cop terror is the action of organised workers. Murder by police should be responded to by a one-day general strike by all workers in the city concerned, organised through their local labour council (the day of the funeral would be an obvious occasion). All unions should have standing policies of non-cooperation with the police at demonstrations and the supply of tear gas, capsicum spray and other instruments of chemical warfare should be banned when police are engaged in violent suppression of a protest movement. And lastly, all police “unions” should be kicked out of the labour movement.

Why should workers do this? It’s not just because it’s morally right. The fight against racism is also in the clear material interests of the working class. To be able to win even the simplest bread and butter issue, workers need solidarity. The working class needs to be able to unite. Racism, though, is the number one weapon the capitalists use to divide the working class. White workers in the US might have relative privilege over Black workers, but racism has weakened working class organisation so much that real wages are virtually unchanged since the 1970s. The racism of white workers benefits the bosses, not themselves.

To achieve a principled stand against police violence, battle needs to be waged against the craven bureaucrats who preside over the current labour movement. In the US, they are a subordinate part of the Democratic Party, while here in Australia, they are the key backers of the Labor Party. In both countries they have, for most practical purposes, given up the use of the strike. Instead they have waged ever more pathetic and unsuccessful campaigns via other means. Their poisonous politics of class collaboration have resulted in decades of job destruction, erosion of conditions and, now, wage cuts. They are no more fit to win on bread and butter issues than they are to fight against racism.

The main task of Anarchists, therefore, is the same as always. We need to build rank and file organisation in the workplace and turn the union movement into fighting organisations. While our duty at the moment is to join the front lines defending indigenous people here and Black communities in the US, we must remain aware that our victory can only be achieved on another field. The fight against racism can only be won in the workplace. And the fight against racism will only be won when the working class make a revolution against capitalism.

STRIKE AGAINST POLICE VIOLENCE
STRIKE FOR A WORLD WITHOUT POLICE

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MAY DAY 2020

Origins

In 1886, workers in Chicago in the US kicked off a campaign to win the eight hour day, starting with a strike on 1 May. Police started breaking up a peaceful workers’ demonstration, then an unknown person threw a bomb. Seven police and at least four workers died from the explosion and the following gunfight. A kangaroo court convicted eight Anarchist union organisers, without any evidence of guilt being presented. Four were hung, one committed suicide and two later had death sentences commuted. In the campaign to defend them, International Workers’ Day was born.

Back to the Future

The labour movement, just getting started in 1886, grew to a massive size and strength over the following decades. Despite massive internal conflict over political philosophy, it made revolutions in several countries and won great reforms in many others. Inequalities were greatly ameliorated in industrialised countries and many developing countries. The revolutions, though, were defeated – some by the capitalists and some by tyrants who claimed to rule in the name of the workers. And then the capitalists went on the offensive again, taking advantage of new technology to integrate world markets and pit the new workforces of the Third World against the labour movements of developed countries. Today, inequality has widened again to levels last seen in the 19th Century.

Coronavirus

The novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, has caused a global health emergency. The economic emergency that has accompanied it, though, is caused by capitalism. And this, in turn, aggravates the health emergency. Workers need wages to buy their daily necessities. Petty traders need their turnover to make ends meet. And capitalists need both workers and customers to make profits. When people stay home to stop the spread of the virus, the wheels of capitalism grind to a halt and the system falls into crisis. Some countries, like Australia, have a buffer that will last a while. Most others have none. In some countries, workers already have to choose between the possibility of infection and the certainty of starvation. Capitalism kills.

A New World

The struggle against the coronavirus pandemic is one that can only be won by an act of unprecedented human solidarity. Through that act the values of a new world can be born. But turning those values into reality requires the working class. Only the working class: global, multi-racial, multicultural and gender diverse, has the potential strength to uproot the power of capital at its source and steer a new course. We can start by defending health and safety for all workers and by fighting for adequate resources for the health care system. We can extend the struggle by defending civil liberties and opposing austerity. And we can culminate it with a revolution to overthrow capitalism and create libertarian communism, worldwide.

WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group

PO Box 5108 Brunswick North 3056
1 May 2020
https://www.melbacg.wordpress.com
macg1984 at yahoo dot com dot au

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ENDLESS WAR

The MACG’s annual Anzac Day statement for this year was published on 25 April 2020.

Gallipoli

Churchill had a bright idea in 1915 about helping Russia, Britain’s World War I ally: to secure a passage through the Dardanelles and knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war. A landing was staged at Gallipoli to advance the plan. It was a disaster, conceived without reference to the terrain and executed without regard to casualties. The British Empire and French forces suffered over 300,000 dead and wounded before going home with their tails between their legs. Ottoman casualties were 250,000. Overall, it was a sideshow in the great crime of World War I, where two imperial alliances clashed over colonies, resources and markets, killing millions in the process.

Australia’s Wars

Australian troops were central to Churchill’s botched strike on the Ottoman Empire. This is entirely in keeping with history, since they have been used since before Federation to strengthen the world order of the dominant imperialist power, in return for control in the South Pacific. All six colonies on this continent sent troops to fight in the Boer War. Australian troops fought on the side of imperialism, first British and then American, in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. In recent years, imperialist forces have massively out-gunned their enemies, thus needing fewer Australian troops and making Australian casualties rarer. The same cannot be said, though, for casualties amongst the subject populations. Because these wars are fought to defend a US empire that is no longer economically self-sustaining, they are never-ending.

Anzac Day in a Plague Year

The usual Anzac Day marches are cancelled this year, as well as mass participation in ceremonies across the country. The capitalist class in Australia has therefore been trying to find ways to mobilise popular participation in the annual wave of compulsory patriotism and militarism. This year, they have asked everyone to stand outside their home with a candle at dawn. It’s not yet possible to gauge what level of participation this has had, but we can confidently state that it will be enthusiastically boosted in mainstream media reports.

The Future

The US-dominated world order can only be maintained by endless war. Australia, a junior partner, has signed up to this to maintain its domination of the South Pacific and Timor L’Este. The situation would not be improved by allying with China or any other would-be hegemon, because that wouldn’t change the system. The working class needs to unite internationally and abolish capitalism. Only this can build the basis for a world of liberty, equality and solidarity, where war is no more and the nation state has been abolished. We can have a new world of libertarian communism.

END AUSTRALIAN MILITARISM
ABOLISH ANZAC DAY

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group

http://www.melbacg.wordpress.com
macg1984 at yahoo dot com dot au
PO Box 5108 Brunswick North 3056
25 April 2020

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THE PLAGUE

This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 9 No 2, published on 10th April 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic started in a market in Wuhan late last year. It grew into a crisis through bureaucratic suppression of bad news by local “Communist” Party authorities. It has now become a global catastrophe because of haphazard and often complacent reactions by capitalist governments. So far, there is no vaccine to prevent it and no treatment that can cure it. The best that doctors can do is treat the symptoms and hope the body of the patient fights it off.

This would be bad enough even in a libertarian communist society, but capitalism makes it so much worse. What needs to happen? As any epidemiologist could tell you, in the absence of a vaccine, you test as many people as possible, isolate the people infected and trace their contacts. At the same time you cut off the path of infection by practising good hygiene and reducing the number of people that each person contacts.

Here in Australia, the Federal Government is trying hard (thus distinguishing itself from the United States, where Donald Trump has blown hot and cold on the issue), but won’t go all out because of the consequences for business. So we get very strict rules about movement of individual people and physical distancing, but they go out of the window when they interfere with the operations of employers.

As this article is being written, new Australian cases of COVID-19 are decreasing and it looks as if the spread of the disease is slowing in the most heavily hit countries of Europe. It is rampaging through the United States and is just getting started in most Third World countries – where it threatens to kill a hundred times more people than it has so far.

In Australia, you can’t have more than a hundred people in the same indoor space – unless it’s a worksite. Pubs, clubs and restaurants are closed down, even small ones – but building sites go full steam ahead. You mustn’t sit in a park with a friend or two – but any retail shop can stay open serving up to a hundred customers at a time, provided there’s 4 square metres a person.

The glaring contradiction became obvious when six Qantas baggage handlers tested positive to COVID-19 on 31 March. People don’t become immune to the virus just because they’re at work, so any work people do away from home brings a risk of infection. This can only be justified if the work is essential to the functioning of society. Instead, Scott Morrison says “every job is an essential job”. Many people who should be paid to stay home and prevent the spread of the virus are instead going to work to keep the capitalists in business.

Anarchism in a Pandemic

People with little or no knowledge of Anarchism might think the coronavirus pandemic provides a refutation of our philosophy. After all, having people just decide individually what to do would lead both to hoarding and to no effective action against transmission of the virus. This, however, would not be Anarchism but capitalist individualism.

An Anarchist society could fight the pandemic more effectively than capitalist ones. We wouldn’t have to worry about the viability of business, so we could close down all non-essential activities. Construction, for example, could be put on care and maintenance. Production of luxuries or other low priority goods could be ceased, letting workers go home, turn their plant to medical equipment and supplies as required, or reinforce the supply chain of necessities. And a panel of medical experts, elected in each region and given parameters by the affected communities, would hold the necessary authority to set health guidelines.

How would these guidelines be enforced? How would we achieve the physical distancing so important to preventing transmission? We’d do it the same way we would handle enforcement of any of our laws, whether that be concerning serious crime, anti-social activity or anything in between.

While this is not the place for a detailed discussion of an Anarchist criminal justice system, we can say a few things. In the first place, we’d have community discussion and persuasion, acting through reason and social solidarity. When it comes to recalcitrants (we’re not so naive as to think they won’t exist), communities will defend themselves. Rather than having a standing police force though, we could roster volunteers from the widest sections of the community (noting a pandemic might necessitate a considerably larger roster for the duration of the emergency). Importantly, the volunteers would not have powers above and beyond those of citizens generally. And, since there will be no prisons because we will refuse to be gaolers, in the last resort recalcitrants could be exiled to a comfortable island.

The Capitalist State in a Pandemic

By contrast, governments in Australia have become increasingly authoritarian. The New South Wales and Victorian Governments have laid down the toughest restrictions, banning many activities that couldn’t possibly spread the virus. Instead, they draw the line where cops can easily enforce it. Armed with arbitrary powers and a wide area of discretion, they are spreading fear and enforcing social conformity. Indigenous and immigrant youth are only too familiar with “discretion” in the hands of racist cops. They are highly likely to undermine the social solidarity needed to keep up the regime of physical distancing for the period of at least six months which will be necessary.

There is another dimension to the actions of the capitalist State, though. Under the hammer blows of necessity, the Coalition has abandoned the dictates of neo-liberalism and introduced policies it scoffed at only three months ago. They doubled the unemployment benefit. They introduced free child care. They banned evictions. They introduced a flat rate wage subsidy (the Jobkeeper Payment) at about the minimum full time wage. And there’s more to come. Of course, Scott Morrison is boldly saying everything will “snap back” to pre-pandemic levels when the crisis is over, but that’s a lot easier said than done. Class struggle will determine the results.

In a telling development, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has spent the last month handing out waivers to competition rules, so that companies can co-operate to improve the supply chain for necessities and increase production of medical equipment. Think about it.

None of this makes for a workers’ paradise, however. The measures taken are full of gaps and injustices because they are aimed firstly at keeping capitalism functioning under emergency conditions and secondly at preventing widespread industrial action by the working class. So free child care excludes centres run by local councils. The Jobseeker Payment excludes people on disability pensions. There’s no rent relief yet for residential tenants. And neither workers on temporary visas nor casuals with under twelve months seniority get the Jobkeeper Payment. Government reforms are about capitalist stability first and daylight second. Justice doesn’t get a look-in.

The Struggle Needed

Three areas of struggle are necessary immediately. Firstly, industries not essential during the pandemic need to be closed – for the good of the workers involved and the population generally. Importantly, the entire construction industry should be put on care and maintenance. Building workers need to be paid to stay home and not spread the virus. Secondly, workers in essential industries need to take action to defend their health and safety and to institute fair rationing systems where hoarding has distorted supply chains. And thirdly, the whole working class needs to support those locked out of the Jobkeeper Payment. This is especially crucial for workers on visas, who are being left destitute. They will be under pressure to accept cash jobs that ignore physical distancing, thus spreading the virus to the detriment of all.

The union bureaucracy is in the road. The ACTU, having asked the Government to extend the Jobkeeper Payment to the whole workforce, has received a slap in the face for its troubles. But it’s not proposing to fight back. The CFMMEU officials, disgracefully, aren’t calling for building workers to be paid to stay home. And officials of the SDA, which covers supermarket workers, are so committed to class treason that their organisation doesn’t deserve to be called a union.

The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group calls on Anarchists to start rank and file groups in the unions to fight for a workers’ response to the coronavirus pandemic. Workers need to use workplace power to force the closure of non-essential industries, adequate protection of health and safety and the provision of a living income for all. If a groundswell for these demands gains strength, the officials will have either to give in to the rank and file, or be swept aside.

In the course of this struggle over immediate issues, workers will raise broader demands, both about the management of the pandemic (e.g. civil liberties) and the sort of society we want afterwards. And it is in the context of this struggle that we can begin to win the argument for Anarchist Communism and to build the movement for a workers’ revolution that can create it.

FROM EACH ACCORDING TO THEIR ABILITY

TO EACH ACCORDING TO THEIR NEED

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WHY CLASS STRUGGLE?

This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 9 No 1, published on 28th February 2020.

It’s not uncommon for contemporary Anarchists to say “class struggle is outmoded and isn’t how to make a revolution these days” or “the working class is so sexist and racist that we have to turn to radical struggles outside the workplace to get anywhere”. The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group disagrees. We think these views are based on a mistaken idea of who the working class are and a lack of understanding of who has the power in our society.

The Working Class

The capitalist media have a sociological view of class. Their perspective is that the working class is composed of people in blue collar occupations, or people on low incomes. Often, they draw an even worse picture – they portray the working class as a group of straight white men in blue overalls. This suits the interests of the middle class liberals who conceive of themselves as the bearers of social progress and also the reactionary Right who have the same picture of working class people as the liberals, but claim to be on the side of the workers.

But class is not about social stratification. It’s about how society is organised economically. If you work for a wage or a salary, you don’t have the right to hire or fire and you don’t exercise the power of the State like a police officer or a magistrate, you’re working class. More broadly, you are working class if you have nothing to sell but your labour and you don’t exercise the power of the capitalist class. Class is a matter of what side your bread is buttered on.

Looked at this way, at least 80% of people in Australia are working class. And, far from being composed purely of straight white males, the working class is multi-racial, multicultural and gender diverse. Almost all migrant communities in Australia, particularly those recently arrived, are overwhelmingly working class. Many people popularly regarded as middle class are, in fact, working class. Teachers and nurses, for example, are working class – something proven by the fact that they have joined unions in droves and gone on strike for their rights.

The middle class, by contrast, is composed of two groups, both being the meat in the sandwich between the working class and the capitalists.

The first group of the middle class is made up of self-employed people who run their own business and work beside any employees they have; the second is middle managers who have the power to hire and fire their subordinates but don’t exercise significant power inside their organisation. Altogether, the middle class is a pretty small group, especially when you remove sham contractors who are only technically self employed in order that their bosses can get around labour laws. It should also be noted that, historically, the most politically conservative sector of the workforce is composed of self-employed people in blue collar occupations – people who aren’t workers but are often regarded as such by the capitalist media.

The Power of the Workplace

Anarchist Communists advocate a class struggle perspective because the power of the capitalists derives from their control of production in each workplace. The most effective way to defeat the capitalists is for workers to organise to and take the means of production off the bosses and wield its power themselves.

Of course this doesn’t mean that forms of oppression outside the workplace are unimportant. We recognise that Australia is built on stolen land and that the Aboriginal people have never ceded their sovereignty. We recognise that racism, sexism, Islamophobia and homophobia are forms of oppression which can be more intense than that suffered by workers in the workplace. These forms of oppression are the product of class society. Various forms of struggle can reduce those oppressions, but they cannot be eliminated without abolishing capitalism – and that requires the workers taking the workplace away from the capitalists.

This also doesn’t mean that Anarchist Communists idolise workers as people whose opinions and actions are always left wing. We are well aware that reactionary politics has its dirty grip on wide sections of society, including the working class. If that wasn’t so we would have had the revolution a century ago. Instead, the consciousness of workers is contradictory. It will be when they are struggling for their own interests that they will come to see that racism, sexism and all other forms of special oppression are not only morally wrong but also a practical impediment to their victory. Class struggle drives workers to the left.

The Way Forward

The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group advocates that Anarchists should orient their strategies to the workplace.

Other areas of struggle are also vital. People can and should struggle against oppression wherever they find it and struggle outside the workplace can win reforms and radicalise people. But unless we take the workplaces off the capitalists we’ll never beat them. Our victories will be partial and reversible. Our struggles outside the workplace should also be directed towards building a force that can take its politics inside it. Only the multi-racial, multicultural and gender diverse working class can rid the world of capitalism.

WORKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

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AFTER THE FIRES

This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 9 No 1, published on 28th February 2020.

The disastrous bushfires in eastern Australia are now out, but not before over 18.7 million hectares were burnt and 34 people killed. Sydney, Australia’s largest city, was blanketed in smoke for over a month, while numerous other cities and towns suffered similar conditions. And, despite recent rain, most areas are still susceptible – the bushfire season lasts until March at least and one dry month could start things up again almost anywhere except along the coast.

Political debate around the bushfires has been out of the Government’s control for months. They lost it when Scott Morrison was found to be on a secret holiday to Hawaii at the time two volunteer firefighters were killed, but it probably only dawned on Morrison how badly things were going for him when he tried a PR appearance in a town recently hit by fire and couldn’t find anyone willing to shake his hand.

For quite some time, there has been a large majority in Australia in favour of treating climate change seriously and taking effective action, but their strength of conviction was lacking. Other issues took precedence and public concern wasn’t enough to drive the denialists from their dominant position in the Government. All this has now changed.

Opinion polls confirm what public debate has suggested. The environment is now the biggest issue in the public mind in Australia and the demand for action is growing. The Government has had to change its position. It has silenced open deniers and has taken to stating frequently that climate change is real and needs to be stopped. Its defence now revolves around saying that its existing policies are adequate to meet the challenge. This is a lie just as much as denial is, but it has the virtue of being just plausible enough that supporters of the Government can pretend to believe it.

Beyond the Government’s official position, things have moved. Sections of the Liberal Party want to take more serious action. The National Party is having a civil war: one faction thinks the defence of coal needs to be done aggressively, while the other thinks that’s too risky. Meanwhile, Labor has announced a commitment to zero net emissions by 2050 and the Greens have a new leader who is communicating their existing policies more assertively.
None of this, of course, amounts to a solution. To the extent that the Liberals’ new stance is not just PR cover for the same old same old, it’s too little, too late. Labor is fundamentally handicapped by the craven capitulation to pressure that’s in its DNA. And the Greens suffer under the delusion that a just and sustainable capitalism is possible.

What needs to be done

Right now we have improved prospects of translating propaganda into action. The next global School Strike for Climate needs to be many times bigger than last September’s and it needs to have the social weight of the unions. The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group advocates that workers form rank and file groups in their unions to push for turning the School Strike into a workers’ strike for a Just Transition to a zero carbon society. In these rank and file groups, Anarchists will argue that the capitalist class is so invested in its sunk costs in fossil fuels that any realistic transition requires the abolition of capitalism. It’s possible to imagine a capitalism based on renewable energy, but the existing capitalist class will fight tooth and nail to protect their investments.

Only the power of the working class can beat the capitalists who would see the world burn before surrendering their fortunes. To prevent catastrophic climate change, we need a revolution. Bringing the unions into the School Strike for Climate movement is a necessary step on that road.

STRIKE FOR A SAFE CLIMATE

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SOUTH AMERICA ON FIRE

This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 8 No 6, published on 22nd December 2019.

Across South America, the class struggle is raging at an intensity that Australia has rarely seen. Both Right and Left are on the offensive in different countries and it is the political centre which is falling away.

Bolivia has just experienced a military coup with clear participation of Fascists and with at least some orchestration from within the United States. The coup regime has issued an arrest warrant for former President Evo Morales, under the pretext of terrorism and sedition, but transparently for the real reason of being Evo Morales.

In Brazil, the Fascist Jair Bolsonaro was elected by technically democratic means, but he is engaged in murderous repression and is attacking the institutions of capitalist democracy from within. Bolsonaro is not getting it all his own way, though, and there has been sporadic large scale struggle against him.

In Argentina, the Right has just been ejected from office by the Centre-Left, but inflation is high and mass struggles continue. In Colombia, a recent general strike suffered widespread repression which has nevertheless failed to squash the movement. This should surprise no-one, because ever since the peace deal disarming the guerillas of FARC, the oligarchy has been able to engage in murderous repression of the social movement, unconstrained by prospects of reprisal.

The Right is also on the offensive in Venezuela and has been for some years. President Nicolas Maduro, successor to Hugo Chavez, is a bumbling authoritarian who has no idea how to defeat the militant Right, which is financed and in large measure directed by the United States. He narrows the Chavista base by counter-productive measures and an inability to dodge the crippling US sanctions. Opposition to him from the Left is needed, but an opposition which is also aimed clearly against the Right. Meanwhile, in Ecuador, the ironically named Lenin Moreno has switched sides, allied with the United States and largely adopted the policies of the Right. A massive campaign of strikes and demonstrations in October caused him to abandon a set of drastic austerity measures.

It is Chile, however, which is ground zero and where the struggle has advanced the furthest. The working class and student movements in Chile have waged frequent immense struggles in recent years, concentrating mainly on immediate issues but with an undercurrent of rejection of the political system. This undercurrent burst out into the open when the entire country rose up from 7 October against an attempt by the Right wing government to increase public transport fares. No sooner had strikes and demonstrations begun than a slogan emerged that took the struggle to a new level: “It’s not the thirty pesos, it’s the thirty years.” The entire framework set up by General Pinochet is being rejected. Though the students have been the most militant, the power of the working class has been the most effective. Support for Right wing President Sebastian Pinera has totally collapsed and not even cutting a deal with the parties of the Left (including the so-called “Communist” Party) for a Constitutional Convention has enabled him to re-stabilise things. Militant demonstrations continue.

What needs to be done to drive the struggle onwards? How can the Right be beaten? The answer is twofold. Firstly, Anarchists in South America should organise themselves in federations of revolutionary Anarchist Communists – a tendency which there goes by the name of Especifismo. This is, to an extent, happening. The Federation Anarchista Santiago is active in Chile and is strongly participating in the struggle there. In addition, Especifismo groups in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil have recently announced the re-launching of CALA, the Latin American Anarchist Co-ordination. This is an immensely positive development, showing the way for Anarchists to participate in the struggles on that continent in a positive way. The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group calls on Anarchists across South America to flock to their banners or to form similar Especifismo groups so that the effectiveness of Anarchist organisation can grow by the orders of magnitude demanded by the struggle.

The other thing that needs to happen is the formation, in Chile and other countries where the struggle has reached the necessary level, of mass organs of workers’ democracy. The old reformist organisations of the working class are simply inadequate to the current crisis. New bodies are needed, transcending bureaucratic divisions, uniting broader layers of workers and establishing direct democracy in place of representation. These bodies will be based in the workplace, in order to establish the possibility of cutting off the power of capital at its source and wielding the vast power of the economy according to the will of the workers themselves.

Finally, it is necessary to recognise there is no conflict between these two tasks. Indeed, the first is a precondition of the second. Anarchists organised on the basis of Especifismo need to be propagandising ceaselessly, in Chile and wherever else it is practical, for workers to form mass organs of workers’ democracy. They must turn away from Parliamentary roads that can only lead to defeat and from political parties which seek power only for themselves, not the workers. Only the revolutionary abolition of capitalism can solve South America’s pressing crisis and only Anarchist Communism, Especifismo, can light the way to that revolution.

HASTA LA VICTORIA!

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