JUSTICE FOR GEORGE FLOYD?

George Floyd, the man who was killed by police officers in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Credit: Selfie, no credit

This article first appeared in The Anvil 10 No 2, published on 30 April 2021.

The recent trial and conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd was greeted much more with relief in the United States than with either joy or anger. Only the hardest line racists and supporters of the police were angry about the conviction, while only the most politically naive rejoiced.

Police in the US kill an average of over three people every day. The racism that pervades US policing and which dominates the United States as a whole ensures that killer cops are almost always allowed to walk. The system is biased in their favour at every step. They lie about the circumstances of the death. Superiors suppress evidence from reaching the public domain. Mass media largely report police press releases uncritically. Government officials support them almost every time. And even if the cop is charged and the case reaches court, the prosecution usually runs dead and the jury is stacked.

So how did this particular killer cop get convicted? Fundamentally, it was because of the vast social movement which has built up in the US against police brutality and which had adopted George Floyd’s case as its touchstone. Initial media reports of George Floyd’s death were based on a police press release saying he had died from a medical emergency while being arrested. It was only the circulation of the video by witnesses that exposed those lies and got Derek Chauvin convicted in the court of public opinion.

The ability of people to use their mobile phones to record videos of police actions now allows the capitalist media’s defence system to be broken through. Your average crime reporter is still a stenographer for the cops most of the time, but when video evidence generates community outrage, editors have to choose whether to cover it or ignore it. A cover-up becomes harder to maintain.

It was precisely because of the accumulated rage that was focused on the pressure point of Chauvin’s trial that a cover-up was not attempted there, either. Indeed, Chauvin couldn’t find a single serving Minneapolis Police Department copper to testify in his defence. The real defendant in the trial in Minneapolis was the State of Minnesota. Everybody in the US was watching to see if it was prepared to convict a copper who was videoed kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. And everyone in the US knew the outpouring of rage that would follow an acquittal.

When a police murder is sufficiently blatant and the public anger is sufficiently intense to prevent a cover-up, a Plan B is needed. In this case, it involved sacrificing one copper to save the system of violence. So, as well as the series of coppers testifying against Chauvin, we saw the prosecution presenting this case as an outlier and filling its presentation with pro-police rhetoric. And, once the verdict was in, the entire propaganda machine of US capitalism swung into action. Everyone from the Vice-President down called it a great step forward for the reform of policing and praised the courts of Minnesota for getting it right.

Even here, though, the triumphalism was muted. There could be no wholehearted victory celebrations, because George Floyd was only one of many Black people murdered by US police in recent years. Indeed, while the trial was going on, protests erupted against the killing of Daunte Wright in the suburbs of Minneapolis by a copper who says she mistook her gun for her taser. And almost as the verdict was being read out, police in Ohio killed Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16 year old Black girl who had called them herself because she was being attacked.

The intractable nature of police brutality in the US has led increasing numbers of Black people there to reject the failed strategy of police reform. Thirty years of “reforms” in Minneapolis have not stopped the MPD from being a pack of murdering racist thugs and the story is the same in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and many other cities. The demand that is animating grassroots organisations in the US is to defund the cops – i.e. cut their budget. This demand means different things to different people. Democrats who have picked it up talk about sending health professionals instead of cops to deal with mental health crises. The Anarchist position is total abolition of the police and support for this is growing.

The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group believes that a just society needs no police, no body of armed professionals with special powers not available to the rest of society, who impose the law on the street. We work to build the movement which will make a workers’ revolution that abolishes capitalism, abolishes police, smashes the state apparatus and sweeps away racism and all other forms of oppression.

FOR A WORLD WITHOUT POLICE

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Freedom for Palestine!

Statement from Anarchist-Communist Groups in Oceania

Since the 19th century, the Zionist movement has waged brutal colonial war against Palestinian Arab society, nearly without pause. The recent attempted evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem is only the latest in a long history of oppression and victimisation of the Palestinian working classes.

On Thursday 6 May, Palestinians began protests against the impending Israeli Supreme Court decision to evict Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem. As the protests escalated, Israel responded with violence, which only spurred further escalation.

While Israeli expansion into the remaining Palestinian territories continues unabated, every few years we see an explosion of state-violence designed to subdue Palestinian resistance. Expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and their land has been reinforced by an apartheid-style regime, bolstered by US imperialism. In turn, the Israeli state supports and encourages pogroms against Palestinians, furthering the dehumanisation of both the oppressed and oppressor. Examples of Zionist violence abound – the bulldozing of Palestinian homes in Jenin, with civilians still inside; the use of white phosphorus during Operation Cast Lead; the establishment of Gaza as the “world’s largest open air prison” where Palestinian nationals are starved, left without access to many staples, and subjected to horrific violations of their dignity.

In 2021, the Israeli state has once again announced its barbarity to the world. Israel has threatened to continue the attack until there is “total quiet”, nothing if not a metaphor for ethnic cleansing in the face of popular resistance.

But as with all forms of resistance, the current struggle does not have one cause: alongside the economic shock triggered by COVID-19, Palestinians in the West Bank have also been provoked by the decision of the unpopular leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to postpone upcoming elections – elections he knows he will lose.

In Gaza, resistance is largely led by Hamas – a right-wing, religious-nationalist and conservative organisation that oppresses the Palestinian working class in its own right. Israeli terror plays into the hands of Hamas and their project, preventing the Palestinian resistance from developing along working-class lines.

Palestinian resistance is not simply the concern of Palestinians, or of Muslims, or of humanitarians: it is the concern of all workers across the world. The success of the Palestinian struggle is dependent on its internationalisation, turning the struggle of this one group into a truly global working-class struggle that will not only answer “the national question” but the fundamental question of capitalism too. This is even more the case today as neighbouring Arab governments like Egypt and those in the Gulf abandon the façade of their opposition and formalise their alliances with Israel. If the struggles for liberty in these countries link up with the struggle in Palestine, then neither Israel nor the Arab dictatorships stand a chance.

The wildcat resistance by the Palestinians caught both Fatah, the main party of the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, the main party in Gaza, off guard. Neither party controls the protests, which have overwhelmingly targeted the Israeli state. The response of Hamas has been to fire rockets at Israel, targeting civilians, and inviting the Israeli government to once again assault Gaza. This is not an attempt to support the protests, but to demobilise them; by transferring the struggle onto the military plane, Hamas hopes to sideline the Palestinian masses and prevent them from developing a working-class alternative for their resistance.

As anarchists our position against nationalism should not be mistaken for opposition to resistance – we are against nationalism because we believe that resistance can only be truly successful without it. Israel’s occupation is a naked form of colonial oppression, and its Palestinian victims have every right to resist it by whatever means that are in accord with the final goal of liberation.

Liberal world leaders, be they American, Australian, spokespeople for the EU or the UN, speak of ‘de-escalation’ and ‘restraint by both sides’; they only justify the ongoing oppression of Palestine. There is no grey area,there are no two equal sides at war. The Palestinian masses are resisting oppression.

Only solidarity between the oppressed people of Palestine and the working classes of the world can end the occupation. We call on the international anarchist movement and all working-class rebels to join us in denouncing the Israeli occupation of Palestine and supporting resistance to it.

Touch one, touch all.

In solidarity and resistance,

The undersigned anarchist-communist organisations of Oceania:

Anarchist Communists Meanjin

Black Flag Sydney

Geelong Anarchist Communists

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group

RedBlackNotes.com

Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists

14/5/20214

FREE PALESTINE!

FROM ANARCHIST COMMUNISTS IN OCEANIA

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MAY DAY 2021

Chicago

Anarchist-led trade unions started a campaign for the eight hour day in Chicago in 1886, using direct action as their strategy. The bosses opposed it as both economically ruinous and politically seditious. The campaign started with a strike wave on 1 May, but a worker was shot by a cop, so a protest rally was held on 4 May. At that rally, someone threw a bomb, a handful of coppers died and the police opened fire into the crowd with their guns. Eight Anarchists were arrested and falsely convicted over the bombing. Four were executed, one committed suicide and three were imprisoned. Years later, after a long campaign, the Haymarket Martyrs were exonerated.

International Workers Day

May Day, which grew out of the international campaign for the Haymarket Martyrs, is International Workers Day. It is the day when workers mobilise to demonstrate their strength and celebrate their cause. It is the day when workers show both their international unity and their separation from the capitalists. In Australia, most governments have been keen to erase May Day from public consciousness by establishing Labour Day on a different date in various States. Even where there is no separate Labour Day and May Day is technically commemorated, the holiday is on the first Monday in May.

The Working Class

After a long period of decline, the radical wing of the labour movement is gaining strength. This strength comes from the changing composition of the working class in advanced countries. Independent unions are springing up, while some established unions are tuning in to the demographic changes in their membership. The old days of unions being the preserve of white men in heavy industry are gone. Increasingly, blue collar jobs are more likely to be held by immigrant workers from the Third World, while women are becoming a majority of the union movement in many countries. For these workers, unions aren’t vehicles for defending racial and gender hierarchies, but for challenging them. The MUA’s motto of ‘Touch One, Touch All’ is as good a summary of intersectional class struggle as you’re likely to find.

The Struggle

Capitalism in 2021 still hasn’t defeated the coronavirus pandemic and the downward trend in wage rises in advanced countries hasn’t changed. Social inequality continues to increase, while racism and misogyny are entrenched state policy. In many countries, capitalist democracy is crumbling. The radical workers’ movement which is being born is still young and weak, but the material conditions are helping it develop. This workers’ movement needs to unite internationally in order to overthrow capitalism and end all oppression worldwide. Anarchists need to be part of this movement, for it is our home.

WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group

PO Box 5108 Brunswick North 3056 1 May 2021

https://www.melbacg.wordpress.com macg1984@yahoo.com.au

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A NATIONAL MYTH

The Beginning

On 25 April 1915, Australian troops, accompanied by others from the British Empire, stormed a Turkish beach at Gallipoli. The landing didn’t go well and presaged a disastrous campaign that ended in Australian withdrawal in December that year. The whole debacle was a sideshow, an attempt to take the Ottoman Empire out of World War I and deprive Germany of an ally. The 300,000 Allied and 250,000 Turkish casualties constituted a major crime, inside the gargantuan crime of World War I itself. Capitalism was at an impasse and, as a result, two great imperial alliances clashed over who was to steal whose colonies, resources and markets. Tens of millions died for profits.

The Myth

Out of the debacle, a national myth was formed, of a supposedly unique Australian military: excellent soldiers with bad British leadership, fiercely loyal to each other and with a subversive attitude to authority that didn’t prevent them going over the top to face the enemy’s guns when ordered to. The Anzac myth has been a foundation for the ideology of Australian nationalism, something that acknowledges Australia’s origins as a British colony while at the same time distancing it from Britain itself – and disappearing Australia’s original sin, the dispossession and attempted genocide of the Aboriginal people.

The Role

The myth of Australia’s unique military has been deployed to boost support for Australian participation in all subsequent imperialist wars. The less justification there is for the war, the more the propaganda focuses on the supposed virtues of the troops rather than the justice of the cause. While the virtues of the Anzacs were part of the propaganda for World War II, they were more prominent during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and have become the dominant theme in reporting and discussion of Australia’s participation in the imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The End?

In recent years, the media campaign for universal commitment to the Anzac myth has reached unprecedented heights. Media people lose their jobs for stepping out of line and, if you’re an immigrant woman, you can be driven from the country. At the same time, though, public participation in Anzac Day events has collapsed. Crowds have fallen by an average of 70% from 2014 to 2019, including at Gallipoli, Canberra and Melbourne (thus before the COVID-19 pandemic). Meanwhile, investigations of the conduct of Australia’s SAS in Afghanistan have revealed a string of war crimes, including murder, and prosecutions of alleged perpetrators are being prepared. The reputation of Australia’s military is becoming tarnished. Anarchists should do everything possible to puncture the Anzac myth. The time is ripe.

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 2021

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THE VACCINES

This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 10 No 1, published 28 Feb 2021.

Vaccines against COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, have started being deployed in industrialised countries and the pandemic is beginning to abate there. In a number of countries, new case numbers have fallen dramatically and deaths have also fallen substantially. New data indicate they the vaccines substantially prevent transmission of the virus as well.

Obstacles

We’re a long way from Paradise, though. A number of obstacles stand in the road of defeating the virus and economic and social fallout will follow. Most importantly, vaccines are scarce in the Third World. Many countries haven’t had the resources to test for the virus properly, so the official case numbers are wild under-estimates. And now effective vaccines are available, prices demanded by the big drug companies are unaffordable. A World Health Organisation fund exists to pay for vaccines for the very poorest countries, but contributions by rich countries are miniscule compared to what is needed. As a result, vaccinating the entire world is projected to be six years away. The rich countries, many of which (including Australia) have very low case numbers, will be done in one year. That’s an extra five years of misery and death for being poor. Having the wrong colour skin doesn’t help, either.

Another problem is that the virus is mutating, leading to what the WHO calls “variants of concern”. These are more infectious and some may be more deadly. Further, some may be more resistant to existing vaccines, which must be modified to deal with them. While some researchers have said this could be done quickly, it would be unwise to assume this as a certainty. Meanwhile, natural selection always presses a new virus to evolve towards being more infectious and more vaccine resistant. Allowing it to run rampant in the Third World while rich countries vaccinate themselves allows maximum opportunity for new variants to emerge.

Thirdly, we face the malign influence of the anti-vaxxers. Peddling an eclectic mix of conspiracy theories and unscientific fruitloopery, they are attempting to discourage people in developed countries from being vaccinated. Although convinced anti-vaxxers are only a very small percentage of the population, they have a much larger audience of people hesitant and susceptible to misinformation. If enough people are persuaded to reject vaccination, society will remain vulnerable to it.

The anti-vaxxers intersect with some extremely bad politics. Some of the conspiracy theories are merely nutty. Those concerning Big Pharma mix valid concerns with wild misinformation. But other theories are much darker. The worst of them are outright anti-Semitic, usually cloaked in coded language about George Soros or unspecified globalists. These people are Fascists and should be dealt with as such.

Fallout

In addition, we will still face the economic and social consequences. The pandemic has imposed a massive cost on capitalist economies around the world. Part comes from measures governments have taken to stop the spread of the virus, but the larger part from decisions individual people have made to protect their health when governments have failed to suppress transmission. Public finances are in a state of ruin worldwide. The fallout has been suppressed by the extraordinarily low interest rates prevailing, but if rates increased even by a fraction, every State would experience a fiscal crisis of massive proportions.

Economic inequality has also increased at a staggering speed. After falling initially, stock markets have soared to new heights. Tech billionaires with major stakes in corporations which have flourished in the crisis are making out like bandits. Jeff Bezos, largest shareholder in Amazon, makes the 19th Century robber barons look like paupers. Unemployment has increased and widespread wage freezes have been imposed. Even wage cuts are not uncommon. There’s a class war going on and, so far, one side is winning hands down.

As the pandemic subsides, workers in industrialised countries want to make up for the sacrifices they made while the virus was raging. Right wing “libertarianism” has been totally discredited and governments have put neo-liberal orthodoxy on the back burner for the duration of the pandemic. Although the Fascists have recruited amongst the anti-vaxxers, broader society has been freed from the hegemony of neo-liberalism. That hegemony will be difficult to re-establish.

At the height of the pandemic, capitalist governments worldwide told us “We’re all in this together”. It was always a lie, but they needed to say it and it spoke to the deepest desires of the working class. We need to build the movement that can create a society where we’re all in it together. We need a labour movement built on Anarchist Communist principles. And we need the revolution which alone can bring about libertarian communsm.

VACCINATE EVERYBODY, WORLDWIDE

BUILD THE CLASS STRUGGLE

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100 Years Since the Kronstadt Uprising: To Remember Means to Fight!

International anarchist statement on the centenary of the 1921 Kronstadt Uprising

“Let the workers of the whole world know that we, the defenders of the power of the soviets, will watch over the gains of the social revolution. We will conquer or perish beneath the ruins of Kronstadt, fighting the righteous cause of the working masses. The toilers the world over will sit in judgement of us. The blood of innocents will be upon the heads of the Communists, savage madmen drunk on power. Long live the power of the soviets!” – The Provisional Revolutionary Committee of Kronstadt

On 1 March, 1921, the Kronstadt Soviet rose in revolt against the regime of the Russian “Communist” Party. The Civil War was effectively over, with the last of the White armies in European Russia defeated in November, 1920. The remaining battles in Siberia and Central Asia were over the territorial extent of what would become the USSR the following year. Economic conditions, though, remained dire. In response, strikes broke out across Petrograd in February, 1921. The sailors of Kronstadt sent a delegation to investigate the strikes.

Background

The city of Kronstadt is on the island of Kotlin, which dominates the approaches to Petrograd. It was the home of the largest Russian naval base and was a bastion of revolutionary politics since 1905. It played a distinguished role in the revolutions of 1905 and 1917. The Kronstadt Soviet was established in May, 1917, not long after the Petrograd one.

Throughout 1917, soviets had multiplied and strengthened across the Russian Empire. In October, they had overthrown the Provisional Government. The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets took power in its own hands. The All-Russian Congress, however, agreed to a Bolshevik proposal to appoint a Council of People’s Commissars to act as an executive cabinet over the Soviet. The Bolsheviks lost no time in setting up a State apparatus with coercive powers. Crucially, they subordinated the local and regional soviets to the central one.

As early as April, 1918, the Bolsheviks began repression against the anarchists and started purges of the soviets. The October Revolution had established freedom of the press and the right of soldiers to elect their officers, but the Bolsheviks reversed these and many other vital social changes in the course of the Civil War.

The repression of all opposition, war communism and forced requisitions imposed by firing squads, together with the spread of poverty and hunger, alienated many of the sympathies that workers and peasants had placed in Bolshevism. Protests of workers and peasants against authoritarian Bolshevik measures were frequent through 1918 to 1921, including several waves of workers’ strikes.

The Petropavlovsk Resolution

The Petrograd strikes of February, 1921, prompted Kronstadt sailors to send a delegation to investigate and report. The sailors themselves had been unhappy with management of the Navy and had deposed their commander in January. The report of the delegation prompted the passage of the Petropavlovsk Resolution, made up of these 15 demands.

In view of the fact that the present Soviets do not express the will of the workers and peasants:

• To immediately hold new elections by secret ballot, the pre-election campaign to have full freedom of agitation among the workers and peasants;

• To establish freedom of speech and press for workers and peasants, for anarchists and left socialist parties;

• To secure freedom of assembly for labour unions and peasant organisations;

• To call a nonpartisan Conference of the workers, Red Army soldiers and sailors of Petrograd, Kronstadt, and of Petrograd Province, no later than 10 March, 1921;

• To liberate all political prisoners of socialist parties, as well as all workers, peasants, soldiers, and sailors imprisoned in connection with the labour and peasant movements;

• To elect a Commission to review the cases of those held in prisons and concentration camps;

• To abolish all politotdeli (political bureaus) because no party should be given special privileges in the propagation of its ideas or receive the financial support of the Government for such purposes. Instead there should be established educational and cultural commissions, locally elected and financed by the Government;

• To abolish immediately all zagryaditelniye otryadi (Bolshevik units armed to suppress traffic and confiscate foodstuffs);

• To equalise the rations of all who work, with the exception of those employed in trades detrimental to health;

• To abolish the Bolshevik fighting detachments in all branches of the Army, as well as the Bolshevik guards kept on duty in mills and factories. Should such guards or military detachments be found necessary, they are to be appointed in the Army from the ranks, and in the factories according to the judgment of the workers;

• To give the peasants full freedom of action in regard to their land, and also the right to keep cattle, on condition that the peasants manage with their own means; that is, without employing hired labour;

• To request all branches of the Army, as well as our comrades the military kursanti, to concur in our resolutions;

• To demand that the press give the fullest publicity to our resolutions;

• To appoint a Traveling Commission of Control;

• To permit free kustarnoye (individual small scale) production by one’s own efforts.

This resolution can be summarised as containing two fundamental demands: the restoration of Soviet democracy and an economic compromise with the peasants.

Revolt and Suppression

On 1 March, a mass meeting convened by the Kronstadt Soviet endorsed the Petropavlovsk Resolution. It was the beginning of the Kronstadt Uprising. Over the next few days, the rebels tried negotiating with the Bolshevik Government. They allowed Kalinin to return to Petrograd. They disregarded the advice of the Czarist officers (who had been employed by the Navy as technical advisors) to take military measures, including attacks on the mainland. The Bolsheviks did not reciprocate and arrested delegations from Kronstadt that reached points on the mainland.

The Government attacked on 7 March, but was beaten off, having lost substantial forces to defections. A more serious attack on 10 March was also defeated, with many casualties on the Bolshevik side. The final attack, with much larger forces, occurred on 17-18 March and succeeded in capturing Kronstadt and suppressing the uprising.

Legacy

Today, anarchists remember the centenary of the Kronstadt Uprising for two reasons. Firstly, it shows that it is not true that the only alternative to capitalism in Russia was the authoritarian and repressive regime of the so-called “Communist” Party. The Kronstadters had kept alive the original values of the Russian Revolution and were raising them again against the Party’s government by commissar. They failed because the people of Russia were exhausted, not because their ideas were rejected.

Secondly, we remember Kronstadt because the true history of the rebellion is far different from the lying versions propagated by various Leninist groups and shows how far the Bolsheviks had deviated from the principles upon which the October Revolution was founded. The Kronstadters wanted democratic soviets, not a Constituent Assembly which could only establish a capitalist government. They rejected aid from abroad, turning instead to the workers and peasants of Russia. And they exhibited consistently higher principles in the course of the conflict, attempting at all times and even during the final battle to fraternise with the government troops and win them over politically. Some Leninists, desperate to defend the credibility of the Bolsheviks’ denunciation of the Kronstadt Uprising as counter-revolutionary, cite statements by Bolsheviks from Kronstadt in the aftermath. We only consider it necessary to point out that these statements were signed by people held in prison and threatened with execution. False statements can usually be obtained for a good deal less.

The Bolsheviks (by then calling themselves the “Communist” Party) held their 10th Congress during the period of the Kronstadt Uprising. Critics of the rebellion often cite the articles of the Petropavlovsk Resolution as demanding an unacceptable compromise with the peasants, but seldom mention that the 10th Congress endorsed the New Economic Policy, which was a far more extensive compromise. In truth, the aspects of the Petropavlovsk Resolution which were unacceptable to the Bolsheviks were the ones setting out the demand for soviet democracy. It was the Bolsheviks, not the Kronstadters, who were setting themselves against the working class.

Today, anarchists work for new revolutions of the working and popular classes worldwide and fight for the fullest direct democracy within them. We are inspired by the rebels of Kronstadt and aim to ensure that, though it may have been delayed, they have not shed their blood in vain.

All power to the soviets and not to the Parties!

Long live the power of the freely elected soviets!

☆ Alternativa Libertaria/ Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici (AL/FdCA) – Italy

☆ Anarchist Communist Group (ACG) – Britain

☆ Αναρχική Ομοσπονδία – Anarchist Federation – Greece

☆ Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement (AWSM) – Aotearoa/New Zealand

☆ Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira (CAB) – Brazil

☆ Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet (DAF) – Turkey

☆ Die Plattform – Anarchakommunistische Organisation – Germany

☆ Embat – Organització Llibertària de Catalunya – Catalonia

☆ Federación Anarquista de Rosario (FAR) – Argentina

☆ Federación Anarquista de Santiago (FAS) – Chile

☆ Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU) – Uruguay

☆ Grupo Libertario Vía Libre – Colombia

☆ Libertäre Aktion – Switzerland

☆ Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG) – Australia

☆ Organización Anarquista de Córdoba (OAC) – Argentina

☆ Organización Anarquista de Tucumán (OAT) – Argentina

☆ Organisation Socialiste Libertaire (OSL) – Switzerland

☆ Union Communiste Libertaire (UCL) – France

☆ Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM) – Ireland

☆ Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) – South Africa

Originally published at:

https://www.anarkismo.net/article/32189

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THE THUCYDIDES TRAP

This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 10 No 1, published 28 Feb 2021.

Australian, US & Japanese Warships in the South China Sea (Credit: US Navy)

The US became the dominant world power in 1945. Despite everything since then, the world order it established is intact and the US remains far and away the most powerful country. Although its wealth and power relative to the rest of the world has been declining for decades, still no single power is able to challenge it. But US security in its hegemony may be about to change. And that creates a dangerous international situation.

Previous rival the USSR had a comparable population to the US, but it ran into structural economic difficulties in the 1960s. It eventually stagnated and collapsed under US pressure. Germany and Japan, both with populations a small fraction of the US, found their rise halted before their GDP per capita came anywhere near it. The European Union, which is large enough, hasn’t been able to create the necessary internal unity to mount a challenge.

China, though, has four times the US population. Its GDP per capita is about a sixth of the US, which brings its total GDP, and thus its weight in the world economy, within striking distance. Its growth rate is still substantially above the US. Even if its GDP per capita stalls at half that of the US in coming decades, its total GDP would still be double the current imperialist hegemon. US dominance would not survive that situation.

This prospect is, of course, intolerable to the US ruling class. It’s why Congressional Democrats and Republicans have been on a unity ticket on China issues in recent years. And so US complaints about China’s activities go well beyond its genuine bad behaviour. They extend to China’s initiatives to develop global leadership in key industries and to set up its own international relationships.

With this background, it is significant that the Sydney Morning Herald published an article on 14 January, headed “Trump ignored a strategy to contain China and strengthen India alliance”. It was based on a recently declassified US government strategy document produced in 2018. A few details of the strategy stand out. Firstly, the US does have a policy to contain China. It’s geopolitical and not fundamentally driven by China’s behaviour. Secondly, containment involves keeping China behind the first island chain, including Japan, the Ryukyu Islands and Taiwan. This is a very aggressive posture.

Thirdly, while Trump largely agreed with the intent of the strategy, he disliked anything that interfered with exercising personal rule over his administration and the US generally. Since Biden has no such hang-ups, we now can expect the February 2018 document to be largely followed. And finally, Australia has a strong role as part of the “Quad”, along with Japan and India.

Separate from the specific document, the article made assertions about China that are standard in the Australian media these days. It assumed “the existential threat of a rising China” and alleged China engaged in currency manipulation and unfair trading practices. China’s efforts to influence its exchange rate are no more significant that those of the US or Australia and for the same reasons. And the “unfair trading practices” mentioned are China’s insistence on technology transfer as part of investment deals and claims that China’s intellectual property arrangements are insufficiently stringent to satisfy Western patent holders. As consistent opponents of intellectual property, the MACG can advise these Western patent holders to jump in the lake.

The article’s most disturbing statement, though, was that a rising China is an “existential threat” to Australia, Japan and other unnamed countries. These are fighting words. States go to war over existential threats. It amounted to saying China can’t be allowed to become an industrialised country. The workers and peasants of China must remain poor so that Australian capitalism can continue to exist.

The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group condemns the attempt by Australian and US imperialism to contain China and prevent its development. We carry no water for the Beijing Stalinists, who are brutal tyrants and whose national chauvinism reaches genocidal proportions when dealing with the Tibetans and Uighurs. We advocate workers’ revolution to bring down the Chinese so-called “Communist” Party and establish libertarian communism. But the attempt to contain China and keep it poor is immoral in principle and also, if it fails, likely to lead to war in practice. If the US can’t stop China’s development by economic means, it will find itself in the Thucydides Trap. The established power fears being overtaken by a rising one, so the temptation to take pre-emptive military action will be compelling.

We cannot let this come to pass.

NO WAR ON CHINA!

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WAR CRIMES

This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 9 No 6, published 31 Dec 2020.

Australian forces in Afghanistan. Credit: LS Paul Berry via The Guardian

The Brereton report about allegations of war crimes against Afghan civilians by Australian troops, mainly the Special Air Service Regiment, was met in November with gasps of shock by the capitalist media and the appointment of a special prosecutor to bring criminal charges. The prosecutor’s appointment, however, was also the signal for the issue to drop out of the media and normal service to resume in the area of propaganda glorifying the military. When trials eventually occur, it will be years after the report, when the military have fabricated a story to exonerate the institution, whatever the fate of the individuals mentioned.

Australia’s imperialist military and the governments that sent it to Afghanistan shouldn’t get away with it so easily. The 39 murders named in the report are only the ones for which whistleblowers could be found. There are rumours of many more. This is inherently plausible because of the nature of the practices the report itself describes:

* Execution of prisoners was done as “blooding” new team members with their first kill.

* Units carried “throwdown” weapons to plant on civilians they killed.

* All fighting age males found in combat zones, whether armed or not, were considered Taliban.

These features indicate that the murders discussed in the report are just the tip of the iceberg. The last point, indeed, is actual official US policy in waging the “War on Terror”, so the rotten apple defence rings particularly hollow.

Having admitted that many war crimes had been committed, the Brereton report goes on to pin as much blame on sergeants and corporals as possible. Commissioned officers were found to be “bewildered” by evidence of crimes, while exhibiting “abandoned curiosity”. These officers were not just incompetent or lazy. At best, they were wilfully ignorant. More likely, they were complicit through verbal arrangements about what they needed to know and what they didn’t. There were credible accusations of war crimes already, dating at least to 2009, so the entire SAS command structure would have known whether their supervision was sufficient to detect such events if they occurred.

Beneath all this, however, is the guilt of Australia’s military high command and the governments, both Coalition and Labor, that decided to send Australian troops to Afghanistan and keep them there. Australia’s Afghan War was never about Afghanistan, but about the US alliance. It was about supporting a US-dominated world order in which Australia has the South Pacific franchise. This requires supporting US military action in Asia and contributing enough military forces to be seen as a valuable ally deserving its own sphere of influence.

In these circumstances, the military effort in Afghanistan quickly became an occupation. All Afghan civilians were the enemy, unless they were known tools of the occupiers. And so the fighting age males were deemed fair game. Imperialist war cannot be waged justly, so the political decisions of John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and other Prime Ministers made the crimes of the soldiers on the ground inevitable. The soldiers named in the secret version of the report deserve to be in the dock, but so do their political masters.

The Brereton report revealed what could no longer be concealed. But the cover-up, both of further crimes and the guilty parties all the way from Lieutenants to Prime Ministers, has begun. Our best response is to demand that Australia get out of Afghanistan.

END AUSTRALIAN IMPERIALISM

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THE TRUMP PUTSCH

The following statement was released by the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group on 10 January 2021.

It is important to call the events of Tuesday 6 January in Washington DC in the US by their proper name. It was an attempted Fascist putsch, consciously incited though not directed by Donald Trump. It was an attempt to prevent the US Congress taking the final step to authorise the inauguration of Joe Biden as President a fortnight later. It failed and we’re glad it did.

Capitalist media organisations are notoriously unreliable at estimating numbers at political events, but it’s clear that at least tens of thousands of Trump supporters attended a demonstration in Washington under Fascist leadership. Up to a couple of thousand people, including organised Fascist groups and known Fascist identities, stormed the Capitol building (the US Parliament House). The mob included not a few off-duty cops who were seen flashing their IDs to the Capitol Police on the way in. The rioters disrupted the proceedings, which were a certification of the results of the Electoral College, and took over the meeting chambers and many other areas of the building. Photographs have emerged from inside showing men in combat gear, carrying weapons and zip ties for handling prisoners. Eventually, the rioters were forced to leave. Congress resumed its session and recognised the result of the Electoral College.

Police treatment of the Washington event was remarkably light, especially considering that Fascists had been threatening for weeks to storm the Capitol and that Black Lives Matter protestors have been met with overwhelming and aggressive police violence. Leftist demonstrators would never have been given the opportunity to reach the steps, let alone breach the doors and break windows. Instead, several cops posed for selfies with members of the mob. At a later point, a woman Trump supporter was shot dead by Capitol Police. Three other Trump supporters died from “medical emergencies” (only one of which occurred inside the Capitol) and a cop died the next day.

Trump incited his Fascist followers to storm the Capitol as a last ditch attempt to prevent Biden’s inauguration, following the refusal of Mike Pence (Trump’s Vice President) to prevent it by acting in his role of presiding over the Senate. This was after a series of attempts by Trump to frustrate the inauguration of Biden. He called rallies of his supporters outside counting centres; launched dozens of court cases, losing on all but a handful of minor procedural points; and tried to heavy various State governors and officials involved in the election process. His phone call to the Georgia Secretary of State was recorded and released on the Internet and showed just how desperate Trump was becoming.

The Trump putsch, if it had been successful, would have transformed the United States into a Fascist dictatorship. Trump’s private army would have swept away the legislative branch of government. To make it stick, he would have been compelled to sack and/or arrest thousands of public officials – including, possibly, judges. But to carry through a putsch in defiance of a democratic election, it’s necessary to have plenty of friends in high places. Trump found he didn’t have nearly enough friends. He was beaten by the Deep State.

The failure of the putsch is a major blow to Trump. He has forced many Republican politicians, including the Vice President, to break with him. Most of the rest of the country is enraged. He has now been forced to promise a peaceful transfer of power on 20 January. This is both an admission of defeat and a concession that his conduct until now has contained an implicit threat of a coup.

There is no precise analogy from well-known history, but the closest one is Adolf Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. A relatively small group of people attempted, with daring action, to deliver the government of Germany into the hands of a dictator. The failure of the putsch was a setback for the Nazis, but the Weimar Republic treated the putschists with kid gloves. Hitler was sentenced to only five years prison and was released after nine months. Worse, successive Weimar governments eroded democratic rights with frequent states of emergency and left Germany’s social problems unresolved. Hitler was able to rebuild his political credibility and then capitalise on the crisis created by the Depression. And we all know what followed that.

The Beer Hall Putsch analogy contains a lesson. Trump has given his enemies an opportunity to put him out of business, but the Democrats won’t follow through. The Fascists who stormed the Capitol building are being denounced by everyone, including Trump, and will probably be hung out to dry, but the consequences for Trump himself won’t be anywhere near hard enough. And the way Biden governs will, in due course, rehabilitate Trump. Left to their own devices, the Democrats will pave the way for the revival of Trump’s political fortunes.

Democrats will make their own assaults on democratic rights. Already, Biden has called the people who stormed the Capitol “domestic terrorists” and Democrats across the board have picked up on his cue. In using this term, Biden isn’t referring to the pipe bombs and the truck full of Molotov cocktails found in Washington, which have hardly got a mention in the mainstream media. He also wasn’t speaking about the death of a cop, which occurred after his statement. The “terrorism” he was denouncing was what was on everyone’s TV screens – a mob breaking windows, occupying the Capitol and disrupting a sitting of Congress.

Biden knows what he is doing. By denouncing Trump’s foot soldiers as terrorists, he is preparing for a broader crackdown on political activity outside accepted political channels. Any new laws or police powers will apply as much to the Left as to the Right. They will be used by the cops with glee against the Left and not at all or hardly ever against the Right. And Democrats denouncing (with equal parts ignorance and malice) the rioters in the Capitol as “anarchists” will have real consequences for actual Anarchists.

Lessons

The first lesson to be drawn is that the US bourgeoisie have not given up on capitalist democracy. It is their preferred form of rule, since there are too many capitalists to fit inside a single palace. While the capitalists are prepared to abandon democracy if it is necessary to preserve their power, they fear that a dictator would rule in the interests of one faction of capital rather than the capitalist class as a whole.

Secondly, there is nothing surprising about the events in Washington. Not the Fascist mobs. Not Trump’s incitement. Not the complicit approach of the cops. Not the failure of the putsch. Not the Democrats’ turn to “law and order”. And not the liberals’ surprise at all of these things except the last.

The Democrats will handle the aftermath of the putsch in a way that will strengthen the Right. They will pass yet more repressive laws. They will wax lyrical about the precious institutions of capitalist democracy and vehemently denounce the invaders of Congress. But when it comes to prosecuting and sentencing, many of these invaders will get kid glove treatment.

Finally, we need to realise that liberals are not our friends. They are not quietly on our side while we do the dangerous stuff. When push comes to shove, liberals want the heavy hand of the State to suppress Right wing dissent. They do not support working class counter-mobilisation. When the workers of the United States make a revolution, they will disperse the liberals’ precious Congress – themselves – not to establish a dictatorship, but to allow the mass organs of workers’ democracy to take power. And they will need to be prepared to defend themselves against a last-ditch violent reaction by the old regime, supported whole-heartedly by the liberals.

Next

For the time being, Trump is badly wounded and the Republican Party is deeply divided. The Fascists are demoralised because Trump is dumping on them to save his own skin. The Democrats are angry and also feel vindicated.

Anarchists in the United States need to ensure that the organisers of the Trump Putsch are clearly identified as Fascists for the world to see. Anarchists need to seize the opportunity to break the links that have been developing between them and the mainstream Right and calling the Fascists by their true name is an essential part of that. And Anarchists need to run hard against the Democrats’ agenda of righteous “law and order” and neo-liberalism. Biden was always going to be a bad President. The Trump Putsch means he’ll be worse.

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AFTER TRUMP

This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 9 No 6, published 31 Dec 2020.

The US Presidential election is over and Donald Trump has lost. While he has convinced his hard core supporters than the election has been stolen from him, he has failed to get sufficient backing from powerful actors to mount a coup. Joe Biden will take office on 20 January.

Biden will have no honeymoon. The previous two Democratic Presidents faced a massive Right wing reaction as soon as they took office, although they had no opposition worth noting from the Left. The Republicans will try a third time to mount a reactionary movement and Trump will probably lead it. Biden campaigned on a platform of being a “normal President” – but “normal” politics is precisely what led to the election of Trump in 2016. Left to his own devices, Biden will bring the Washington establishment even further into disrepute and set the stage for Trump to be re-elected in 2024 (health permitting). Biden will rule for Wall Street, allow inequality to grow unchecked and confine progressive policies to gestures that will infuriate the Right while not satisfying the burning needs of the mass of workers in the US.

There is a new factor. Obama took office when the grassroots Left was small, weak and inexperienced. As a result, there were massive illusions in him, something that demobilised the Left for some years. Under Clinton back in 1992, the situation was even worse. The Left was ideologically shattered by the collapse of the USSR and its organisations were falling to pieces. The capitalists were celebrating the “death of communism” and proclaiming “the end of history”. Now the grassroots left is confident and growing, having left full or partial ideological dependence on the USSR behind. For the first time since LBJ, a Democratic President will take office with a grassroots challenge from the Left.

The strategy

The social movement in the United States faces a fundamental strategic choice. Either it works through the Democratic Party or against it. Every movement throws up a layer of activists who use it to climb into Parliament, but the crucial issue is whether the movement will follow them and divert itself into Parliamentary channels. The moment the movement tones down its actions or demands to suit the fortunes of Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it’s finished as an independent force. It’s not for nothing that the Democratic Party is known in the US as the graveyard of political movements. It’s happened so many times before that activists have no excuse for not seeing it coming.

Anarchist communists in the United States need to avoid being distracted by the siren call of demands to change the Democratic Party. The priority must be to build the grassroots struggle, in whatever sphere it erupts, while engaging patiently with those who think there is currently no alternative to the Democrats. And the argument has to be that “We – the grassroots movement – are the alternative to the Democrats. We’re creating facts on the ground to which all politicians must respond in some way, while the organisations we are building are the new society within the shell of the old.”

The struggle

Finally, we must consider the fields of struggle available. The struggle against the police and their racist violence, the struggle for immigrants’ rights and against borders and the struggle to prevent rampant climate change have all generated strong grassroots movements in recent years. The first of these struggles is the one that has shaken the United States the most, because US capitalism is founded on the legacy of slavery. The demand that the State merely recognise that Black lives matter is enough to undermine the stability of its order and send the cops into a frenzy of violence.

The militant demonstrations against the police murder of George Floyd, for example, were entirely justified and spread like wildfire. Demonstrators can be beaten off the streets, however, as eventually happened in Minneapolis, Louisville, Atlanta, Portland and elsewhere. What would give this struggle, and all other struggles, the social weight to win would be bringing it into the workplace. If grassroots radicals were strong enough in the labour movement in Minneapolis to force the staging of a one day general strike there, the capitalists would have been hit where it really hurts. Cutting off the flow of profits would achieve far more to defund police and change their behaviour than any amount of reform pursued electorally.

The workplace is the source of the capitalists’ power, so the struggle in that location is decisive. It is the vehicle for fighting the economic inequality that is driving down living standards for US workers for the first time since the Great Depression and fuelling the growth of Fascism. It is, though, much more than that. The struggle in the workplace can unite the multi-racial, multicultural and gender diverse working class in the fight against all forms of social oppression and build the solidarity needed to make the revolution to overthrow capitalism as a whole.

After Trump, the fundamental task is the same as before.

BUILD THE CLASS STRUGGLE

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