CAPITALISM CAN’T STOP CLIMATE CHANGE

This article first appeared in The Anvil Vol 10 No 6, published 31 December 2021.

Credit: http://www.mamamia.com.au/school-climate-strike-australia/

COP26, the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow, was a monumental failure. It was supposed to be the forum where the world finally committed to emissions reductions sufficient to meet the target of the Paris Agreement: keeping the global temperature increase to only 1.5° Celsius. No less an establishment figure than the Prince of Wales described it as humanity’s “last chance saloon”, but the results fell a long way short of what is necessary. According to the prestigious scientific journal Nature (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-03431-4), global emissions must fall 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Instead, the commitments at COP26 will make emissions 14% higher by 2030.

The majority of the capitalist class recognises in theory that climate change is a grave problem requiring drastic steps, but each government wants to protect their own capitalists. The Australian Government is conspicuous by being on the list of bad guys at almost every point. Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison signed up to a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, but only after almost every other advanced country (and many others) had done so. However, its 2030 target is only a 26-28% reduction from 2010 levels. Even without lifting a finger it will definitely achieve 30% and possibly 35%, so the refusal to promise more is ferociously political.

In sectoral negotiations, 40 countries promised to phase out coal, but Australia was not one of them. More than 80 countries pledged to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030, but Australia was not one of them. Neither were other big natural gas producers (and therefore producers of fugitive emissions) Russia and Iran. And the Australian Government’s zeal in funding expansion of fossil fuel exports is joined with almost matching enthusiasm by the main opposition party, Labor. Similar stances have been taken by other large fossil fuel exporters, including Canada.

There is a reason for this. Capitalist governments exist, first and foremost, to protect the interests of their own capitalist class. There is enormous sunk capital invested in fossil fuels and the industries using them as inputs. So mining and oil companies fund climate denialism, they promote political parties that oppose addressing climate change and, where necessary, they fight hard to establish loopholes for themselves from any general policy. If a political party proposing serious action against climate change comes to power, or even threatens to, they run vicious and mendacious campaigns to stop it. These companies may have been cutting jobs for decades, but they will cry crocodile tears over the threat to their workers’ jobs. And they may have undermined their local communities by introducing fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) workers, but suddenly they’ll be backing community groups who think that the only way to defend their community is to oppose climate action.

Just to defend themselves, governments want to protect investments in fossil fuels to the maximum extent possible. So when a problem is identified and specific action is required to address it, the governments that could make the biggest difference are ones least likely to sign up to it. And on the rare occasion where a government that can make a big difference signs up (as Brazil has over attempts to stop deforestation), it is an attempt at fishing for international assistance that won’t have to be returned if targets aren’t met.

What is at stake?

The capitalists, being conflicted, can only move to address climate change at a glacial pace, but we need to move at emergency speed. As the world heats up, systemic tipping points will be passed – first the ice cover in the Arctic, then the Siberian permafrost, then the Antarctic ice cap. There are others. At each point, the world risks shifting into runaway global heating, where temperature rises release more greenhouse gases, which in turn fuel further temperature rises until all stored carbon is released and the world has warmed by 7°C or more. We can forget about polar bears and the Great Barrier Reef – these temperatures are incompatible with the survival of industrial civilisation. Droughts, cyclones and other climate related disasters would devastate agriculture and create billions of climate refugees. The tropics and, in summer, much of the sub-tropics would become simply uninhabitable because of the heat. And, without the infrastructure of an industrialised society, 80-90% of the world’s human population would die. The capitalists are playing Russian roulette and they’re not even spinning the barrel in between pulls of the trigger.

Credit: Japan Meteorological Agency

So what do we do?

Around the world, many organisations, large and small, have formed to push governments to do more on climate change. Most are doing good work, but so far it has not been enough. Not nearly enough. Faced with the implacable opposition of capital to suffering serious losses, we need to mobilise a force which is strong enough to override it.

There is one and only one force on Earth strong enough to beat the capitalist class when it comes to something of vital importance. That force is the working class, so the burning question is how to mobilise it. We are fortunate that many union movements around the world have taken half-way reasonable positions on paper relating to climate change, but this is only the first step on a long and difficult road.

The fundamental need is for workplace groups to form and start discussing climate change and how it relates to their workplace and their employer. As they develop, they can formulate action plans that will vary according to their situation. Groups in unsustainable industries will have the most difficult task, but also the most important. They can draw up plans for a Just Transition and campaign for them within their industry and the broader union movement.

Other groups could focus on their employer’s role in propping up unsustainable practices, or their links with fossil fuel producers. Public servants and other office workers could press for more energy efficient buildings to work in. Bank workers could object to their bosses financing fossil fuel companies. Construction workers could press for the use of zero carbon concrete in the buildings they put up. Almost any employer can be pressured to swap electric vehicles for their current fleet of internal combustion engine powered ones. The possibilities are endless.

Not every step that is necessary is suitable for solving at the level of the individual workplace. Cities need a massive expansion of public transport and improvement of facilities for active transport modes like walking and cycling. Mobilising public transport workers alone, however, would be insufficient to achieve the power necessary to get the system expanded to the degree required. These questions, and some others, would have to be resolved at the society-wide level by the labour movement as a whole.

Depending on the circumstances, workplace groups could be single-employer or multi-employer in the same industry. They should seek to be active in the unions, but they could be single-union or cross-union as necessary and needn’t be afraid to form in ununionised areas of the economy. Where a single unsustainable employer (e.g. a coal mine) is the economic backbone of an entire community, the group will need to work closely with its community. Big environmental groups can assist by putting their members in the same industry in contact with each other. What counts is flexibility of tactics and maintaining the autonomy of each workplace group.

Behind these groups and giving them their power is the possibility that workers could take the workplaces away from under the feet of their bosses and restructure the economy more sustainably by direct action. Think of it as the threat of green bans taken to the next level. Workers can challenge and ultimately defeat the logic of capital. And, in doing so, we will make a movement which can challenge the capitalists over not just the unsustainable practices of capitalism, but the existence of capitalism itself.

This is the program for which Anarchist Communists should fight. Are we up to it?

WORKERS CAN STOP CLIMATE CHANGE

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CFMEU VICTORIA FAILS ITS COVID TEST

This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 10 No 5, published 31 October 2021.

CFMEU Office Demonstration 21 Sept 2021

Source: styleheavens.com (original source unattibuted)

The anti-vaxxer attack on the offices of the CFMEU in Melbourne last month is a stark reminder that class collaboration doesn’t come free. What looked like an opportunity to protect union members’ interests through co-operation with the bosses and the State instead created even greater dangers than the hard road of class struggle would have done.

When the COVID19 pandemic hit last year, the Federal Government was compelled to introduce wage support payments, known as Jobkeeper, for workers whose workplaces were shut down by public health measures. Thanks to over a century of militant class struggle, wages in the construction industry are amongst the highest in Australia. Jobkeeper approximated to the minimum full-time wage. Shutting down construction would have thrown building workers into massive economic distress. That was a situation to be avoided.

There were two possible responses. One was for the CFMEU to fight the bosses on health and safety at every step and to insist workers mustn’t lose income from any health-related closures. The other was to collaborate with the bosses to keep the industry running, despite any risks to health that this might entail. The CFMEU leadership took the second option.

Collaboration to keep the industry running imposed its price. Members who raised health and safety concerns were silenced. This validated the emerging movement of COVID denial and posed health orders as contrary to the interests of building workers. Last year, COVID19 didn’t spread particularly well on building sites. The emergence of the Delta strain, though, changed all this. Outbreaks at building sites were mentioned in passing at the daily government press conferences. Health and safety suddenly became a serious problem for the CFMEU. It either had to come out fighting or, by continuing to run dead, capitulate to the Right wing forces of denial.

The CFMEU leadership’s out-of-character collaboration with the bosses has allowed anti-vaxxer and COVID denier forces free play amongst CFMEU members. When the State Government announced a vaccine mandate for construction workers, there was a backlash that the CFMEU officials weren’t equipped to deal with.

On 21 September, a demonstration grew outside the CFMEU office to demand action from the officials about the impending vaccine mandate. A large majority were CFMEU members, their work gear identifying them as coming from strong union sites. There were also ring-ins, attempting unsuccessfully to provide political leadership for the crowd. Much has been written of the way the crowd shouted down the CFMEU Secretary and proceeded to attack the building. This was bad enough, but worse was the fact that several known Fascist identities attempted to lead the demonstration. This is an ominous development. Fascists should be drummed out of the union movement – physically – whenever they dare to show their face.

The demonstration next day was much bigger, but the composition of the crowd was very different. A whole pile of bosses, scabs and workers from other industries jumped on the bandwagon, while every Right wing nut job in Melbourne put on a brand new hi-vis vest and pretended to be a building worker. Any actual CFMEU members present (there were probably a few) were dissolved in a general Right wing rabble.

Because of the September events, the CFMEU Vic Branch has a significant number of members alienated in a Right wing direction, not because of the union being too militant in defending workers’ rights, but because it wasn’t militant enough.

It should go without saying that Anarchist Communists defend the CFMEU against bosses and the State, even when its officials haven’t done the right thing. It’s up to the labour movement to clean its own house, so neither the CFMEU’s failure over COVID19 nor the personal misbehaviour of the Victorian Secretary justify State intervention against the union. Instead, the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group calls on construction workers to learn the correct lessons from the COVID19 debacle, clean out the ranks of the officials and bring the union under the direct control of the members. The CFMEU is in danger. Only class struggle will save it.

NO SAFETY, NO WORK

TOUCH ONE TOUCH ALL

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CAPITALISM IS DESTROYING THE CLIMATE

This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 10 No 5, published 31 October 2021.

The UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26) is scheduled to run in Glasgow for two weeks from 31 October. It will not stop catastrophic climate change.

If global temperatures rise more than 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, the world faces the real possibility of an uncontrolled catastrophe that ends industrial civilisation and wipes out at least 80% of the world’s population. If they rise more than 2.0ºC, uncontrolled catastrophe is practically guaranteed. To avoid this, the world needs to end greenhouse emissions and start removing past emissions from the atmosphere. Because of inaction in previous decades, global emissions need to be cut virtually in a straight line from now to reach close to zero in 2030, not 2050. Capitalism can’t do this.

Political effort by governments and all the media publicity about COP26 focuses on achieving net zero emissions by 2050 (NZ2050), but this is flawed in two ways. Firstly, 2050 is too late and secondly the “net” in net zero is hugely misleading.

As explained by the Breakthrough Institute in “Net Zero: A Dangerous Illusion” (https://tinyurl.com/58nd2xc9), some climate tipping points have already been crossed at the current 1.2ºC of warming, while sulphate-based aerosols from the burning of fossil fuels are masking 0.5ºC of warming. There is no carbon budget left for a safe transition. All emissions from now increase the risk of runaway climate change and a hothouse Earth incompatible with the survival of industrial civilisation. We need to decarbonise society at the fastest speed technically possible. To make this politically possible requires a revolution to overthrow capitalism.

Secondly, even if one were to accept the unacceptable risks involved in a deadline of 2050, the “net” in “net zero” is dangerous. The most popular NZ2050 plans in circulation involve fossil fuels comprising up to 50% of primary energy use in 2050. These would supposedly be offset by land-based carbon farming and/or carbon capture and storage (CCS).

At the scale contemplated in NZ2050 plans, though, carbon farming would require 25% to 80% of all land currently under cultivation. There goes the food supply! And CCS is a complete rort. Costs are ruinous and there is no working CCS scheme that captures anything like the amount of carbon it promised. Both provide incentives to continue unsustainable emissions and, to the extent they are even possible, use up storage capacity which will be needed for drawing down excess greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.

Steps Towards a Strategy

Given the dire situation, a strategy for solving it is required. The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group supports all attempts by elements in the climate movement to disrupt the orderly functioning of capitalist society, provided reasonable care is taken to protect public safety. This includes support for non-violent direct actions planned to have a substantive effect rather than be the occasion for choreographed mass arrests.

Much more, though, is needed. Some elements in the climate movement have a strategy of sabotage. We defend these people against State persecution, but it is not a strategy we advocate. It is difficult to devise substantial actions which are both effective and not a hazard to public safety. In addition, this strategy usually draws repression on the movement greatly out of proportion to the outcomes achieved. Overall, it is the action of a minority which despairs at the prospect of convincing the movement as a whole to act effectively.

The best opening for effective action that the MACG can see lies with the School Strike for Climate. Firstly, this is already an international movement with a degree of public profile. Secondly, the public face of the movement, Greta Thunberg, has left it open-ended and capable of development. And thirdly, the support for the School Strike for Climate shown by unions lays the basis for truly effective action.

What is necessary is to create workplace climate groups that link up with the School Strike for Climate. These groups will discuss the way the climate crisis affects their industries, the responsibility of their bosses for aggravating climate change and what possible solutions could be. They would develop the School Strike for Climate into a Workers’ Strike for Climate. In the process, workers would need to become capable of acting independently of the union officials and of defeating them when these officials try to dampen down action.

Only the power of workers in the workplace is capable of stopping climate change. Without it, the capitalists will retain control of the economy and set limits on the ability of governments to take action. It is necessary to rip the economy out of their hands by workers organising to take control of their workplaces and restructuring the economy along sustainable lines. In the course of building this movement, it will become clear that this adds up to a revolution to overthrow capitalism.

Nothing else will work.

DESTROY CAPITALISM INSTEAD

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AUKUS: A BIG STEP TOWARD WAR

Statement from the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group about the announcement of the AUKUS partnership. Released 26 September 2021.

Credit: http://www.crikey.com.au 

The AUKUS partnership announced on 16 September is a big step towards war against China. The centrepiece of its first initiative is the announcement by the Australian Government that it will buy eight nuclear submarines from the United States or the United Kingdom. The reactions to this announcement are almost as significant as the purchase of the submarines themselves.

Australian military procurement since the end of the Vietnam War has been an ongoing debacle, marked by indecision, late changes of direction, huge cost overruns and major delivery delays. These factors have been a permanent embarrassment to successive Australian governments and generations of military brass, but they are not solely the product of simple incompetence. They also result from Australian imperialism’s dilemma: being a European outpost on the edge of Asia and being a developed economy with rapidly growing Asian economies for neighbours. Australia’s relative decline means it faces an increasing contradiction between its ambitions and its capacity. Attempting to maximise its capacity via military procurement is extremely risky and is resulting in a decrease in the Australian military’s strategic autonomy. The submarine decision is a major step in that process.

By deciding to purchase these submarines, the Government has given up pretending that Australia “doesn’t have to choose between its history and its geography”. It has decisively opted to stand with the United States against a rising China and to do so in an ostentatiously aggressive way. The submarines have a mission which is so obvious to the security establishment that military pundits were describing it openly on the day of the announcement. They are to hang around in straits and channels between islands in what is called the first island chain, a series of large and small islands that separates the South China Sea and the East China Sea from the Pacific Ocean. There, they will help bottle up the Chinese navy and prevent it having free access to the open ocean. The Pacific Ocean is to remain an American lake and Australia has volunteered to help.

However, keeping China in this subordinate position is easier said than done. For over four decades, it has been developing with extraordinary speed. Though it has slowed somewhat in the last few years, its growth is still vastly stronger than that of the US or any other developed country. Its GDP is projected to overtake the US around 2030, give or take a few years depending on whose crystal ball is consulted. The US has seen off previous challenges to its dominance, with its would-be rivals stalling at about two thirds of US per capita GDP.

China, though, is a different kettle of fish. Its population is four times that of the US, so even if its development stalls at half the US GDP per capita, it will still be double the US GDP in aggregate. The US military advantage over China and its global dominance more generally would become completely unsustainable by then, if not well before. Continued US dominance requires China’s development to be halted – either by economic strangulation or, failing that, by war. Indeed, a recent issue of The Diplomat, an elite magazine for the Asia Pacific region, said:

It is probably worth thinking about how and what the the United States might do in order to reduce Chinese economic growth, including aggressive decoupling and the stringent use of financial and technology sanctions.”

The United States and its closest allies (there are none closer than Australia) are attempting to undermine China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is a project by the Chinese so-called “Communist” Party to take China’s development to the next level and reorient the economy of the region around it. In addition, the US is increasingly using intellectual property laws to prevent China acquiring technology, trying to prevent China exporting its technology to other countries and waging a trade war against China’s exports (something Trump started and Biden hasn’t dropped). Australia is somewhat conflicted in this project, since it sells so much iron ore and other minerals to China, but this hasn’t prevented it participating in the US campaign. Australia has been especially active in trying to keep the Belt and Road Initiative out of the South Pacific.

However, China’s economic strangulation is far from assured. The relative decline of US power in the last half century means that China may still maintain a superior growth path to the US through economic relations with other developing countries, primarily in Asia but also in Africa and even Latin America. US economic warfare may, in fact, backfire and put the US rather than China into the slow lane.

And this is where things get really dangerous. Nobody wants a nuclear war, but nobody wanted World War I either. That war occurred even though the great imperialist powers didn’t want it because they wanted something else even less – having their vital national interests subordinated to another power. War with China would occur the same way. The greatest danger is the Thucydides Trap, the temptation for the US to launch a war on China before China becomes too powerful to wage war against.

This, then, is what is driving the AUKUS partnership. It is an attempt to keep China militarily subordinate, even to the extent that it is surrounded by US military bases and cannot sail its navy into the Pacific Ocean without US permission. Australia already plays a vital role by being a vociferous US ally in the region and, even more importantly, being the site for the US spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs. This base is essential to the US military satellite system, since without it there would be a large blind spot in its global surveillance. The role of the Australian submarine purchase is to maintain Australia’s leverage in the anti-China campaign. Australian capitalists still want to export to China and also want to preserve Australian imperialist interests in the South Pacific.

The submarine purchase, though, is proving to have unintended consequences. The decision to acquire nuclear submarines with US technology required dumping a $90 billion contract to buy conventional submarines from France. The duplicity of the Australian Government, particularly that of Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and Marise Payne, has outraged the French Government at a particularly unfortunate time. With the imminent retirement of Angela Merkel, the senior political leader in the European Union will be the French President, Emmanuel Macron. The Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement, which has been under negotiation for a couple of years, was expected to be concluded very soon. It looks to be an early casualty. More significant is the attitude of France in particular, but the EU generally, towards co-operation with the US over China policy. If France is going to be shafted by its erstwhile allies in the Pacific, it’s a lot less likely to see things Uncle Sam’s way when the US President wants a common front against China.

Even more important still, especially for Australian imperialism, is reaction in the Asia Pacific. The media constantly refer to unnamed countries which support the submarine acquisition and the US anti-China campaign. Two states which might conceivably approve are Japan and Vietnam, neither of which would be keen to advertise the fact. Meanwhile, both Malaysia and Indonesia have publicly expressed concern. Neither are particularly fond of China, but they definitely don’t want a regional arms race. And an arms race is what they will get, since Beijing won’t be taking the submarine announcement lying down.

While it is possible that the Australian Government under Scott Morrison has simply blundered into this situation (much of his Cabinet, including Morrison himself, have failed upward), the same cannot be said of the United States. Joe Biden is an old foreign policy hand and came to office promising to rebuild US relationships after the chaos and unpredictability of the Trump years. The US has made a conscious choice in how it addresses relations with China. Instead of building a broad alliance to push back against poor behaviour by China, it has put together a narrow one (reminiscent of the “Coalition of the Willing” in 2003) to stake out an aggressive military posture. This is not an accident. The US and China are on a path to war and AUKUS is a big step towards launching it.

China is entitled to become a developed country and its population is entitled to the standard of living which comes with that. The US attempt to strangle its economic development and keep it a poor country is a crime against humanity and the barely hidden threat of nuclear war is an even bigger one. Over the next few years, we can expect a strong media campaign in the US, UK and Australia concerning a multitude of complaints against China. Some of these (notably its treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, the Tibetans and the people of Hong Kong) will be real crimes by the Chinese so-called “Communist” Party. Regardless of whether Beijing’s crimes are real or imagined, though, the motivation for the complaints will be the same. They will be attempting to solidify public opinion behind the anti-China policy and the path to war.

In Australia, the public opinion campaign will have one certain result. There will be a massive increase in racism directed at people of Chinese background or appearance. Anti-Chinese racism has been officially frowned on by Australian governments for about three decades. They have preferred to use Aboriginal people, Muslims and, lately, Africans as their lightning rods for social discontent. Developing confrontation with China will change that. Chinese migrants, their children and even people of Chinese extraction whose family have been here for generations will be seen as a potential fifth column. They will be subject to random violence and abuse in the street, suffer discrimination justified by patriotic reasoning and receive unceasing demands to demonstrate their loyalty to Australia and their hostility to Beijing. It won’t be pretty.

The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group calls on the labour movement in Australia to oppose the AUKUS partnership and its anti-China campaign. The nuclear submarine purchase underlines our established position: not a person, not a penny for the imperialist Australian military! We have no illusions in the Chinese so-called “Communist” Party. It is a gang of corrupt bureaucrats whose Stalinism is so degenerate that it celebrates Chinese billionaires. There are more US dollar millionaires in Beijing’s National People’s Congress than there are in the US Congress. Our opposition to AUKUS instead derives from our opposition to our own ruling class.

Against the AUKUS partnership and the looming threat of war against China, the MACG raises the banner of international working class solidarity. We are opposed to all governments worldwide, but our task is to overthrow the capitalist class here in Australia. Our aim is for a workers’ revolution which sweeps the world, toppling all ruling classes without distinction. This revolution will abolish imperialism by abolishing the nation state. In its place will flower a global community, organised on the basis of consistent federalism and practicing libertarian communism. Now, that’s something to fight for.

DOWN WITH AUKUS!

DOWN WITH ANZUS!

CLOSE PINE GAP

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VACCINATION VS GLOBAL CAPITALISM

This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 10 No 4, published 31 August 2021.

The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus continues to sweep the world. So far, it has caused over 200 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 4,500,000 deaths. We know that many more of both have gone unrecorded, particularly in the Third World. Rich imperialist countries buy up the vaccines, pricing poorer ones out of the market. A more infectious strain, the Delta variant, has disrupted previous plans for a return to normality. Very few countries have escaped it and even their success may be temporary.

There is a connection. The failure of most governments to fight the coronavirus effectively has led to large pools of infection which are ideal for generating mutations. Selection pressure leads to more contagious strains becoming dominant. This is how the Delta strain emerged and more strains will be born as long as there are so many global infections.

This is a disaster made by capitalism. Imperialism has kept most countries poor. In rich countries, governments reluctant to confront capital have failed to take effective action to stop the virus circulating. Many workers, left without enough economic support, have had to break health regulations. Some have become an audience for reactionaries who peddle unscientific nonsense about the virus, vaccines, masks or any number of quack remedies and crackpot theories. Many of these reactionaries are simply fools, but in amongst them are cynical Fascists, keen to create chaos and a desire for authoritarian solutions.

Intellectual property laws have created an artificial shortage of vaccines and led to poor countries being outbid by rich ones. The vaccination rate in Africa is horrendously low and only 1.6% of people in low income countries have received any doses at all. Capitalism, by preventing an effective effort being made against the virus in the Third World, is thus creating new strains which strike back against rich countries.

As long as the virus exists, it will threaten to wreak a path of death and disability across the globe, wherever vaccination or other strategies fail. The only path to safety is to eliminate it completely. This will require vaccine production to increase by an order of magnitude. New vaccines must be developed – vaccines for children, vaccines giving maximum protection against the Delta strain and future variants, vaccines with fewer side-effects and vaccines which give life-long protection.

To achieve this, the rules of capitalism must be broken. Intellectual property laws restrict vaccine production and also restrict access to the best vaccines, so they must go. A massive research effort is needed to discover vaccines that can eliminate the virus. This requires breaking researchers out of their corporate structures so they can collaborate freely and globally. And finally, we need a co-ordinated plan to eradicate the virus worldwide, combining vaccination with public health measures. This will require shutting down industries and paying workers to stay home. Capital has resisted such measures and will continue to resist them.

How will this program be won? The answer is the same as always. The working class, supported in the Third World by the other popular classes, needs to fight. We need to demand health and safety measures and to refuse unsafe work and we also need to mobilise a social movement. We must render society ungovernable and prevent the accumulation of profits until governments around the world have taken the necessary steps to beat SARS-CoV-2 for good.

And the movement we build while campaigning for this program will embody the values and practices of a new society. A movement based on solidarity and committed to liberty and equality for all. A movement which can make a revolution to overthrow capitalism and establish libertarian communism worldwide. Let’s do it.

WIPE THE VIRUS FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH

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TRANSITION TO DISASTER

This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 10 No 4, published 31 August 2021.

The National Plan to Transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response is a plan for disaster. The Federal Government, at the behest of the most powerful capitalists in Australia, is planning to give up the fight to eliminate COVID-19 and even to re-introduce it into areas of Australia that are now free. It airily dismisses concerns by referring to the research of the respected Doherty Institute.

The National Plan is a single sheet of paper that sets out a four step process. We’re no experts, but most points in Phases A and B appear to be a bureaucratic expression of the current framework. The really dangerous part is the final “Post-Vaccination” Phase D, where the proposal is to abandon all internal social distancing regulations and start “living with the virus”.

The transition markers in the National Plan are reached when 70% and 80% of the population over the age of 16 are vaccinated. This equates to 56% and 64% of the total population vaccinated, a very long way below what is necessary to achieve herd immunity, especially with the Delta variant dominant. In these circumstances, a little elementary logic shows that abandoning social distancing will lead to mass infection and death. Certainly deaths will be much fewer than if no vaccines were available, but that doesn’t make the plan in any way acceptable.

It is the reference to the Doherty Institute research that allows the Government to get away with a proposal that the lay reader can see is dangerous. The Doherty research hasn’t been well circulated, though, because if it was widely read there would be uproar. Fortunately, the MACG has been able to find a valuable analysis by Matt Barrie at: https://medium.com/@matt_11659/australian-public-fed-nonsense-as-country-heads-to-irreversible-decision-99350b80125c .

In summary, the Doherty Institute predicts mass hospitalisations and ICU demand that is double current ICU capacity. The consequences in death and serious disability should be obvious. And what’s worse, the major difference that would be achieved by the desired 80% vaccination rate would be a delaying of the curve, as infections take longer to get hold in the community. The Doherty graphs, which cut off at 180 days after the transition to Phase B (where public health measures start to be relaxed at 70% adult vaccination), show cases continuing to rise at that point. This is not a path to freedom from COVID-19. It’s a transition to disaster.

So, what’s going on? The capitalist class in Australia wants to get back into the world economy. Certainly, mineral exports have been going gangbusters all along, but tourism and education, two huge export industries, have been closed down for over a year and the businesses in that sector are desperate to get going again. Capital also wants access to temporary migrant workers to be restored. Because their temporary status puts them at the mercy of employers, they are often employed at illegally low wage rates. Farmers and other bosses who make major use of this scam have been complaining bitterly about labour shortages.

The success of public health authorities in suppressing COVID-19 and then eliminating it from internal circulation (apart from periodic breaches in hotel quarantine) has produced a major problem for capital. Keeping COVID-19 out of the community has been greatly welcomed, but has led to the population being reluctant to rejoin the global economy while the virus is rampant overseas. Business has therefore had to pressure its political representatives to come up with a solution.

The National Plan is that solution and the current outbreak in New South Wales is the wedge which the Federal Government is using to make it look inevitable. Unlikely as it might sound, Scott Morrison and Gladys Berejiklian don’t want to stop this wave. They just want it to move slowly, while the vaccination campaign is implemented.

The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group calls on the labour movement in Australia to reject the National Plan to Transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response and instead to fight for the following program:

* Maintaining the objective of eliminating COVID-19 from the community;

* Free, safe vaccines for all, regardless of intellectual property;

* Adequate, tailored health information for all, communicated by people trusted by target communities in languages that will be understood;

* Adequately staffed and funded public health teams for testing and contact tracing;

* Purpose built quarantine facilities, appropriately staffed and capable of dealing with the required demand;

* A living income paid to all who need to isolate away from their employment on public health grounds;

* Cancellation of residential rent and mortgage interest for the duration of the pandemic.

Vaccination must not be used as a tool for creating a capitalist dystopia where we must “live with” the virus. Instead, vaccination must be part of a coherent strategy to help eliminate it. It can be done. It must be done. We have to fight.

ELIMINATE THE VIRUS

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THE STRUGGLE FOR PALESTINE

This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 10 No 3, published 30 June 2021.

The dust has settled on the latest Israeli attack on Gaza, but the fundamental position remains.    Israel continues its slow process of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and on the West Bank, while failing to demolish the military capacity of Hamas in Gaza.  And yet, the situation is not stable.

Protests in Jerusalem and on the West Bank exploded on 6 May, when Israeli authorities moved to enforce evictions of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.  Israeli law allows Jews who fled during the war over the establishment of Israel to reclaim their property, but prevents Palestinians from doing the same.  The double standard in Israeli law is deliberate.  It’s what being a “Jewish State” is all about.

The #SaveSheikhJarrah protests started in Jerusalem, but then swept the West Bank and into the territory of 1948 Israel.  They grew in intensity and police and military violence against them increased.  Fascist mobs chanting “Death to Arabs” rampaged through Palestinian areas of Israel’s cities.  They were often protected by the police while they did their violent work.

As Palestinian resistance deepened, it became more organised, but stayed out of the control of both Fatah and Hamas, the two main capitalist parties of the occupied Palestinian territories.  A strike wave developed.  Israel was under massive pressure and its propaganda machine had no targets.

Hamas to the rescue

It was Hamas that came to Israel’s rescue.  The developing mass Palestinian insurrection was threatening to render them irrelevant.  Hamas sought to counter that by launching a rocket attack on Israel, starting on 10 May.  This was an engraved invitation for Israel to send its air force on murderous bombing raids against Gaza.  Transferring the struggle onto the military plane was part of the plan.  (Readers should note we do not equate the terrorism of Hamas with Israeli State terror. Israel’s violence is systematic, institutionalised and on a far greater scale.)

Hamas and Israel succeeded in their objective.  They undercut mass political action by the Palestinians and converted them into passive spectators of a military conflict from which they were excluded.  Israel was once again flattening Gaza with its air force while Hamas fired rockets, whose inaccuracy rendered them almost random, into civilian targets and perhaps the occasional military one.  By the time of the 21 May ceasefire, the steam was gone from the mass struggle.  It subsided soon afterwards.  The status quo had been re-established, for the time being.

Zionism

The oppression of the Palestinians is a product of the Zionist colonisation project that created Israel and continues to build settlements on the West Bank and force Palestinians out of East Jerusalem.  Until World War II, it was a minority political philosophy amongst Jews and, of these, only a minority favoured the establishment of a Jewish State.  The majority position of Zionists then was a binational State for both Jews and Arabs in Palestine.

After World War II, Zionism gained the support of a majority of Jews.  The Nazi Holocaust had not only killed six million European Jews, but, for many survivors, destroyed faith that anti-Semitism could be eradicated.

Israel was created in 1948 and 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes in the atrocity that became known as Nakba.    As a Jewish State, Israel is not the State of all its citizens.  Rather, it is the moral and political equivalent of a White Australia or an Islamic Republic.  Despite a veneer of equality, its Palestinian citizens are systematically discriminated against by a web of laws. Palestinians in the occupied territories are treated as unwelcome obstacles who are expelled when circumstances allow and their land is assimilated into Israel.

The Palestinian struggle

In the early days, the struggle of the Palestinians against Zionist colonisation was conducted under largely traditional leadership.  The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, leader of the Palestinians in the 1930s, was a bloodthirsty bigot who spent the majority of WWII collaborating with the Nazis in Germany.  The Palestine Liberation Organisation, founded in 1964, initially adopted armed struggle, but shifted after a couple of years to a strategy of building support among capitalist States.

The First Intifada ran from 1987 to 1993 and marked the entry of the Palestinian masses into the field of struggle for the first time since the 1930s.  It consisted of strikes and demonstrations which, until close to the end, adopted a deliberate strategy of avoiding lethal violence, despite the intense violence of Israel in trying to suppress it.  The Intifada was marked by general support for the PLO political position, but a determination to maintain its organisational autonomy.  It culminated in the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995.

Hamas was formed at the start of the Intifada, growing out of the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.  It gained popularity as Palestinians became disillusioned with the results of the Oslo Accords.  It was the primary force behind the Second Intifada of 2000-05.  Its signature tactic at the time was suicide bombing of Israeli civilians.  This destroyed the peace camp in Israeli politics and led to a massive shift to the right in Israel.  It was militarily ineffective and a political disaster.

Since then, there has been a strategic stalemate, with inconclusive Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2008 and 2014.  Palestinians started to become disillusioned with Hamas while continuing to deepen their distrust of Fatah, who have degenerated into corrupt collaborators with Israel. This year’s conflict has restored the reputation of Hamas to some extent, but has not changed the underlying situation.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement was launched in 2005 when the Second Intifada petered out without result.  It was consciously set up by a wide range of civil society organisations as an alternative to armed struggle and outside of the control of both Hamas and Fatah.  Its aim is the achievement of a democratic, secular State in Palestine, where Jews and Palestinians will live as equals.  Taking its inspiration from South Africa, it proposes civil boycotts of Israel, disinvestment from Israeli companies and from companies doing business with Israel and the imposition of sanctions on Israel by other States.

This movement has been growing in strength ever since.  Accordingly, the BDS movement has become the target of most of Israel’s propaganda abroad.  Its key argument is that the return of the Palestinian refugees would lead to Jews being outvoted and Israel’s nature as a Jewish State being dismantled. According to Israel, this would be anti-Semitic, but the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group disagrees.  The return of refugees is a universal right and majorities achieved by ethnic cleansing are indefensible.  People everywhere should live in freedom and equality, so the discriminatory basis of the Israeli State is also illegitimate.

We defend the BDS movement against Israel’s propaganda, while also criticising them. We do not oppose the boycott aspect of the movement, but BDS relies for its main strength on the prospect of getting capitalist governments and corporations to put pressure on Israel.  This hands control to the capitalists over what sort of society will exist in Palestine.  The outcomes would not be favourable to the Palestinians.

The road forward

For the Palestinians to achieve freedom, many things need to change.  Firstly, a political movement needs to develop that can prevent Hamas derailing mass struggle as happened in May this year.   Attacks on civilians, whether through rockets or suicide bombs, unite Israel, driving the working class into the arms of their exploiters.

Second, the labour wing of the BDS movement has to develop strongly, with a special focus on preventing the export of weapons and military equipment to Israel or their import from Israel. Port workers in Livorno in Italy refused to load a ship they believed was going to carry weapons to Israel.  This was an excellent action and should serve as a model for workers worldwide.

Thirdly, and most importantly, workers need to rise and overthrow the sheikhs, the Ayatollahs and all the other tyrants that plague West Asia and North Africa.  Egypt is the most important country in this process.  Over twice as populous as any other Arab country, it shares a border with Israel and currently assists with enforcing the starvation blockade of Gaza. Egypt has a large working class which has engaged in repeated militant strike movements, most recently in 2011 during the Arab Spring.  The workers’ movement must purge anti-Semitism from Egypt and other countries in the region.  Anti-Semitism serves as a lightning rod for the tyrants.  Not only is it ethically wrong, but it captures and safely dissipates class anger that should be directed at the tyrants themselves.

A workers’ revolution in Egypt would split Israel along class lines. It would place immense pressure on Israel by strategically boycotting trade with it and by relieving the blockade of Gaza.  It would also create an example of a better society which would appeal to the class interests of workers in Israel – including Jewish workers currently committed to Zionism.  And, without national unity, the Zionist project will unravel.

The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group’s solution to the oppression of the Palestinians is the same as for oppression everywhere.  The problems of capitalism can only be solved by workers’ revolution.  In Palestine, that means defeating Zionism and replacing it with the No State Solution, a society of libertarian communism that operates on the basis of consistent federalism.

THE ROAD TO JERUSALEM RUNS THROUGH CAIRO

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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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