MAY DAY 2018

This statement was distributed at noon on May Day at the 8 Hour Monument in Melbourne

International Workers Day

May Day is International Workers Day. It is a day for workers to come together in struggle worldwide and to celebrate our solidarity. It started as a campaign to free the Haymarket Martyrs, Anarchist union organisers who had been falsely convicted of murder in 1886 after an unidentified person threw a bomb at a workers’ demonstration in Chicago in the United States. As the campaign spread around the world, the workers’ movement developed a sense that its movement was international as its pioneering thinkers had predicted. Four were executed and one committed suicide, but the survivors were ultimately pardoned. August Spies’ last words before his execution came true: “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”

The Workers’ Movement

Over succeeding years, the workers’ movement has waxed and waned. It has spread to new countries as capitalism created new battalions of the working class. It has been weakened by war, repression or betrayal. It has been strengthened by fresh waves of struggle. And all along, greater or lesser numbers have maintained the vision of an international movement with a global vision of a better society. We have had great victories – the revolutions which ended World War I, the great strike wave of the late 1960s and early 70s and the strikes that have driven up wages in China, Indonesia and Bangladesh in recent years. We have had bitter defeats, too – counter-revolution in Russia, Fascist dictatorship in the 1930s and the ongoing imposition of neo-liberalism in the last twenty years.

Today

The working class is now the biggest class in the world, larger than either the peasantry or the urban poor. We are still exploited. We still build unions. And we still strike. It is only from a narrow national view that it can be said that the working class has been rendered powerless or irrelevant. Globalisation has changed the game plan for workers. To put an end to the defeats we have suffered at the hands of neo-liberalism, workers must take an international perspective.

The Task Before Us

The contradiction between the global nature of production under capitalism and the nation state framework in which it is rooted is intensifying. A national perspective, whether it is “Aussie jobs for Aussie workers” or expecting a Labor Government to rescue us from the pressures of the global market, is a recipe for defeat. The only winning strategy is for workers to link across borders and use the power of the capitalists’ global production chains against them. Our movement can unite the human race. Through taking power in the workplace, we can defeat capitalists and governments in all countries. We can create a world of peace, freedom and equality for all. We can make a revolution and create libertarian communism.

WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group

PO Box 5108 Brunswick North 3056
1 May 2018
macg1984 at yahoo dot com dot au

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The Fight For Anarchism is The Fight For Peace

Our comrades in the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement across the other side of the Tasman have put out an Anzac Day leaflet of their own. We think it’s pretty AWSM. Check it out here:

http://www.awsm.nz/2018/04/18/anzac-day-pamphlet/

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THE USEFUL DEAD

This is the MACG’s Anzac Day Statement for 2018.

1915

On this day, 103 years ago, Australian, New Zealand and other troops of the British Empire stormed a Turkish beach. It was a poorly conceived, poorly executed plan to secure a passage through the Dardanelles for the navy of the Czar of Russia. It was a sideshow in the greater crime of the war itself, where two rival imperialist alliances fought to redivide the colonies, markets and resources of the world. The war was ended by revolution, first in Russia in 1917 and then in Germany the following year. Victories for the Entente on the Western Front, while significant, were a result of the social disintegration of the Central Powers rather than being decisive factors themselves.

Today

War is politics pursued via other means. Politics under capitalism is the battle between the capitalist classes of different countries and between each capitalist class and the working class it exploits. Conflict between the most powerful capitalist classes has produced a system of imperialism. In modern globalised capitalism, wars are fought to advance the perceived interests of the capitalist classes of the belligerent powers and nationalism is propagated to enrol the workers behind the flag of their masters. In Australia, dead Anzacs serve once more. Their sacrifices are useful to today’s politicians to generate support for today’s wars.

Australian Imperialism

Australia is a small-time imperialist power in its own right, supporting the US-dominated world order so it can dominate the South Pacific unchallenged. Australia’s politicians therefore got a rude shock recently when reports started circulating that Vanuatu, a Pacific Island country that Australian capitalists rarely think about, was about to agree to establishing a Chinese military base. Naturally everybody denied anything like that was on the agenda, but Australia’s political and military establishment now have something to worry about. How can they keep China out of Australia’s “back yard” – even if the peoples of the South Pacific regard it instead as their living room?

Anzac Day

In recent years, Anzac Day celebrations in Australia have become increasingly strident and nationalistic, full of cloying militarism. And Right wing mobs in the media have taken to denouncing those who are insufficiently patriotic – particularly if they are brown and female. This is a sign that Australian nationalism is under pressure. People considering themselves humans before they are Australians is just too dangerous a thought these days. The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group opposes Australian imperialism and militarism and all celebrations of it. We look forward to a workers’ revolution which will usher in a world community of freedom and equality for all – and where war will be seen in museums, not the news.

END ANZAC DAY
END AUSTRALIAN IMPERIALISM
END CAPITALISM

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group

macg1984 @ yahoo . com . au
PO Box 5108 Brunswick North 3056
25 April 2018

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FORTRESS AUSTRALIA MEANS RACIST TORTURE

This article first appeared in The Anvil Vol 7 No 1, published in February 2018.

Late last year, the Manus Island Detention Centre was closed. Nominally run by the Papua New Guinea Government, it was in reality operated by the Australian Government using remote control. Inconveniently, in April 2016 the PNG Supreme Court found that the centre violated the PNG Constitution by imprisoning almost 900 people who had not committed any crime. Instead of immediately releasing the refugees imprisoned there, the governments conspired to keep them locked up while taking their time coming up with alternative arrangements.

The Manus refugees have been protesting their treatment for years. In the run-up to the closure, they escalated their protests greatly, getting wide publicity in Australia via social media and then breaking into the mass media. The new accommodation is located in the town, rather than on the isolated naval base that housed the Detention Centre, and the PNG citizens on Manus are deeply divided over the refugees. Some are very hostile and have issued threats.

As the closure deadline approached and centre management became more desperate, the vast majority of refugees refused to move. They maintained their non-violent stance in the face of escalating violence from the PNG police and military, directed by the PNG Government, and the security guards at the centre, ultimately directed by the Australian Government. Their struggle sparked widespread sympathy and a series of demonstrations by the refugee support movement in Australia. The Government was at last paying a small price for its policy of systematic cruelty.

In late November, a brutal police assault succeeded in removing the 600 remaining protestors. While protests have since died down, news continues to trickle out. The centre was closed while much of the new accommodation was still under construction and uninhabitable. While technically the refugees are not “detained” there (they can come and go), their lives are still highly regulated and closure has been a pretext for cutting back and removing services. Fears about the hostile reception awaiting the refugees in the township have been validated, while conditions in the new accommodation are poor. One block even has raw sewage running down the street – just the thing to make the neighbours happy!

The torture of the refugees on Manus and the similar torture visited on the refugees on Nauru are things that the Australian Government would like everyone to forget. Triumphant rhetoric about “Sovereign Borders” is a little harder to maintain when the struggles of refugees force the human cost of those policies into public view. A Fortress Australia policy necessarily means racist violence against those the policy seeks to exclude and the treatment of refugees on Manus and Nauru amounts to torture on a grand scale. Both major parties in Australia stand condemned over this.

The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group supports the struggles of refugees, who are simply demanding their legal rights to asylum. We call on the union movement in Australia, sections of which have quite reasonable refugee policies, to act on them and come to the refugees’ defence. We look forward to a workers’ revolution which will create a single federal world community with freedom of movement for everyone. And in the meantime, we support the work of the Close the Camps Action Collective:

https://www.facebook.com/Close-the-Camps-Action-Collective-1741130979474102/.

FREE THE REFUGEES
LET THEM STAY
BRING THEM HERE

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FASCISM ON THE MARCH

This article first appeared in The Anvil Vol 7 No 1, published in February 2018.

Fascism, in various guises, is on the march in most advanced Western countries and some underdeveloped countries. The extent of its rise is related to the history and the state of society in each.

The situation is most severe in Europe, where liberal capitalists’ illusions about the “end of history” have been shattered most cruelly. Mass Fascist parties have risen in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Ukraine. In Austria, they have even entered the government, while in Ukraine they were officially part of the government for a time after the Euromaidan protests. In addition, the governments of Hungary and Poland are hard Right wing national conservatives. They share some of the features of Fascism and are implementing parts of the Fascists’ program. Meanwhile, the Russian government openly collaborates with Fascists both at home and abroad.

Two factors have been driving this. Firstly, Europe is a more accessible destination than Australia, Canada and the US for migrants from the Third World fleeing poverty and oppression. It has traditionally been a source of emigration, not a destination for immigrants. Accordingly, many societies are experiencing challenges to deep seated nativist currents for the first time. The capitalist class cannot resist using cultural anxieties about immigrants to divert popular anger so they do not become targets themselves. The Fascists are able to take the capitalists’ racism to its logical conclusion, arguing forcefully for what the capitalists usually only imply.

The second factor is the failure of the European Union. The EU is a utopian project, aiming to solve the fundamental problem of Europe – the fact that the forces and relations of production there have far outgrown the suffocating confines of the nation state. While the problem is intractable under capitalism, there is no law of history that says you can’t try. Thus the EU.

What has occurred in Europe is that the project of economic and political integration has become trapped half-way. The capitalists have found they cannot drive it further, while a return to unco-ordinated national autonomy would produce economic ruin. On the other hand, the current shape of the EU is dysfunctional, producing both neo-liberal austerity and pointless bureaucracy. The Fascists advance a solution – to cut the Gordian knot of the EU and make somebody else pay the costs of its break-up. This is a recipe for war against both the enemy without and the enemy within. The parties of the political Centre, meanwhile, are like kangaroos in the headlights – doomed if they stay where they are, but frozen into immobility.

In the United States, an entrenched two party system has prevented the emergence of a mass Fascist party, but there is a plethora of new Fascist groups trying to take advantage of the social toxins released by Donald Trump. The US has its own cultural anxieties around immigration. In particular, racists are agitated by demographic trends indicating that at some future date, white people (a category subject to moveable and conflicting definitions anyway) will decrease from being a majority of society to being merely a plurality. Once again, in a society founded on genocide, slavery and violent racism, capitalists use immigrants and ethnic minorities as lightning rods for discontent and Fascists take the capitalists’ racism to its logical conclusion. While the growing Fascist current is yet to take clear organisational form, there are worrying signs that the Republican Party may be vulnerable to Fascist colonising.

In Australia, the Fascists are still marginal, having their political space largely taken up by the hard Right half-way house of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. Hanson has worked hard to keep open Fascists off her candidates’ list, though one or two have slipped through and it’s clear her party is infested with them at the grassroots. Organisationally, Fascists in Australia have proven a disaster, a pantomime on the theme of “Everybody wants to be Führer”. It would be a serious error to be complacent however, because a talented leader could come along tomorrow and unite them. Further, even disorganised Fascists can be dangerous for Muslims, Jews, African immigrants and other targets.

One thing holding back the development of Fascism in Australia, though, is the fact that the capitalist class here is conflicted about fomenting racism. While all the usual minorities still function as attractive lightning rods for internal discontents, there is an external constraint. Australia, being a European settler outpost on the edge of Asia, is vulnerable to being denounced as racist by Asian governments and locked out of trade with the region. This would be a disaster for Australian capitalists and they have so far been much more careful and targeted in their racism than in Europe and the US. There are, however, no guarantees that this will endure in the event of an economic crisis.

The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group believes the best immediate response to Fascism is an internationalist working class movement of resistance in the form of a united front. Within this, we can put forward a libertarian communist solution to the many crises of capitalism. We participate in the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism because, although it has severe flaws, it does some good work and is the only working class united front available to us at the moment. We hope to contribute to solving its problems, most importantly its isolation from the union movement, and fight for a world where Fascism is consigned permanently to the dustbin of history.

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CAPITALISM IS KILLING OUR WORLD

This article was first published in The Anvil, Vol 6 No 2, Sep-Oct 2017.

The single biggest environmental challenge now facing humanity is climate change, but the capitalist system is proving unequal to the task. To be safe, global mean temperature can rise no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Pledges made at the Paris COP21 Conference in 2015 are vastly inadequate. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement and, here in Australia, the Government is proposing action which will fall a long way short of the pathetically insufficient promises it made in Paris.

At the rate things are going, actions to mitigate climate change will be too little, too late, leading to dangerous climate change. Triggering of feedback cycles concerning the permafrost and other large carbon sinks could cause catastrophic levels of damage – even jeopardising the survival of civilisation. Capitalist governments, even when faced with evidence of oncoming disaster, take the least action they can get away with. They are part of the problem, not the solution.

The science exists to decarbonise the activities of the human race, but capitalism is in the road. We need a massive working class movement to save the environment on which we depend for survival and institute an emergency program of transition to 100% renewable energy, sustainable transport systems, sustainable agriculture and decarbonised industry. To get there, we need that working class movement to get rid of capitalism.

In building our movement, we will face obstacles. Opposition from the fossil fuel corporations and their political representatives in the capitalist parties is a given. We will also, though, face opposition from within the labour movement. Union officials, especially those controlling unions that cover workers in unsustainable industries, will attempt to mobilise their members to support bosses in their industry in the name of “defending jobs”. This short-sighted strategy is a road to disaster.

The way out of the trap of defending unsustainable jobs is to start from the principle of a Just Transition. Our movement needs to demand that all jobs be sustainable and that no community gets discarded by capitalism. In the course of the struggle for our demands, it will become obvious to all that the entire capitalist system is unsustainable and that the only Just Transition is a workers’ revolution.

THERE ARE NO JOBS ON A DEAD PLANET

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WAR IN SYRIA

This article was first published in The Anvil, Vol 6 No 2, Sep-Oct 2017.

In Syria, a many-sided war is occurring with no end in sight. A popular uprising started against Bashar al-Assad’s Ba’athist regime in 2011, but Assad saw a way of derailing it. He would turn it into a sectarian war, with Sunni Muslims against the rest. If he could maintain the support, however grudging, of the Alawites and Christians, he would have 20-25% of the population and, together with the State apparatus, a fighting chance of survival.

First of all, Assad deployed massive violence against unarmed protestors, driving the movement to pick up arms in self defence. Then he emptied his gaols of thousands of jihadi Muslim fundamentalists – partly to create prison room for the civilian opposition he was determined to crush, but mainly to allow the jihadis to influence the opposition. A Free Syrian Army formed from defecting troops and opposition volunteers, but had no internal cohesion and little access to arms. It was vulnerable to control by whoever could supply them.

Enter the imperalists and neighbouring powers. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar supplied arms and other materiel to their favoured groups, each hostile to the secular and pluralistic goals of the original uprising. As a result, jihadis came to dominate military opposition to the regime. Assad turned to sectarian allies in the form of Iran and Hezbollah and to Russia, a middle-ranking imperialist power which didn’t want to lose its only naval base on the Mediterranean. The US also intervened, though with more resources than strategy. Obama was unsure whether he wanted the regime reformed or overthrown and had major trouble finding suitable clients to back. As a result, the US has blown massive sums on jihadis they couldn’t influence and puppets who couldn’t fight.

In the Kurdish region of Syria, a Kurdish party, the PYD, took advantage of Assad’s early difficulties to launch a revolution of its own. Borrowing heavily from the Anarchism of Murray Bookchin, the Kurds developed their own concept, called democratic confederalism, and implemented it partially in the area they call Rojava. They developed a “no war, no peace” relationship with Assad, since both sides had more pressing priorities.

The Kurds soon came into conflict with Daesh, the most fanatical of the jihadi groups. Their defence of Kobanê, which deprived Daesh of its appearance of invincibility, brought them to the attention of the world – and an ally in the shape of Uncle Sam. Unwilling to intervene directly with ground troops, the US was desperate for a local ally and the PYD’s military forces, the YPG-YPJ, are far and away the best fighters in Syria. The US therefore buried (for now) its concerns with the PYD’s politics and its embarrassing relationship with its fellow thinkers in Turkey, the PKK, and expanded the relationship.

As the YPG-YPJ took territory off Daesh (and other Syrian jihadis), more areas populated by Arabs and other non-Kurds came under its control. The PYD followed up by spreading democratic confederalism to these new areas and raising non-Kurdish militia that have joined with the YPG-YPJ to create the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

As the PYD’s collaboration with the US has increased, however, so has the role of the US Air Force and the US special forces embedded in the SDF – and the increasing role of the US is affecting the character of the war being waged. As this article is being written, the SDF is in the final stages of liberating Raqqa from the clutches of Daesh, but much of the city is in ruins from USAF bombing and civilian casualties have been high.

Meanwhile, Russian intervention on the side of Assad’s regime has been decisive in turning the tables against the anti-Assad rebels. Aleppo is now fully under Assad’s control, while territory in rebel hands has been substantially reduced. Assad’s enemies abroad are now making their peace with him, with Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf States deciding they have to eat crow. The civilian opposition, sidelined by the jihadi grip on the military resistance, is either underground or amongst the millions of refugees in neighbouring countries or in Europe. It is unlikely to be seen again until the jihadis are off the scene. But Assad now holds power only at the pleasure of his saviours in Tehran and Moscow – and everybody knows it. Although the war might look to be heading towards a close, much blood may yet be spilled.

The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group opposes all sides in the war in Syria, both the internal military forces and the interventions by regional and imperialist countries. Australia is playing a role in the US bombing of Syria and is one of the imperialist powers to be condemned. In the conflict between Assad’s Ba’ath regime and the jihadi-dominated resistance, the working class can take no side. All are utter reactionaries. The MACG calls for all imperialist countries and regional powers to leave Syria and cease intervening in its conflicts. The situation in north-east Syria, however, is more complex.

The social transformation in North-East Syria, not least the improvement in the position of women, holds great promise for the working class and the oppressed masses of West Asia. The extension of democratic confederalism to non-Kurdish areas of Syria is immensely significant. While it is unclear how deep the Rojava Revolution has gone (we are, for instance, sceptical of the ability of a Stalinist party like the PKK to transform itself structurally), the political program of democratic confederalism is worth defending and extending. The weakness in Bookchin’s Anarchism (his abandonment of a class analysis) has not been an obstacle so far in Rojava, where the working class is tiny and the main capitalist force (the Ba’athist State) has largely withdrawn. Spreading democratic confederalism into major population centres, however, requires class struggle that establishes workers’ power in production.

The MACG recognises the right of groups struggling for national liberation to acquire arms from wherever they are to be had and to be judged on what they do with them. However, the collaboration of the SDF with the USAF, and allowing US special forces to be embedded within them, is politically disastrous and must be condemned as a betrayal and a strategic blunder of the first order. The US is justly hated across West Asia for its non-stop record of crimes. To ally with it is to drive a massive wedge between the Kurds and the non-Kurdish people who surround them. The PYD cannot ally with both the United States and the oppressed masses of West Asia. It must choose, because the program of democratic confederalism is incompatible with US imperialism. Either democratic confederalism is spread to Turkey and other US allies, thus earning US wrath, or the US alliance will isolate the Kurds from non-Kurdish potential allies.

We support the civil achievements of the Rojava Revolution. Being implacably opposed to US imperialism, though, we cannot support the SDF until it breaks off its alliance with the United States.

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