Archive for February, 2012

February 17, 2012

For freedom’s sake, look behind the veil of private property

A string of banks, airlines, car manufacturers and aluminium refiners – all big corporations which have profited for years while extorting billions of dollars in public subsidies – have spat in the face of our society. They have begun mass sackings of workers, even while Australia supposedly escaped from the global capitalist economic crisis. The big banks have refused to pass on interest cuts to families struggling to service huge home mortgage even while posting huge profits.

In this context, Green Left Weekly has run a number of opinion pieces raising the idea of nationalising the mining, banking, car and aluminium industries. As a result we’ve been called “extremists” and even “vermin” by a few people posting anonymously in the comments box.

Some less hostile and reactionary responses have asked if nationalism was possible, considering that the plant and even technology used by these corporations is “private property”.

But in these times of crisis, we are all given serial lessons on how selectively the corporate rich apply the rule of private property. Indeed, we have seen entire peoples condemned to the collective punishment of forced economic austerity just to implement their rule: Privatise the profits, socialise the losses.

In the case of the car and aluminium industries – as Geelong Trades and Labor Council Secretary Tim Gooden explains in an exclusive interview in this issue [insert link] – the public has been subsidising the profits of their private owners in times of economic boom as well as in times of recession. They have been on a lifelong gravy train. They have been worlds-best corporate welfare extortionists.

So the public should not be terrorised into submission with the words “private property”. Indeed we should look behind the veil of this thing called “private property” more often. I am not referring to what most people count as their private property: their clothes, their bicycle, car or even a home, but rather to the private property that is used to systematically enslave others and grossly distort the social and environmental choices our society makes.

Private property of this nature can often be traced back to outright theft: the stealing of land of indigenous and colonised peoples, brigandry and piracy, etc. But such ill-gotten gains have then been multiplied through systematic exploitation of people who have been left with no choice but to sell their labour power to the owners of private property that serves as capital.

The stupendous profits that amass and concentrate under capitalism don’t appear out of thin air – nor out of the hard work of the owners of private property. They come out of exploitation. No exploitation, no profit. This is an iron law.

“Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks,” observed the famous German socialist Karl Marx.

If we want to free society from the dead end that capitalism has brought us to, then we need to be prepared to look behind the veil of private property and see the real relations of power that lie behind it. “Freedom is the recognition of necessity,” Karl’s best mate noted.

OK, another red has come out from under the bed and he’s urging you to defy the J Edgar Hoovers of today by chipping into our fighting fund this week. You can donate online to the Green Left fighting fund. Direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 00901992. Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or donate on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

February 15, 2012

Remember T J Hickey 1986-2004

I took these photos at a march in Redfern NSW on February 14, 2012 to commemorate the killing of T J Hickey during a police pursuit eight years ago and to protest all Aboriginal deaths in custody.

There have been more than 400 Aboriginal deaths in custody since 1980, one death in custody per month or more than 13 deaths per year. Less than a third of the 339 recommendations handed down in 1991 by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody have been implemented.

The number of imprisoned young Aborigines (between 10 and 17 years of age) increased by more than 20% in 2009-2010 compared to the previous year, according to a recent Productivity Commission report, and the average detention rate of young Aborigines is 25 time that of young non-Aborigines. What’s happening to these youth points to the future. It’s indicating the likelihood of more deaths in custody and more destroyed lives to come unless there is a radical change.

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February 11, 2012

This obscenity is unacceptable

By now we all know that the rich get richer under capitalism? But many are astounded a the incredible pace this takes place.

This week it was reported that young Aussie billionaire James Packer celebrated a 560% increase in his casino investment in Macau. Great reward for making totally unproductive, indeed socially and morally destructive, investments.

Then there was the incredible account of how the $75 million in mining assets Gina Rinehart inherited in 1992 from her mining moghul father, Lang Hancock, has multiplied into $17-20 billion in just 20 years making her wealthiest woman in Asia, according to Forbes. She’s on the path to becoming the richest woman in the world after her wealth doubled through a single deal.

Meanwhile on the other side of the global tracks, Greek pensioners, already struggling to get by with a pittance, will have their pensions cut by 20% under the terms of austerity deal agreed to by a Greek government appointed by the world’s bankers. Workers will be forced to take a 22-23% pay cut. And in return, the world’s bankers will increase Greece’s debt (and in the process protect bad and corrupt unpayable loans made by those same bankers).

Greece is being fleeced and sent to hell to years to come to save the system that makes the rich even more obscenely rich.

Our moral stance can only be to reject this as obscene and unacceptable. Green Left Weekly gives full solidarity to the Greek workers, pensioners and students who are continuing to fight this austerity to bail out a sick and corrupt world capitalist system.

If you agree with us, please support this independent media project by donating online today to the Green Left fighting fund. Direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 00901992. Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or donate on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

February 4, 2012

Left-Green unity is an objective necessity

Greens MLC David Shoebridge giving greetings to the Socialist Alliance conference on January 22. Photo by Peter Boyle.

[Submitted for publication in Green Left Weekly]

Rupert Murdoch’s flagship newspaper, The Australian, has been on a campaign to destroy the Greens because it is a major – and growing – electoral break from the “Lib-Lab”, two-parties-for-capitalism, system that has dominated politics in this country for more than a century. In the last two weeks this campaign has hyped into McCarthyite Cold War hysteria.

Lurid headlines like “Secret past of Greens senator Lee Rhiannon”“Rhiannon’s secret rendezvous with ‘agent-running KGB officers’” and “NSW Greens ‘riven by branch warfare’” sought to vilify progressive Greens MPs.

Senator Rhiannon has answered the latest red-baiting attacks on herself, noting the Australian appeared to have been given access to material that had been blacked out from her released ASIO files on a trip she made to England as an 18 year old. The Australian‘s Christian Kerr “attempt to associate my departure on a Russian cruise ship to potential spy activities is ridiculous. I left on the MS Shota Rustaveli as at that time it was the cheapest way to get to England, and unfortunately quite boring as we were at sea for six weeks.”

Then on February 2, progressive NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge was attacked for giving greeting to the recent national conference of the Socialist Alliance in another Cold War-style piece, “MP’s visit to far-left meeting roils Greens”.

Shoebridge’s “cameo appearance” at a “meeting of a far-left group” was said to have “raised eyebrows” in the Greens.

Shoebridge has nothing to be ashamed of. His greetings to the Socialist Alliance conference were open, frank and delivered with humour, as readers can see for themselves on the Socialist Alliance website.

He joked “I haven’t come here to join the Socialist Alliance but I have come here to give you a sign of enormous goodwill for what you are doing here over these two days as a political project.”

It is a strong call unity in progressive politics,” said Shoebridge. “We do face challenging times. I think many people in the broader populace see the market ascendancy as inevitable, total, complete and absolutely hegemonic. I personally don’t believe that.

We are seeing a globe where market hegemony in other parts of the world , in Europe and the United States is being seriously questioned. We see it here in the streets with Occupy Sydney. We are seeing a market economy facing extreme pressures and partial collapse. That gives progressive politics an enormously broad space to start talking over a couple of years about what can replace it, what can empower individuals and communities, how we can re-order our society and our economy in order to deliver for people, in order to deliver for the environment.

I know that is what you are talking about and I wish you well in your discussion from myself as a Greens MP. Good luck, goodwill and let’s strive to work together as we can to get those progressive outcomes.”

Shoebridge summed up the situation well. Capitalism has taken the world to an unprecedented crisis point. The global climate change crisis, which The Australian regularly denies, and the new global economic crisis means that there is an objective necessity for the left and the Greens to work together against the powerful forces that oppose the real changes that are urgently needed in our society.

Every genuine capital “G” or small “g” green knows this is an objective necessity – if we are to rescue our common future from corporate greed.

At its latest conference, the Socialist Alliance reaffirmed that it “seeks the greatest possible political collaboration with the Greens”. The powerful enemies of political change have an equally strong resolve to destroy the left-Green cooperation that saving the future requires. Sadly, it is clear, that right-wingers in the Greens are helping the corporate media.

Peter Boyle and Susan Price were elected national co-convenors of Socialist Alliance at its 8th national conference on January 21-22, 2012.