Here is the link to my 30 minute interview with Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 22 April. We discuss the forthcoming austerity Budget, fake crises and also refugees.
Ruling classes around the world have their national myths. These attempt to tie working people to the capitalist class through the false idea of nationhood – a recent historical development.
The Australian version of this national myth is ANZAC Day. It is supposedly the day Australia became a nation. It celebrates the defeat of Australia’s invading troops at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915.
It is important to understand the historical context around the establishment of this day. The first ANZAC Day was held in 1916. The war to end all wars was bogged down in bloody slaughter. In Australia support for the imperialist adventure was split.
Many workers remembered the bitter class battles of the 1890s and the depression that drove large numbers into poverty.
Workers had ignored Federation, despite the cheer squads of Australian capitalism attempting to use that event to glue workers to the system and the exploitation that arises from it. For many workers class was the most important determinant of loyalty.
The war further exacerbated class divisions.
Many rejected outright participation in the battle between two competing imperialisms. Others, influenced by the Labor Party, supported it but opposed conscription.
The class still had a memory of internationalism, and the impending outbreak of revolutions across Europe (including the German revolution, which ended Germany’s war) would only further reinforce this sense of class solidarity across borders and against the common enemy – capital.
Here in Australia the divisions were highlighted by the rapid growth of the Industrial Workers of the World, a revolutionary group committed to a democratic society without bosses. Indeed the “Wobblies” were such a threat that the police and security forces framed leading members for arson, and the state made being a member illegal, closed down their press and finally outlawed the organisation itself.
Conscription was the issue that saw class divisions come out most starkly in Australia. Working people and their parties opposed conscription, and defeated both referendums on the issue. The ALP split, with the forces around Billy Hughes going over to join the Conservatives and form a Government.
In 1917 there was a general strike in New South Wales. Overseas the Tsar’s regime in Russia collapsed after a five-day strike begun by women workers on International Working Women’s Day.
The first ANZAC Day in 1916 was an attempt to divert anger away from the capitalist class to those who were “disloyal”. It was also an important part of the pro-conscription propaganda.
An immediate concern the ruling class had was that disaffected soldiers – and there were many, having witnessed the reality of war – would link up with the radical sections of society. ANZAC Day deliberately offered them an alternative, an alternative that celebrated their role and remembered those who died rather than questioning why war occurred and why workers died for profits.
In fact, class polarisation (which reached its apogee in 1917 in Russia with the working class taking power on 7 November) continued in Australia and elsewhere for a number of years after 1916 and 1917. This saw ANZAC Day almost disappear in the early 1920s.
It revived after that as the revolutionary tide ebbed (exemplified by the rise of Stalin in Russia and Stalinism elsewhere). The forerunner of the RSL rebuilt itself by setting up clubs and pubs and helping returned servicemen and women (especially during the Depression).
World War II saw the idea of Australia, as a nation, “arrive” (and also boosted the popularity of ANZAC Day).
The sense of class and internationalism lost its way under Stalinism. In Australia the Communist Party wrapped itself in the flag of patriotism to fight the fascists. In fact World War II was among other things a repeat of World War I – the clash of two blocs of imperialism.
The Australian ruling class has always had an imperialist “protector”. This used to be Britain and is now the US. As part of the ruling class’s desire to be the major imperialist power in the region, they have attached themselves and us to a powerful ally which will enable them to carry out that role and to ‘protect’ the Australian ruling class from invaders who don’t.
To do that the ruling class here must pay its dues, its insurance policy. That is why Australia have a long history of following ‘our’ ally into imperialist adventures around the world.
From Sudan in 1885 to Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003 we have participated in a large number of foreign wars to help keep the UK and the US on side with our own expansionist project.
Iraq and Afghanistan were about showing to the US the Australian ruling class’s commitment to the alliance and to allow its own role in the region – East Timor, the Solomon islands, PNG for example – to continue.
The disguised defeat that is Afghanistan sees all the troops except a few advisers on the way out of the country. For what? What did the 39 dead Australians die for?
Gallipoli itself is an example of Australia’s ongoing imperialist view of the world. We were part of a force that invaded a country that we had no quarrel with and which did not threaten us.
ANZAC Day also performs another function.
War is an integral part of capitalism and imperialism. Most people’s initial reaction is to recoil from war and all the horror it brings. ANZAC Day downplays that horror and makes war acceptable.
It is propaganda to allow the ruling class to call on the next generation of workers to join the war effort if needed.
And it may divert people’s attention away from immediate economic concerns - I may be losing my house or job but at least we diggers are good fighters and I am so proud my son or daughter was in Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or East Timor. Or the Solomon Islands.
As Tony Abbott spends $12 billion on fighter jets and cuts pensions, disability pensions, legal aid, scientific research, public service jobs, wages, spending on social services and attacks unions, remember this. We are not all in this together. ANZAC Day is cover for these attacks on poor and workers. It celebrates imperialist wars to prepare us for future wars and to justify our ruling class’s imperialist expansion in the region.
Sol Salbe has posted on facebook the following introduction and a link to an article he has just published on Galus Australia about allegations of antisemitism against the Left, in particular against Socialist Alternative. The article includes a discussion of the ‘evidence’ involved in the allegations of antisemitism against Socialist Alternative at the ANU.
Sol is the former editor of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society Newsletter, Australia, the only full time monitor of the Israeli media and a journalist at the Middle East News Service. I am reposting with his permission.
This item (which I took my time writing) was held over the Passover holiday which finished in Melbourne last night.
I am quite unequivocal in stating that I don’t believe that members of the Socialist Alternative [SAlt] were involved in those alleged antisemitic attacks in Canberra and Adelaide. Attacking them with no evidence is slanderous.
Tim Wilson, one of the Human Rights Commissioners, phoned me today about the ANU student newspaper Woroni and its refusal to publish my rebuttal of their untruths in vilifying Socialist Alternative as anti-Semitic and violent.
He made the point that he couldn’t investigate the issue. He didn’t have the power under the legislation. He also said that not publishing the material was not the suppression of my right to free speech.
I replied it was effectively denying me the ability to exercise my right to free speech and reach the audience who had read the untruths. It reflected a power imbalance.
In this case the power imbalance is between a student newspaper and its structural entrenched power and that of individual students like me and or essential powerlessness.
Wilson’s response was two fold. I could, he suggested, make copies of my rebuttal and distribute them at the ANU.
I also confirmed with Wilson that the editors are elected. He said I could have or could stand for election.
True, but this is just an extension of the theory of elected officials as limited term dictators who can do what they want in power. Clearly this is not the case. In Woroni’s case for example they are bound by their articles of association, including:
The Board must ensure that publications of the Association are published in line with
the Principles in this Schedule.
1. Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced. They should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers either by omission or commission.
2. Where it is established that a serious inaccuracy has been published, a publication should promptly correct the error, giving the correction due prominence.
3. Where individuals or groups are a major focus of news reports or commentary, the publication should ensure fairness and balance in the original article. Failing that, it should provide a reasonable and swift opportunity for a balancing response in an appropriate section of the publication.
4. News and comment should be presented honestly and fairly, and with respect for the privacy and sensibilities of individuals. However, the right to privacy is not to be interpreted as preventing publication of matters of public record or obvious or significant public interest. Rumour and unconfirmed reports should be identified as such.
5. Information obtained by dishonest or unfair means, or the publication of which would involve a breach of confidence, should not be published unless there is an over-riding public interest.
In my view Woroni has not followed its own principles in publishing untruths about Socialist Alternative and in refusing to publish my response. Nor has it in my view followed its own objects which among other things say:
3 The objects of the Association are:
(c) to promote open public dialogue and debate in the University community;
((f) to promote best practice in professional journalism;
There are also requirements for the editors to act professionally etc.
We also discussed if there were other mechanisms to address my concerns. I muttered something about possible referral to the Press Council since Woroni have adopted its principles. Of course not being a member of the Press Council means that the principles cannot be enforced by the Press Council against the Woroni editors.
This prompted me to look again at the Woroni rules of association. They give members like me the right to lodge a grievance and I will do so.
Some time ago, and in accordance with the rules, I also requested details of the editor’s meeting and minutes approving publication of the article of untruth and the details of the meeting with the unnamed source who accused Socialist Alternative of violence.
Despite lodging this request over a month ago and there being a requirement in the rules to provide members with this material within 14 days, I have to date received nothing from Woroni.
In essence I am forced to resort to administrative actions and posting blogs like this.
Why do I care?
I care because I see this as part of the greater struggle to democratise society and allow dissident views to get an airing and to challenge the group think dominating Australian society at the moment. It is also about trying to democratise Woroni itself, to open it up to alternative views that challenge its gutter journalism.
The history of Australia over the last few decades has been the gradual erosion of collective and individual rights by Labor and Liberal governments, driven as they are to suppress the possibility of opposition to the right of the one percent to make profits. This creeping authoritarianism is reflected in civil society.
I care because the plight of the Palestinians is a crime against humanity and the campaign for freedom for all in the region cannot be defamed and undermined by to the untruths of those who oppose justice for Palestinians.
The fact that I have to resort to individualistic and administrative means to try to do this reflects the weakness of the left in Australia and on many campuses, including the political backwater and neoliberal paradise that is the ANU. It reflects in particular our inability (with some honourable exceptions) to mobilise large numbers of students in defence of their own interests let alone around broader political concerns about free speech.
I will continue my fight for free speech even if I have to do it alone.
This is the link to my 30 minute Razor Sharp interview last Tuesday 15 April with Sharon Firebrace. We discuss the WA Senate by-election, the search for alternatives, the Budget, manufactured ‘crises’, lies, secrecy, tax, pensions…
This is a slightly edited version of a letter I have emailed to Tim Wilson, the right wing libertarian Free Speech Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission over the refusal by the Australian National University student newspaper Woroni to publish any rebuttal by me of their outrageous article ‘convicting’ Socialist Alternative of anti-Semitism. What odds eh?
I have been keeping you informed of the refusal of the ANU student newspaper Woroni to publish any rebuttal by me of its outrageous article on anti-Semitism at the ANU.
This is a link to an updated version on my blog of an article I sent to the editors of Woroni, the student newspaper of the Australian National University. They refused to publish an earlier version of what is written.
I ask that you investigate this ongoing denial by Woroni of my right to free speech at ANU and their denial of my ability to rebut their untruths in our publication, Woroni. I am a student at the ANU.
Yours in the struggle for free speech
Update: Tim rang me on Tuesday afternoon. He said he didn’t have the power the power to investigate. He also made the obvious point that not publishing my article was not suppressing my free speech. I made the obvious rejoinder about the power imbalance and he said one alternative would be to distribute copies of the unpublished Woroni article at the ANU. We also discussed Woroni’s adoption of the Press Council Code of Conduct but since they aren’t actually a member of the Council the Code is we suspect unenforceable.
Like all posts on this blog comments – hit the link under the heading – close after seven days.
This is an updated version of an article I sent to the editors of Woroni, the student newspaper of the Australian National University. They refused to publish an earlier version of what is written below. I have submitted a cut down version of this to the Canberra Times for their consideration.
Among other things I have been a freelance journalist for many years and have had a number of articles published, including in the Canberra Times.
I wrote an article on my blog, En Passant, responding to a piece of gutter journalism in the ANU student newspaper Woroni. That Woroni article, called Anti-Semitism at the ANU, made a number of unsubstantiated allegations against Socialist Alternative. I responded on my blog with an article, Woroni: j’accuse …
This followed on from Filita Page and Emma Macdonald’s more factual article in the Canberra Times (‘ANU probes Jewish student harassment claims‘ Canberra Times 5 March) about accusations of anti-semitism at the ANU being investigated by pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Baker.
Essentially the Woroni article, without evidence, convicted Socialist Alternative (of which I was a member until December last year) of anti-Semitism and made unsubstantiated allegations of violence on the part of the organisation. The pro-Vice-Chancellor Richard Baker is conducting an Inquiry into the allegations from the two co-Presidents of the ANU Jewish Student Association ‘… that … one was called a ‘filthy Jew,’ and an, ‘Israeli bitch,’ when she declined a pamphlet and to sign a petition from the Alternative, respectively.’
Despite the fact the investigation was then ongoing – the date for the organisation to respond to the untruths was 17 March – the headline to the Woroni article was Anti-Semitism at the ANU.
No room for doubt is there?
It is not just the headline that convicts Socialist Alternative of this most foul racist activity. The Woroni journalist asked ‘one of the co-presidents of the ANU Jewish Students’ Association how she felt about the Socialist Alternative’s systemic refusal to acknowledge the actions of their ANU members.’
Systemic refusal? Socialist Alternative described the accusations as ludicrous. In other words Woroni’s view, without any proof and before the investigation is finished, is that Socialist Alternative is guilty.
In my opinion this article and its clear imputations of guilt have the effect of denying Socialist Alternative any chance of natural justice by pre-judging the situation and influencing adversely any who read the article. I would rather however that this battle be fought out politically rather than through administrative law to highlight the tactics of those who defend the apartheid state of Israel.
Another allegation was that a Socialist Alternative petition was folded into a plane and thrown in the direction of the ANU Jewish Students’ stall. It had on the back ‘Death to the Zionist entity. Love from Hamas.’ The existence of such a plane does not prove who its creator is. Further, in my time in Socialist Alternative we talked about Israel, or apartheid Israel, or Palestine, or occupied Palestine, not the Zionist entity.
This looks to me like someone who knows nothing about Socialist Alternative but wants to vilify them imaging that this is the sort of thing they would say and write and managing to get their hands on one of the petitions from their stall and writing this nonsense.
Woroni also argued without any proof that Socialist Alternative was a violent organisation. It said:
‘An unnamed source informed Woroni that physical assaults by Socialist Alternative members against members of the Liberal Party, took place earlier this year at the University of Melbourne. However, that the incident was not adequately investigated by the University, the student association, or the student newspaper, Farrago.’
Unnamed source? That is not journalism; it is an attempt to smear a legitimate political organisation. There is no proof for this assertion and I bought the possibly defamatory material to the attention of the University of Melbourne and Farrago.
The whole point of the article, and I suspect, the anti-Semitic allegations, is to smear the name of Socialist Alternative forever. The mud will stick, despite the fact there is no evidence.
Clearly there is a pattern of unsubstantiated vilification in the article and this appears to be part of a wider onslaught on the biggest socialist group on campus and in Australia and on the Left more generally. Truth is sacrificed for calumnies and contumely.
Why? Because Socialist Alternative, despite its small but growing size, is one of the best groups fighting against the neoliberal policies of both Labor and the Liberals and has been a strong supporter of Palestine and the successful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against apartheid Israel.
At first I was surprised this complaint wasn’t sent to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) for investigation as a breach of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, a provision I support to stop Holocaust deniers, Islamophobes and other racists spreading their filth and inciting violence against minority groups.
Of course the rigorous HRC investigation process probably rules out any such referral, but such a recommendation might be a convenient way out for the ANU. A couple of months later when the HRC can find no evidence for the accusations (if it is ever referred by the complainants) against Socialist Alternative it will all disappear quietly without any publication in the Canberra Times or Woroni of the findings.
The stench from the foul lie of anti-Semitism will however linger with Socialist Alternative forever in the noses of the many students, staff and others who read the rotten Woroni article and remember the ANU investigation.
I sent my Woroni: j’accuse piece to Woroni as a rebuttal of the gutter journalism in Woroni. Their response on the Friday morning of 14 March was to refuse to put the article on their website or include it in the next edition of their hard print copy.
Part of their reasoning was it had already been published on my blog, which has a readership perhaps of 200 a day and almost none of them ANU students or staff. My argument was that to reach ANU students and staff who read the gutter article of 11 March, my rebuttal should be published in the same journal that the piece of gutter journalism appeared, namely Woroni.
Another argument for not publishing my Woroni: j’accuse article on their website was that the website is reserved for their ‘reporters’. I would have thought a rebuttal of the untruths and gutter journalism of their ‘reporters’ takes precedence over ‘rules’.
The fact that the focus of the enquiry appears to be unsubstantiated allegations and does not appear to even doubt the accusations, the fact that the 11 March ferociously anti-Socialist Alternative article came out before the enquiry deadline had been reached, that Woroni has refused to publish either of my rebuttals, all lend weight to the suggestion that this is part of a concerted campaign against Socialist Alternative for its anti-capitalist politics and support of Palestine as well as its energy and activism, using any mechanism to attack them.
To overcome that previously published response over a month ago I sent another article (basically an earlier version of this article which hadn’t then been published on my blog) responding to the untruths in the Woroni article. I also sought details of the editorial approval process for the article and have FoI’d information about it.
At first Woroni quibbled about accepting this second article before rejecting it completely. They also wrote to me demanding I stop saying I was being censored.
On 21 March I received the following curt response from the Woroni editors.
This email is to notify you that we will not be publishing your article in the next edition of Woroni or online.
In other words untruths and gutter journalism are OK but a rebuttal will not be published. The censorship continues.
There is a wider aspect to this. The neoliberalisation of higher education has resulted in a less and less free atmosphere at Universities and a dumbing down that denies critical thought by academics.
As Jason Andrews in Woroni reported earlier this year (‘SPIR course cuts and staff losses will hit ANU students‘ Woroni 11 February and ‘The SPIR rout continues‘ Woroni 25 March) there have been a number of departures (some would suggest forced departures given the climate in the School) from the School of Politics and International Relations, the School where I am undertaking my PH D.)
They are qualitative and critical researchers and as Jason noted, these departures and disestablishment of recent courses, ‘must provoke students to question whether or not SPIR is becoming a school almost exclusively focused upon quantitative and institutional approaches to, and studies of, politics and international relations.’
The answer to that is ‘it is’ and this is part of the wider neoliberal agenda to drive out and marginalise all those at Universities and elsewhere critical of the current society and who do not worship at the altar of the ‘free’ market and profit.
This is a free speech issue in two other respects – the right of the Left to organise at the ANU and to support Palestine, and my right to have my voice heard above the gutter press that is Woroni. We on the Left may have to start organising on campus and elsewhere to win back free speech for the Left, for the marginalised, for the poor, for a working class view to be heard, if the baseless slurs against socialists and denial of access to Woroni continue.
Of course I kept Tim Wilson, the so-called Commissioner for Free Speech, up to date on all the issues but have never heard back from this warrior for free speech only for the rich and powerful and their bigoted mates.
I finished up my J’accuse article with this:
‘As more and more people realise the apartheid nature of Israel and while ever the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign grows and contributes to that success, the louder and louder will the cries of anti-Semitism flow from those with an interest in defending the apartheid regime. They cannot rebut the substance of the arguments that show the apartheid nature of Israel so they resort to unsubstantiated assertions, untruths and innuendoes of the sort found in this cheap piece of gutter journalism. Woroni, j’accuse. ‘
Add censorship to the unsubstantiated assertions, untruths and innuendo in the Woroni article and it appears to me that the target, by any means necessary from the forces of reaction, is specifically Socialist Alternative because of its politics and activism, especially around Palestine and in defence of students against attacks from both the Liberal and Labor governments, and more generally the left for daring to question the status quo.
The ongoing commodification of higher education is clearly succeeding in producing closed minds open only to the narrow range of debates allowed for the rich and for capital.
John Passant was a member of Socialist Alternative until December 2013. His wife, and his former Ph D supervisor, who is himself Jewish, were on the stall. John is a doctoral student at ANU although the atmosphere is now so poisonous there he hasn’t been into the University for a while and has been working from home or at another University.
Like all posts on this blog comments – hit the link under the heading – close after seven days.
If you are a public servant or anyone else who believes in the right to bag out Abbott and co, or their neoliberal twins the ALP, Free Speech Sunday is the blog spot for you. Hit the comments link under the heading to have your say.
The world of the lobbyist is a veritable forest of corruption and yet these weeds prosper and grow in the fertiliser of party politics.
It’s the obverse of a bear farting in the woods. Everyone heard former New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell let one rip at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing and within a day he had resigned. Yet all the other ruling class bears are destroying our olfactory and other senses and no one gives a shit.
Well, not quite no one. Up to one hundred thousand marched in March against the Abbott government. Tens of thousands rallied for refugees on Palm Sunday.
Looking at the Western Australian Senate by-election and recent polls it may be that the stampede away from Labor to the Greens (and for conservatives to fruitcake fractious groups like the Palmer United Party) has begun. It may not last but does present a real challenge for an ailing Labor Party.
The response from various Labor politicians has been to talk about reform and rank and file empowerment. It will be a fake empowerment because the rank and file (or what remains of them) are by and large well to the left of the apparatchiks in charge of the party.
I have a novel suggestion for the ALP. Abandon neoliberalism.
Fight for workers and the poor through supporting direct action rather than the trickle down of ‘free” markets. Encourage unions to strike to defend their members.
Of course that won’t happen and the decline of Labor will continue until it becomes well and truly just another party of capital and neoliberalism.
My suggestion to socialists in the Labor cadavre is to leave now and join or join with those small left wing organisations fighting for a better world for working people. Don’t not stay in the ALP, a party committed to making the rich even richer at our expense.
Joe Hockey will hand down the Budget on Tuesday 13 May. All the talk about a Budget crisis is manufactured bullshit to make this Government’s vicious austerity program acceptable. The target of austerity will be the poor and working class although to give the impression of sharing the pain the ruling class will cut back a bit on the Grange.
Why not tax the rich instead of increasing pension availability to 70 by 2029? Gina Rinehart can afford it.
The Abbott government has announced Badgery’s Creek will be the second airport for Sydney. While the spin doctors are painting that as visionary planning and infrastructure spending, real vision would mandate a high speed rail network down the eastern seaboard. Not only would be environmentally friendly and save the people of Western Sydney from aircraft fuel and noise pollution, it would also create many more jobs and be more efficient at moving people up and down the east coast than a second Sydney airport.
Russian imperialism continues to defy US imperialism in the Ukraine. The inability of Obama to impose his will on a second level imperialist power will be a lesson the Chinese and others take to heart.
US drones murdered two Australians. No government condemnation. No fury. Just silence in the face of this American barbarity.
Goodbye Gabriel García Márquez.
To have your say or see what others are saying hit the comments button under the heading. Like all posts on this blog comments close after 7 days.
Barry O’Farrell, an apparatchik of capital in New South Wales, has resigned over receiving a ‘gift’ of a 1959 Grange Hermitage, a $3000 bottle of wine. In common it seems with much of the Liberal Party O’Farrell pleaded lack of memory. He had no recollection of receiving the ‘gift’. His loving thank you note to the Australian Water Holdings’ donor gives the lie to not receiving it.
Perhaps Barry put the red under the bed?
His resignation is not some great victory for the left or the working class.
O’Farrell is not the lone granger. There will be a queue of apparatchiks lining up to take his place as Premier of New South Wales to attack workers and the poor. They will still be cutting workers’ compensation payouts, trying to evict the public housing tenants from Millers Point, attacking TAFE, closing down firestations and slashing funding for public hospitals, schools and transport.
The real corruption is the exploitation of workers, the extraction of surplus value from workers. As profit rates fall because of the way capitalism is organised whoever is running the capitalist state will attack workers and social services to restore those rates.
The ruling class haven’t lost their bottle. Either should we. Instead of whining, strike to stop their class war on workers, retired workers and the poor.