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The ALP left in Leichhardt municipality in the 1980s

'Primal Socialist Innocence and the Fall'?: the ALP Left in Leichhardt Municipality in the 1980s

By Tony Harris*


From the History Cooperative.

During the 1970's and the early 1980's, hundreds of people flooded into the ALP branches of the Municipality of Leichhardt. They constituted a new element of the ALP Left, influenced to one degree or another by the social movements of the late '60s and early '70s, or by the experience of the Whitlam Government. They became locked into a fierce struggle for power with local political machines, and behind them a state ALP branch, dominated by the Labor Right. But when, in the early 1980's, the moment of power arrived, this Left fell into bitter disarray, fragmenting along a spectrum that spilled out of the Party. This tale of political 'innocence' and 'fall' traces through the loss of the municipal council and state parliamentary seat and is dramatically symbolised in the fraught struggle over the future one of the most significant labour (and Labor) history sites: Mort's Dock. As such it reveals the historically contingent nature of the 'middle-classing' of the ALP during this period.

Martin Luther King Day: The gulf between promise and fulfillment

[For more on Martin Luther King, click HERE.]

By Billy Wharton

January 16, 2012 -- Socialist Webzine, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- More than 40 years since the death of Martin Luther King Jr., his significance remains an uneasy battleground between those wishing to sanitise his legacy and those seeking to draw inspiration from his radical deeds and words.

Pakistan: The political context of a ‘religious’ assassination

Salmaan Taseer, assassinated governor of Punjab.

By Beena Sarwar

January 8, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, a longer version of this article will appear at Viewpoint -- Just over a year ago, Salmaan Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s largest province, the Punjab, was assassinated in the most cowardly manner by a government-assigned security guard in federal capital, Islamabad. The killer, a trained commando of the Punjab Elite Force, Mumtaz Qadri, pumped 27 bullets into the Governor’s back as he headed to his car on the afternoon of January 4, 2011.

This sensational murder rocked the nation and reverberated around the world. It was not a spontaneous enraged act but a well-thought out, cold-blooded plan. One man executed this plan – but was he acting alone and was it an act motivated only by "religious fervour" as has been depicted, or is there more to the issue than meets the eye? And even if the action was purely altruistic, should the law of the land not be applied to punish the guilty?

Anniversary of the 1937 US sit-down strike wave: Remembering another Occupy movement

Sit-in strikers at General Motors' Fisher No. 1 plant.

By Don Fitz

[See also With Babies & Banners, the classic 1977 documentary about the 1936-37 Flint sit-down strike, and the role of women in it.]

January 3, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The year 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of the great sit-down strike wave of 1937. It also begins the second year of the Occupy movement, which has more than a few similarities to the time when hundreds of thousands of Americans occupied their workplaces.

The first recorded sit-down strike in the US was actually in 1906 among General Electric workers of Schenectady, New York. When three organisers for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) were fired, 3000 of their fellow workers sat down and stopped production.

By the 1930s, the IWW was on the wane, but many of its organisers were active and workers across the US had seen its tactics first hand.

A ‘workers’ government’ as a step toward socialism

Soviet poster dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the October Revolution and Fourth Congress of the Communist International.

By John Riddell

January 1, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, for more articles by John Riddell, go to http://johnriddell.wordpress.com -- The concept of a workers’ government is the awkward child of the early Communist International. The thought it expresses is central to Marxism: that workers must strive to take political power. But in the early Comintern, it was attached to a perspective that was contentious for Marxists then and is so now: that workers can form a government that functions initially within a still-existing capitalist state.

As French Marxist Daniel Bensaid commented, “The algebraic formula of a ‘workers’ government’ has given rise over time to the most varied and often contradictory interpretations.”[1]

Let us see what light can be shed on this question by the record of the Comintern’s 1922 World Congress, recently published in English.[2] This was the gathering that held the Comintern’s most extensive discussion of the workers’ government question and adopted its initial position.

United States: 'With Babies & Banners' -- 75 years since the 44-day Flint sit-down strike

To view With Babies & Banners go to http://links.org.au/node/2681.

December 30, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Flint-based filmmaker Michael Moore has described the 1936 Flint sit-down strike as the "first Occupy" movement. Whether this is strictly accurate or not, the 1936-37 occupation/strike was a ground-breaking development in the US labour movement. To mark this anniversary, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal  is making available the classic 1977 documentary on the strike and the role of women in it, With Babies & Banners (via the link at the top of this article, or click here).

As Moore recounts, "On this day, December 30th, in 1936 -- 75 years ago today -- hundreds of workers at the General Motors (GM) factories in Flint, Michigan, took over the facilities and occupied them for 44 days. My uncle was one of them. The workers couldn't take the abuse from the corporation any longer. Their working conditions, the slave wages, no vacation, no health care, no overtime -- it was do as you're told or get tossed onto the curb.

Rainbow Cuba: the sexual revolution within the revolution

March to celebrate LGBTI rights in Havana, May 2009.

By Rachel Evans

December 23, 2011 (updated January 28, 2012) – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- When I was 16, I went to a Cuba solidarity event in my home town. At the end of inspiring speeches about Cuba’s health record, education standards, and the revolution’s policy of sending doctors and teachers to impoverished countries, a rousing “Cuba si! Yankee no!” chant erupted. It was electric. Much better than the fake feeling, singing and dancing we’d experienced in the church hall on Sunday. I was impressed and resolved to visit the country and see the revolution for myself. Years later and having come out of the closet, I decided my trip to Cuba could help prove or dispel the oft-uttered line of Cuba being homophobic.

This work will help put to bed the lies and distortions propagated by the powerful United States (US) propaganda machine: that the Cuban Revolution is undemocratic, homophobic and tyrannical. My visit to and study of Cuba finds that there is no basis to these claims.

On Jesus and social justice

A poster from Cuba depicts Jesus the revolutionary. 

By Phil Shannon

Christmas seems an appropriate time to turn to the question of the relationship between Christianity and social change. Do pacifism and non-violence, and social change through personal change — which are among the values shared by progressive Christians and secular greens — offer a way forward?

Two thousand years ago in Palestine, exploitation by Rome and its quisling Hebrew ruling class meant severe poverty, political repression and an average life expectancy of around 30 years (less if it was found out that you thought the Romans should go home).

Of the contending politico-religious groups, the Sadducees advocated collaboration with Rome. A moderate wing of the Pharisees, who represented the middle class and the lower and middle priests, embodied the strategy of timid liberal dissent — one proverb said of them "when arms clash in the street, retire to your chamber".

A more militant wing of the Pharisees supported direct action against Caesar and Herod. They eventually split to form the Zealots with a rebel force of peasants from Galilee. Intensely nationalist and religious, the Zealots adopted armed struggle and led large popular uprisings.

The Essenes rejected all political strategies in favour of cultivating personal spiritual perfection.

South Sudan: Africa's newest communist party

By Kerryn Williams

December 16, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Africa’s newest communist party has been born with the formation of the South Sudan Communist Party. On June 28, the SSCP was formally launched at a press conference in Khartoum. On July 9, the Republic of South Sudan officially came into being after seceding from Sudan.

The new party was established by the former section of the Sudanese Communist Party in the south, and also involves returning southern SCP members who fled to the north of Sudan during the civil war.

The party includes former SCP members who joined and were active at all levels in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), now the ruling party of South Sudan.

Preparation for the new party began after the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, which ended the three-decade-long north-south civil war and paved the way for the January 2011 referendum on independence.

Long road to independence

The new South Sudan state faces enormous challenges after a long and difficult road to winning independence.

While the most recent phase of the war in the south, from 1983-2005, caused the death of some 2 million people, the conflict and the suffering of the people of South Sudan long predates this.

Congolese community calls for solidarity; Mineral profits fuel Congo violence


Sydney, December 10, 2011 -- Leaders of the Congolese community in Australia, at a meeting organised by the Latin American Social Forum, explained the crisis the Democratic Republic of Congo is facing after more than 50 years of exploitation by the Western countries and their local allies, and appealed for solidarity from the international socialist movement. Above community elder Mbuyi Tshielantende speaks (translated by Fralis Kolanga).

Liliane Lukoki discusses the situation of women in Congo; Fralis Kolanga calls for solidarity.

The Comintern in 1922: the periphery pushes back

Communist Party of Germany (KPD) member Paul Levi played a leading role in several debates.

By John Riddell

December 4, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, for more articles by John Riddell, go to http://johnriddell.wordpress.com -- Until recently, I shared a widely held opinion that the Bolshevik Party of Russia towered above other members of the early Communist International as a source of fruitful political initiatives. However, my work in preparing the English edition of the Comintern’s Fourth Congress, held at the end of 1922, led me to modify this view.(1) On a number of weighty strategic issues before the congress, front-line parties, especially the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), played a decisive role in revising executive committee proposals and shaping the Congress’s outcome.]

When I translated the first page of this congress, I was not far distant from the view of Tony Cliff, who, referring to the 1921–22 period, referred to the “extreme comparative backwardness of communist leaders outside Russia”. They had an “uncritical attitude towards the Russian party”, which stood as “a giant among dwarfs”, Cliff stated.(2)

African Americans and #Occupy: a convergence of interests

By Malik Miah, San Francisco

December 7, 2011 -- Green Left Weekly/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- What strikes you about the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and its popular slogan “We are the 99%” is how much the central demand of the movement resonates with the Black community. African Americans, with few exceptions, are in the bottom 20% of income and wealth. Double digit unemployment is the norm in “good” economic times. Yet the social composition of most OWS occupations (some 10,000 including college campuses) has had few Black faces including in urban areas with large Black populations.

The reality of high unemployment, few job opportunities, poverty and inadequate health care has most poor people trying to survive. It is why African Americans are not visible in large numbers.

In many cases, however, African Americans are taking to the streets. They are using civil action to protest police brutality and the shutdown of community schools, hospitals and obvious acts of discrimination.

These protests, while widely known in the Black community and Black-oriented media, rarely get prominence in the mainstream newspapers and networks.

Sudan: Farewell Uncle Al Tijani — a remarkable revolutionary (+ Tijani's 1982 address to the court in defence of the SCP)

By Abohoraira Ali

November 29, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/Green Left Weekly -- On November 23, Sudan lost an invaluable activist, writer and leader.

Al Tijani Al Tayeb was one of the founders of the Sudanese Communist Party and the editor of the SCP's newspaper Al Midan. He dedicated his entire life to the movements against colonialism, dictatorship and capitalism in Sudan and against imperialist exploitation of Africa and the Middle East.

Al Tijani was born in 1926 in a poor village near the town of Shendi in north Sudan. His father was heavily involved in the Sudanese independence movement, fighting against the British occupation. Al Tijani learned much from his father’s ideas.

His family moved to Omdurman in Khartoum when Al Tijani was young. He attended school there and studied at Gordon College, which later became Khartoum University.

Al Tijani then went to Egypt to study, where he became involved with Egyptian communists and other leftists. After one year, he was arrested for helping the Egyptian people fight against the British, capitalism and the caste system.

Al Tijani was deported to Sudan where he continued to fight the British occupiers.

Communist history debated at ‘Historical Materialism’ London conference

By John Riddell

November 25, 2011 -- http://johnriddell.wordpress.com --The eighth annual conference of Historical Materialism, sponsored by the journal of the same name, held in London November 10–13 , 2011, featured a coordinated stream of papers on the history of the world Marxist movement during the era of the Communist International (Comintern) (1919-43). The 38 presentations in this stream reflected vigorous activity in this field, while also pointing up some research challenges for historians of the workers’ movement.

The conference as a whole marked an important expansion of this event, with some 750 registered participants and more than 400 presentations.

Centre and periphery

Paul Le Blanc addresses #Occupy Boston: History, power, demands and the Occupy movement


Paul Le Blanc at Occupy Boston, November 21, 2011, and the resulting discussion. Le Blanc was one of the many speakers as part of the Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture Series at Occupy Boston. Le Blanc is a long-time political activist who also teaches at the La Roche College and the author of many books including, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party. To learn more about Paul Le Blanc see http://paulleblanc.laroche.edu/. To learn more about the lecture series see http://zinnlectures.wordpress.com/ and http://www.occupyboston.org/.

For more by Paul Le Blanc, click here. For more on the #Occupy movement, click here.

Lessons of #Occupy: Don’t agonise, organise!

Occupy Perth. Photo by Peter Boyle.

For more on the Occupy movement, click HERE.

By Peter Boyle, national convenor, Socialist Alliance (Australia)

[Talk given to a Socialist Alliance organised forum in the Occupy Perth camp in Forrest Place on on October 30, 2011.]

"Don’t agonise, organise!" --  This quote that has become a bumper sticker, a popular slogan in the feminist movement, the title of many a speech, conference and newsletter is credited to the Afro-American woman civil rights activist Florence Rae Kennedy. She was quoted by Gloria Steinem in Ms magazine in 1973 and since then this powerful slogan has circumnavigated the world many times and being used by many, many activists and movements.

And why do you think this has happened?

It is because this is a slogan that reasonates very strongly with the condition of the oppressed, exploited and persecuted.

On one hand, we are weighed down with the pain of the suffering and indignities inflicted as a matter of everyday business by powerful oppressors. On the other, we are challenged as to what we do in response.

Rapa Nui/Easter Island: Blaming the victims -- Jared Diamond's myth of ‘ecocide’

Sculpture of the flag of independence for Rapa Nui, featuring a representation of the rongorongo script, unique to the island, in the shape of a boomerang, and headstones of Moai at either end. Photo by Coral Wynter.

By Coral Wynter

November 5, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- I have always been fascinated by the story of Easter Island, the European name for Rapa Nui, due to a complete accident in my childhood education, when at age 10, I did a school project on the strange, mysterious statues on the island, known as Moai.

[Please note: Rapa Nui refers to the island and Rapanui is used when it refers to the people or the language.]

My partner has always laughed at my obsession, referring to the Moai as those weird statues of Malcolm Fraser, adding why would you want to see that? (Fraser was the archetypal right-wing leader of Australian politics in the 1970s, who had dismissed a prominent Labour Party leader, Gough Whitlam, in shonky circumstances).

In fact, the 887 statues represent ancient and revered leaders of an ancient island society and the sculpture on top of their heads represents a hairstyle -- a red coloured topknot and not a hat. They bear little resemblance to Malcolm Fraser, wearing a hat.

COSATU leader on South African and Israeli apartheid

Address by Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, District Six Museum, Cape Town. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine's Cape Town hearings concluded that Israel is guilty of apartheid crimes. Its panel of jurists ruled that Israel's actions against the Palestinians breach the prohibition of apartheid under international law. Click here for more details of the tribunal's findings.

* * *

Black South African workers -- especially a mineworker like myself -- who bore the brunt of South African racial capitalism, and understood the purposes and mechanisms of apartheid, know that when we talk about the conditions faced by our Palestinian comrades we are talking about apartheid . -- Zwelinzima Vavi

From La Violencia to the War on Terror: A re-examination of Colombia’s FARC-EP inside Bolivar’s 'Gran Colombia'

FARC guerillas.
La revolución no será calco ni copia, sino creación heroica (The revolution will not be traceable or a copy, but a heroic creation).

-- Jose Carlos Mariategui (1894–1930)

[For more discussion on Colombia, click HERE.]

By Oliver Villar and Drew Cottle

November 3, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Colombia is the first Latin American country to become subjected to the theatre of United States anti-guerrilla warfare. Colombia has also one of the richest histories of revolutionary politics on the continent extending well over half a century. It is throughout this time, that Colombia has been the battleground of an undeclared civil war.

Two mutually complementary causes are traceable. First, Colombia’s compradores, the national business and landlord classes have waged a life and death battle against the landless poor. Second, a policy of repression and repossession has been pursued by the Colombian ruling class with the financial and military support of the USA.

China: 'Smashing the iron rice bowl' -- expropriation of workers and capitalist transformation

"Managers have powerful market-based incentives that their predecessors did not—fines, bonuses and the threat of termination." Graphic by Jon Berkeley.

By Joel Andreas

October 2011 -- China Left Review, #4 -- In debates about whether the economic order that is emerging in China after three decades of market reforms can be called capitalist, the main focus has been about trends in the relative importance of private and state enterprises and the role of the state in the economy. These are important issues, of course, involving fundamental features of capitalism. Much less attention, however, has been given to employment relations.

In this paper, which focuses on the restructuring of urban enterprises beginning in the early 1990s, I argue that the dismantling of the old “work unit” system and the elimination of permanent job tenure have effectively severed ties between labour and the means of production. This has changed not only the nature of employment relations, but the fundamental goals of economic enterprise, establishing the foundations for a capitalist economic order.

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