A truck brings CNT militants into Barcelona, 1936.

The Grupo Cultural de Estudios Sociales de Melbourne have released a new publication as part of the celebrations to make the 80th anniversary of the Spanish revolution.

A grass root C.N.T. militant Remembers: The oral memoirs of Luis Parés is newly translated into English, and represents an oral account of one militant’s experiences as a militant in the CNT during the Spanish revolution.

The flame of the Spanish Social Revolution has never stopped burning.

Eighty years since it was lit one can still find anarchist innovations in the folds of its contents. All its political adversaries through the decades have been unable to discard or permanently hide the constructive and positive social achievements implemented by the libertarian movement.

Thousands of printed works describing the events that transpired during those captivating days have traveled around the world, many of them written by renowned authors. Others books have been written by research academic historians giving their individual interpretations of the proceedings. Unfortunately not too many books have been written by the individuals that experienced the events at first hand, that were in actual fact making history with their militancy, with their direct participation, with their contribution in spontaneous actions and decisions be it at meetings, behind the barricades or on the battlefield.

At the beginning of the second half of the 1970’s a small group of compañeros in France, in Spain and where ever there were exiled Spanish anarchists set themselves the task of recording the verbal memoirs of militants whose singular actions contributed to the social changes, the collectivisations as well as the constant struggle against fascism. This is the history of personal experiences.

We now have the pleasure of presenting in the following pages the testimony of Luis Parés Adán who recalls his war. These memoirs were first published in the pages of “Espoir” the weekly publication of the French C.N.T. – A.I.T., number 825, July 1978.

You can download a .pdf of A grass root C.N.T. militant Remembers here. I hope to have some hard copies printed and available soon.

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ballotboxes1370

There is a federal election tomorrow. A few people have asked how I intend to vote, or if I intend to vote.

The standard line you will get from most anarchists is “Don’t Vote! It only legitimizes the bastards!”. The Anarchist FAQ spills some 18,000 words to this effect. As a position it misses the point.

Anarchists are utterly marginal within the Australian polity. The decision of a couple of hundred people to abstain for this reason or that, or to vote for this reason or that, is utterly without consequence. Even if we were a sizable political force, the legitimacy of the state rests on a hell of a lot more than the overall rate of participation in this or that election. States do not miraculously collapse when electoral participation rates fall below some magical number.

Whether you vote or not is of little consequence. If you do vote, you have no effective control over the representatives you participate in electing. The choices you are presented on the ballot are no choice at all. The major political parties operate as a cartel to lock out rivals, and only parties that accept the logic of the capitalist status quo gain access to the financial resources and media time necessary to compete. This includes The Greens.

The most important question is not who you voted for on election day, it’s what you do every other day of the year. Playing by the rules of the established political process is a mugs game; the deck is stacked in favour of the existing bourgeoisie political parties. If you want to change the world, don’t just vote, get organized and get active.

Join a union or start one. Go to a protest, sit-in, occupation, strike or demonstration. Join a political group, if there isn’t one that reflects your politics, start one. The social force necessary to effect real change has to be built, it can’t simply be voted for.

Further reading: Errico Malatesta, Reformism.

A few thoughts about tomorrow…

Acknowledging that voting or not voting is, by itself, unlikely to have any impact on anything, here are a couple of thoughts about your options tomorrow.

1. Whether you vote or not, you can decorate your ballot. So long as your drawings, obscene slogans and hashtags do not obscure the boxes, your vote will still be counted (so long as the boxes are numbered). The AEC keeps stats on the defacement of ballots.

2. If you refuse to vote, consider casting a blank ballot rather than staying home. Not only does this avoid the fine, statistics on spoiled ballots make it possible to estimate how many people are consciously refusing to vote.

3. The harder it is for a major party to form government, or to pass legislation, the better. If you do vote, I’d recommend putting the Liberals and any other fascists running at the bottom, then Labor, then the Greens, then any left wing party or independent.

4. The Greens are NOT an anti-capitalist alternative and they are NOT good enough on asylum seekers. That said, if you decide to vote, the Greens are still a better choice than Labor.

5. If you are voting Green in the Senate in Victoria, consider voting below the line. Richard di Natale is at the top of the Greens senate ticket. He shouldn’t be at the top of yours.

Tomorrow’s poll will not bring about significant change. Climate change will not be addressed, capitalism will not be challenged, and gross inequality will not be overcome. It is up to us to build the social force necessary to achieve any real change in our society.

I still intend to vote. I’ll vote cynically. I intend to preference the Greens then Labor because it is easier to make the case for their inadequacy when they are in power. And I will vote for any left of centre independent or minor party, simply because the more chaos and gridlock there is in the parliament, the better.

After that, lets eat a sausage and get back to the politics that matters, on the streets, on the campuses, and in our workplaces.

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Government propaganda, corrected for accuracy.

In this second episode of MAP: A Melbourne Anarchist Podcast:

I spend a bit of time ranting about the federal budget, the PaTH “internship” scheme, and the future of higher education.

The hilariously bad page on the government’s budget website that suggests you should do an “internship” at a supermarket or cafe is located here.

Dave Eden’s prescient blog post, On Budget Eve: Deflation & The Limits to Privatised Keynesianism, is worth a read. I’ll be interested to see what Jon and Dave say about #Budget2016 in their podcast.

A big thanks to Kelly from HPUV for the interview, it was somewhat inexpertly recorded on the fly, but I hope it adds some context to the ongoing Bendigo Street occupation.

And there is a new segment I’m calling The Reading Group. Errico Malatesta, Reformism, can be found here.

The music used in this episode is Who’s Gonna Take the Rap by Cosmo. Thanks to Jacqui for the suggestion. If anyone else has any reasonably not awful royalty free music they’d like to recommend, please leave a comment!

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2 Bendigo Street

Last week The Age reported that vacant housing owned by the state government in Bendigo Street, Collingwood, “could be used to help family violence victims”. Emphasis added.

The State government and others are touting the story in The Age in an attempt to convince homelessness activists to end their occupation of the vacant houses that were compulsorily acquired by the state government for the failed East West Link project.

The article in The Age contains no definite information about the government’s plans, it merely states that when asked “if the government would use the available properties to help domestic violence victims, Housing Minister Martin Foley did not rule it out”.

All of the information that activists have seen indicates that if the government has definite plans to use the vacant properties (which is not clear), they do not have comprehensive plans to utilize all of the houses, and they do not intend to convert them into public housing. At best, government officials have indicated they have plans to lease certain East West Link houses to a “community housing” project.

The Homeless Persons Union initiated the occupation in Bendigo Street a fortnight ago to demand that:

“The 6 unused houses on Bendigo St to be made into genuine public housing … [and that] All unoccupied properties acquired for the East-West Link that are still in the government’s possession to be added to the public housing register … [and that] The Andrews government to say how they intend to provide housing for 25,000 homeless people”

The focus on Public housing is a deliberate part of their demands. “Community” housing is not public housing, although the distinction is lost on many.

“Social” or “Community” housing projects are administered by social service or religious NGOs and charities. These projects do not offer the long term security of tenure or guaranteed affordability of the public housing system. For LGBTQI+ homeless people community houses offers the additional awkwardness and likely discrimination associated with potentially homophobic religious groups such as the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army has been forced to make a public apology after one of its majors stated that the Salvation Army believes gay people should die.

There is a housing crisis in Melbourne, and the policies of the state government seem poised to make life harder for people depending on public housing. Last year the state government foreshadowed plans to turn much of the state’s existing public housing over to “community housing” projects.

The wider community should not be fooled by the FUD being spread by the state government. The state government continues to hold houses empty, and they failed to announce any credible plan for the houses in Bendigo Street, Collingwood. The occupation initiated by the HPUV continues; if you have half an hour free, come down to 2 Bendigo Street and get involved.

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Housing occupation in Bendigo Street, Collingwood.

In this first episode of MAP – A Melbourne Anarchist Podcast:

  1. The Homeless Persons Union has occupied vacant state government owned housing in Bendigo Street, Collingwood. The HPUV is demanding that housing compulsorily by the state government for the failed East West Link project be converted to public housing. Read their full list of demands here.
  2. The cost of maintaining the HECS scheme is projected to increase ten fold. This is the predictable result of university fee deregulation. It’s also worth noting the impact deregulation had on the vocational education sector; a few corporate education providers stole billions.
  3. Victoria Police sure do like their pepper spray. Increasingly, demonstrators will have to take steps to protect themselves from chemical exposure at protests; naturally Victoria Police now want the state government to pass laws against bandanas and goggles.

This is my first crack a releasing a podcast. A couple of things have become apparent in the process, I either need to fully script episodes, or I will need a co-host to bounce off.

I would love to collaborate with people on this project. Perhaps it would be possible to have different people come in and co-host each episode with me.

If you have any feedback about this first episode, if you’d like to co-host a future episode, or if you’ve got any ideas for content, please leave a comment on this post!

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The colour coded lanyards...

I promised I’d write a review of Marxism 2016… well…

Marxism is an annual political conference hosted by Socialist Alternative in Melbourne. In the past I’ve attended and written reviews; if you’re interested you can read my review of Marxism 2012 here and Marxism 2013 here.

There is no denying that Marxism is the most significant political conference on the far-left in Australia. Socialist Alternative claims to have sold 1,253 tickets to this Easter’s conference, which seems broadly plausible. There were several hundred people actively participating across three days, with up to seven concurrent sessions at any given time. Socialist Alternative presented a range of international speakers, as well as streams on workers’ organizing, Indigenous struggles, current political debates, ‘Marxism 101’, and more.

For all anyone might like to criticize Socialist Alternative’s conference, no one is putting on anything better.

Yes, their conference is geared towards recruiting new members to Socialist Alternative. There is no great debate or diversity of opinion in the material presented (that is not to say that the material itself is not diverse, but the political perspective is largely uniform); Socialist Alternative has their line and they advance it. As an organisation they know what they are doing with Marxism, and they do it well.

I say this as someone who wishes there was something better. I am not a member of Socialist Alternative; I am an unapologetic and unrepentant anarchist. I sincerely wish that anarchists in Australia were prepared and willing to undertake the work to put on an explicitly anarchist political conference that could rival Marxism.

No, scratch that, I wish we would put on a conference better than Marxism. I wish we could put on something with greater depth, better debate, and more diversity of opinion. I wish we would put on an event that gets people excited about politics!

Socialist Alternative should rightly be proud of the work they’ve put into Marxism. Anarchists and others should rise to the challenge that it presents.

Odds and Ends and Gossip

Members of the Spartacist League attended the conference on the first day (they even purchased a ticket!) but it seems their welcome was conditional and they were soon ejected. Socialist Alternative members inform me the Spartacist League were ejected for disrupting a ‘Marxism 101’ session. Others claim that the Spartacists were informed they could attend a ‘101’ session but they would not be permitted to participate in the usual Q&A/Discussion these involve; it seems they decided to participate nonetheless.

For all their rhetoric about fighting “left wing treason” and “communism”, the sewer dwellers of the United Patriots Front were nowhere to be seen all weekend.

Raif Rawandi takes issue with Socialist Alternative’s attitude on Islam in his review, Socialist Alternative: Marxism Conference 2016.

The lanyards were colour coded.

After his session on the Cuban revolution, former RSP member James Crafti wrote:

Discussion on the Cuban Revolution held at Marxism… organisation did not explode.

I hope he gets to host a session on post 1959 Cuba at a future conference, I look forward to going to troll!

Bonus David Rovics trolling

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Housing that was compulsorily acquired as part of the failed East-West Link project is STILL empty six months after it was handed over to a homelessness charity.

Today the Homeless Persons’ Union has occupied several vacant houses on Bendigo Street in Collingwood. Approximately thirty activists are camped out at Bendigo Street demanding to know why housing owned by the Andrews state government sits empty whilst thousands of people sleep rough on the streets of Melbourne.

Media release from the Homeless Persons Union:

EAST WEST LINK HOMES LANGUISH AMIDST HOMELESSNESS CRISIS

Early this morning a coalition comprising members of the Homeless Persons Union Victoria and Melbourne’s homeless community began demonstrating at a number of empty properties on Bendigo St, Collingwood. The properties are among those that were compulsorily acquired by the former Napthine government for the now defunct East West link.

The demonstration seeks clarification on issues surrounding the ownership, management and occupancy of these empty, publicly-owned properties. The lack of transparency has led to confusion within the homeless community.

Six months ago there were media reports that 20 properties were transferred to the Collingwood Football Club’s ‘Magpie Nest’ program, a partnership with The Salvation Army, to house the homeless. A spokesman from Magpie Nest claims that all properties transferred to their management have been filled.

In light of this, the demonstrators call on those responsible to immediately provide clarification on who owns and manages the remaining empty properties. It is unjustifiable that these dwellings remain unoccupied with a Victorian winter approaching.

There are 35,000+ Victorians on the public housing waiting list, growing at 100 per month. This is while the Andrews government neglects, demolishes and privatises public housing.

Each and every Victorian has a human right to safe, secure and affordable housing.People lose their lives due to medical conditions acquired through being exposed to the elements whilst living rough.

We ask the Andrews government and the Victorian public- is this good enough?

As of midday the action is ongoing, demonstrators are discussing the possibility of an ongoing occupation of the vacant homes.

Update!

Today’s action has ended with something of a win for demonstrators. Police responded to the demonstration Bendigo street this afternoon and demanded that homelessness activists vacate the occupied homes. After a prolonged standoff, police relented and departed.

Activists have announced that a mass meeting will be held tomorrow at 6:30pm and are encouraging all supporters to attend.

There is coverage of today’s action on The Age website:

Occupiers are staging a sit in, as part of an organised protest against the waste of much needed inner-city housing.

About 50 homeless people and members of the Homeless Persons Union Victoria are protesting at several of the empty homes that are now publicly owned. They have moved into the street, bringing couches, gas cooking burners and placards with them.

The Herald Scum also have a brief article up that’s so bad it’s not even worth linking too.

I’m posting periodic updates on twitter using the hashtag #EWLinkHouses.

Update 1 April 2016:

The #EWLinkHouses occupation on Bendigo Street Collingwood is ongoing! Demonstrators have occupied 2 Bendigo Street, and setup a protest media hub.

The Homeless Person’s Union have released a new set of demands:

BENDIGO STREET OCCUPATION TO CONTINUE UNTIL DEMANDS ARE MET – PUBLIC HOUSING NOW

A group of housing activists and homeless people have occupied properties in Bendigo Street, Collingwood.
These 6 government-owned houses were pledged to be used to address homelessness by the Andrews government, but many have been sitting empty for over a year.
The occupiers of the properties have made the following demands and refuse to leave until they are met.
• Immediate release of all information relating to the current ownership of all
properties acquired for the East-West Link, with full transparency about all
acquired land and no more dishonesty.
•The 6 unused houses on Bendigo St to be made into genuine public housing
and allocated to some of the 35,000 people on the public housing waiting list.
Occupation will continue until the first keys are handed over.
• All unoccupied properties acquired for the East-West Link that are still in the
government’s possession to be added to the public housing register.
• Minister Martin Foley to come to Bendigo St and be interviewed by people
with experience of homelessness.
• The Andrews government to say how they intend to provide housing for 25,000
homeless people while there are 80,000 unoccupied dwellings in Melbourne.
Given the importance placed on addressing housing issues by the report
of the recent Royal Commission on Family Violence, the occupiers believe taking
action on public housing should be an immediate priority of all levels of government.

There is more media coverage in The Age:

Homeless women ‘told they had 10 minutes to leave’ East West Link home

On Thursday Roads Minister Luke Donnellan said the nine vacant properties in Bendigo Street were empty because they were awaiting a tenant or needed more work to prepare them for occupation.

He said if the squatters at Bendigo Street were homeless they should join the public housing list – which stands at more than 30,000 people across Victoria and 1204 in Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond.

In a sit-in protest on Bendigo Street on Thursday, about a dozen people hung banners and set up couches and cooking facilities on the footpath.

The Green’s Ellen Sandell was among a number of supporters to pop down on Day 3 and offer support to the occupation:

Demonstrators intend to continue the occupation over the weekend. If you’re in the Melbourne area be sure to head down to Bendigo Street and show your support this weekend!

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