What a fun time to be alive!

Here are some links and tidbits, September 2016.

August tied July for hottest month on record.

Randall Munroe of XKCD has published a lovely little graphic explaining just how abnormal recent temperature changes have been.

It seems increasingly likely that children today will live to see a world of 4.5 degrees of warming.

4.5 degrees.

4.5 degrees. xkcd.

Anarchist Affinity have released issue four of their zine, The Platform. I’ve contributed an article, titled ‘Your consumer choices won’t save the planet‘:

Ethical consumerism is worse than useless. The false choice of “ethical consumption” gives those firms most exposed to the risks of consumer backlash a ready source of green wash, and it provides new opportunities to sell “ethical” products at higher prices. Whilst doing this, “ethical consumerism” diverts attention away from the dynamic that is destroying our environment, exploiting workers, and wasting resources.

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The Campaign Against Racism and Fascism have a forum next Tuesday entitled Making Melbourne a Hanson Free Zone, speakers include Inaz Janif, Jeff Sparrow, and Jack Latimore.

Annoying fascist slime ball Neil Erikson is apparently facing some kind of legal action. The Facebook page ‘Australian Settlers Rebellion’ (operated by Erikson and Shermon Burgess) has put up a post calling on fascists to support Erikson at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 6 March 2017, and states that Erikson has been “charged under the Communist Racial Discrimination Laws for depicting a Religious Act”.

If Erikson has been charged, then it could well relate to last year’s beheading stunt in Bendigo. Erikson was accompanied on that jaunt by Blair Cottrell, Chris Shortis, Lyndon Watson, and John Wilkinson.

Or it could be a publicity stunt with no basis in reality. Prosecutions for racial vilification are exceptionally rare, and Erikson’s name does not appear to be on the Magistrate Court list for the day in question.

Apparently some 49% of Australians support a ban on Muslim immigration. The Essential research poll is based on an ‘online panel’ of a thousand people who receive incentives to complete surveys…

None the less, the poll’s other questions about the return of Pauline Hanson to federal parliament pose a significant problem for anti-racists. 42% of respondents agreed with the statement “I agree with a lot of what Pauline Hanson says and it’s good to see her back in Parliament”. 62% of respondents agreed that “I might not personally agree with everything she says but she is speaking for a lot of ordinary Australians” and 65% agreed that “Pauline Hanson talks about issues other politicians too scared to tackle”.

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Casual academics and tutors are organising at La Trobe University. The La Trobe Casuals Collective is holding an organising workshop on October 20.

Easy Money: The Reserve Bank of Australia and the tremors in capital accumulation‘ makes for interesting reading:

Unorthodox monetary policy is like a vast anti-gravity machine that has been able to delay the day of reckoning. The cost however is that it postpones crisis today by accumulating even greater and greater sources of risk. Unorthodox monetary policy today seems to necessitate unorthodox monetary policy tomorrow. It does seem unlikely that this can go on forever…

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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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