April 2016

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 vidmate 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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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, .

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

Clash Of Clans Cheat And Hack Tool

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