Saturday, May 4, 2019

Australian Anti-War Activist Joan Coxsedge's April 28, 2019 Letter

The following letter from Australian anti-war and Latin American solidarity activist Joan Coxsedge--who is also a former member of the Victoria state parliament--originally appeared in an Australian-Cuban solidarity group's newsletter.

“April 28, 2019

“Dear Comrades,

“Only a few weeks to go before we cast our votes for bad or much worse, and I’ll let you nut that one out for yourselves. Either way, the rorts and inequalities will continue with the rich getting richer and the rest of us getting slugged for the basics like gas, electricity, transport and water that were once in public hands.

“We don’t nurture our land, but allow the road lobby to do what it likes, cutting a swathe through precious Aboriginal sites and ancient trees and places of natural beauty. Climate change? Not interested. Homeless people? Ditto. Money talks and big money talks even louder.

“The world as a whole isn’t looking too flash. Fresh catastrophes just keep coming, some ‘natural’ and some not, mostly committed by screwed-up young men. Headlined for a day, before another nightmare comes along to take its place. The only thing that’s made me laugh out loud recently was the Ukrainian election which was won by a comedian, a fair dinkum comedian. Why not? When you cast your eyes around the world’s leaders, they certainly qualify as clowns, not funny ones though, just cynical caricatures who dish out crap and like to act tough. To impress the lying war-hungry clown who inhabits the White House?

“Even when Trump goes, he will be replaced with another war-hungry clown because they’re the ones who get the big gigs. Like corporate toady Joe Biden, who’s put his hand up to ‘rescue the Democrats from Bernie Sanders’.

“You’re probably sick of hearing about Julian Assange, but you shouldn’t be, because that’s what the powers-that-be want, so a few more facts about his incarceration in Britain’s maximum security Belmarsh Prison - its ‘Guantanamo Bay’ - wouldn’t hurt. And the knowledge that the slimy English magistrate who put him there is the same one who stopped a private prosecution of Tony Blair for war crimes. Assange is not allowed any visitors, including from his doctors and lawyers, despite needing urgent medical care. He’s being held in appalling conditions for exposing US war crimes. For being a journalist.

“A few weeks ago, the American Civil Liberties Union noted that ‘criminally prosecuting a publisher for the publication of truthful information would be a first in American history and unconstitutional…and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations’. The manufactured FBI indictment contains no evidence, no documents and no genuine testimony but was concocted by the Pentagon’s shadowy Cyber Counter-Intelligence Assessments Branch.

“On 2 May Julian Assange will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a preliminary extradition hearing and the US must request his extradition from the UK by 12 June. But he could be in UK gaols for years if the extradition is contested in court. While the Ecuadoran, British and US governments are flagrantly violating its own laws in persecuting Julian, individuals and civil society organizations are mobilizing to defend him. The Australian Government? Labor Opposition? Not a peep. 

“Trump and his cabal despise civil rights and are doing everything possible to wind back former treaties and alliances enshrining progressive international law. A free press? You’re kidding. The aim of these thugs in suits is to dissuade investigative journalists from ‘investigating’. Beat them up and lock them up as an example to others who might still want to write the truth about American barbarism. And journalists and governments are watching and taking note.

“The Deep State has gone ballistic, especially after WikiLeaks published the Vault 7 files, detailing the CIA’s gigantic hacking/cyber espionage repertoire, including the activities of the ultrasecret Centre for Cyber Intelligence, its NSA counterpart. There is every reason to believe that Assange will be hit with far more serious charges once he lands on US soil. They’re not going to all this bother to put him away for five years, but are clearly intent on setting a legal precedent to enable a US government to imprison any journalist who steps out of line.

“Never before in my long life have I seen such a belligerent United States. Jimmy Carter agrees. ’The most warlike nation in the history of the world’, he said. Vice-President Mike Pence told the UN Security Council that the White House intends removing Venezuelan President Maduro from power with ‘all options on the table’, adding that: ‘Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences’.

“The crisis in Venezuela could become global as Russia gears up for war. Like Iran, after Washington declared that part of the Iranian military was a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ and therefore subject to attack.

“As an antidote, I came across an article by George Burchett, son of the famous Wilfred, who recently attended the 70th anniversary of the founding of Ho Chi Minh’s School of Writing and Journalism, some 80 kms north of Hanoi. In 1949, resistance against the French colonialists, backed by US Imperialists, was almost impossible. In that year, 49 young students were trained as lecturers, including the famous General Giap, in revolutionary journalism so they could contribute to their country’s struggle for independence and liberty.

“Uncle Ho’s principles? Know why you write and who you write for. Be succinct. Get your facts straight. Don’t use complicated language. Believe in what you write. Revolutionary journalism is only possible when truth is on your side. Then the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. When words serve a just cause, no army can defeat them. Viva!

“Joan Coxsedge” 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Joan Coxsedge's `Some Facts About Libya'--Part 3

Pharma 150 chemical plant in Rabta, Libya
 In  Part 3 of her 2018 book, Some Facts About Libya: How the West destroyed this once prosperous nation, long-time Australian antiwar and Latin American solidarity activist Joan Coxsedge--who is also a former member of the Victoria state parliament--recalls her 1989 visit to Libya in the following way:

Visiting Libya ten years later in 1989.

I returned to Libya in 1989 when it looked as if World War Three was about to break out. Washington had accused Libya of building a chemical weapons plant and was threatening to militarily destroy the country unless Qaddafi closed the plant down and allowed a US team to inspect the site. Based solely on US intelligence sources, Washington claimed with mounting hysteria that a satellite had pinpointed a construction site at Rabta, about 85 kilometers from Tripoli. We were assailed with a load of PR bull about Libya ‘threatening world peace’, which echoed around the world for most of January. Qaddafi continued to deny the charge.

Pressure from Washington was heating up and people became very nervous about the consequences for global stability. No one doubted the capacity of the US to carry out its threat. In 1986 US planes had bombed Tripoli and killed a number of people, including Qaddafi’s infant daughter. There was also deepening concern that President Reagan – already well away with Alzheimer’s disease – was about to vacate the White House with a literal bang. There was an added sense of urgency when two American F-14 Tomcat fighter pilots chanting ‘good kill, good kill’, shot down two Libyan MIG-23s over the Mediterranean, claiming self-defense. The Libyan pilots died.
Rather than waiting for something to happen, small groups from around the world traveled to Libya during that critical period to act as human shields to encourage some thoughtful talk. But once our media heard that a group of Australians were joining them they went feral, deciding for us in advance that our mission was solely concerned with passing judgement on Libya, to find it ‘guilty as charged’. We were also attacked for going to a country that was supposedly developing chemical and nuclear weapons, neglecting to mention that the nations they ardently supported – the US and Israel – had both in abundance.

We had many meetings with a variety of Libyans, the standout being our audience with their leader, Muammar Qaddafi. It took place in a large red, green and yellow Bedouin tent in the center of the Aziziya Barracks in Tripoli. Draped in a striking camel-colored mohair cloak, he talked of peace and that a genuine peace was not based on terrorism but based on love (tell that to the Yankees, I thought), and expressed surprise that the smear campaign against him had reached Australia. He believed that Australia should remain aloof from the imperialists – so did we – and expressed disappointment that bilateral agreements between us were sacrificed too readily considering that major programs of cooperation could be expanded.

In the General People’s Congress, we met Libya’s Deputy Prime Minister, Ibrahim Abukhazan, who also mentioned his desire to re-establish links with Australia. Libya had been forced into confrontation with the United States after its revolution, he said, and any genuine revolution would get the same reaction. Prior to 1969 all of Libya’s resources went to overseas capitalists, who used the country as a military base, with their political institutions getting their instructions from the British and American embassies. He believed Libya should be allowed to build new relationships, but the shock of its revolution was so profound that Western reaction remained one of undiluted hatred, despite its style of democracy being a consecration of what was aspired to in the West by Voltaire and the Rights of Man, but never realized because our governments got their orders from Washington.

We were eventually driven to Rabta, but only on the outskirts where a huge tent city had sprung up, not close enough to pass judgement on its function one way or another. We joined thousands of anxious people keeping vigil, singing and holding hands and praying for peace. The furor over Libya lasted for most of January, but collapsed with the end of Reagan’s presidency. A story buried on page 17 in the New York Times on 2 March 1990 – ignored by our own media – stated that White House officials had admitted that the Pharma 150 plant at Rabta was not going to manufacture chemical weapons after all, but was being ‘converted’ into a pharmaceutical plant. Which was precisely what the Libyans had been saying all along. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

`When They Jailed Elizabeth Gurley Flynn' lyrics

A biographical folk song about 20th-century U.S. labor movement organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the response of middle-class liberals and the ACLU to her imprisonment by U.S. government at Alderson federal prison in 1950s.

(verse 1)
When she was sixteen she spoke on a street by Broadway
And urged workers to fight for their freedom
Female equality in the early 20th-century
Could be won, she said, with socialism.
(verse 2)
She joined the Wobblies and fought to speak freely
And for "bread and roses" in Lawrence
Her Irish rebel spirit and words charismatic
Inspired Paterson strikers to risk arrests.

And where were the middle class women'
When they jailed Elizabeth Gurley Flynn?
They joined with anti-communist liberals
To lock her up in Alderson.

(verse 3)
Out West she visited Joe Hill's cell
And her inner and outer beauty sparked a song
And after Joe Hill's death she organized Workers Defense
Of thousands whose imprisonment was wrong.

(verse 4)
In her 40's and 50's she continued to speak out
Against capitalism, fascism and Cold War
And her newspaper column demanded working women rights
And that Jim Crow in the South not be ignored. (chorus)

(verse 5)
Yes, in her 60's she was jailed for "conspiracy"
And deprived of her civil liberties
Yet the ACLU she helped start as a youth
Failed to demand that she be freed. (chorus)

Friday, April 5, 2019

Joan Coxsedge's `Some Facts About Libya'--Part 2

Jamahiriya Museum in Libya
In  Part 2 of her 2018 book, Some Facts About Libya: How the West destroyed this once prosperous nation, long-time Australian antiwar and Latin American solidarity activist Joan Coxsedge--who is also a former member of the Victoria state parliament--recalls her 1979 visit to Libya in the following way:

Visiting Libya in 1979.

In 1979 I was invited to Libya to take part in a conference on Palestine with the moniker ‘The Conference of Tripoli on Imperialist, Zionist and Reactionary Scenes against the Arab Nation, the Danger of these Schemes to the Vital Interest of All Nations and to the Problems of Peace and Liberation all over the World’. Not the most popular subject in Australia, but of interest to me because I believed the Palestinians got a spectacularly rotten deal when the world salved its conscience by giving away their land after WW2. It took place six years after the Yom Kippur War, a year after the ‘Camp David Agreement’ and a year before the Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed a new law proclaiming Jerusalem the ‘eternal capital of Israel’. 

The conference was well organised and extraordinarily interesting. Security was tight, for good reason. Palestinian leaders with a price on their heads using aliases flew in from around the world. Many of their colleagues had been assassinated by Israeli hit squads.

Apart from Muammar Qaddafi who opened the conference, I met George Habash, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Vanessa Redgrave, the tall, strikingly handsome British actress. And we all rose to our feet to give a standing ovation of welcome to a delegation from the newly elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua, their debut on the international stage.

At the start of proceedings we were each given a copy of Qaddafi’s The Green Book, Libya’s answer to Mao’s Little Red Book, except the Libyan version was much longer. In it Qaddafi called parliamentary democracy a sham where voters ‘stand in long queues to cast their votes in ballot boxes in the same way as they throw other papers into the dustbin’. Quite a few would agree with that. He preferred direct popular participation in people’s congresses – a notion not too far removed from the slogan of Russia’s 1917 October Revolution, which called for ‘all power to the Soviets’ (local committees) – even though that slogan later bit the dust. On the second day, I gave a paper titled ‘The Impact of US Imperialism on Australia’.

 Thanks to a hostile media, I doubt if many would associate Libya with art and architecture, despite it being an archaeologist’s heaven back then. In the centuries before Christ, when Greek supremacy went down the drain after the sacking of Carthage and Corinth, Rome ruled the region for more than eight centuries before it lost control to the Arabs in the seventh century AD. Despite another thirteen hundred turbulent years, many of the ancient monuments survived. Western Libya in particular was richly endowed as I discovered during my tour of Sabratha and Leptis Magna, birthplace of Emperor Septimus Severus. 

I walked down streets where ruts from ancient chariot wheels were still visible and past the remains of houses where people had lived and worked until the end of the 4th or 5th century. I fingered grooves on a stone counter made by ancient butchers and fishmongers when they sharpened their massive knives and roamed in and out of small shops and stalls that had once sold spices and wines and goods made from leather.

But the building that took the cake was the ‘Hunting Baths’ whose domes and vaults had been buried under sand for fifteen centuries. Inside, a series of warm and hot rooms were lined with hollow tiles where hot air from the furnaces passed through, and most astonishing of all was the discovery that the 2000-year-old bathhouse still worked!

During my drive to Sabratha I stopped at the Jamahiriya Museum to look at its collection of priceless mosaics and worry whether these magical places and ancient artefacts have managed to survive the savagery and barbarism of the 21st century.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Excerpt From Engels' 1892 Preface To His 1844 `Condition of Working Class' Book Revisited

"...The cause of the miserable condition of the working-class is to be the capitalistic system itself. The wage-worker sells to the capitalist his labor-force for a certain daily sum. After a few hours' work he has reproduced the value of that sum; but...he has to work another series of hours to complete his working-day; and the value he produces during these additional hours of surplus labor is surplus value; which costs the capitalist nothing, but yet goes into his pocket. That is the basis of the system which tends more and more to split up civilized society into a few Rothschilds and Vanderbilts, the owners of all the means of production and subsistence, on the one hand, and an immense number of wage-workers, the owners of nothing but their labor-force, on the other...

"...So long as the wealthy classes not only do not feel the want of any emancipation, but strenuously oppose the self-emancipation of the working-class, so long the social revolution will have to be prepared and fought out by the working-class alone...And today, the very people who..preach to the workers a Socialism...tending to reconcile...the interests of both the contending classes--these people are either neophytes, who have still to learn a great deal, or they are the worst enemies of the workers--wolves in sheep's clothing...

"...Today there is indeed...Socialism of all shades: Socialism conscious and unconscious and of the middle-class, for, verily, that abomination of abominations, Socialism, has not only become respectable, but has actually donned evening dress and lounges lazily on drawing-room love-seats...What I consider far more important than this momentary fashion among bourgeois circles of affecting a mild dilution of the revival of the East End of London...It has...become the home of...the organization of the great mass of `unskilled' workers..."

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Engels' 1844 Description of Results of Industrialization In English-Speaking Capitalist Countries

As long ago as 1844, Fred Engels indicated what the results of industrialization were under the capitalist economic system in predominantly English-speaking countries, in the following way:

"...Murder has...been committed if society places hundreds of workers in such a position that they inevitably come to premature and unnatural ends. Their death is as violent as if they had been stabbed or shot. Murder has been committed if thousands of workers have been deprived of the necessities of life or if they have been forced into a situation in which it is impossible for them to survive. Murder has been committed if the workers have been forced by the strong arm of the law to go on living under such conditions until death inevitably releases them. Murder has been committed if society knows perfectly well that thousands of workers cannot avoid being sacrificed so long as these conditions are allowed to continue. Murder of this sort is just as culpable as the murder committed by an individual...If a worker dies no one places the responsibility for his death on society, though some would realize that society has failed to take steps to prevent the victim from dying. But it is murder all the same...

"...The workers are...condemned to a lifetime of unremitting toil...Man knows no more degrading or unbearable misery than forced labor. No worse fate can befall a man than to have to work every day from morning to night against his will at a job that he abhors...He works because he must...Because his hours of labor are so long and so dismally monotonous, the worker must surely detest his job after the first few weeks...In most branches of industry the task of the worker is limited to insignificant and purely repetitive tasks which continue minute by minute for every day of the year...There are only two courses open to the worker. He may submit to his fate and become a `good worker'...or he can resist and fight for his rights as far as humanly possible..."

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Engels' 1844 Take on English-Speaking Workers Competing With Each Other Under Capitalism Revisited

As long ago as 1844, Fred Engels indicated how the majority of English-speaking workers, living under a capitalist economic system in predominantly English-speaking countries, don't benefit from competing with each other, in the following way:

"Competition is the most extreme expression of that war of all which dominates...society. This struggle for existence--which in extreme cases is a life and death struggle--is waged not only between different classes of society but also between individuals within these social groups. Everybody competes in some way against everyone else and consequently each individual tries to push aside anyone whose existence is a barrier to his own advancement. The workers compete among themselves...Those who are unemployed or poorly paid try to undercut and so destroy the livelihood of those who have work and are earning better wages. This competition of workers among themselves is the worst aspect of the present situation as far as the proletariat is concerned. This is the sharpest weapon...against the working classes. This explains the rise of trade unions, which represent an attempt to eliminate such fratricidal conflict between the workers themselves...

"The worker is helpless; left to himself he cannot survive a single day...In law and in fact the worker is the slave...The worker has no choice but to accept the terms offered...or go hungry and naked like the wild beasts...The bourgeoisie alone...decide the terms of the bargain...

"...The...difference between the old-fashioned slavery and the new is that while the former was openly acknowledged the latter is disguised. The worker appears to be free, because he is not bought and sold outright. He is sold piecemeal by the day, the week, or the year. Moreover he is not sold by one owner to another, but he is forced to sell himself in this fashion. He is not the slave of a single individual, but of the whole capitalist class. As far as the worker is concerned...there can be no doubt as to his servile status...His real masters, the...capitalists, can discard him at any moment and leave him to starve, if they have no further use for his services and no further interest in his survival...They can now get rid of their workers whenever it pleases them without losing any of their capital...

"...Wages fall owing to competition between the unemployed...The workers suffer great distress. The small savings of the individual workers are soon spent and charitable organizations are overwhelmed with appeals for help...The number of those who are starving increases...The `superfluous' workers may or may not survive...

"...English industry must always have a reserve of unemployed workers, except during the short period when the boom is at its height. The existence of such a reserve is essential in order that labor may be available to produce the great quantities of goods which are needed during the few months when the business boom reaches its climax...The size of this reserve varies with the state of trade....During a slump the reserve of unemployed swells to formidable dimensions. Even when trade is moderately active--in between the extremes of boom and depression--there are still many workers who are unemployed. This pool of unemployed is the `surplus population.'...When they are out of work, these people eke out a miserable existence...If these people can find no work and are not prepared to rebel against society, what else can they do but beg? No wonder that there exists a great army of beggars, mostly able-bodied men..."