Write on: Letters to the editor

Issue 

Rally numbers

I read with interest the article in GLW #682 on the rally on August 29 in Perth in connection with the 107 Perth rail tunnel construction workers and claims of 4500 taking part in that rally. The claim is curious as I was at the rally and estimated about 1400 at most while the WA Police estimated 1000 and an ABC reporter saying hundreds.

A former Melbourne senior metals union official also in attendance at the rally with me sided with the police estimate.

Just what this low turn out means is for others to speculate about but claims of 4500, even 7000 participating in the rally like Martin Kingham claims, actually causes more harm than good as those making these claims only damage their own credibility and the cause they fight for when the reality is far lower than claimed.

Kim Richardson
Perth, WA

SACP

Congratulations for your very good and needed newspaper. I generally enjoy reading GLW. It is one of the few socialist newspapers in the world with critical analysis and international news.

I am however concerned with the tone and thrust of your coverage of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and its alliance with the ANC and COSATU. In summary, GLW seems to approach its coverage of the SACP in an extreme and sectarian manner without providing sufficient space for an informed understanding of the SACP strategy, tactics and programs.

I am not an SACP hack whose blood boils every time the SACP is criticised, but your readers deserve a balanced account of the class struggle in South Africa and the key political and social forces therein.

If all your analyses on South Africa were to be believed, the SACP has sold out the struggle for socialism, the ANC-SACP-COSATU alliance is about to break, the SACP is a Stalinist party without space for debate, and the masses of our people are leaving the SACP in droves.

Absent in your analyses of South Africa is informed reporting on SACP debates, the role of the SACP in mass struggles today, how workers actually perceive and discuss the SACP and the alliance, and SACP perspectives on key developments in our society.

The SACP is a central cog in the South African working-class struggle. With more than 45,000 members and an affiliated Young Communist League with more than 30,000 members, the SACP is the largest socialist force in South Africa. Nationally, the SACP is active in struggles for the democratisation of the ANC, fundamental changes to current neoliberal policy to a redistributive thrust, pro-poor land and agrarian reform, the transformation of the capitalist financial sector, for efficient and affordable public transport, and against privatisation. In hundreds of localities, more than 600 party branches are actively involved in hundreds of local struggles working inside and outside the alliance.

Naturally, the party has many weaknesses and challenges, thus the ferment of inner-party debates around the alliance, workers and state power, whether the party should contest elections and so on.

Mazibuko Jara
Deputy national secretary
Young Communist League
Cape Town [Abridged]

Zionism I

As an active member of the Melbourne Palestine Solidarity Network and the Socialist Alliance and having worked alongside Socialist Alternative and other left Melbourne organisations on the campaign against Israel's latest massacres in Lebanon, the allegation that "the leftists have completely blurred the line between politics and religion" (Deon Kamien, Victorian president of the Australian Union of Jewish Students, quoted in the September 4 Melbourne Age) is not only utterly hypocritical but grossly offensive.

As Kamien either fails to acknowledge or simply does not understand: As socialists, we denounce all forms of racism and discrimination (including anti-Semitism), which is exactly why we (including our Jewish comrades) oppose the Zionist project.

Azlan McLennan
Melbourne [Abridged]

Zionism II

I wish to thank all my comrades who have sent me their best wishes for my recovery. Although I have read a lot of literature on the topics Zionism and the Palestinians that Antony Lowenstein effectively covers in My Israel Question, his book has appeared at a very opportune time. It separates fact from fiction. It should be on the bookshelves of every student of political science as well as those of the general reader who is concerned with what is happening in the Middle East. I hope that it receives a wide circulation and is translated into other languages.

Bernie Rosen
Strathfield, NSW

Wind v nuclear energy

Your GLW #682 article titled "Wind versus nuclear energy" contains a math error that leads to an erroneous conclusion.

You stated that it would take 2500 V90 wind turbines to produce 20% of Australia's electricity needs. That model wind turbine produces 3 MW of electricity at peak output, but an optimistic average for its annual capacity factor in a good wind location is just 35%.

Therefore, 2500 V90 wind turbines would produce approximately (2500 x 3 MW x 24 hours/day x 365 days/year x 0.35) = 23 terawatt-hours each year. (I like to show my work; my teachers always required it in order to get full credit.)

According to the most recent statistics available from the International Energy Agency (2003), the annual electricity consumption in Australia is 228 terawatt hours, so 2500 V90 wind turbines would, at best, provide less than 10% of Australia's energy needs.

When you stated that it would take "at least five" nuclear plants of sizes on the order of 1000-1500 MW to produce 20% of Australia's electricity, you were much closer to being correct.

Therefore, your cost comparison is off. The wind turbine capital requirement is at least $18 billion, while the nuclear capital requirement should be $11.25-15 billion. Of course, either cost could be wildly inaccurate depending on the quality of the project management, the opposition to the projects, and the interest costs during construction. I just thought it might be useful to correct at least this small, factor of two, math error.

Rod Adams
Editor, Atomic Insights
Annapolis, Maryland

Wind farms

I recently joined a local group protesting the location of wind farms in the Southern Tablelands. I was as much for wind energy as anyone else until I found out what the reality of wind farms is. I've now seen three videos about people in Victoria, in the north of England and in America whose lives have been made a misery by living too close to wind farms plonked down beside them by big business with the consent of governments.

The decisive objection to wind farms as currently proposed is noise. It's not just the noise of one turbine, but the "hidden extras" of increased noise from blade tilt, and from the non-synchronisation of the blades of many turbines. There is reason to suppose that not enough research has been done into wind-farm noise, and that energy companies underestimate it in their own interests.

The underlying problem is that energy companies are private businesses, which must make a profit. This means that they must be able to put their energy into a nearby electricity grid. This means, inevitably, that the wind farms will be located close to where people already live. So those people's interests are to be sacrificed for the profits of the energy companies, under the guise of general interest. We need to distinguish between the technological usefulness of wind turbines, and the capitalist economics of locating them, otherwise a lot of people are going to suffer unjustly.

David Brooks
Goulbourn
[Abridged]

Anvil Hill

Green Left Weekly received a mention in the September 2 Sydney Morning Herald when columnist Alan Ramsey republished an email by Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) president Tony Maher, originally sent to federal ALP leader Kim Beazley. Maher lambasted the Kelly Hoare, the Labor MHR for Charlton, for having the audacity to pass on one of her constituents concerns with the proposed Anvil Hill coal mine in the Hunter Valley.

Maher seemed particularly worried that Hoare was echoing the language of an article published in the GLW #663, which Ramsey called an inflammatory rant. I wrote that article, which was actually far more reasonable than the vitriolic hysteria by Maher, or indeed Ramsey's piece.

I wrote it because I am an environmentalist, and am alarmed that a mine at Anvil Hill would clear thousands of hectares of precious remnant bushland, would fuel global climate change, and would further entrench coal dependency in a region that desperately needs a transition to sustainable alternatives.

These are the reasons why there are even several coal miners, members of the CFMEU, involved in the campaign to stop the proposed Anvil Hill mine. But why is the leader of the CFMEU so passionately defending a mine that does not even exist yet, that therefore employs no-body?

Steve Phillips
Newcastle, NSW