Write on: letters to the editor

Tuesday, November 21, 1995

Write on: letters to the editorUnemployment Federal elections must be looming! The latest make-work scheme is receiving a concerted push, at least in Adelaide. New Work Opportunities (NWO) are supposed to help long-term unemployed people obtain work experience in order to enable them to re-enter the work force: 26 weeks in an environmental or local human service area. The scheme has apparently been endorsed by the ACTU, which seems to mean that union consultation has occurred. Participants are meant to receive some training but it is generally being sold as "free" labor to the organisations that take them on. In reality, in SA schools we have seen the Liberal government cutting jobs with one hand and local Principals accepting NWO's with the other. This is a very dangerous strategy for undermining existing permanent jobs and replacing them with low paid short term substitutes. It is unfair for the people on the mickey mouse training scheme who will be unlikely to obtain genuine ongoing employment. It is unfair for the public sector workers who are having their permanent positions slashed by the state government. It is unfair for the students and community who expect a consistent education system. The State Liberal government blames the previous ALP government for all their public sector cuts, but appears willing to accept the current Federal ALP donations for cheap labor in its place. Neither government have any real concern for long term planning and community needs.
Melanie Sjoberg
Dover Gardens SA Trotsky It is impossible in a letter to fully answer Phil Shannon's rejoinder (GLW #211) to my criticisms of his review of Ernest Mandel's new book on Trotsky. Firstly, in his review Phil asserted that in 1917 Lenin and the Bolsheviks came over to Trotsky's theory of "permanent revolution". I argued that there was no historical evidence for this view and backed up my argument by quoting Lenin's own assessment that the course of the revolution in the year after the October insurrection had confirmed the correctness of the Bolsheviks' pre-1917 perspectives. In response, rather than attempting to prove his case by citing evidence from Lenin's own writings, Phil dodges the issue with the argument that "trading Lenin quotes at twenty paces probably won't settle the issue". But surely if Phil is correct in his claim that Lenin "changed his strategic perspectives" on the relationship between the bourgeois and socialist revolution he should be able to cite some evidence of this. Secondly, in his letter Phil acknowledges that the Bolsheviks' suppression of other parties and inner-party factions were "warranted during the Civil War and to some extent after it" in order to "save the Revolution" from the attacks of imperialism and domestic reaction. This was the point I made in my letter. However, I took issue with the claim Phil made in his review that these measures "effectively stifled democratic workers' power", and thus contributed to the usurpation of political power by the Soviet bureaucracy. Phil seems to have retreated from his earlier argument. He states that in the "post-Civil War situation" the Russian working class was "too exhausted to exercise its own self-rule". That's true. But what conclusion necessarily follows from this? It is that the stifling of democratic workers' power was not the product of the Bolsheviks' emergency measures during and immediately after the Civil War, but of the assault on the revolution during this whole period by imperialism and domestic reaction. Finally, Phil asserts that I argued that "Trotsky's support for restriction of trade union independence, was necessary, temporary and preserved working-class power". I made no such claim.
Doug Lorimer
Sydney
[Edited for length.] Permanent revolution Lenin once commented that reality is more complex than any theory. This is worth remembering when we debate whether Lenin or Trotsky was right about the course of the Russian revolution (Phil Shannon in GLW #208 & #211, and Doug Lorimer in GLW #209). Lenin believed that the task of Marxist revolutionaries in Russia was to lead the workers and peasants in making a revolution against tsarism and the remnants of feudalism. This would be a bourgeois-democratic revolution. The socialist revolution would be a separate (later) stage. Trotsky argued that a revolutionary government led by socialists would have to begin carrying out socialist tasks (such as the expropriation of capitalist property) almost immediately after the revolution. He called this the theory of permanent revolution. Lenin and Trotsky both believed that their ideas were confirmed by the experience of the 1917 revolution. Lenin believed that the revolution did go through a bourgeois-democratic stage, lasting until a few months after the October revolution. During this period, the Soviet government mainly carried out bourgeois-democratic tasks such as land reform and ending Russia's involvement in the first world war. Trotsky did not see the immediate post-October period as a distinct bourgeois-democratic stage, since the Soviet government rapidly began expropriating the bourgeoisie. At the time, Lenin and Trotsky were too busy fighting the counter-revolution to spend arguing about whose theory had been proven right. It was only later that Trotsky, in the course of his fight against Stalin, argued that permanent revolution was a universal strategy, valid for all backward countries. Subsequent experience has shown that Trotsky's theory was too schematic. The complex history of revolutions in the 20th century can not be reduced to a simple formula, be it "permanent revolution" or "two-stage revolution". This was true even of Russia itself. The period between October 1917 and 1921 can be divided into 3 "stages" — "bourgeois-democratic"; "war communism", in which the capitalist class was almost totally expropriated; and the New Economic Policy, a partial revival of capitalist private ownership and market relations. The Cuban revolution began by carrying out bourgeois-democratic reforms, then the expropriation of the capitalist class. Now, NEP-style concessions to capitalism are being made. Nicaragua, by contrast, never had a "socialist stage". There is no single, universal pattern. Revolutionaries make strategic choices, based on their judgement of what is possible given the objective and subjective conditions (both national and international).
Chris Slee
Melbourne
[Edited for length.] Vietnam Will the lies and evasions about Vietnam never end? Even when Colin Powell in My American Journey — a far more honest and decent book than we have come to expect from such a source, too decent and honest perhaps for politics — makes some frank admissions, Greg Sheridan, in the Australian 28/10 cannot resist the opportunity to recapitulate the old "if only" line to account for American failure. He finds one tendentious sentence to obscure the conclusion he doesn't like — "you don't send in the army unless you expect and want them to win". Some other sentences seem more to the point. Some examples: On the Strategic Hamlet program. "The strategy was to win their hearts and minds by making them dependent on the government. I am sure these mountain people wished they had never heard of the ARVIN, the Viet Cong or the Americans". On racial friction and morale in the army. "As they became numb to the endless and mindless slaughter" ... and he had to move his cot every night to avoid attack not just from the Viet Cong but from his own men. How the war was unwinnable by any defensible program — presumably by anything short of totally obliterating the place. How we were led into the mess, blinded by the "one-size-fits-all rationale of anti-communism" (pages 87, 133, 144, 149). And as for advising "any paid-up member of the anti-American Left" — whoever they are — to stop reading "how the US military was probably the most successful institution to emerge from the civil rights movement" and takes "fairly feckless youths and transforms them into reliable citizens", well, tell that to the widows and parents of the black servicemen whose casualty rate was so disproportionately greater than that of their white under-class peers, and to the victims of the Oklahoma bombing.
Bruce Anderson
Hawthorn Vic Ken Saro-Wiwa It was with absolute outrage that I watched the television news this evening and learned of the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa. This extremely strong and courageous mean campaigned peacefully for compensation for environmental degradation and royalties from the oil extracted from Ogoniland by Shell Oil. The Ogoni people are a non-violent law-abiding people who live in the Niger Delta in Nigeria. Their livelihood of fishing and farming has been destroyed by Environmental degradation and their Human rights have been violated by the Nigerian Military Police who have proved that they are prepared to use brute force to protect the flow of oil. Oil that has made $30 billion for Shell Oil while the 6 million people who live on the Niger Delta live in poverty. Ken Saro-Wiwa called it a "Shell Shocked Land". Shell should be concerned that their reputation is threatened. Shell could have prevented this Murder. I urge all Australian citizens to "SAY NO TO SHELL."
Paula Braby
Conondale Qld Tasmanian Greens' record While Laurie Oakes in The Bulletin (14/11) is slinging off at the Greens as "they're just the old Socialist Workers" (he quotes an anonymous "seasoned observer of politics"), Ben Courtice (GLW 8/11) is back at how the Greens (not Labor) tarnished our image in the Green Labor Accord of 1989-92. It was Labor, not the Greens, which lost two seats to the Liberals and so handed them government in 1992. No wonder: it was Labor and not the Greens who broke the Accord by handing Tasmania's unprotected forests across to the woodchipping companies, in particular North Broken Hill. Ben writes: "In return for promises by Labor to save some wilderness areas, the Greens supported a harsh budget which included health and education cuts". The budget, hit by Robin Gray's Liberals' legacy of a record debt, was harsh. The Accord required the Greens pass budgets and we did — three of them. But it was the Greens again who legislated to stop the Field Labor cabinet closing 25 schools and who, through Christine Milne's determination, got rid of Labor's deputy and education minister when he reneged on a commitment for extra funding for primary education. As for 'some' wilderness areas — the Greens doubled the size of Tasmania's World Heritage Wilderness including the Denison River's Huon pine forests and Aboriginal art sites, the upper Picton Valley's tall eucalypts, the vast Exit Cave system, the alpine Central Plateau and eastern third of Macquarie Harbour. Add to that the east coast's superb Douglas-Apsley National Park and the addition of the Friendly Beaches to the Freycinet National Park. Michael Field has stated that Labor's policy is to govern in its own right or not at all. He has had every Labor candidate for the imminent state elections publicly sign a pledge not to speak with the Greens after the election. It makes likely the prospect of Labor, for the first time in world history, turning down government and handing it to the conservatives. However, both Labor and the Liberals indicate that if they don't get a majority, they will force Tasmanians back to the polls till they vote in a Labor or Liberal majority! Only the Greens will accept the poll result and not force further elections.
Bob Brown
Spokesperson, Australian Greens
Liffey Tas Native animals Concerns expressed about the future of native animals following the unanticipated release of the calicivirus amongst rabbit populations are not well founded. Danger to these animals comes not so much from increased predatory behaviour by introduced carnivores but from loss of habitat due to land clearing and degradation and from competition for food supplies from introduced herbivores. Not unexpectedly, speculation has already begun about the number of additional sheep that could be run if the rabbit was completely wiped out. This drive for increased production of goods for the export market is an expression of increasing global demand, and that demand is driven by world population growth. The outlook is bleak for what is left of our native fauna and flora if they stand in the way of our government's present policy of continuous growth. For how long will catering to the rest of the world's reckless population growth take precedence over prudent conservation policies?
Colin Friel
Alawa NT Tax office bias The Sydney Morning Herald of 1/11 quotes "Ombudsman attack tax office wealth bias". One would think that with a Labor government in power such flagrant examples of understanding for the rich by the tax office, where it appears that Westfield Holdings can save $25 million in tax, penalties and interest would not happen. Contrast that with action against a disabled pensioner who unknowingly owed the taxation office $310 because tax had not been withheld from wages from temporary work. The ATO even garnished her wages of $300 to recover the debt. Butterworths Tax Bulletin apparently provided the information. What with the closing down of the Investigators program which exposed so much of the shonky deals that go on, and all the corruptness highlighted by WA Inc. one would think a Labor-oriented government would be flat out dealing with fraud and corruption and mean spirited attacks on workers.
Jean Hale
Balmain NSW Friendship needed I need a real friend who I can be a life-time friend to. Age makes no difference nor race.
Freddie Lee Williams 033405
PO Box 221-43-1193
Union Correctional Inst, A-1
Raiford, Florida 32083 USA. Private hospitals Australia's first privatised "base" hospital at Port Macquarie NSW is one year old. We know this because Mayne Nickless/HCOA seem to have spent some of the millions of dollars received from taxpayers of NSW on a lavish spread in the Port Macquarie News (1/11/95). This would seem to be an ideal time to ask, has this hospital delivered what it promised. Remember, this hospital is costing the tax payers of NSW $140 million in rent over the 20 years of the contract. At the end of that time we, the taxpayers, will own nothing! It is also costing us an annual budget of almost $30 million. In the last full year of operation of the Districts public hospital the annual budget was just under $20 million. Even the staunchest apologist for privatisation wouldn't be game to claim that we have received $10 million worth of extra services. But what of the promises made in the heady days before the opening of this "high tech" hospital. Promise: The waiting list for elective surgery would be drastically reduced in the first year of operation. Fact: The waiting list has increased, now an extra 100 people are waiting for surgery. Promise: Expanded mental health services to "Level 5" standard. Fact: Scheduled or involuntary patients cannot be admitted to a private hospital. Increased range of services therefore not available. Promise: Expanded 24-hour casualty service. Fact: There already was one. More Doctors supposedly on duty but this area generates the most complaints. Promise: Expanded services for geriatric and aged care. Fact: Aged care not transferred to privatised hospital because of federal funding and taxation problems. Community Health services have been fragmented. Promise: Access to expanded dental and denture services for pensioners. Fact: No service provided. Waiting times for dentures in Port Macquarie is 4&189; years. Promise: Expanded free Community Health services. Fact: These always were free and no expansion occurred until the election of the Labor government. The decommissioned Districts public hospital will be renovated to house the expanded Community Health services. Wardsmen now have to double as security guards. They were given a three-day course. On Night shift there is only one wardsman who is also responsible for the security of the hospital, safety of the nurses and patients. Promise: Hydrotherapy pool at privatised hospital will be adequate replacement for the closed pool at the District hospital site. Fact: Access has been substantially reduced.
Wayne Richards
vice president
The Hospital Action Group
Port Macquarie NSW
[Edited for length.] Open letter to ADI We wish to convey our deepest sympathies to those workers injured by the accidental grenade explosion at the ADI munitions factory, St Marys. However, we also wish to point out that the intended explosion of army ordinance has and continues to cause widespread killing an maiming of people in Bougainville. The war there which is in its seventh year has been waged with Australian manufactured armaments provided as "aid" to the Papua New Guinea government. Elsewhere, mostly in developing countries and regions such as east Timor and west Papua our armaments are used to kill off the legitimate aspirations of indigenous inhabitants. We note that the St Mary's factory is being phased out at the end of this year and that it is proposed to retrench a number of "redundant" staff. This is also of concern to us since the proposed restructuring of armaments manufacture at Benalla signals a mo high-tech plant rather than a redeployment of war workers to peaceful and socially useful purposes.
Vikki John
Bougainville Freedom Movement
Sydney