‘Blame it on the USA’ – a rock song for the 20th anniversary of September 11

This rock song was written by my close friend, Peter Gelling (1960-2018) – and me – long ago. I’ve decided to ‘release’ it now to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attack on the US.

The explanatory text below accompanies the song on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUjseopCioc

****

‘Blame it on the USA’ was co-written by Peter Gelling (1960-2018) and yours truly in response to the knee-jerk anti-Americanism we experienced among our friends in the weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the USA.

We found it strange that nearly all of our friends, including those who identified as being on the Left, were either gloating about what had happened or automatically blaming the US. They had not looked into the nature of Al Qaeda, the Islamo-fascist* outfit behind the attacks. It was as though all one needed to understand was that America was always wrong.

As one of many who had opposed the US war in Vietnam, I couldn’t see any similarity between the Vietnamese struggle for national liberation and the targetting of civilians by a reactionary religious fundamentalist terror group who hated modernity. One of the first things I did, at the time, was to google ‘Bin Laden’ to see what he believed in. What I found wasn’t pretty and essentially medievalist.

Fortunately, there were left-wing individuals who spoke up about all this while certainly recognizing that decades of US foreign policy – the backing and arming of hated dictators such as Saddam Hussein – had led to America being a dirty word among the masses in the Middle East and elsewhere.

But to blame the US for September 11, in an unqualified way, was to overlook the nature of those behind the attack.

Peter and I embraced the notion that there is a ‘pseudo-left’. Content is what matters and when ‘anti-imperialism’ serves fascism, it is not an anti-imperialism worth supporting. Especially when most people around the world who lived under tyranny were fighting for freedom. And still are.

I don’t remember when we wrote the song’s lyrics but I know the original idea was mine. I wanted the song to have a distinctively American rock sound and Peter, the master musician and multi-instrumentalist, laid down a great Chuck Berry riff. (It doesn’t get much more American than Chuck Berry).

The song has never been released to the public before, but I know Peter would be happy to have it shared on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attack.

The lyric “Maccas and Coke are just fine by me” will offend some people but none more than those who still want to turn the clock back to pre-modern times. The religious fascists rely on violence and terror because they know they will never win the consent of the majority in modern bourgeois-democracies. That is also why they hate things like free speech, women’s liberation, elections – and rock music.

*I rarely use this term as it can be misunderstood to mean that all Islamists are fascists but in the context of Al-Qaeda I regard it as fair usage. It was coined, I think, by the late great anti-fascist, Christopher Hitchens, whose absence is felt now more than ever.

Afghanistan, the Taliban and women/girls – and a poem

(contribution by Tom Griffiths)

With the Afghan government’s ignominious defeat on the tail of the US government’s humiliating withdrawal, a lot – and I mean a lot – of gloating has been in evidence on Farcebook by ostensible leftists, some of whom are former comrades, celebrating another defeat for good ole US imperialism.

Pointing out the defeat and the role of the US in effectively setting up this situation is not the problem. What the problem is is the total (this might be an exaggeration, but not by much) silence on the fate of the Afghan people, in particular Afghan women.

Nowhere amongst my former comrades do I see an ‘ok, now the Yanks and their lackeys have gone the main enemy of the people is the Taliban and the most likely means of defeating them will be through armed struggle.’ Instead, there is silence. If this continues for more than a nanosecond this silence transforms into collusion. Left in form, right in essence we could call it.

A year or so ago I wrote a poem celebrating the bravery and example of a 15 year old girl in regional Afghanistan who, in response to her parents being gunned down before her sought out her father’s machine gun and killed the murderers, at least one of whom was Taliban. I reprint it below:

Qamar Gul and a father’s teaching

As others forgot to question

And rushed to defend the

Old verities and

Inherited wisdom.

As others remained fast

Confusing darkness for light

The old spell began to break

And its truths began to decay

As others panicked

Shielding themselves

From the revealing light

Confusion spread and freedom beckoned.

From the depths ghouls and false healers emerged

Screaming and cajoling

Harnessing death and instilling fear

Settling old scores and new alike.

Such times are indeed dangerous.

How was this man to protect his family?

What if he should fall?

Can friend still be seen from foe?

What if he should fall?

Tradition dictates his daughter’s marriage

The past may still protect…

But what if these ways are not enough?

What if they should fail?

He placed his gun into her hands

He’ll teach her what to do

If fall he should and well he may

Let new ways show the way.

When death came bursting through the door

Stealing her parents from her

This father’s girl knew what to do

And didn’t fail to do it.

Conquering fear

Harnessing anger

She honored her father’s teachings

And moved into the light.

Postscript:

I wrote this poem a year ago when news of Qamar Gul’s actions made international news. I was very impressed by her bravery and the example she was setting – and worry about her safety now given that the Taliban are back in control. When I completed the poem I sent it to a young Afghani colleague and asked her to check the accuracy of its ‘line’ and suggest corrections if necessary. She gave it the thumbs up.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-22/afghan-girl-kills-two-taliban-after-they-killed-her-parents/12479568

covid-19 Pandemic of the unvaccinated

This is the third of a series of articles on covid-19 promised on May 25 in “Ongoing disaster from Shambolic Clots”:

0. https://c21stleft.com/2021/05/25/covid-19-ongoing-disaster-from-shambolic-clots/

I will link back to an update of this complete list each time a new article is published.

  1. https://c21stleft.com/2021/08/09/covid-19-none-shall-let-another-fall/
  2. https://c21stleft.com/2021/08/11/covid-19-draft-emergency-legislative-instrument/
  3. https://c21stleft.com/2021/08/15/covid-19-pandemic-of-the-unvaccinated/

The danger from Shambolic Clots in NSW is greater today than ever before.

After seeding the virus throughout Greater Sydney and regional NSW the government has announced just enough steps for an intensified lockdown of the whole State to delay action against it. Contact tracing has already broken down completely with the source of 345 mystery cases “under investigation” out of 466 total. That means most of the infected people who infected today’s cases are still not in isolation and still spreading infection. Recovery from that requires a far more rigorous lockdown with full curfews and rostered hours for collecting supplies and exercise. Each day’s delay is likely to add another week to the necessary lockdown

But the strategy remains unchanged. Instead of aggressively suppressing the virus to eliminate community transmission like every other State in Australia, the NSW Government still intends to just keep vaccinating while the virus keeps infecting. Then they can announce that they have reached 70% “fully vaccinated” in a couple of months and then go to “phase B” and then “phase C” where we no longer bother about infections and only look at the number of deaths.

This is intended to force the rest of Australia into the same policy of opening up like the UK instead of stamping out each outbreak until it is safe to open up because the whole world has been vaccinated, like New Zealand.

If they are very lucky they may “succeed” by avoiding the hospitals being overwhelmed. Vaccination DOES dramatically reduce the death rate at present and so far the UK has been able to avoid mass deaths despite complete collapse of contact tracing and mass infection as is starting now in NSW.

Can they be stopped? Yes. New Zealand has reaffirmed its policy of elimination despite the fact that “allies have thrown in the towell”. Most of the public support the New Zealand policy rather than the media death cult’s campaign.

Public pressure could win in the long run. But we don’t have a long run.

Infections are already growing exponentially and will not be slowed much by today’s steps. If the numbers infected double every week it only takes 10 weeks to multiply by one thousand. Delta can double much faster than that.

There is no way for public pressure to force an unwilling State Government to change policy quickly. It takes many months to organize. A large majority in the UK against the Government policy were unable to prevent it going ahead.

The only people who can stop the NSW Government quickly are the Chief Health Officers (CHOs) of the other jurisdictions. They form the Australian Health Protection Principals Committee (AHPPC) responsible for fighting the pandemic.

They are busy trying to suppress outbreaks in their own States and Territories spread from NSW. But they have not yet done anything to actually support NSW. Instead State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers have merely criticized at two successive weekly meetings of “National Cabinet” and the national “Chief Medical Officer” (who does not actually run any public health system) still describes vaccines as a “circuit breaker” when there is simply no way vaccinations can stop infections faster than Delta can spread them.

It is not clear whether the CHOs on the AHPPC know that it is actually possible for them to intervene in NSW. Most people simply assume it is politically impossible because the Federal Government has no authority over State public health systems and no desire to intervene against a coalition government. If they have time to think about it at all, it is likely that many CHOs have the same assumption. All they can do is close the borders as tightly as they can.

But it is possible for them to intervene. The Federal Health Minister can simply issue a decree under the Biosecurity Act. Formal advice to do so from the AHPPC would be hard to ignore. If the government did ignore them it would have even less chance of surviving the next elections than it does now. That Act provides the same dictatorial powers that CHOs have exercised in their own jurisdictions (including detentions of tens of thousands of people) to overide all other Australian law during a Biosecurity emergency. See my “draft 0” in the second article of this series:

covid-19 Draft Emergency Legislative Instrument

We need lawyers to draft the necessary “legislative instrument” (and perhaps some memos about the penalties for wilful neglect of duties by public officers) and medical doctors and scientists to ensure the CHOs promptly take action to insist on its prompt implementation (and second the necessary officers to lead the NSW public health response).

Everybody knows a doctor and pretty well any doctor is only 2 degrees of separation from a CHO. We can talk to doctors and persuade them to study the relevant documents carefully enough to pick up a phone and persuade a colleague closer to the CHO to do the same. Then it is just one more phone call to reach the local CHO and get them to take the time.

Something similar should be possible to find lawyers who know lawyers that could do the drafting.

A good starting point for reading by doctors and lawyers is the New Zealand Government’s position. Here it is:

https://covid19.govt.nz/reconnecting-new-zealand-to-the-world/

Click on “Expand all” and read the speech by the main author of the NZ Government report recommending that they continue to “stamp out” each outbreak as it occurs. Then also download pdfs of the report.

Here’s an excerpt:

Many people argued that elimination was impossible. Well, they were wrong. New Zealand did eliminate COVID-19, and so did several other countries — including China.

There’s no doubt that our elimination strategy has served us well. I often compare us with Scotland, which also has just over 5 million people. New Zealand has had a total of 26 deaths during the pandemic. Scotland has had over 10,000 deaths, and more Scots have suffered chronic illness — the so-called ‘long Covid’. We dodged a bullet — and our social and community life has flourished, in comparison with countries where repeated lockdowns and restrictions on gatherings have made the past 16 months a time of frustration and grief.

But what about the future? Can we maintain elimination, as we re-open our borders (as we must do)? High levels of vaccination should make it easier to stamp out clusters of COVID-19, but new variants like Delta will make it more difficult. If we have to give up on elimination, and allow the virus to become endemic, many New Zealanders will end up in hospital and a sizeable number will die — though a lot fewer than if we had let the virus spread last year.

Our group wrestled with the question. We concluded that, at this stage of the pandemic, the elimination strategy is not only viable, but also the best option. It allows us to enjoy a lifestyle that is relatively unaffected by the ravages of COVID-19, and to protect our health service and our economy.

The UK, after a disastrous year, has had a great vaccination roll-out: 94% of English adults now have antibodies arising from vaccination or past infection, or both. Yet last week they still had 627 deaths from COVID — the equivalent of about 48 deaths a week in our population. And most British people are avoiding contacts with others: social contacts are still down on last summer, and are barely a quarter of pre-pandemic levels. Many people work at home, and about 90% are still wearing a mask when outside the house.

Look at this crowded room. None us of us is wearing a mask, and we are not fearful of contagion. This would be unthinkable in most countries. I hope not to spend the rest of my life shielding from others, especially in winter, and looking at faces covered by masks.

https://covid19.govt.nz/reconnecting-new-zealand-to-the-world/

Next, to understand the full horror of the term “Pandemic of the Unvaccinated” it is necessary to understand that most of the world is unvaccinated and that a report to the 94th meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies of the UK Government (SAGE) described:

Scenario One: A variant that causes severe disease in a greater proportion of the population than has occurred to date. For example, with similar morbidity/mortality to other zoonotic coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV (~10% case fatality) or MERS-CoV (~35% case fatality).

SAGE considered this report and officially confirmed that it has “high confidence” and is “almost certain” of “higher rates of transmission creating more opportunities for new variants to emerge” and that more severe disease is a “realistic possibility”. (See paragraph 37 and 39 of Minutes below).

The Minutes omit the reference to up to 35% case fatality but that is what was described as a “realistic possibility”.

These documents can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/sage-meetings-july-2021

This includes the SAGE 94 minutes: Coronavirus (COVID-19) response, 22 July 2021
Published 6 August 2021:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sage-94-minutes-coronavirus-covid-19-response-22-july-2020

and an updated version of the report on long term evolution discussed in those minutes:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/long-term-evolution-of-sars-cov-2-26-july-2021

That report includes a succinct summary of latest virology, immunology and phylodynamics from p6 to end at p15.

A summary of the report was published in the business executives magazine, “Forbes” on August 4:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamhaseltine/2021/08/04/a-warning-about-the-future-of-covid-19-from-the-scientific-advisory-group-for-emergencies-of-the-united-kingdom/

The UK Government opened up the UK to unlimited infection on July 19 (“Freedom Day”) in the full knowledge that this is likely to unleash a “Pandemic of the Unvaccinated” both in the UK and worldwide.

They expect that pretty well everybody will get infected since Herd Immunity is unfeasible and that there is a “realistic possibility” that up to 35% will die. That’s more than 2 billion people!

The UK Government’s crime has been denounced by more than a thousand medical doctors and scientists in a politely worded statement:

The UK Government must reconsider its current strategy and take urgent steps to protect the public, including children. We believe the government is embarking on a dangerous and unethical experiment, and we call on it to pause plans to abandon mitigations on July 19, 2021.

https://www.johnsnowmemo.com/

Although politely worded the accusation of “unethical experiment” on humans happens to be considered a “crime against humanity” over which courts in many countries exercise “universal jurisdiction” regardless of where and by whom such crimes are committed.

We can leave aside consideration of what motivated the UK Government and what motivates the NSW Government until they are put on trial either by their own courts for “reckless endangerment” and “misconduct in public office” or by the courts of other countries affected by their crimes against humanity.

The point right now is to stop them by doing whatever we can to prevent mass infections while vaccinating the world (and developing a future “sterlizing vaccine” that actually eradicates the virus).

Below is the authoritative minutes from SAGE.

But there is more that doctors and lawers should be studying closely and that science journalists should be explaining to a wider public. Here is a starting point:

Assessing the risk of vaccine-driven virulence evolution in SARS-CoV-2
Ian F. Miller, Jessica E. Metcalf
https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.01.20241836

It explains clearly the precise mechanism by which “vaccine-driven” virulence evolution has a realistic possibility of killing 2 billion unvaccinated people while being “unlikely” to threaten immunized populations.

Abstract

How might COVID-19 vaccines alter selection for increased SARS-CoV-2 virulence, or lethality? Framing current evidence surrounding SARS-CoV-2 biology and COVID-19 vaccines in the context of evolutionary theory indicates that prospects for virulence evolution remain uncertain. However, differential effects of vaccinal immunity on transmission and disease severity between respiratory compartments could select for increased virulence. To bound expectations for this outcome, we analyze an evo-epidemiological model. Synthesizing model predictions with vaccine efficacy data, we conclude that while vaccine driven virulence evolution remains a theoretical risk, it is unlikely to threaten prospects for herd immunity in immunized populations. Given that this event would nevertheless impact unvaccinated populations, virulence should be monitored to facilitate swift mitigation efforts.

Significance statement

Vaccines can provide personal and population level protection against infectious disease, but these benefits can exert strong selective pressures on pathogens. Virulence, or lethality, is one pathogen trait that can evolve in response to vaccination. We investigated whether COVID-19 vaccines could select for increased SARS-CoV-2 virulence by reviewing current evidence about vaccine efficacy and SARS-CoV-2 biology in the context of evolutionary theory, and subsequently analyzing a mathematical model. Our findings indicate that while vaccine-driven virulence evolution in SARS-CoV-2 is a theoretical risk, the consequences of this event would be limited for vaccinated populations. However, virulence evolution should be monitored, as the ramifications of a more virulent strain spreading into an under-vaccinated population would be more severe.

Rather more than “monitoring” is required, we have to vaccinate the world.

Doctors and scientists should be able to find the relevant technical literature from seeing what recent papers have referenced the earlier papers listed in that preprint.

Lawyers should be able to prepare the necessary criminal indictments – but first we need the legislative instrument that helps NSW rejoin the rest of Australia in following the New Zealand path of maintaining elimination instead of the UK path of spreading infection.

Below is the relevant part of SAGE 94 minutes: Coronavirus (COVID-19) response, 22 July 2021
Published 6 August 2021

Long-term viral evolution

  1. It is almost certain that the emergence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2 is related to the amount of circulating virus, with higher rates of circulation and transmission creating more opportunities for new variants to emerge (high confidence).
  2. There are a number of possible scenarios which could lead to the emergence of a variant which is more transmissible, causes more severe disease, or has a degree of immune escape.
  3. A variant which causes more severe disease could emerge through recombination, where it is produced in an individual infected with two separate variants or acquire other genetic material from other viruses or the host (realistic possibility). Current vaccines are highly likely to continue to provide protection against serious disease for such new variants. However, since no vaccine is completely effective, there would likely still be an increase in morbidity and mortality from such a variant.
  4. An immune escape variant could emerge in several ways. This includes through antigenic shift, where natural recombination events change the spike glycoprotein of the virus (realistic possibility). It could also emerge through animals becoming infected, the virus mutating within that population and then later this new variant infecting humans (realistic possibility). A new variant could also emerge through antigenic drift, where antigenic variation eventually leads to current vaccine failure (almost certain). These could occur over different timeframes. It is unknown how levels of immunity change the risk of the establishment of such a variant.
  5. Reducing transmission, increasing vaccination levels, monitoring new variants and preparing to update vaccinations would mitigate the risks of such new variants.
  6. A new variant could emerge that evades current antiviral strategies. Reducing the likelihood of such a variant emerging requires careful use of antivirals. This includes taking particular care in the treatment of immunocompromised people, or others infected for a long period, in whom viral evolution is more likely to happen. In particular, those working with infected immunocompromised individuals should take extra precautions to prevent onwards transmission.
  7. Although unlikely in the short term, in the long term it is a realistic possibility that variants will arise that are more transmissible but with reduced virulence. This reduced virulence, along with high population immunity, could eventually lead to the virus causing a much less severe disease.
  8. As antiviral drugs become available it will be very important to use them in a way that does not induce viral escape from their effects, for example using them in combinations.

Impact of international vaccination

  1. The biggest threat to the UK’s health security and response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is the emergence (and establishment within the UK) of variants that either have increased transmissibility, increased severity, escape prior immunity or a combination of these characteristics (high confidence). At this point in the epidemic, with a high degree of population immunity, an immune escape variant would be of particular concern (high confidence).
  2. Substantial global circulation of SARS-CoV-2 will lead to the evolution of new variants and continued risk of importation to the UK (medium confidence). Reducing prevalence globally will therefore reduce the risk to the UK. Multilateral coordination will be important in achieving this.
  3. Increased international vaccination (for example by sharing of doses or supporting increased manufacture) has the potential to reduce the appearance and establishment of variants internationally, as well as the risk of their importation to the UK (medium confidence). There are also strong ethical reasons for supporting international vaccination efforts. Targeting international vaccination efforts (for example to countries where there are higher numbers of immunocompromised people, for example due to HIV infection) may be particularly beneficial.
  4. The choice of vaccine is likely to be important and may change over time. Although using single doses would allow more people to be reached with limited supply, it may also result in more people having partial immunity which may increase the risk of an immune escape variant developing or spreading.
  5. Border measures may also reduce the risk to the UK, though these will delay rather than prevent the importation of variants. Reducing global prevalence may lessen the need for border measures. Strengthening global surveillance of variants (as well as continued surveillance in the UK) will be important in understanding the risk. SAGE strongly supports the need for effective surveillance systems in the UK (UKHSA) and the presence of a global surveillance system as envisioned in the G7 communique. In addition to sequencing, studies on biology including transmission fitness and antigenicity will be required to understand which variants may become dominant.

covid-19 Draft Emergency Legislative Instrument

I am sure lawyers could produce a much better draft, along with any appropriate backup drafts for a referendum to amend the Australian Constitution and the composition of the High Court.

But the following ought to establish that any failure to prevent NSW falling is not due to lack of legal powers to intervene.

Consequently at any future trials for misconduct in public office or incitement of such misconduct it should not be assumed that only officers of NSW would be defendants.

Of course before actually exercising in NSW the dictatorial powers that the Chief Health Officers of the other States are already exercising in their own jurisdictions (including detention orders for tens of thousands of people), the AHPPC should first spell out what it requires NSW to do and what assistance other jurisdictions will provide to do it.

They are the only people in a position to decide what is necessary and how to go about it.

I would assume that an out of control Delta outbreak that has already been allowed to reach half the level of Victoria’s second wave would require a much more drastic “stage 5” lockdown than was needed for several months in Victoria. Essentially a 24 lockdown curfew with rostered hours for exercise and distribution of essential supplies. Supermarkets would be stocked from interstate. That would give hope within a couple of weeks and could be eased back to “stage 4” levels within a month or so.

My assumptions are irrelevant as are those of any other commentator. But the CHO of NSW stated weeks ago that there was a national emergency and the people who will be held responsible for failing to implement the measures that only they are competent to decide on are the CHOs of the other States.

This is the second article in the series I promised on “shambolic clots”. In later articles I will explain the significance of including the W.H.O. recommendations numbered 3 and 9. The failure to enforce in NSW necessary measures specified in recommendation 1 should be self-explanatory. The CHOs of the AHPCC and ATAGI should already know the relevance of recommendation 3 to the disgraceful behaviour of both Commonwealth and NSW governments. I doubt that they have thought about the possible use of powers under recommendation 9 to counter the massive public misinformation campaign that their opponents ae engaged in.

Anywhere here is “draft 0”:

Whereas the Governer General has determined that a Human Biosecurity Emergency with respect to covid-19 exists under section 475 and the Health Minister is satisfied under section 477 of the Human Biosecurity Act 2015 [1] that the emergency requirements specified in the attached schedule 1 are necessary under the following subsections:

(1) (a) to prevent or control: (ii) the spread of the covid-19 listed human disease from parts of New South Wales to all other parts of New South Wales and other Australian territory (b) to prevent or control the spread of covid-19 from Australia to any other country; and (c) to give effect to the recommendations identified as "critical for all countries" that have been given by the World Health Organization under Part III of the International Health Regulations[2] by decision of the eighth meeting of the W.H.O. Emergency Committee regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic which took place on Wednesday, 14 July 2021 [3] as follows:

1. Continue to use evidence-informed PHSM [Public Health and Social Measures] based on real time monitoring of the epidemiologic situation and health system capacities, taking into account the potential cumulative effects of these measures. … The use of established public health measures in response to individual cases or clusters of cases, including contact tracing, quarantine and isolation, must continue to be adapted to the epidemiological and social context and enforced.

3. Achieve the WHO call to action to have at least 10% of all countries’ populations vaccinated by September 2021. Increased global solidarity is needed to protect vulnerable populations from the emergence and spread of SARS CoV-2 variants. Noting that many countries have now vaccinated their priority populations, it is recommended that doses should be shared with countries that have limited access before expanding national vaccination programmes into lower risk groups…

9. Address community engagement and communications gaps at national and local levels to reduce COVID-19 transmission, counter misinformation, and improve COVID-19 vaccine acceptance, where applicable. This will require reinforcing messages that a comprehensive public health response is needed, including the continued use of PHSM alongside increasing vaccination coverage.

(2) The requirements specified in schedule 1 are determined as a legislative instrument that is not subject to disallowance under section 42 of the Legislation Act 2003 [4]

(3) These requirements apply to:

(a) persons, goods or conveyances when entering or leaving any place in New South Wales;
(b) the movement of persons, goods or conveyances in or between any place in New South Wales and any other place in New South Wales or anywhere else in Australia or elsewhere;
(c) the evacuation of any place in New South Wales;
(d) and any measure required for the purposes of giving
effect to the International Health Regulations recommendations specified in 1(c)

(4) The Health Minister is satisfied of all of the following:
(a) that the requirement is likely to be effective in, or to
contribute to, achieving the purpose for which it is to be
determined;
(b) that the requirement is appropriate and adapted to achieve the purpose for which it is to be determined;
(c) that the requirement is no more restrictive or intrusive than is required in the circumstances. The circumstances that require the sudden and immediate exercise of extreme and intrusive restrictive dictatorial powers are that failure to aggressively suppress covid-19 in New South Wales would result in catastrophic collapse of hospital systems throughout Australia with massive deaths;
(d) that the manner in which the requirement is to be applied is no more restrictive or intrusive than is required in the
circumstances;
(e) that the period during which the requirement is to apply is only as long as is necessary.

(5) The requirements determined apply despite any provision of any other Australian law and in particular apply despite the provisions of sections 479(5)[4] and 545(2)[5] of the Human Biosecurity Act 2015 and any provision of any law of New South Wales[4] and any provision of any law that gives jurisdiction to any Court or Tribunal to hear and determine any matter.

Schedule 1.

  1. The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) shall take charge of all aspects of the public health response to covid-19 in New South Wales and shall draft directions from the Minister under s478 of the Human Biosecurity Act 2015 to aggressively suppress community transmission of covid-19 in New South Wales and to implement the specified recommendations of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee.
  2. The Governor of New South Wales, the Ministers of the NSW Government, both houses of the legislature of NSW, the courts of NSW and all other officers and employees of New South Wales shall actively implement all such directions by all means available to them including legislation, legislative instruments, appointments and dismissal of officers and employees and directions under NSW law.
  3. All States and Territories of Australia shall provide maximum assistance to the people of New South Wales by emergency supplies of essential goods and services at the expense of the Commonwealth.
  4. No person may enter or leave any place in New South Wales for any purpose except in accordance with the public health directions drafted by the AHPCC and given by the Health Minister under section 478 of the Human Biosecurity Act 2015.[6]

References:

  1. https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2017C00303
  2. International Health Regulations 2005, Third edition
    https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241580496
  3. https://www.who.int/news/item/15-07-2021-statement-on-the-eighth-meeting-of-the-international-health-regulations-(2005)-emergency-committee-regarding-the-coronavirus-disease-(covid-19)-pandemic
  4. s479(5) would otherwise prevent a direction under subsection s479(1) to an officer or employee of a State, Territory or State or Territory body unless the direction is in accordance with an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State, Territory or body.
  5. s545(2) would otherwise not permit the Director of Biosecurity to authorise an officer or employee of a State or Territory body to be a biosecurity officer unless an arrangement is in force under section 547 in relation to the officer or employee.
  6. The penalty under section 479 for not complying is five years imprisonment or 300 penalty units or both.

covid-19 – None Shall Let Another Fall

We face a global pandemic. Excess mortality was 3 million last year and will be much greater this year. The attack rate is still growing.

Given that Observation we must first Orient, then Decide and Act. This “OODA loop” has to be repeated continuously. Events are moving too rapidly for our decisions and actions to keep up.

But first comes basic Orientation. Are we going to join together to fight this common enemy of all humanity?

One way a community binds together is by singing.

We have a suitable global anthem, from Paul Robeson’s “Hymn to Nations” sung to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, the anthem of the European Union:

Build the road of peace before us
Build it wide & deep & long
Speed the slow & check the eager
Help the weak & curb the strong
None shall push aside another
None shall let another fall
March beside me, o my brothers
All for one & one for all.

Superficially, the final amendment to Australia’s “National Plan” has been made more consistent with that. Instead of promoting a competition between the Australian States as to who can open up fastest, it specifies vaccination thresholds that must be reached by all States before any one of the States that have reached that threshold can move to a lower level of restrictions.

The point is to speed the slow and check the eager – with none letting another fall.

But that same “National Plan” pretends that Australia can be safe while a global pandemic rages through the rest of the world. It rests on seeking to push aside other nations that more desperately need vaccines, in a mad scramble to get to “the head of the queue”. Every available dose of AstraZeneca must be shoved into Australian arms, whether willing or not, lest it be “wasted” by donation to other countries.

The plan to stop worrying about infections after phase A is simply ludicrous and would contribute to more deadly variants emerging more rapidly. It isn’t even a thought bubble without a thought like the “Labor” party plan. It is just a Trumpian expression of utterly childish self-absorbed thoughtlessness.

Supposedly we can let India and Indonesia fall while Qantas resumes tourist trips to Bali! Even from the most narrow viewpoint Australia is within swimming distance of New Guinea which has a border with Indonesia.

I will leave a detailed analysis of this “plan” to a later article. There is a more urgent problem. The situation in New South Wales means Australia is on the brink of abandoning its existing “phase A” achievements. We must act fast to not let NSW fall.

Because this “National Plan” does promote vaccination and that does save lives, many public health people have remained silent about the global situation so as to focus on getting “more jabs in arms”. They have not sounded the alarm at the absurdity of NSW proposing to rely on vaccinations rather than tighter Public Health and Social Measures (PHSMs) to deal with the slow exponential growth in cases not contained by Test, Trace, Treat, Isolate and Quarantine (TTTIQ). Also they can take comfort from the fact that the plan advocates whatever level of PHSMs are needed to avoid collapse of the hospital system, rather than simply announcing a “Freedom Day” like the UK.

By now public health experts should not just be critical of the fact that the New South Wales government is still promoting delivery in September of “freedoms” that could only result in collapse. If they did their duty they should have already stepped in to fix the “national disaster” already announced from NSW. The NSW Premier told the National Cabinet meeting last Friday that NSW would not take the necessary action. But the other States did nothing at all about this direct threat to the whole country

Australia is currently in the same position as New Zealand and China. Proposing that the aim of vaccination is to ABANDON that hard won achievement so that we can enjoy MORE infections and MORE deaths is so utterly bizarre that the media has to breathlessly report “the conversation” among politicians and pundits advocating it non-stop and simply pretends there is no other view.

But what goes around, comes around. New South Wales was held up as the “gold standard” for opening up faster than other States. It rushed ahead eagerly and nobody checked it. Now it is on the edge of falling and the other States are letting it fall. That will come back around to those who let another fall.

If New South Wales falls then Victoria and Queensland will be subject to almost continuous lockdowns to suppress repeated incursions of infection across the border. Perhaps Tasmania and Western Australia could maintain the same level of covid elmination as New Zealand but it would be very hard for South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT.

But its worse than that.

The media death cultists are actively campaigning for New South Wales to fail, precisely because they actually WANT to bring down Victoria and Queensland and thus restore “calm and reason” to Australia as a whole . Here’s Chris Kenny, Associate Editor of “The Australian” in the weekend’s edition (p16-17 August 7-8):

Some readers were dismayed when I wrote last month that it might be a good thing if the NSW lockdown failed because it would force the nation to learn to live with the disease. That seems to be what is playing out – incrementally and reluctantly perhaps – but it is happening.

The lockdown fetishists portray this as welcoming sickneses and deaths, as though there is another option. The day the virus arrived on our shores from Wuhan we were going to have to deal with these morbid realities, it is all about picking a sustainable, least worst path. As I have argued in this column for more than a year, there is no option but to find a way to live with Covid.

He is right, that is playing out “incrementally and reluctantly perhaps – but it is happening.” Most processes require incremental responses so decision makers are naturally slow to respond “disproportionately” and “suddenly”. Public health officials with the same outlook are dangerous. Any incremental growth of an epidemic has to be dealt with disproportionately and suddenly. That is the hardest concept to get across even when people claim to understand exponential growth. There simply is no such thing as holding steady. It is either fizzling, exploding or teetering between the two. Two out of three of those possibilities require immediate and disproportionate action to avoid disaster.

Actually of course most of the virus arrived here from the USA and UK where governments followed the policies promoted by the Wall Street Journal and its local affiliates, the Daily Telegraph and The Australian (now joined by Channel 9 Entertainment’s newspapers and the ABC). The US and UK responded incrementally and reluctantly so they are now “living with” with the highest global death rates from covid-19 while the fascist regime in Wuhan, like the New Zealand government, stamped it out and are again stamping it out after Delta arrived from Europe.

We are very lucky not to have been defeated long ago by the incremental and proportionate responses favoured by Commonwealth Chief Medical Officers. Fortunately they do not actually run any of the public health systems in Australia and all State Chief Health Officers that actually do had a better understanding, except for NSW which was repeatedly praised by the Commonwealth for taking risks that eventually resulted in a “national disaster”.

Australian States did stamp out each outbreak until now, despite the Commonwealth’s and NSW’s ineptness. Like New Zealand and China we can keep doing that provided we don’t let NSW fall. There is another option instead of “welcoming sicknesses and deaths”. If it requires stamping on death cultists like Chris Kenny, so be it.

I’m not a lawyer but I do have sufficient knowledge of the law relating to incitement to have been able to “remain at large” despite numerous trials for incitement to riot or to assault police during the Vietnam war.

The people who breached public health orders by protests recently suppressed by NSW police would certainly take comfort from the ideas promoted in The Australian and it’s fleet of tabloids. But I am sure there is no case that these newspapers “incited, urged, aided or encouraged” them.

But what about “misconduct in public office”?

According to wikipedia that is:

“… a criminal offence at common law which dates back to the 13th century.[2][3]

The offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. It is confined to those who are public office holders, and is committed when the office holder acts (or neglects to act) in a way that constitutes a breach of the duties of that office.[4]

The (UK) Crown Prosecution Service guidelines on this offence[2] say that the elements of the offence are when:

A public officer acting as such.
Wilfully neglects to perform one’s duty and/or wilfully misconducts oneself.

To such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder.[5]

Without reasonable excuse or justification.”

Isn’t that precisely what Chris Kenny and his publisher are urging, aiding and encouraging?

It is the duty of the public health officers in every State to protect the public from infectious disease. It is the duty of the Ministers to see to it that they do so. Wilfully neglecting to perform those duties “because it would force the nation to live with the disease” is clearly criminal.

The victim of that crime is “the nation” against whom deadly force is being advocated. We have the legal means to deal with such attacks – forcefully by imprisonment.

The Earl of Strafford was beheaded for proposing to “reduce this Kingdom”. After signing his death warrant, Charles I himself waged war against the people and was duly tried for treason by the High Court of Parliament. His head was removed from his shoulders with the Crown still on it, but without the Royal assent.

Lawyers are not usually as relevant to policy issues as some might think.

For stamping out the virus world wide, virologists developing a sterilizing vaccine will be central. They need to be publicly funded like basic research since private research by Big Pharma is naturally more attracted to ongoing sales to “live with” an ongoing disease than to actually ending the disease.

After all, what contribution does smallpox make to anybody’s “bottom line”, now that it has been stamped out?

Also very relevant in the meantime are pharmaceutical and other engineers to rapidly accelerate vaccine manufacturing capacity to reduce deaths and infections and prevent emergence of more deadly variants. I will write about that too in a later article.

But right now there is locally an urgent need for lawyers.

New South Wales is on the brink of falling because its government does not intend to actually carry out the agreed phase A of aggressive suppression to eliminate community transmission.

It would be difficult to prove the conduct is “wilful” rather than merely incompetent. As Chris Kenny slyly points out, what they are doing is being done “incrementally and reluctantly perhaps”. The level of incompetence is so extreme that a jury might be convinced by expert evidence that they were not merely reluctant and slow to do their duty. But as Chris Kenny hints with the coy ‘perhaps’ there must be a reasonable doubt. How could any Australian jury unanimously have no reasonable doubt that some Australian politicians were not “perhaps” simply incompetent shambolic clots?

Fortunately it might not be necessary to prove that the responsible Ministers are committing a crime in order to prosecute Chris Kenny and his newspaper for urging and encouraging that crime.

Nor need it be necessary to accuse the Ministers of crime in order to remove them from office. The simple fact that they are failing to aggressively suppress the virus is sufficient. Necessity trumps everything else when people recognize in time that something has to be done. Removal of obstacles to what HAS to be done is only “impossible” afterwards when the necessity was not understood at the time.

My understanding is that legally the duty of removing the incompetent NSW Minister’s from office falls on the Governor of NSW whoever that might be (I have no idea and do not believe it matters). In practical political terms the initiative must come from elsewhere (and it should not come from the Commonwealth government).

Perhaps a formal request from the Chief Health Officers of the other States, backed by declaration of various regions of NSW as biosecurity threats and appointment of regional biosecurity commanders by the Commonwealth? The Commonwealth does have constitutional responsibility for “Quarantine” and TTTIQ which includes Quarantine is breaking down in NSW. It would be better if the initiative was led by States with Coalition governments – South Australia and Tasmania.

Already the degree of damage done will require much more intense restrictions on essential work and other movement and for much longer than has been needed elsewhere. Curfews and rostered hours for exercise and collection of essential supplies may be necessary. Neigbourhood committees will be needed to help support people in isolation, organize supplies and tactfully encourage compliance with extremely onerous public health orders in their districts. Other States will need to provide both essential supplies and competent leadership staff for the NSW health service.

Of necessity this process of extending support to prevent failure will have to grow into replacing the functions of the current NSW government. Early involvement of lawyers is merely to make the transition as smooth as feasible.

Anyway, the processes will take some time, so lawyers should get to work on it right now. The virus moves fast. Exponential growth starts gradually and then explodes suddenly.

Unless we can first prevent New South Wales falling we cannot contribute to the world wide fight to prevent other countries falling.

Dr W.H.O.

There is a worldwide fight and it does have a global leadership – the World Health Organization. W.H.O.’s “International Health Regulations” are binding international law agreed to by all 194 member States.

That isn’t much, but it’s what we’ve got, and what we have to build from in dealing with a global pandemic. Its strength resides in the respect that people everywhere have for public health officials as opposed to politicians and pundits.

W.H.O. and the various agencies coordinating global vaccination have put out a clear warning and call to action:

“No one is safe until everyone is safe”

Everybody can and should follow what they say unfiltered by the local media by going directly to the W.H.O. web site for guidance on all aspects of fighting the pandemic. Here’s the regular media briefings regularly ignored in Australian media:

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/media-resources/press-briefings

Here is the most recent transcript:

https://www.who.int/multi-media/details/who-press-conference-on-coronavirus-disease-(covid-19)—4-august-2021

It spells out that the developed countries are following an exactly opposite policy to W.H.O. They will use all available manufacturing capacity to give additional “booster” shots to their “fully vaccinated” people as new variants become increasing virulent in a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” raging throughout the rest of the world where not even the front line health workers and the 10% most vulnerable have been vaccinated.

Here is the WHO Director-General with the very minimal request to just postpone booster shots for another two months so that some supplies can reach the 10% that need vaccines most desperately. His message is “None shall push aside another”.

Here is the replacement for Donald Trump rejecting that polite request, but with more “inspiring” verbiage than the previous “leader of the Free world”:

https://mobile.twitter.com/i/broadcasts/1OdJrVzWoOYJX

Whereas Trump prohibited all exports of vaccines and raw materials from the USA, Biden will condescendingly “donate” a few hundred million NEXT YEAR to a world that needs billions of doses RIGHT NOW.

In direct opposition to the warning promoted by WHO, Australia’s Government is running a vaccination campaign with the slogan:

“We’re not safe until we’re all safe”

Find out when it’s your turn and where you can be vaccinated at australia.gov.au

COVID-19
VACCINATION

KEEPING AUSTRALIA COVIDSAFE

This explicitly replaces “everyone” with “we” and explicitly defines “we” as “Australia”.

Here’s an “Explainer” from Australia’s national broadcaster:

“If you’re vaccinated against COVID-19, how protected are you from catching the virus?”

After a cheery introduction pretending that the whole world is being vaccinated, “our ABC” explains that “we” will be “safe” because “we” will join the US, Israel and UK by simply no longer worrying about the number of infections (that lead to more deadly variants) and only focus on the number of Australians in hospital (reduced by vaccines):

It enthusiastically “explains” that:

“In the US the CDC has so little concern about these (rapidly increasing) cases that they aren’t even counting them any more…” [at 5’18”]

“Driven by the Delta virus, cases in the UK have actually been increasing, and they’ve been increasing sharply. However authorities there are not that worried. Contact tracing has been done away with and reports of daily case numbers are a thing of the past.” [at 7’0″]

Here’s a warning about what happens if we follow the ABC and other media’s siren song and just allow NSW to fall:

https://mobile.twitter.com/ravish_chawla/status/1391458239879938050

Book review: ‘Radicals’ – struggle between the lines pushed things forward

Here is my review of ‘Radicals’ by Meredith Burgmann and Nadia Wheatley, just published in the Melbourne Labour History Society’s newsletter ‘Recorder’ (July 2021, No 301).

Iran – where there is repression, there is resistance

My only disagreement with this article is the author’s use of the word ‘leftists’ to describe those in alliance with the Iranian clericalist regime. She should use the term ‘pseudo-leftists’, as that is accurate…. B York

Iran: A New Wave of Mass Protests and Strikes

(written by Frieda Afary, reprinted from her blog ‘Iranian progressives in translation’)

Iran is experiencing another wave of mass protests and strikes as economic, social, political, environmental and health problems make it impossible for the large majority of the population to have the bare minimums needed to live.

Petrochemical Strikes, Protests Against Water Shortage

A new wave of mass protests over severe water shortage in the mainly ethnic Arab province of Khuseztan began on July 15.   Protesters’ slogans have included: “Down with Dictatorship.”,  “Down With Khamenei”, “We Don’t Want An Islamic Republic”, “The People Want the Regime to Fall.”  Government security forces have shot and killed at least 8 protesters and injured and arrested many others.   However, solidarity protests have started in Azarbaijan, Kurdistan, Isfahan, Sistan & Baluchistan and Tehran.  Iranian filmmakers, teachers and writers’ groups have co-signed a joint statement in support of the protests. (https://iranwire.com/en/features/9985)

In the words of a statement of solidarity by the Tehran Bus Workers’ Syndicate:  “The lack of water in Khuzestan today is rooted in the unprofessional, rapacious and profit-centered policies of the prior decades of capitalism in oil extraction and use of water for the steel industry, the income from which does not go to the people.  These insatiable policies have deprived the people of Khuzestan of safe drinking water.  Water is shut off for long hours and it is lacking for basic needs.  Farmers and cattle growers have also been damaged and lost their livelihoods.”  (https://www.akhbar-rooz.com/%d8%b3%d9%86%d8%af%db%8c%da%a9%d8%a7%db%8c-%d8%b4%d8%b1%da%a9%d8%aa-%d9%88%d8%a7%d8%ad%d8%af-%d8%b3%d8%b1%da%a9%d9%88%d8%a8-%d9%88-%da%a9%d8%b4%d8%aa%d8%a7%d8%b1-%d9%85%d8%b1%d8%af%d9%85-%d8%ac%d8%a7/)

The latest protests have followed a series of nationwide strikes of temporary contract workers in Iran’s oil and gas industry which is also heavily based in Khuzestan.   The strikes which began on June 19 and have spread to a hundred production sites,  are demanding permanent employment status, a $500 monthly wage, safe working conditions and the right to organize and be free of police surveillance.  Haft Tapeh sugar cane workers on strike in Khuzestan are also asking for COVID vaccination and expressing solidarity with protests against the lack of water.

Economic Crisis and COVID Pandemic

Iran continues to suffer from a massive economic crisis  brought about by the costs of its regional imperialist  interventions in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, its nuclear and missile programs and the effects of U.S. economic sanctions.   The official  minimum wage is approximately $120 per month in a country where the cost of bare necessities for a family of 4 is  $500 per month.   Electricity is shut off for several hours on a daily basis.  Access to the internet is becoming more limited or impossible for many because of the cost and government repression.

In this situation the COVID pandemic has been wreaking havoc on the population.    The Delta variant of COVID continues to spread widely.   Over 95% of the population is not vaccinated and has no access to any vaccines, much less safe ones.  (https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/iran/) The official number of deaths is approximately 88,000, but the real numbers are much higher. (https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/health/coronavirus-maps-and-cases/ ) A large part of the population of 83 million has been infected.  However, no accurate figures exist because of government repression.

COVID is spreading rapidly in Iran’s prisons, which have an official population of 190,000. Women prisoners are also suffering from and dying from COVID. They include journalists, teachers, feminist and labor  activists,  students, environmentalists, Kurdish and Arab civil right activists, as well as  Baha’i and Sufi women.

Women Prisoners and Afghan Refugees

Nasrin Sotoudeh, imprisoned feminist human rights attorney and defender of the “Girls of Revolution Avenue” is suffering from a variety of health problems in addition to COVID. Narges Mohammadi, feminist activist against the death penalty who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was released last year after a long prison sentence, only to receive another prison sentence which also includes  80 lashes for continuing to oppose the death penalty and “endangering national security.”  She has been fighting  this sentence, and has attended protests in solidarity with the people of Khuzestan,  striking workers and the families of political prisoners.  In a recent interview, she called Iranian women’s struggles “the Achilles heel of the Iranian regime”. (https://www.facebook.com/voicesofwomenforchange/videos/241864884051720)  Sepideh Gholyan, feminist labor activist , imprisoned in Khuzestan, continues to write about the plight  of ethnic Arab women  prisoners. She has been savagely beaten in prison and is now on hunger strike.

Afghan migrants and refugees who number approximately 3 million in Iran continue to be expelled ( 450,000 expelled since 2020).  The Iranian regime has been holding negotiations between Taliban and the Afghan government under the direction of Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif  (https://www.radiozamaneh.com/676068/) and is helping the Taliban strengthen their  power even though the Taliban have been killing members of the Shi’a Hazara population in Afghanistan.  (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/afghanistan-hazara-taliban/2021/06/30/fae16a60-d815-11eb-8c87-ad6f27918c78_story.html)

Iran’s Continuing Regional Ambitions and U.S. Imperialism’s “Solutions”

In the midst of all these crises and protests, the Iranian government maintains its regional imperialist interventions in Syria, Iraq, and  Lebanon.   It promotes its plots to kidnap and assassinate opposition activists in exile. (https://iranhumanrights.org/2021/07/foiled-kidnapping-of-dissident-part-of-irans-ramped-up-campaign-to-crush-dissent/) It continues to develop its nuclear and missile programs and has stopped its negotiation with the U.S. Biden administration  on returning to the JCPOA nuclear agreement.

The “election” of Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s next president had the lowest rate of mass participation even by Iran’s standards which were very low to begin with.  Raisi was previously the head of Iran’s judiciary and immediately prior to that,  the head of GHORB, the construction conglomerate  of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).    He is infamously known as a member of the “Death Commission” which ordered the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.  Under his watch,  approximately 1500 people were killed by government forces during the November 2019 uprising. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-protests-specialreport/special-report-irans-leader-ordered-crackdown-on-unrest-do-whatever-it-takes-to-end-it-idUSKBN1YR0QR)   Amnesty International has condemned him for committing crimes against humanity (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/06/iran-ebrahim-raisi-must-be-investigated-for-crimes-against-humanity/)

U.S. New York Times columnist, Thomas Freedman reveals imperialist inhumanity in his recent column on Iran where he offers a “solution”  that is “the best anyone can hope for with Iran.”  (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/15/opinion/iran-biden-nuclear-deal.html?searchResultPosition=1) He argues that the U.S. with the help of Gulf states  should give more financial aid to the Assad regime to kick Iran out of Syria, maintain Russia and Turkey as dominant powers and assure the continuation of the Assad regime. This he says would reduce Iran’s danger and satisfy the U.S. and Israel.  To him, the people of the region, the Syrian Arabs and Kurds and the Iranian population, are mere pawns on the U.S. and global Imperialist chessboard.

Needed Progressive Solidarity with Struggles inside Iran

No less cynical are those leftists and so-called socialists around the world who support the Iranian regime as “anti-imperialist” or refuse to criticize it.

Those who limit their solidarity to calling for the removal of U.S. sanctions,  refuse to recognize the complexity of the problems in Iran.  They do not address the fact that these problems are rooted both in the external imperialism of the U.S.,  Russia. China and  internal capitalist militarism and religious fundamentalism.

Any effort to engage in solidarity with the struggles inside Iran begins not only with  calling for the removal of U.S. sanctions and an end to Israel’s attacks,  but also simultaneously holding the Iranian regime accountable for its repression and  exploitation of  the people and environment of the region.     That recognition demands calling for the immediate release of political prisoners, expressing solidarity with striking workers, feminist and environmental struggles, oppressed ethnic, sexual and religious minorities,  and demanding Iran’s withdrawal from Syria, Iraq  and an end to its interventions in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Yemen.

Frieda Afary

July 25, 2021

What is capitalism and why should we be against it? – panel discussion featuring Rory Dufficy, Arthur Dent and Rjurik Davidson, Melbourne 22 May 2021

On Saturday, May 22nd, 2021, the Melbourne chapter of the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted an in-person panel discussion at the Clyde Hotel in Carlton, Australia on the question: “What is Capitalism, and why should we be against it?”

The present is characterized not only by a political crisis of the global neoliberal order but also by differing interpretations of the cause of this crisis:

Capitalism. If we are to interpret capitalism, we must also know how to change it.

– What is capitalism? – Is capitalism contradictory? If so, what is this contradiction and how does it relate to Left politics?

– How has capitalism changed over time, and what have these changes meant politically for the Left?

– Does class struggle take place today? If so, how, and what role should it play for the Left?

– Is capitalism in crisis? If so, how? And how should the Left respond?

– If a new era of global capitalism is emerging, how do we envision the future of capitalism and what are the implications of this for the Left?

Panelists: – Rory Dufficy (Scholar of Avante-Garde politics and teaches Marx’s Capital at the Melbourne School Of Continental Philosophy) – Rjurik Davidson (Marxist writer, editor & speaker. Former Associate Editor of Overland magazine) – Arthur Dent (Unreconstructed Maoist and contributor at c21stleft.com)

[ Unfortunately 20 seconds of Dufficy’s opening remarks were lost due to an internet drop-out. However, his remarks are complete in the transcript expected to be published in an upcoming issue of The Platypus Review ]

covid-19 Ongoing disaster from Shambolic Clots

I’m working on an eventual series of posts on above theme but currently focussed on current pretence at preparing for mRNA vaccine production in Australia that requires catching up on technical details.

Meanwhile Dominic Cummings started a twitter storm on 17 May, fully documenting from inside just how Shambolic the UK response was.

The 59 tweets (so far) are well worth reading and thinking about carefully.

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1394245014440529921.html

There may well be more coming and the original thread view shows what he is responding to so here’s a link to that:

https://mobile.twitter.com/Dominic2306/status/1395010951452237829

It also includes some responses on his own responsibility for helping promote that government.

More immediately relevant is a warning from Cummings that UK preparations for dealing with variants could be likewise shambolic and that transparency is vital to enable earlier reversals of wrong policies protected by official secrecy.

Naturally the “business case” for mRNA manufacturing in Australia is beiing witheld and an 8 week “process” is being rushed through to ask local manufacturers to confidentially provide detailed costings for know how and supply chains they don’t have. An engineering task needs to be recruited immediately (from anywhere, worldwide) to actually work out what can be done and who needs to be recruited and trained to do it. That will be difficult but is the obvious first step which simply is not being taken. They are instead talking to managers of the non-existant Australian BioPharma industry to fill out forms about matters they know nothing about.

I’ll write about that as soon as I can:

https://www.industry.gov.au/news/enabling-australias-onshore-mrna-manufacturing-capability-approach-to-market

Meanwhile here’s the text of the 59 tweets, although it is better to read them with accompanying graphics at links above:

1/ Covid… Summary evidence on lockdowns. For UK political pundits obsessed with spreading nonsense on Sweden/lockdowns, cf. SW econ did a bit WORSE than Denmark which locked down, AND far more deaths in Sweden:

Yes, lockdowns were good
It’s a moot point now, but let’s set the record straight
https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/yes-lockdowns-were-good
Image

One of the biggest misunderstandings, spread by political pundits even now, is the ‘tradeoff’ argument. Fact: evidence clear that fast hard effective action best policy for economy AND for reducing deaths/suffering
4/ Best example: Taiwan. Also shows that if you REALLY get your act together not only is econ largely unscathed but life is ~ normal. But SW1 (Remain/Leave, Rt/Left) = totally hostile to learning from East Asia
5/ There’s a general western problem based on nonsense memes like ‘asians all do as they’re told it won’t work here’. This is what many behavioural science ‘experts’/charlatans argued, disastrously, in Feb2020. This nonsense is STILL influencing policy, eg our joke borders policy
6/ Another confusion re Sweden: data shows despite no official ‘lockdown’ behaviour changed enormously. The closer your measures are to ‘welding people inside homes’ (per Wuhan at peak) the >> effect on transmission. Semantics of ‘lockdown’ obscure this really simple point
7/ If you are going to have to do measures ≈ lockdown to avoid health system collapse then the harder/earlier the better & the sooner they can be released. Pseudo ‘lockdowns’ w/o serious enforcement are hopeless: econ hit & people die anyway, nightmare rumbles on
8/ Waiting room, 1st jab. Remembered Vallance 24/3 amid disaster: will u support taking vaccines out of DH & a new Taskforce, we need different leadership & skills to drive it? CABSEC supported divvying up DH tasks. If not, normal Whitehall process, probably normal result

9/ Success seems to have blinded SW1 to important Qs. a/ We did it much better than Brussels, obviously, but Brussels is not a good comparison. How well did we do relative to ‘how well wd General Groves who ran the Manhattan Project have done it?’
10/ I think we’ll conclude we shd have done Human Challenge trials immediately & cd have got jabs in arms summer. This is not criticism of the VTF which has been constrained in ways they shdnt be. It’s cnctd to b/ where is the public plan for how the VTF will deal with variants?
11/ One of the most fundamental & unarguable lessons of Feb-March is that secrecy contributed greatly to the catastrophe. Openness to scrutiny wd have exposed Gvt errors weeks earlier than happened
12/ So why are MPs accepting the lack of a public plan now for VTF viz variants? Especially when rumours reach me that the silent entropy of Whitehall is slowly turning VTF back into a ‘normal’ entity?
13/ The best hedge re a variant escaping current vaccines is PUBLIC SCRUTINY of Gvt plans. This will hopefully show it’s been taken seriously. If not, better learn now that the Gvt has screwed up again than when ‘variant escapes’ news breaks
14/ I can think of no significant element of covid response that wd not have been improved by discarding secrecy and opening up. This was symbolised by e.g how COBR cd not be used: a constrained STRAP environment cd not cope with the scale/speed, another important lesson

15/ Having watched classified elements of covid response, Gvt cd make the vaccine plans 99% public without risks, ‘national security’ almost totally irrelevant to the critical parts of the problem, a few things cd be withheld while publishing all crucial parts of the plan
16/ These issues are relevant to c/ Who is writing the plan for ‘how we deal with something worse than covid?’ If we get this right now, we do not need to have this sort of disaster again. We’ll also be hedging vs future bioterrorism risks: cf:

Andy Weber on rendering bioweapons obsolete and ending the new nuclear arms race
Bioweapons are terrifying but scientific advances leave them on the verge of becoming an outdated technology.
https://80000hours.org/podcast/episodes/andy-weber-rendering-bioweapons-obsolete/
17/ The covid plan was supposed to be ‘world class’ but turned out to be part disaster, part non-existent. I urged inside Gvt to do a review of other contingency plans for more dangerous things than covid, a largely open process with e.g @wtgowers helping. Happening?
18/ MPs shd force publication of vaccine/variant plan & require mostly open review of other contingency plans before we find out the hard way they’re as ‘world class’ as the covid plan…
19/ Such reviews shd seek out those were right & early on covid. Such people are more likely to spot that other plans have errors, gaps, that institutional planning has blind spots, failure to look at crucial operational details etc. E.g @MWStory
20/ P Vallance & I supported opening up SAGE much earlier than it happened. I argued before 1st lockdown to open up the CODE of SPI-M models for scrutiny. Barrier = SW1 cultural hostility to openness & this barrier means SAGE still too closed & too little of its workings public
21/ Looking at minutes does not give good insight to reality of discussions. E.g looking at minutes of crucial 18/3, which I attended, does not convey true situation, discussion, atmosphere, effects
22/ With something as critical as variants escaping vaccines, there is no justification for secrecy, public interest unarguably is open scrutiny of the plans
23/ This point is critical re Groves/Manhattan/vaccines & wider covid & wider issue of gvt performance: our civilisation is abysmal at seeking Groves/Bob Taylors & getting them into critical roles, bureaucracies exclude & expel them, as they did with Groves/Taylor!
Image
24/ The public inquiry will at no point ask: how does the deep institutional wiring of the parties/civil service program destructive behaviour by putting the wrong ppl in wrong jobs with destructive incentives? It will all be about relatively surface errors
25/ If SW1 wanted to ‘learn’ there wd already be a serious exercise underway. The point of the inquiry is the opposite of learning, it is to delay scrutiny, preserve the broken system & distract public from real Qs, leaving the parties & senior civil service essentially untouched
26/ J Phillips, a brilliant young neuroscientist I recruited to no10, argued for immediate Human Challenge Trials, as did others. We were far too slow to listen to such advice. The science ‘misfits’ who urged this early were clearly right, the ‘ethicists’ disastrously wrong
27/ So true from @paulg, it’s amazingly rare to find people who deeply care about results at senior levels in politics/gvt, those who do are seen as mad/unreliable & are weeded out. SW1 incentives are ~all about rewarding process + fake signals. V relevant to covid fiascos
Image
28/ Of the 20 ppl who I saw do most to save 1000s of lives, it’s striking how many gone or leaving or planning to leave, & how many who were disastrously wrong/useless been promoted to jobs they can’t do/given honours etc
29/ @pmarca on the west’s covid failures (‘the harsh reality is that it all failed’) & the General Groves mentality needed, influential in no10, 4/20, as we pushed thro the vaccine taskforce

IT’S TIME TO BUILD – Andreessen Horowitz
Every Western institution was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, despite many prior warnings. This monumental failure of institutional effectiveness will reverberate for the rest of the decade, …
https://a16z.com/2020/04/18/its-time-to-build/
30/ Crucial data generally ignored by those who want to downplay covid danger, many 1000s will have serious health problems for years because of our failure to act faster/harder in Feb/March & Sep. Those who predicted this issue wd be ‘Gulf War syndrome bollocks’ were wrong
Image
31/ There was a PHE exercise called Exercise NIMBUS in a hypothetical future 14/4/20 with mock COBR slides. Assumed peak week 13/5 and >33M cases over 16 week wave, hospitals full by 14/4, >800K deaths, schools told stay open(!!). A/one know when exercise happened (think 3/20)?
Image
32/ This, evening of 31/10 re lockdown2, from @wtgowers who was ahead of the game in 3/20, was spot on. If mass testing had been developed properly earlier in year as cd/shd have been, wd probably have avoided lockdowns 2&3 while awaiting vaccine
Image
33/ True but also UK gvt did v badly, turned out we cd/shd have had these tests at millions p/day scale by Sep latest, instead of seriously starting in Sep, which wd have greatly changed q42020. Those screaming from ~Feb/March were ignored, months/lives/£ needlessly lost
Image
34/ Mass testing same story as elsewhere: some brilliant/dedicated relatively junior officials (e.g Alex Cooper) + great young scientists (e.g @gaurav_ven) + entrepreneurs held back by senior management/DHSC/PHE (particularly awful) & Whitehall legacy procurement & HR horrorshows
35/ Even tho the PM/CABSEC/I all told 9/20 most senior HR & procurement officials to treat mass testing ‘like a wartime project’, ignore their usual bullshit multimonth processes, mass testing hugely hampered by Whitehall’s optimisation for ‘[awful] process over results’
36/ So much ‘lockdown’ confusion. Obv they’re ‘destructive’. But if you have to do it cos alternative is 100s of 1000s choking to death + no NHS for months for everybody else + econ sunk cos everybody hiding in terror then earlier/harder is better for health AND econ
37/ If we’d had the right preparations + competent people in charge, we wd probably have avoided lockdown1, definitely no need for lockdowns 2&3. Given the plan was AWOL/disaster + awful decisions delayed everything, lockdown1 became necessary
38/ Media generally abysmal on covid but even I’ve been surprised by 1 thing: how many hacks have parroted Hancock’s line that ‘herd immunity wasn’t the plan’ when ‘herd immunity by Sep’ was literally the official plan in all docs/graphs/meetings until it was ditched
39/ Yes the media is often incompetent but something deeper is at work: much of SW1 was happy to believe Hancock’s bullshit that ‘it’s not the plan’ so they didn’t have to face the shocking truth. Most political hacks believe in ‘the system’…
40/ In week of 9/3, No10 was made aware by various people that the official plan wd lead to catastrophe. It was then replaced by Plan B. But how ‘herd immunity by Sep’ cd have been the plan until that week is a fundamental issue in the whole disaster
41/ All those referring to the Sunday Times story 22/3/20 re me dramatically ‘changing my mind’ at SAGE on 12/3: there was no SAGE on 12/3! It’s an invented meeting & invented story repeated for a year by political hacks as ‘fact’
42/ No10 decided to lie: ‘herd immunity has never been… part of our coronavirus strategy’. V foolish, & appalling ethics, to lie about it. The right line wd have been what PM knows is true: our original plan was wrong & we changed when we realised
43/ Lots of hacks have lost their minds. Herd immunity wasn’t ‘a secret strategy’, it was THE OFFICIAL PUBLIC EXPLAINED ON TV/RADIO STRATEGY! Halpern, on SAGE, literally explained it on radio explicitly, 11/3/20, as did others!!
44/ The whole ‘flatten the curve’ plan A was to get herd immunity by summer & avoid 2nd peak during annual NHS winter crisis. That’s why our official graphs had ONE peak over by summer! COBR docs/graphs describe herd immunity as ‘the optimal single peak strategy’ etc
45/ What happened is a/ panic about the phrase, ‘comms disaster’. b/ We ditched the herd immunity plan and shifted to Plan B, suppression, which previously the Gvt said/thought would be worse cos it wd lead to a 2nd peak in winter 2020 during the annual NHS crisis
46/ A COBR doc from week of 9/3/20 explains official thinking behind Plan A: ie. suppression either won’t work or wd lead to 2nd peak during NHS winter crisis, so the advised herd immunity approach was what DHSC/Cabinet Office described as ‘single peak optimal strategy’
Image
47/ In that week it became clear neither Hancock/CABOFF understood herd immunity effects: 100s of 1000s choking to death + no NHS for anybody for months + dead unburied + econ implosion; so we moved to Plan B: suppression + Manhattan Project for drugs/vaccines + test&trace etc
48/ Critical as I am of the PM in all sorts of ways, it’s vital to understand the disaster was not just his fault: the official plan was disastrously misconceived, DHSC/CABOFF did not understand this or why, & a PlanB had to be bodged amid total & utter chaos
49/ Jenny Harries told us, the same week herd immunity was the official plan, masks are a ‘BAD idea’, ‘we don’t want to disrupt people’s lives’, acting ‘too early we will just pop up with another epidemic peak later’. So Whitehall has promoted her, obviously
50/ ‘Herd immunity’ was officially seen as UNAVOIDABLE week of 9/3. It wd come either a) in a single peak over by Sep, or b) in a 2nd peak in winter. (a) was seen as easier to manage & less of a catastrophe so it was Plan A. Cf SAGE 13/3: ‘a near certainty’ suppression>2nd peak
Image
51/ It was in week of 9/3 that we started to figure out Plan B to dodge herd immunity until vaccines. Even AFTER we shifted to PlanB, COBR documents had the ‘OPTIMAL single peak strategy’ graphs showing 260k dead cos the system was so confused in the chaos, see below
Image
52/ Hodges = wrong: there was neither an intention to lockdown nor as of Fri13/3 any official plan for doing so. The SAGE minutes show the opposite of what Dan says they say…
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53/ Dan says the SAGE minutes show ‘The strategy was to wait for the optimum moment to lockdown’. No. SAGE said literally the opposite: lockdown = suppression = ‘near certainty’ of 2nd peak & this was thought to be much WORSE than single peak/herd immunity by Sep, hence graph
Image
54/ On 14/3 one of the things being screamed at the PM was ‘there is no plan for lockdown & our current official plan will kill at least 250k & destroy the NHS’. Cf the graph: ‘optimal single peak strategy’ with 3 interventions. That was the official plan, which was abandoned
55/ Another reason we ditched Plan A was it became clear the official system had given ~no thought to all the second order effects of 250k dying, almost all without ICU care. True deaths wd clearly be much >250k cos there would be no NHS for anybody for months
56/ On 12/3, the most surreal day of 18 months in Gvt, it was argued to the PM that a/ individual isolation be delayed (‘we’re not ready’), b/ we might not do household quarantine at all, c/ given Halpern’s interview on 11th, the PM shd publicly explain the ‘herd immunity’ plan
57/ Re D Halpern: a/ on 11/3 he was simply explaining the OFFICIAL plan, not freelancing; b/ unlike many he supported the switch to Plan B in the next week & told the CABSEC & DHSC that…
58/ NB. Even at SAGE on 18/3 it was not all clearly agreed ‘must do national lockdown ASAP’. Halpern supported it with others. Senior DHSC officials were saying even on 18/3: lockdown just means it pops back up again in 2nd wave so why change strategy?
59/ Even at SAGE on 18/3 some argued: even if lockdown needed, delay, finesse timing. Others argued: there’s no alternative so sooner must be better. The latter were right (I think) & that argument prevailed
• • •

Radicals – remembering the sixties and Panel Discussion tomorrow Sat 22 May

A review of “Radicals” by Meredith Burgmann and Nadia Wheatley has been overdue since March but will remain overdue since notice of a panel discussion on “What is Capitalism” will be obsolete tomorrow, this Saturday. The direct connecting link is simply that there is chapter on “Albert Langer (Arthur Dent): Hardened Apparatchik” in the book and Arthur Dent is also on the panel at discussion this Saturday, tomorrow.

I have been too preoccupied catching up on mRNA vaccine manufacturing to write on anything else and have run out of time to mention both separately.

For now I will focus on tomorrow’s discussion, but first just quickly provide links for the book in case anyone turning up here from the discussion might be interested. It is well worth reading for anyone wanting background on the Sixties in Australia (not just because it has a very friendly treatment of me in the chapter by a fellow rebel, Nadia Wheatley).

As well as the chapter and short bio notes at pp 362-3 there are background links on pp 380-381 including:

“It is Right to Rebel” written by Monash student radicals to pass on lessons. The epub version is better than the pdf:
https://archive.org/details/it-is-right-to-rebel-1972

Other works by Nadia can be found at:

http://nadiawheatley.com/

You can order the book here:
http://nadiawheatley.com/book-shop/radicals-remembering-the-sixties

There will also be a Melbourne book launch on Thursday 24 June at Trades Hall 6pm to 8pm.


Q&A panel will have the Melbourne people described by chapters – Gary Foley, Margaret RoadKnight, Margaret Reynolds, Peter Bachelor and me. Links will eventually be at Nadia’s web pages above.

The cover highlights the flags of the National Liberation front of south Vietnam:

There is of course also a deeper connection between a panel discussion about Capitalism in the 2020s and a book about Radicals in the sixties – more than half a century ago.

That connection is the fact that Radicals were central to the existence of a broader Left in the sixties and the absence of Radicals is central to the absurdity of what gets passed off as the Left today. I’ll be speaking tomorrow putting forward some ideas on why Radicals fought the pseudoleft back then and why that must, and therefore will happen again.

So, first the panel discussion, this Saturday, tomorrow, 22 May, 3pm to 5pm at the rear lounge of the The Clyde Hotel
385 Cardigan St, Carlton, 3053. Postponed from original 1pm due to clash with Palestinian rally at 1pm, State Library:

https://m.facebook.com/events/victoria/panel-discussion-what-is-capitalism-and-why-should-we-be-against-it/1138149399985555/

It is organized by a new Melbourne reading group affiliated to the international Platypus:

https://platypus1917.org/melbourne/

Their slogan is “The Left is Dead! Long Live the Left!” so we have something in common.

Unfortunately the title of their article explaining that excellent slogan is preceded by:

“Vicissitudes of historical consciousness and possibilities for emancipatory social politics today” and has lots of similar language from the “Frankfurt school”.

The people who obscured clear and simple slogans with that sort of language were not theoreticians but mere onlookers when there actually was a Radical Left in the sixties. Combining such opposite approaches in a single title perhaps suits affiliates of an egg laying mammal. So we have some differences too. I never got interested enough in the Frankfurt school to actually study their stuff, except for their first publication by Henryk Grossman, who had a theory of capitalist breakdown or collapse and was actually closer to Communism than to the Frankfurt school (while still obviously wrong about “breakdown”).

There is one central point of unity between revolutionary democrats and academic democrats. The pseudoleft that the mainstream tries to pretend is its old enemy on the left is in fact virulently anti-democratic and hostile to debate as well as being virulently anti-communist. That has always been characeristic of the far right. The broad Left has always been a milieu that lives and grows through debating opposing ideas. The pseudoleft is in fact far right.

Below is the panel descriiption for “What is Capitalism, and why should we be against it”:

The present is characterized not only by a political crisis of the global neoliberal order but also by differing interpretations of the cause of this crisis: Capitalism. If we are to interpret capitalism, we must also know how to change it. We ask the panelists to consider the following questions:

What is capitalism?


Is capitalism contradictory? If so, what is this contradiction and how does it relate to Left politics?

How has capitalism changed over time, and what have these changes meant politically for the Left?

Does class struggle take place today? If so, how, and what role should it play for the Left?

Is capitalism in crisis? If so, how? And how should the Left respond?

If a new era of global capitalism is emerging, how do we envision the future of capitalism and what are the implications of this for the Left?

The 15′ presentations will be transcribed for publication so to help the transciber I will include notes with references on that, point by point. First the references because my Android Tablet is about to crash. I will try to update this evening.

In 1962 Mao Tsetung said:

“The next 50 to 100 years or so, beginning from now, will be a great era of radical change in the social system throughout
the world, an earth-shaking era without equal in any previous historica! period. Living in such an era, we must be pnepared to engage in great struggles which will have many features different in form from those of the past.”

That was said when the Soviet Union and its satellites had already gone revisionist and the split in the international communist movement was becoming open. Nearly 80 years later we still have another 20 years “or so” to go.

Although the left upsurge in the sixties did not last a decade, nor succeed in revolutionary overthrow of all existing social conditions, a major reason it subsided was that the it succeeded in compelling the ruling class to adapt to a faster rate of change in the social system than any previous historical period.

When Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto, England was the most advanced society, but still with less than half the population urban. Today more than half the global population is urban.

A characeristic feature of the pseudoleft is its continual moaning that things have got worse and worse. In fact this period has seen the most rapid rise in both the numbers, the cultural and political level and the standard of living of the global working class.

From a revolutionary communist perspective it is far too slow. But it was fast enough for the radical left to be eclipsed by a reactionary pseudoleft that openly wants to at least slow things down to live more “simply”. There was certainly a lot more room for the productive forces to continue developing within the capitalist mode of production than Marx and Engels had hoped.

In looking up that quote from the Ninth National Congress documents I actually found it in:

Peking Review #25, June 18, 1976. (Slightly abridged translation of an article in Red Flag #6, 1976)

Text 39: “Capitalist-Roaders Are the Bourgeoisie Inside the Party”, by Fang Kang PDF format [10 pages; 715 KB]
https://www.bannedthought.net/China/MaoEra/GPCR/Mao5/AndMaoMakes5-Lotta-1978-Text39.pdf [pp 358-367]

It is reprinted in a book with lots of other background on Maoism:

And Mao Makes 5: Mao Tsetung’s last great battle, edited with an Introduction by Raymond Lotta, (Chicago: Banner Press, September 1978), 539 pages. [Because of the very large file size of the entire book, each section and each included article is also being made available here separately.]

Entire volume in one big file: Searchable PDF format [21,605 KB]
https://www.bannedthought.net/China/MaoEra/GPCR/Mao5/AndMaoMakes5-Lotta-1978-All.pdf

That can be found among the long list at:

https://www.bannedthought.net/China/MaoEra/GPCR/index.htm

Material from the Red Eureka Movement is listed in a separate section along with other sections for other Australian groups at:

https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/australia/index.htm#rem

This includes:

Click to access langer-maoism-after-mao.pdf

https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/australia/may-day-81.htm

The 12 issues of the “Discussion Bulletin” there are far more relevant than “The Rebel”.

Number 11 with the first 6 parts of “Unemployment and Revolution” is available here at C21stLeft.com

Part 7 is also in DB12 and also at:
https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/australia/rem-unemployment.htm

Basically we reached conclusions that the Sixties left had collapsed more than half a century ago and REM’s last publication was DB12 in September 1982.

More than a decade later, and nearly 3 decades ago “Red Politics” continued similar ideas:

https://www.simplymarxism.com/RP/RP.html

I will be quoting from “Some Questions” by “Perplexed” in Number 1, September 1993.

Other classic works I will or may reference include:

“The Communist Manifesto”

“Socialism – Utopian and Scientific”

and

“The Capitalist Cycle” by Pavel Maksakovsky.

The latter, are available at Library Genesis as is pretty well anything you might want to read (see wikipedia and google for proxy links)

Hope to update this evening.

Ok, update below – leaving above unfixed.

“Below is the panel descriiption for “What is Capitalism, and why should we be against it”:”

The term anti-capitalism, along with anti-globalism and anti-imperialism was adopted by the pseudoleft to absorb the progressive leftist movement that fights to accelerate the transition from feudalism to capitalism and from capitalism to communism into a mush combined with reactionary opposition to capitalism from open Malthusians such as the Greens.

According to the Communist Manifesto:

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising
the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of
production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed onesbecome antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his
kind.

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products
chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.

The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries
whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every
quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the
productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal interdependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.

The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into
their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.

The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns.
It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban
population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a
considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.

The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the
scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. Thenecessary consequence of this was political centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces with separate interests, laws, governments and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national
class-interest, one frontier and one customs-tariff.

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground—what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?

Clearly what is called “the left” these days is naturally and instinctively against all that. But Communists see it as a necessary and desirable move away from the past and towards the future. We are not part of the “anti-capitalist” mush.

“The present is characterized not only by a political crisis of the global neoliberal order but also by differing interpretations of the cause of this crisis: Capitalism.”

Neither the “global neoliberal order” nor it’s “political crisis” were concepts debated among sixties Radicals or our opponents. There were equally vague terms like “the system” and “the establishment”. But we were part of an explicitly globalist, internationalist movement that had a revolutionary communist and therefore also revolutionary democratic core.

The main opponents of Radicals within the broader “Left” were what we called “revisionists” and “social democrats”. They were more inclined to call themselves “Socialists”.

As Engels wrote in the preface to the English edition of 1888 of the Manifesto quoted above:

“… when it was written, we could not have called it a socialist manifesto. By Socialists, in 1847, were understood, on the one hand the … mere sects, …gradually dying out; on the other hand, the most multifarious social quacks who, by all manner of
tinkering, professed to redress, without any danger to capital and profit, all sorts of social grievances, in both cases men outside the working-class movement, and looking rather to the
“educated” classes for support… Thus, in 1847, socialism was a middle-class movement, communism a working-class movement.
Socialism was, on the Continent at least, “respectable”; communism was the very opposite. And as our notion, from the very beginning, was that “the emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself,” there could be no doubt as to which of the two names we must take.
Moreover, we have, ever since, been far from repudiating it.”

There was no need to quibble with their adoption of the term “Socialist”.

As far as I can make out the term “neoliberal order” was adopted when social democracy abandoned any pretence of aiming to eventually reform their way out of capitalism and the remnants of the revisionist “communists” had to come up with an even more mealy mouthed phrase than “socialist” to describe their common opposition to the center right.

The center right, like the center left was both conservative and reformist. Both sides of mainstream politics had very similar policies for adapting capitalism and avoiding another upsurge from a Radical left. By mouthing off more “militantly” against the “neoliberal order” people who could no longer even claim to be “socialist” were able to unite around the Keynesian adaptation of capitalism while posturing. In fact of course, as US President Richard Nixon said: “We are all Keynesians now”.

I do think there is an ongoing collapse of mainstream politics that could be described as a slow moving crisis and will eventually become a sudden sharp crisis when it actually confronts a Radical opposition. But I won’t try to interpret that and will instead focus on the more important crisis on the Left that has enabled the mainstream to keep limping on without facing a Radical opposition.

“If we are to interpret capitalism, we must also know how to change it.”

On the contrary, if we are to change the world and move on from its capitalist past and present to a communist future we must also understand where we are, how we got here and how things actually work in the world we live in now.

I prefer Marx’s version:

“Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.

That was the final 11th point in a list of “Theses on Feuerbach”. Here for the benefit of those stuck with the Frankfurt School is the third:

“The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of changed circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated. Hence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change … can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.”

“We ask the panelists to consider the following questions:”

I prefer Lenin’s question “What is to be done?”. I prefer it precisely because I do not know the answer, whereas I can give glib replies to the questions posed to the panel.

“What is capitalism?”

Capitalism is generalized commodity production based on wage labour.

“Capital does not consist in the fact that accumulated labour serves living labour as a means for new production. It consists in the fact that living labour serves accumulated labour as the means of preserving and multiplying its exchange value.” (Marx “Wage Labour and Capital”, 1847)

For a deeper view it is necessary to study Marx’s 3 volumes of “Capital”, and fourth volume on “Theories of Surplus Value”. According to Lenin the theoreticians of the Second Internatinal could not understand the first chapters.

The first page of the preface to the first edition says:

“This work, … forms the continuation of my book [A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy]
published in 1859….”

I strongly recommend starting with that beginning before its continuation.

Also the whole “Grundrisse” as well as its “Introduction”.

Marx also said in that preface.

“With the exception of the section on the form of value, there­
fore, this volume cannot stand accused on the score of difficulty. I assume, of course, a reader who is willing to learn something new and therefore to think for himself.”

As Hilferding remarked, that assumption was unsubstantiated.

Such readers are rare. Actual readers usually get lost at the first 3 chapters on the form of value. Partly because they ignore the preface and don’t read the “Contribution” before its “continuation”. But mainly because they don’t think for themselves – and therefore don’t think dialectically.

“Is capitalism contradictory? If so, what is this contradiction and how does it relate to Left politics?”

It is not necessary to acquire a deep understanding of “Capital” in order grasp the central contradictions of capitalism and how they relate to Left politics.

Engels short pamphlet “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific” was a popular exposition read and understood widely in both the second and third internationals. It should be the starting point for anybody interested in actual Marxism as opposed to the “Marxians” (from Mars).

Engels made it easily accessible. I will not attempt to compress it further and there is no point discussing that central question with anybody that is not willing to read what the workers did read when they joined mass based Marxist workers parties before such parties ceased to exist.

“How has capitalism changed over time, and what have these changes meant politically for the Left?”

Although written nearly one and a half centuries ago I think Engels pamphlet was remarkably prescient in Part 3 on Historical Materialism. Complete ignorance of that has gone together with political bankruptcy of the pseudoleft.

“Does class struggle take place today? If so, how, and what role should it play for the Left?”

The class struggle plays a role for the pseudoleft. It is a prop for militant posturing and recruitment.

When there is a Left again it will that Left will instead play a role in the class struggle – educating, agitating and organizing.

The class struggle is essentially a political struggle and the present situation makes theoretical struggle primary.

Three areas of theoretical struggle that I am interested in are:

  1. Refuting bourgeois theories of macroeconomics and the business cycle by actually developing Marx’s theory of the capitalist cycle in the direction explained by Pavel Maksakovsky “The Capitalist Cycle”. http://libgen.rs/book/index.php?md5=EAC7E58D683A34F76BC03CBC0934E753
  2. Supporting modern science and rapid development of the most modern productive forces against greenie nature worship funded by the “Gas and Wind” lobby.
  3. Mobilizing a united front for war on the current and future pandemics based on the scientific understanding that none of us are safe until the whole world is effectively vaccinated.

“Is capitalism in crisis? If so, how? And how should the Left respond?”

The term “crisis” is widely misused. A Global Financial Crisis was aborted in 2007-9 by extraordinary measures that have not resolved the underlying disproportions but have also not been resolved by exploding into full scale crisis.

We have now reached an untenable situation with zero and even negative interest rates etc. It has gone on for some time but I still expect it to eventually result in a crisis much deeper than the 1930s Great Depression.

I don’t expect a Left capable of responding to develop until after the crisis has actually broken out.

Meanwhile I recommend preparing for theoretical struggle on crisis theory by serious study eg of Marx and Maksakovsky’s theory.

“If a new era of global capitalism is emerging, how do we envision the future of capitalism and what are the implications of this for the Left?”

Crises mark sudden phase shifts and leaps in development that make envisioning the results very speculative.

But I would expect the development of State Capital as the “National Capitalist” as described in Engels part 3 on “Historical Materialism” to be greatly accelerated. I would also expect it to be supported by the pseudoleft. I would also expect a revolutionary Left to again emerge at least in the aftermath.

Further update: Regardless of expectations we need to understand the basic mechanism of the 19th Century and early 20th Century business leading up to the Great Depression as a foundation for understanding what changed after that Great Depression and what is happening now. There should be some serious study of Maksakovsky in a reading group. Below is where I got to, before encountering Maksakovsky.

Unemployment and Revolution is about 4 decades old but was a serious attempt to get started on understanding the business cycle that should be followed up. Links below are still not included as DB11 in html at ERO, but should be. It deliberately avoids references to Marx to avoid distraction by polemics with inananities from Mars by “Marxians”.

Maksakovsky’s “The Capitalist Cycle” is nearly a century old but got much further on “overproduction” and the “cycle” than part 5 below. It clearly completes that part of the work done by Marx in volume 2, which Marx postponed to volume 3 but never completed.

Part 1. Emphasises that unemployment is specifically a problem connected with market economies. Then it gets slightly distracted to talk about science fiction and jellyfish.

Parts 2., and 3. Analyse the economic mechanisms that regulate “normal” unemployment, in order to explain the conservative arguments for “wage restraint” and why such arguments are wrong.

Part 4. Examines “technological” unemployment and shows that the increased unemployment now is not “technological”.

Part 5. Attempts an explanation of “overproduction” and “cyclical” unemployment (without great success).

Part 6.Considers various “solutions” from the labour movements, in the light of the earlier analysis, and rejects them all, but cheerfully, in view of part 7.

Part 7. Tries to give some concrete content to the idea that “the only solution is revolution”.

https://c21stleft.com/2014/11/10/unemployment-and-revolution-by-albert-langer-written-in-1981/

https://c21stleft.com/2014/11/11/unemployment-and-revolution-part-2-what-normally-causes-unemployment/

https://c21stleft.com/2014/11/13/unemployment-and-revolution-part-3-what-regulates-unemployment-written-by-albert-langer-in-1981/

https://c21stleft.com/2014/11/14/technological-unemployment-part-4-of-unemployment-and-revolution-written-by-albert-langer-in-1981/

https://c21stleft.com/2014/11/15/cyclical-unemployment-part-5-of-unemployment-and-revolution-by-albert-langer-in-1981/

https://c21stleft.com/2014/11/16/solutions-part-6-of-unemployment-and-revolution-by-albert-langer-1981/

https://c21stleft.com/2014/11/21/revolution-part-7-of-unemployment-and-revolution-by-albert-langer-this-part-a-draft-was-written-in-1982-a-year-after-the-fir/

See also note on Thomas Sekine at:

https://thecapitalistcycle.wordpress.com/2018/07/17/thomas-sekine/