The process of merger between Socialist Alternative and the Revolutionary Socialist Party has attracted no little interest on the Australian left. A number of activists around both organisations have joined or are considering joining in order to be part of the merged revolutionary organisation.
Issue 41 - February-March 2013
Issue 39 - May-July 2012
Dear Your Holiness,
I was most interested in your recent visit to Cuba and your comments, quoted by Reuters, that the Cuban system “no longer works” and that the Catholic Church was eager to help Cubans find a “new model” because – and this is the line that really floored me – “Marxist ideology in the way it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality”.
A fascinating article appeared in Rolling Stone magazine in March. Titled “Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail”, Matt Taibbi’s article cuts through the mystification of official economics and explains a major factor in the 2008 financial crisis. That central cause was fraud, corruption, theft: in short, crime.
Since the outbreak of the international financial and economic crisis, “austerity” has become the proclaimed goal of governments over most of the developed capitalist world. Governments have been sticking to this goal even when it leads to their own demise, as in Greece and France.
Issue 38 - February-April 2012
Phnom Penh – The Cuban embassy in Cambodia marked International Women’s Day with a gathering that also focused on the Cuban Five, the anti-terrorist fighters unjustly imprisoned in the United States.
Phnom Penh – An important meeting in solidarity with revolutionary Cuba will be held in the Cambodian capital near the end of March. The Sixth Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of Solidarity with Cuba will take place here from March 22 to 25.
Immediately after the outbreak of the financial-economic crisis in 2008, there was a flurry of speculation in the media (and even in the ALP) that governments (that is, the ruling class) were going to junk neoliberalism and revert to some form of the Keynesian economics that was fairly standard from the end of World War II until the early 1970s.
In a recent issue of Green Left Weekly, Peter Boyle published an article titled “An age of revolution: organise, don’t agonise”.
Issue 37 - December-January 2012
An idea that has been raised and argued for at the Occupy Sydney general assemblies was that “you leave your affiliations at the door when you participate in Occupy”, as a motion put it.
Issue 36 - October-November 2011
Yes, eventually, we need a Leninist party, members of the Revolutionary Socialist Party are often told. But it’s just not possible to do it now. Later on, maybe, but right now we have to be more realistic. For now, all we can do is build a left wing in the ALP or a “broad” left party.
Issue 35 - September 2011
[This is the speech delivered at the Second International Conference on the Victims of Agent Orange in Hanoi, August 8-9, by AOJ-AVSN representative Allen Myers. Myers was a US GI active in resisting against the US war on Vietnam in the 1960s and was court-martialled twice for his activism.
Warren Buffett, listed by Forbes magazine as the world’s third wealthiest person, created a minor stir in early August by writing an op-ed piece in the New York Times calling for himself and other US millionaires and billionaires to be taxed at a higher rate.
Issue 34 - August 2011
The world economy is gradually recovering from the crisis that hit in 2007-08, and things will soon be back to normal, right? Wrong. The recovery from the international recession has so far applied mainly to the biggest capitalists and the highly paid executives who manage their businesses.
Sometimes small events can reveal a great deal. A case in point was the opening of an exhibition of political cartoons in Los Angeles in June.
Issue 33 - June-July 2011
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch” is a phrase that became popular with economists many years ago. The conservative economist Milton Friedman even used it as the title of a book he published in 1975. It’s shorthand for the idea that you can’t really get something for nothing: even if something seems free, you pay for it in one way or another. Is that true?
Issue 32 - May 2011
It created a small stir in late March when British journalist and columnist George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian that the ongoing nuclear accident at Fukushima in Japan had convinced him that the use of nuclear power needs to be expanded in order to counter global warming.
Issue 31 - April 2011
If someone approached you and offered you $1 million to let him kill you, would you accept? What if the price was $2 million? $5 million?
Most people would probably say that there is no price at which they would sell their life. But that doesn’t prevent businesses and governments from setting a dollar value on our lives.
Issue 30 - March 2011
It was almost unheard of. Last month, a Fairfax business writer hinted that capitalism – at least, the Australian capitalism that we all know and love – might be not quite perfect. Something, Stuart Washington wrote on February 7, is “broken” in Australia’s “pricing system”, and “I believe failures in pricing are posing grave dangers to what we know as capitalism”.
Issue 29 - February 2011
NSW Labor is on the nose with voters, like never before. In October, according to Newspoll, it became the most unpopular ALP government there has ever been in Australia, with only 23% support. When Labor lost government in Victoria last year, it suffered a uniform swing of about 6%. In NSW, election analysts are predicting double that, or more.
Issue 28 - November-December 2010
Official interest rates in the United States have been held almost to zero for nearly two years. In mainstream economic theory, low interest is a “stimulus” measure. The idea is that businesses are more willing to borrow and expand their operations when interest rates are low.
Issue 27 - October 2010
In the negotiations between the two major parties and the Greens and independents over who would form the new federal government, “transparency” was a frequently mentioned issue. Tony Abbott and the Coalition were criticised, legitimately, for their effort to hide the real cost of their election promises.
Issue 26 - September 2010
Socialism, someone said to me recently, may be a fine idea, but unfortunately human nature would prevent it from operating as intended; by nature, people are too individualistic or competitive or greedy to live in a system of planned cooperation and solidarity. Is this the case?
Issue 25 - August 2010
It’s easy enough to see that there are many things in this world that need changing. Figuring out how to change them is a bit more complicated.
Issue 24 - July 2010
From the amount of fuss being made about it, some people might conclude that the Labor government’s Resource Super Profits Tax proposes important changes in the tax system. Such a conclusion would, however, be a mistake. The RSPT has more to do with the approaching federal election than it does with taxation.
“Socialism sounds like a great idea, but it’s not really feasible. At least in the developed countries, workers are too brainwashed by the system, and the ruling class is just too powerful to be overthrown.” That is not a precise quotation from any specific person, but socialists frequently encounter arguments to this effect.
Issue 23 - June 2010
Australia has been much luckier than most countries in the current international recession. While unemployment has certainly increased, it has not risen as much as in most of the world and, at 5.4%, it is still lower than it was throughout the 1990s.
Issue 22 - May 2010
The Good Soldiers
By David Finkel
Scribe Publications (2009),
287 pages (pb), $35.00
“Why can’t the left get together? Why are there so many different socialist groups?” Sometimes these questions are just an attempt to belittle the socialist left by right-wingers (who nevertheless think it perfectly normal that there should be many pro-capitalist parties). But it is also a serious question from unaffiliated leftists.
Issue 21 - April 2010
Vientiane – “Defending Cuba today is the only way to keep alive the hopes and dreams of social justice”, states the final declaration of the Fifth Asia-Pacific Regional Conference for Solidarity with Cuba. A stepped-up campaign of support for revolutionary Cuba against imperialism was the central decision of the conference, held in the capital of Laos on March 19-20.
Last month, I was fortunate to hear Phillip Adams’ ABC Radio interview with Dr James Hansen, the US scientist who has done so much to awaken the world to the fact that our climate is already changing and that it will change catastrophically if we don’t very quickly stop dumping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Issue 20 - March 2010
An Sydney Morning Herald report a few months ago unintentionally pointed out one of the absurdities of modern capitalism. This is that a good part of the so-called wealth of capitalist societies doesn’t really exist.
Issue 19 - February 2010
Marx and Engels’ establishment of the scientific basis of socialism was indispensable to the struggle for a better world because the fight against capitalism must be a conscious one in a way that capitalism’s fight against feudalism was not.
Issue 18 - December 2009
“Volveran!” (They will return) appears nearly everywhere you look in Cuba: on official billboards, painted on the walls of shops and factories, scrawled on people’s houses. “They” are five heroic Cubans – Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez – unjustly imprisoned in the US.
From its very beginning, capitalism has always created resistance in those it exploits and oppresses. Well before capitalism had overrun the rest of the world, in Western Europe, where it originated, it was engendering opposition, at times quite fierce: sabotage of capitalist property, illegal workers’ associations, local rebellions.
“Socialist Alliance structures remain too loose and weak to win, educate and train new socialist activists and the Socialist Alliance caucuses and working groups have only partially begun to organise united interventions into the movements.” This statement was made in a resolution adopted by the 22nd congress of Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), held in January 2006.
Issue 17 - November 2009
When industrial capitalism developed in Western Europe in the 19th century, the great majority of businesses were privately owned. That is, they were the property of a single individual, or sometimes a family, or sometimes two or three partners with defined shares. There was no normal mechanism by which some outsider could become a part owner of the business.
Issue 16 - October 2009
One aspect of the Democratic Socialist Perspective’s course of dissolution into the Socialist Alliance, analysed by John Percy in Direct Action #15, is the DSP’s increasing unwillingness to discuss politics, particularly with others on the left.
The big US banks that had to be saved with government money a year ago after they gambled too freely with “mortgage-backed securities” have learned their lesson. The lesson is that they can gamble as wildly as they like, keep the profits if they win and count on government paying for them if they lose.
A revolution is needed in order to overcome the evils that capitalist society is subject to. But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be improved in the meantime. Quite the contrary: struggles for improvements – reforms – can be successful to one degree or another, depending on many different factors.
Issue 15 - September 2009
In the current international economic crisis, we can expect both attacks on the living standards of workers in the imperialist West and increased economic exploitation of the countries of the Third World by the imperialist powers, as the richest of the capitalists try to solve their problems at working peoples’ expense. A fight-back needs to be waged in both areas.
Capitalism is a system based on exploitation. For Marxists, this has a precise scientific meaning. Capitalists take for themselves the monetary values created by or belonging to other people – usually workers, but also small farmers and, to varying degrees, small shop owners and nominally independent tradespeople. This value is what their capital consists of.
Issue 14 - August 2009
Only a few years ago, the economic “experts” quoted in the commercial media were assuring us that major recessions were a thing of the past. The economists had figured out how to manage the economy, and as long as governments followed their advice, there would be nothing more serious than the occasional statistical blip. Then the real world intruded.
Issue 13 - July 2009
The first congress of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) was held in Sydney over the June 6-8 long weekend. Sixty-two delegates and observers came from Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Geelong, Adelaide and Perth, and from several overseas locations, for three days of analysis, discussion and planning of future activities.
Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution
By Helen Yaffe
Palgrave Macmillan, 354 pp. $59.95
Marxists believe that a revolution is necessary to open the road to socialism. But what does a revolution actually consist of? Advertisers and capitalist politicians would have us think a revolution is a pretty ordinary event, with their talk of “a revolutionary new soap powder” or an “education revolution”. The reality is quite different.
Issue 12 - June 2009
It is meaningful to modify the word “democracy” with a word such as “capitalist” or “workers” because democracy always has a social content, specifically a class content. Democracy is a system of class rule, in which one class advances its own interests at the expense of another class.
Issue 11 - May 2009
If you conducted a random survey asking people what “democracy” means, probably the most frequent answer you would receive would be “government by the people” or “the people rule”. That’s not a bad answer; it’s the meaning of the Greek words from which “democracy” comes. Ancient Greece, particularly Athens, offers the best-known examples of early democracy.
Issue 10 - April 2009
Today the state is so all-pervasive in nearly everyone’s life that it can be difficult to imagine a society in which it didn’t exist. But there have been societies without a state, and Marxists expect that there will be another in the future. The state is an organisation that seems to stand above society and regulate its operations and mutual relations.
Issue 9 - March 2009
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s lengthy essay on “The Global Financial Crisis”, in the February issue of the Monthly, blames the international economic crisis on neoliberalism.
Nationalism is the belief that the members of a nation share common interests that are different from the interests of other nations and different from the interests of the human race as a whole.
Issue 8 - February 2009
A Thai socialist, Giles Ji Ungpakorn, is facing up to 15 years in jail after being charged by police with lese majeste – insulting the king.
The winners of capitalist competition tend to become monopolies. Monopolies, in turn, reverse the character of capitalist investment. When there was widespread competition in an industry, there was great pressure on each company to reinvest its profits in order not to be left behind technologically and thus to lose out.
Issue 7 - December 2008
Thirty years ago, at the end of December 1978, Vietnamese troops and rebel Cambodian forces crossed into Cambodia and in a few weeks overthrew a regime whose savagery rivalled that of Nazi Germany.
In its earliest stages, capitalism necessarily began from what was provided by the feudal economy that preceded it. This was primarily an extremely low level of productivity, based mostly on very simple tools and producers (peasants and artisans) with few skills.
Issue 6 - November 2008
If you listen to capitalist economists, media commentators or major party politicians, two things you will always find treated with reverence are private property and free markets. These, we are told, are essential not only to economic progress but even to “democracy” and “freedom”. US presidents have used these holy concepts as justification for threatening, or launching, wars.
Issue 5 - October 2008
Contrary to what some ideologues would like us to believe, the economic arrangements we know as capitalism are not of long standing. Capitalism arose fairly recently in history (in the late mediaeval period), in a particular place (western Europe, mainly in Flanders and England).
Issue 4 - September 2008
Here’s a non-trivial question for trivia night organisers: In the late 1960s, what was the world’s busiest airport? Stumped? Here’s a hint: What was the most bombed country, per capita, in the history of warfare? If you answered “Vietnam”, you’re getting close, but not quite there.
Exploitation, as I wrote in the previous issue of Direct Action, is an unequal economic relationship, in which one party to a transaction gains something at the expense of the other. That is a very broad definition; it would include being short-changed by a shopkeeper and other fairly trivial inequalities.
Issue 3 - August 2008
Nearly all societies in the world today are based on a division of labour. No individual or family produces everything it needs to live. Everyone specialises in one or a few activities. At least some of that activity goes to the benefit of others, and, in return, in one way or another, we receive the things we need that we don’t produce ourselves.
Issue 2 - July 2008
The name of this paper refers to something that has a long tradition in movements for social change. In its most fundamental sense, direct action is the idea that, if you want something done, you should go and do it yourself, not wait for someone else to do it for you.
Issue 1 - June 2008
The Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) is a new organisation on the Australian left, a fusion between a minority expelled from the Democratic Socialist Perspective and the Direct Action organisation, formerly the Marxist Solidarity Network, whose members, based in Melbourne and Geelong, left the DSP two years earlier.
By Fidel Castro.
Edited by Ignacio Ramonet.
Translated by Andrew Hurley.
Penguin (UK), 2007. 724 pp (hb). RRP (Australia) $59.95.
Capitalism, through its direct application of scientific knowledge to the production of goods and services, has promoted the use and control of the forces of nature far more rapidly and extensively than any previous system of production.