April 2012
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Month April 2012

Anti-War ANZAC Day

By Alice Barricadas

Today is a sad day.

It is probably a good thing that the hundreds of old men, who used to line the pub walls on ANZAC day as an act of both remembrance and to forget, are mostly dead. Many of them like Alec Campbell, the last ANZAC still alive in 2002, were incredibly uncomfortable being lauded by toffy conservatives looking for votes. Whatever Australian-ness was during his time, and it was many awful things, flag-waving haughtiness was not one of them.

Campbell was the secretary of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Workers Union. In his latter life, he knew all too well what Howard was trying to do by encouraging a rabid nationalism, using the ANZAC story to promote a right-wing agenda.

Speak to somebody over 35, and they will fill you in on how the expensive fanfare now put on by the government every ANZAC day, is only a relatively recent phenomenon. The coming ANZAC centenary celebrations starting in 2014, will cost something in the order of ninety million dollars, complete with USSR-style military re-enactments.

Back when the ANZACs were still alive, a commemoration for the dead turned into a celebration of nationalism and war, always ran the risk that an old “digger” or two might speak up about the hypocrisy of it all. Of course governments have always used war-stories to further their conservative agenda, but it is telling that the operatic explosion of ANZAC day did not take off until most of the actual participants were long gone.

As we get further from the past, the better it can function as a mythology written by governments, with nobody left to contradict them. As Orwell said, who controls the present controls the past. I’m sure that in fifty years, we’ll be hearing about how the whole nation was united in support for our diggers in Vietnam.

No story better encapsulates the blatant lie of nationalist unity promoted during the annual ANZAC day celebration, than the story of Simpson and his Donkey. Kilpatrick (Simpson) was a revolutionary and anti-militarist, who only signed up to the army in order to get a free ride back to England. Hence using his middle name Simpson. He intended for ‘Simpson’ to disappear when the ship got to England where they were headed for further training. He got a nasty shock when they were diverted to Gallipoli, where he refused to do the dangerous job of being a stretcher-bearer… hence the donkey.

The vast expense of historical cover-up and myth-making, is in order to encourage more young people to sign up to die, just as they did 100 years ago. While the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have little in common militarily with WWI, there is this striking similarity: these wars have absolutely nothing to do with protecting our freedoms or making the world a better place. They have everything to do with the geopolitical significance of the countries that we have invaded. And, just like Gallipoli, which was promised to the Russian Tsar by the British should the Australian and New Zealand invasion have been successful, Australia holds Uruzgan Province in Afghanistan for the benefits of a foreign power (foreign to us, and Afghanis), the United States.

The sad thing about ANZAC day is how the state uses the legitimate emotions of people who have been through the traumatic experience of war, to create a celebration designed solely to win recruits for the next useless war. I have an uncle who was drafted for the Vietnam War. He is quite progressive, in his way, and has said as much that the Vietnam War was an imperialistic crusade Australia should never have been a part of. But he still participates in ANZAC day, as a way to commemorate his dead friends. People like this shrug off the politicians, while those who point out the futility of war before, during and after the useless conflicts are fought, such as the draft resisters, are barred from any participation. An anti-Vietnam activist giving a talk about the immorality of the war and why they resisted it, would be cast as “too political”, while an army officer invading schools to tell children what an honourable thing it is to join the army, is said to be neutral.

As the ANZAC centenary approaches it may be pertinent for us to turn our minds to creating an alternative to ANZAC day, some kind of Anti-War ANZAC Day. It has been tried before, but perhaps we should try harder. An attempt to do this should actively seek out and include anti-war activists from past conflicts, as well as people who have been to war and know how shit it is first hand. It should be an event that achieves in reality what ANZAC day pretends to do, by providing a truthful account of war, remembering the dead, the immorality of war, as well as the futility. In other words remembrance and reflection without promoting the next war. Anti-militarism makes up a large part of the history of anarchist struggle, especially during WWI when the broad anarchist tradition was one of the few socialist variants to remain committed to its internationalism. It is also a good way for us to reach out to a wider audience. I think there are plenty of people out there who are tired of seeing their grandparents’ memory being used as an expensive recruitment strategy for the armed forces. While seeking to broadly appeal, we should insist that the organisation of such an event remain fiercely independent of both the state and capitalist interests, whose only interest is to promote war.

Mutiny #64

Mutiny #64 has hit the streets and internet and is available for download.

Nicola Roxon on anarchists

Last night on Q&A, Nicola Roxon (current Federal Attorney General) made this bizarre comment, in the context of government spooks intimidating questioning anti-coal protestors.


“…Peaceful protest is one thing. Sometimes peaceful protests can break the law. But there is also a lot of industrial sabotage which gets to a point where it is the commission of quite a serious crime. So there might be people who were involved in that. I would expect that the contact, if there was any of that behaviour, would be police, both State and Federal, rather than ASIO. Unfortunately we see a growing number of [links] across some groups who are anarchists, others who meld into some religion sometimes and intent with committing a terrorist offence that might link in with other protest groups. You do see a bit of merging. There are a lot of people involved individually and intend to cause no harm and would have no reason to fear that ASIO was in any way monitoring what they were doing.”

Free Pussy Riot Rally in Melbourne, Friday April 20

Pussy Riot grrls in Moscow are in trouble and they need our halp.

On Friday April 20 supporters will be rallying at State Parliament in Melbourne from 4pm.

Bring balaclavas, music, food, fun and fabulousness. Crafty speakers and funky toons guaranteed.

WTF? HACSU, HSU, EBAs, and the poor health of unions in Australia

Below is a contribution from a health worker addressing negotiations between the Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) (a Victorian branch of the Health Services Union (HSU)) and the Baillieu state government regarding a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) for workers in the public health sector.

As noted previously, the HSU, its current and former leadership, is today in the news for all the wrong reasons. Otherwise, note that in February in Greece, Kilkis General Hospital was occupied by workers. On February 26, the Hospital’s General Assembly issued a statement which read in part:

This occupation is not only about us, the physicians and the workers at the Kilkis Hospital. Neither is it only about the Greek National Health System, which is collapsing, indeed. We are in this fight because what is in real danger now is the human rights and our lives. And this threat is not against just a nation, or against a few countries, or a few social groups, but against the low and middle classes in Europe, America, Asia, Africa, in the whole world. Today’s Greece, is tomorrow’s picture of Portugal, Spain, Italy and the rest of the countries worldwide.

WTF – What The Fuck?

My workplace is awash with radical fervour right now.

Actually, no it isn’t.

Apparently, I’m The Hard-Hitting Union Guy at my workplace. If true, this is an indictment on the state of collective action at the clinic where I work, as I mostly post faxes the union sends and forward their emails to a mostly disinterested staff.


For the last seven months, the Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) has been negotiating on behalf of its members with the Baillieu government for a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA), arguing for more than the offered 2.5% pay “rise” (which is really a pay cut given that the current rate of inflation is 3.6%) and better working conditions for nurses and allied health workers across the entire mental health sector. (As opposed to management claims for conditions such as split shifts and worker redeployment to other locations without notice.) HACSU tells its members that they’ve been “fighting” for them and have covered the legal aspects of the industrial action with Fair Work Australia. In my view, this union-run EBA campaign exemplifies the key failings of Australian unionism. In the following article I articulate some of the reasons why I think this, and argue for the need to facilitate actual workers’ control of our workplaces.

The ANF and
Mental Health Nurses

In March this year, the Australian Nurses Federation (ANF) concluded six or so months of negotiations. It obtained the same employment conditions that HACSU is still bargaining for. A decisive factor in obtaining this outcome was nurses taking “unprotected” industrial action. These actions supplemented the failing, formal negotiations conducted by the ANF with the government.

Now, if you believe what HACSU state secretary Lloyd Williams had to say about the matter, HACSU was working rigorously alongside ANF throughout this period. This display of solidarity has not, however, been reciprocated now that the ANF has concluded negotiations for its membership, many of whom are employed in the mental health sector. In other words, the ANF finished negotiations without ensuring its entire membership was included in the agreed settlement. Indeed, allied health workers (such as Occupational Therapists and Social Workers) had no idea about what ANF’s success meant for them. This may seem like a strange statement — why would nurses’ bargaining relate to allied health? — but the perception among workers in the sector has rightly been that ‘we’re all in this together’ and precisely because we service the same or similar cohort: the acutely unwell.

I don’t know for sure, but I presume that the ANF was negotiating in regard to awards that do not cover mental health (for nurses). I do know that many nurses in my workplace felt stiffed when it was brought to their attention that the ANF’s so-called “victory” constituted no such thing for them. It’s certainly hard to see how concern for all nurses affected by Baillieu’s unreasonable proposed conditions is being practiced here, and the ANF does not appear to support HACSU’s EBA campaign in any meaningful way at present, despite it mirroring their own. This further demonstrates a lack of solidarity for allied health mental health workers who, again, service the same cohort but in a different manner and not necessarily in the same locus (ie. community clinics and “Thomas Embling”, the prison/hospital/psych ward).

HACSU and HSU – East

To further complicate matters in the sector, confusion reigned last year when HSU–East actually settled negotiations with the Baillieu government, most notably accepting the proposed 2.5% pay rise over the next four years, reportedly for fear that continuing to argue for a greater — and entirely reasonable — pay increase could somehow lead to further loss of pay. This has greatly hampered mental health nurses’ and allied (mental) health workers’ access to reasonable pay increases and work conditions, as the Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association (VHIA) opportunistically took this poorly-represented union’s settlement and ran with it all the way to Fair Work Australia (FWA) (which arbitrates industrial negotiations such as the present EBA one). Consequently, HACSU and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) repudiated HSU’s involvement in EBA negotiations specifically, and their capacity to represent allied health workers in mental health in Victoria more broadly. Thus, many workers who had been keeping HSU staff in good coin for no good reason were stiffed. In fact, all of us workers were stiffed by their actions because it’s made it that much more difficult for our representatives in HACSU to argue our case: I had confused staff asking me what this all meant, both when HSU settled for a terrible EBA but also when the ACTU barred them from the bargaining table. Fortunately, HACSU has been successful in repealing HSU’s settlement through FWA. Now, as if all this wasn’t bad enough, the HSU has been suspended from the ACTU due to alleged misappropriation of members’ funds and other corrupt practices.

What I conclude from all this is that, whatever their historic role, unions in general have become yet another bureaucratic layer between workers’ efforts to attain greater control over their workplaces and the state. Unions attempt to justify lining their coffers with workers’ money to suit their own cushy ends by complying with increasingly mediated and bureaucratic means of negotiating with employers. FWA arbitration, for example, requires unions to apply for “protected” industrial action, rather than workers directly fighting for better conditions. It’s hard to see how such complicated arrangements are in the interests of workers, who are understandably confused by all of these machinations and who meekly vote “yes” to whatever resolutions they’re spoon-fed at union rallies.This is not how I define industrial democracy.

Where it’s at

HACSU is now repeating the process undertaken by the ANF in an effort to force through the conditions they’d like to see in the EBA: namely, by conducting work stoppages. However, HACSU doesn’t want workers to “disadvantage” patients and so the stoppages will be two hours long and will roll out variously at different mental health wards and clinics around Victoria. This seems backward to my mind. In reality, it’s the state that’s responsible for adversely affecting patients by a) woefully under-resourcing the mental health sector and b) attempting to stiff workers out of reasonable pay increases and working conditions. Taking such a softly, softly approach and suggesting to workers that we don’t want to inconvenience or place the health and welfare of our clients at riskinduces workers to accept the blame for an unacceptable state of affairs in the mental health sector. Regardless, on the 18th of April, St Vincent’s Mental Health wards and clinics will stop work at 9am and again at 3:30pm for two hour periods. Workers will don their orange campaign t-shirts and walk out on the job to rally out the front of the acute inpatient service at 64 Nicholson St, Fitzroy: it would be nice to see some black-and-red in amongst the crowd. The slogan for the HACSU EBA 2011 (sic) campaign is, “WTF – Where’s The Funding?”.

WTF, indeed.

Source: Slackbastard.
Republished by permission and request!

Sydney anarchists drop a banner in Redfern, disrupt Police Expo

On April 1, some Sydney anarchists disrupted a police PR exercise with a timely reminder of the death of TJ Hickey and the over-policing (which is to say, policing) of Redfern’s aboriginal residents.

From their communique on Indymedia:

As soon as we arrived, we began handing out hundreds of anti-police fliers to passers-by, in which we outlined the repressive role these pigs have played over the past 150 years (and the previous 70 through earlier manifestations) as the armed defenders of early colonial and now corporate elites.

We also raided numerous police stalls and took all their propaganda, from police recruitment pamphlets (some directly targeting Kooris), to “Cops are Tops” stickers, to police fridge magnets and temporary tattoos, even puzzles for children featuring ‘Constable Charlie’ the penguin. The strangest of all was a leaflet for contest to “WIN A DAY WITH THE NSW POLICE FORCE”, a ‘prize’ that many would prefer to avoid.

Source: Disaccords