Anti-Conscription Celebration – 25 April, 2011

Lineup in front of IWW banner next to 8-hours monument

As in previous years – see for example on this site last year – there was a counter to the ‘official’ ANZAC Day events in Melbourne, this time taking the form of a celebration of IWW success in defeating attempts to introduce conscription during WWI. The gathering was held at the 8-Hours monument across the road from Trades Hall – which is currently adorned by banners promoting the annual Comedy Festival and this anti-nuclear one:

No-nukes banner on wall of Trades Hall

In addition to some spirited singing of, amongst other things, (a modified) “I Walk the Line”, Jeremy of IWW Melbourne read a selection of poems by Lesbia Harford, and members of MACG circulated a statement entitled “End the Anzac Myth”, the text of which
should be available soon on anarkismo.net.*

Singing "I walk the line" - text suitably modified

See also this post on Indymedia Australia referring to this and other current protests in Australia.

The IWW banner next to the 8-hours monument

The well-worn IWW banner

Another view of the lineup

By way of postscript, it may not be amiss to recall here a well-known poem by Wilfred Owen, killed in France 4 November 1918, exactly one week before the Armistice:

[text from Project Gutenberg]

Dulce et Decorum est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

* The statement can be found here; It runs as follows:

A Myth is Born

On 25 April 1915, ANZAC troops storm a Turkish beach at Gallipoli and are mown down by the defenders. They hung on till January 1916 before evacuating. It is an ill-thought-out attempt by the British to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the First World War. Between 1914 and 1918, 9.6 million soldiers and 6.8 million civilians died in this clash of two rival imperialist alliances, each out to conquer territories and markets from the other. The soldiers and civilians died, not for freedom or democracy, but for the power and profits of their ruling classes. In Australia, Anzac Day has become a foundational myth for nationalism and militarism. The undoubted sacrifices of the troops are used to sanctify both the Australian military and Australia’s imperialist wars.

Militarism is Brutality

This year, Anzac Day occurs in the midst of a series of scandals involving Australian military personnel. The Skype scandal involves a female soldier unwittingly being broadcast to a group of male soldiers while having sex. This has released a flood of other complaints, some current and some from decades ago, about beatings, sexual assaults and other examples of bastardisation. Even an independent MP, Andrew Wilkie, has been drawn in. Military forces around the world are hotbeds of bastardisation; they both attract many brutes and turn many soldiers into brutes. It cannot be otherwise, since the military require not human beings but obedient killers.

Imperialism on Franchise

The United States is overwhelmingly the most powerful country in the world, with the largest economy and a military which dwarfs all others. With that power, it dominates world affairs, maintaining a world order favourable to it (though not to the same extent as in previous decades). This domination is known as imperialism. Australia supports the US in maintaining this order and, in return, gets to dominate East Timor and the South Pacific. It is effectively a franchise arrangement and the franchise fee is Australian participation in Uncle Sam’s wars across the region, regardless of either the justification or the direct relevance to the national interests of Australian capitalism.

Workers of the World, Unite!

There is an alternative, a path to peace, to a world without the violence of war and the brutality that it breeds in order to produce soldiers. As workers, we need international solidarity for the daily fight against global capitalism. Without it, we are played off against each other country by country, in an endless race to the bottom. With it, we can sweep away nationalist myths and stand as comrades across national borders. And it is this internationalism that will enable us to build a global movement and have a workers’ revolution that spreads around the globe. We can establish a world society of libertarian communism and put an end to imperialism, militarism and war. Then, and only then, can we have peace.

MILITARISM IS BRUTALITY

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group

25 April 2011

Anti-Militarism Protest – 25 April 2010 (ANZAC Day)

Once again as thousands – reportedly record numbers – attended various official events to mark the day, and clusters of men and women in military uniform roamed the CBD in search of somewhere to get a drink, a small – actually very small – group from the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG)   met outside the former headquarters of the Melbourne branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and handed out leaflets condemning Australian imperialism and militarism in general. Responses ranged from polite but uncomprehending, through positive engagement, and all the way to threatening, as can be seen in the accompanying short video…

The text of the leaflet is given below;  see also last year’s report on this site: http://melbourneprotests.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/anzac-day-anti-militarist-action-25-april/

AUSTRALIAN IMPERIALISM

Gallipoli

World War I had bogged down, and Britain was looking for a way to change the balance of forces. A landing at the Dardanelles in April 1915, followed by the taking of Istanbul, was planned to open the supply route to Russia and possibly knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war. The campaign was a fiasco. Tens of thousands of young men from both sides were sacrificed in a minor episode of the clash of two rival imperialist alliances. Rather than being “the war to end all wars”, WWI was a war for imperial domination, to be reprised on a larger scale twenty-one years later.

A Franchise Arrangement

Ever since the 1870s, Australian troops have been sent to help fight the imperialist wars of a great and powerful friend. Whether in a World War, a British colonial war, or one of Uncle Sam’s never-ending series of wars to defend his empire, the Australian military fights in far-flung places at the side of the larger power. Almost always, the objective is to cement the alliance, since the issues at stake are rarely of direct relevance. The pay-off is that Australian capitalism is granted the imperialist franchise for the South Pacific (and now East Timor as well), where it operates without the presence of its patron.

Afghanistan

The current war in Afghanistan is a textbook case. The United States is in a bloody conflict with a band of religious fundamentalist cutthroats, in a country which has never been a nation and has never had more than a nominal central authority. It backs a corrupt government, mostly of competing fundamentalists. In this imperialist war of occupation, Australian troops commit blundering atrocities like the killing of five children in Uruzgan province last February. In a land where most people want the foreigners gone and a peasant by day can be a Taliban by night, crimes like this are inevitable. But to support the United States and to fortify the Australian alliance with Uncle Sam, the Labor Government thinks it’s all worth it.

The Way Out

Imperialism is part of modern capitalism. Its wars will last as long as capitalism does and the Australian military is purpose-built to fight them. Whether it is a pointless sacrifice on a Turkish beach, or bloody murder in an Afghan village, it will continue until capitalism itself is ended – and the only way to end capitalism is through workers’ revolution. Unlike the capitalists, the working class can unite across national boundaries. We can sweep away the capitalists and their State, with its armies, police and prisons. We can build libertarian communism, a world of peace and plenty, a world of both freedom and security. We can and we must.

HAVE GUNS – WILL TRAVEL

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group

PO Box 2120 Lygon St North

macg1984[at]yahoo.com.au

East Brunswick 3057 25 April 2010

May Day on Sunday 3 May – the march and family day

Banner outside Trades Hall before the march

Banner outside Trades Hall before the march

The Melbourne May Day Committee held its annual march, concert and family festivities at Trades Hall on Sunday 3 May. Attendance seemed smaller than last year, to begin with at least, but still amounted to a respectable showing on the march through the city. Children were especially well catered for this year, with not only the usual rides and slides, but also a splendid miniature train to ride on the march. Most prominent was a large contingent of the Tamil community, but many others will be seen in the following images, and in this slideshow on YouTube:

History on the wall of Trades Hall

History on the wall of Trades Hall

This slide was tempting for grown-ups as well ...

This slide was tempting for grown-ups as well ...

Also for the children ...

Also for the children ...

Solidarity with workers of El Salvador

Solidarity with workers of El Salvador

This banner speaks for itself

This banner speaks for itself

One of the stalls - http://www.iww.org.au/

One of the stalls - http://www.iww.org.au/

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group - http://melbourneanarchistcommunistgroup.org/

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group - http://melbourneanarchistcommunistgroup.org/

The march sets off

The march sets off

Some rode on a truck ...

Some rode on a truck ...

 ... others on a train.

... others on a train.

Another reading of A(ustralian) B(uilding)& C(onstruction) C(ommission)

Another reading of A(ustralian) B(uilding)& C(onstruction) C(ommission)

Obstructing police?

Obstructing police?

Passing the State Library

Passing the State Library

MACG in the Bourke Street Mall

MACG in the Bourke Street Mall

Remembering the Eureka Stockade

Remembering the Eureka Stockade

This is Aboriginal land ...

This is Aboriginal land ...

Back at Trades Hall, the choir

Back at Trades Hall, the choir

Time to relax a bit

and time to relax a bit

Anzac Day anti-militarist action – 25 April

Poster outside the former IWW headquarters

Poster outside the former IWW headquarters

As in past years, while tens of thousands at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance and elsewhere around the country did what they thought appropriate, others, numbering hardly more than ten, met outside the former headquarters of the Melbourne branch of the Industrial Workers of the World in a commemoration with a different flavour.

As a speaker recalled, it was the IWW that spearheaded the anti-conscription campaign during WWI without which Australia’s already appalling tally of dead and wounded would undoubtedly have been far greater. It may be worth reproducing here a post on Melbourne Indymedia in January 2007 which set out some of the reasons for this gathering:

“One of the greatest popular victories in Australian history was the defeat of conscription in World War One in a campaign spearheaded by the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) The Australian union movement owes much to the IWW and the traditions it created; this despite its brief existence as a largish organization. (The IWW survives as a smallish organization)

“Just an example taken at random: the IWW was resolutely non-racist and at a time when conventional wisdom would have us believe that the Australian labour movement was very much whites only. Yet the IWW was influential enough to lead the labour movement opposition to the war and to conscription……and to actually defeat conscription.

“The IWW deserves to be remembered, and so does its anti-conscription victory. I hope that this year we can organize a more large scale event than in previous years. (For info on previous years, fact sheet, and discussion see the links below)

“We can still learn from the history of the IWW and from its greatest victory in Australia.

“The purpose of the IWW commemoration is _not_ a publicity stunt; more to “honour those to whom honour is due”, and to start creating a healthy tradition. With a largish turnout the event could also be very useful for networking of course. The event is _not_ intended to physically confront or tangle with the other thing happening that day …”
(http://www.melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2007/01/138371.php)

Centrepiece of the event was a “War-Tree”, based on a famous cartoon of the period:


"War-tree"  - roots in profit, fruits of death and destruction

Here is how the tree’s maker explained the background in a report of a previous year’s action:

“The “war tree” at the iww celebration was based on [a] famous wobbly cartoon … That capitalist is telling the soldier/worker tending the tree that he can keep its fruit, ie Death etc, for his wages; the cappo only wants the roots…..

“The cartoon in turn was presumably inspired by an old and widespread folk tale about a devil (or troll, or djinn etc) who demands half of a farmers crop…the farmer offers to give the devil everything that grows above the ground and the devil agrees to accept this (and like all magical beings its word is binding). The farmer of course grows carrots or turnips. Next time the devil insists on having everything below the ground, so the farmer grows wheat or barley etc. The folktale tells of a shrewd peasant tricking a powerful but stupid oppressor… sadly, as the cartoon shows, the reality tends to be the other way around…”
(from http://melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2005/04/91104_comment.php#144343 ).


Setting up the "tree"

As can be seen from the following photo, the street corner is now on the edge of Melbourne’s Chinatown, and its history is probably not widely known (though anyone interested could take a look at the relevant chapters of “Radical Melbourne – A Secret History” by Jeff Sparrow and Jill Sparrow, The vulgar press 2001), but next year there was talk of making use of the conveniently situated ‘dustbin of history’ …

The street corner today

The street corner today

Here is the text of a leaflet handed out at the action:
[quote]
DOWN WITH MILITARISM

A Turkish Beach

On 25 April 1915, Australian and other troops of the British Empire attempted an invasion of Turkey. It was designed to knock the Ottoman Empire out of World War I and free the Russian Empire to send more troops to fight Germany. Tens of thousands of young men were sacrificed in this sideline to the larger war. The soldiers were told they were fighting for “God, King and country” and that it was “the war to end all wars”. In reality, they were pawns in the clash of two rival imperialist alliances – and the imperialists would be back again for an even bloodier war barely twenty years later.

An Imperialist Army

Before the WWI, Australian troops had been used to support the British Empire in its frontier wars in the Sudan and South Africa. After WWI, the Australian capitalists grew more ambitious on their own behalf, grasping for control in New Guinea and elsewhere in the South Pacific. Since the United States supplanted Britain as Australian imperialism’s senior partner, Australian troops have been sent to kill and die to uphold the power of the US. In return, Australian governments are given a free hand in their traditional South Pacific “back yard” and, more recently, East Timor as well.

Home and Abroad

Today, the Australian military are stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor, the Solomon Islands – and the Northern Territory. In Iraq and Afghanistan, they assist the subjugation of countries the United States wishes to dominate. Iraqi and Afghan blood pays Australian imperialism’s licence fee in the South Pacific. In East Timor and the Solomon Islands, the military mission is more directly useful to Australian capitalism. Governments are installed and manipulated, while local clients are instructed in how to ensure the poor endure their poverty compliantly – and, in East Timor, watch their oil reserves looted. Finally, in the Northern Territory, the deployment of the military is a token of the determination of the Australian capitalists to complete the as-yet-unfinished theft of the land from its indigenous inhabitants. Australian soldiers have a dirty job, at home and abroad.

Down with Militarism

The military, as well as being the vehicle for waging external war, are the last line of defence against a population determined to change social institutions. They have no place in a just and peaceful society. The Australian military, imperialist enforcers at home and abroad, are no exception. To eliminate war and militarism forever, we must sweep away all armies, with a workers’ revolution that abolishes the State and capitalism across the world and establishes libertarian communism. It will take nothing less – but we need nothing less, as well.

END AUSTRALIAN IMPERIALISM

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group

macg1984@yahoo.com.au http://melbourneanarchistcommunistgroup.org/
PO Box 2120 Lygon St North
East Brunswick 3057 25 April 2009

[end quote]

Some links:

http://www.iww.org.au/

http://www.iww.org/culture/antiwar

http://melbourneanarchistcommunistgroup.org/

For previous actions there are reports on Sydney and Melbourne Indymedia sites:

http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/node/50732

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2007/04/143843.php

and already mentioned http://melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2005/04/91104_comment.php#144343

For a brief history of the IWW in Australia, see http://www.takver.com/history/iwwinoz.htm