State of disaster: Australia’s bushfires, a pariah state and the catastrophe of neoliberalism

What a situation:: a bushfire season like no other. No-one can recall anything like it. To be sure, Australian trees like fire and every summer we have bushfires, but never like this. The fires began in September (way earlier than usual) and by now thousands have burned across eastern Australia.

Some statistics might begin to tell the story:

12 million hectares burnt.

Half a billion animals killed, some species to extinction.

1600 houses destroyed.

23 people killed directly by the fires.

And we have not even reached the peak of the fire season, which has already been underway for months. It will most likely get worse. Already the fires are so fierce they cannot be contained. Flames leap 50 metres in the air, turn the sky black, yellow and red, create their own tornadoes and even weather systems.

The smoke clouds – known as pyrocumulus – suck up moisture from the trees, generate their own lightning and set more fires alight. Embers fly 15-20 kilometres ahead of a fire.

 

By now you can see that a state of emergency is somewhat limp in light of these developments. Indeed, a couple of days ago, the state of Victoria declared a ‘state of disaster’. This is the new normal.

catastrophic bush fire warning 的图像结果

But there is another disaster behind all of this: the disaster of neoliberal policies over the last four decades. Coupled with the fact that Australia is a pariah state due to its regime’s denial of climate change, it is also one of the last holdouts for neoliberalism, since most of the rest of the world has turned its back on such an approach. Let me put it this way: many of the fires are ‘fought’ by volunteers. Yes, volunteers. We have catastrophic fire conditions and a state of disaster and volunteers are expected to front up. Even more, there is so little government support for such ventures that the firefighters have to crowd source for face masks and safety equipment.

Further, the infrastructure has proven completely inadequate, as have the few government services left after all the cuts. Australia has terrible phone converage, so text messages sent out by the fire service cannot always be guaranteed to arrive on your phone. People have had to bunch around radios to find out the latest emergency warnings. Supplies are running short and fuel is scarce. Roads in many areas are inadequate, so people ordered to evacuate cannot do so. In the end, the navy has had to sail in with a couple of humanitarian relief vessels to evacuate people from the water’s edge in the southeast. Finally and on the other side of the volunteer firefighters, they and those stranded by the fires are now relying on donations of food, clothing, water, and so on to get by.

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It can be different. I have been discussing this with comrades in the local CPA branch. Countries like China with a socialist system immediately mobilise the massive government resources during times of natural disaster. Communist party officials are at the forefront, getting into the area, overseeing relief efforts and rolling up their sleeves. Ah yes, you do need a socialist system for such an approach. Or at least one that has turned its back on neoliberal dogma.

On retirement and other matters

A slightly more personal post than usual these days. A little over a week ago, I retired. It was an early retirement, since I am not quite yet 59, which is the average age of retirement age in Australia. I have worked for the last 11 years at the University of Newcastle in Australia, although I only ever had one foot in the door since I worked at no more than 50 percent. I must admit that I feel incredibly good about retiring.

Why? The negative side is that universities in Australia – like most universities that claim a heritage from the ‘Western’ liberal tradition – are in a spiral of decline. Governments keep cutting funding in the vain belief that the US model is the one to which one should aspire, so periodic ‘restructuring’ is the order of the day. It goes without saying that ‘restructuring’ is a euphemism for cutting costs and thus positions. For example, I recently witnessed the University of Newcastle axe whole disciplines, such as philosophy, (Western) classics and religion. Given that my training was in precisely in these areas, I felt somewhat alone.

But the negative reasons for retiring are a relatively minor matter. They can continue their downward spiral and lose international pretige and – increasingly important for the bottom line – international students. On a distinctly more positive note, I have been engaged in China for some years now. I first came to China in 2007, but for the last six years or more I have been engaged more closely with a few universities, initially in Beijing and more recently elsewhere.

I have experienced at first hand not only how central Marxism is to the Chinese project, but also the incredible level of work and innovation, forging ahead to continue to build the new China.

So what do I do with all this inspiration from the Chinese experience? I am trying to put all of this in ways that non-Chinese people who are interested in a rapidly changing world can understand. In this light, I am reshaping this blog so that it provides more information for those who are interested, including relevant downloads from my recent (last ten years) of publications.

Light from the east: red star over Christmas

I have always been intrigued by the biblical ‘light from the east’ that led the wise men in the traditional nativity scenes. Clearly, the East was seen as a place of wisdom and culture, and indeed stars. Obviously, this one is ripe for some communist symbolism, given that the red star is a very communist one:

From a nativity scene to the Soviet red star:

Although in the Soviet Union they tended to focus celebrations on New Year’s Day

With Lenin, of course:

And an emphasis on Soviet achievements in space:

Now we still have the red star from the East, the red star over China:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Model workers: Common people doing their jobs with devotion

China is witnessing the return of the old revolutionary idea of the model worker, reshaped for the modern era. These days, it is ordinary people doing extraordinary jobs. It might be a postman in Tibet, or a teacher in a remote village, or a university graduate who has gone to the countryside to upgrade farming practices in the final frontier against poverty.

In this case, I am interested in a certain Chang Xiaolong, who in 2015 began working as a railway police officer in the mountainous Anhui province. His daily life includes basic conditions, keeping an eye on a 21.48 km stretch of railway line, which has 8 villages, 9 tunnels and 11 villages, growing vegetables, assisting the elderly with buying rail tickets, and working on poverty relief. I should add that in China such a job is seen more in terms of fulfilling a duty to assist in the greater common than simply as a job.

A few pictures from Xinhua News:

 

Two must-see documentaries on terrorism in Xinjiang

Two recently released videos on terrorism in Xinjiang, with much material not seen until now. The first concerns the ‘East Turkistan Islamic Movement’ (ETIM), with close connections to the Washington-funded ‘World Uyghur Congress’ (WUC).

The second concerns the complex and long-term counter-terrorism work in Xinjiang, which is made even more complex by some ‘Western’ countries supporting such terrorism.

Two points worth noting:

First, the Chinese analysis of the root cause of terrorism concludes that is not primarily due to religion or ethnicity, but to foundational socio-economic matters. Thus, poverty, connected with lack of education and  employment, all come first – as aspects of the economic base – and they provide fertile ground for extremist religious views. Obviously, a distinctly Marxist analysis of terrorism, and it also shapes short and long-term policies in Xinjiang.

Second, when the security bodies of Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and East Asia meet, one of the common items on the agenda is dealing with the way some ‘Western’ countries complicate the problems by fostering terrorism in some parts of the world.

*NB: Youtube has been systematically deleting these two videos, with an effort to prevent the many likes and comments appearing as well. The previous links suffered this fate, so I have updated them. They be deleted once again. So you will need to go into youtube and search ‘The Black Hand: ETIM and Terrorism in Xinjiang’ and ‘Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang’. Fortunately, some people keep reloading them so they can be viewed in more places around the world – already 100s of millions have done so.

From Germany embracing Huawei’s 5G to Chinese economic prowess

While I have been researching Eastern European market socialism, with its breakthroughs and logjams, have not posted so much recently. But there are some interesting recent developments.

First, despite all the hype about Huawei in small corners of the world, business is booming with company sales improving more than 25 percent compared to last year. Its new phone, the Mate 30, simply challenges you to do without the nefarious dealings of Google. For some time now, I have not been using any of the Google items, so this is good news. Further, Germany has decided that Huawei poses no risks whatsover, and indeed that it helpfully prevents US spying, so the company that has most global patents in 5G will be integral to Germany’s development.

On a related note, despite all the uncertainties of the global situation and with a new wave of US-driven nationalistic protectionism, the Chinese economy is moving ahead solidly. Chinese experts have have been predicting a gradual slowing of growth for some time, as China makes a transition from high volume to high quality, and with a focus on ecological civilisation (shengtai wenming). Then again, 6 to 6.5 percent growth now in China is equivalent to 15 percent 10 years ago, and it is way above standard levels elsewhere.