One rally was organised by BrisCan during G20 … the rally was shambolic … it was organised around a theme of ‘issue politics’ (environment, civil liberties, refugee rights, austerity etc). Notably absent from this issues-based-approach was workers rights, anti-war, Palestinian, or women’s issues. The absence of trade union support was itself a defeat for the organisers and for the Left.
The People’s Rally should have focussed on the ‘failure of the markets’ to address human needs i.e. the capitalist notion that markets always know best, regardless of the problem.
While organising forums (The People’s Summit) around themes is laudable they are not what G20 is all about … G20 is about capitalism.
So, on Saturday 15 November at the largest rally of the week, we stood in 43 degree heat from 11 am till 1 pm listening to speeches about a range of issues like democratic rights, climate change and aboriginal struggle. The streets were deserted … save for 2,000 cops.
Before the BrisCan rally commenced, the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy had a demonstration against decolonisation (can we change the past?) in the same forum area at Roma Street from 9 am till after 11 am (it went overtime, there was minimal negotiation and even less communication between the two groups prior to the change-over from the tent embassy and to the BrisCan rally, there was confusion about where the speaking equipment should be located and the speakers lost the crowd.
The Murri rally attracted about 1,200 people. The Left brought another 400, so by the time the BrisCan rally was in full swing there were about 1,600 people present in Roma Street Forum [NB – I counted the numbers at the end of the blackfellas’ rally and at the beginning of the BrisCan rally – needless to say there is overlap in attendance ‘cos people came to both.]
The march peaked at 2,000 people. There were no arrests.
The speeches at the BrisCan rally could have been made at any of the forums that were organised during the week. But not here, not at this rally.
I have little hope that the left will change its ways and build community. Even less chance of a political focus for struggle. On the Sunday morning after a lot of debate the young blackfellas put to a meeting at Musgrave park that we should support them in their action at a rally and march. Despite some dissent, it was decided one-in-all-in and so the union jack, the Australian flag and effigies of Noel Pearson, Warren Mundine and Marcia Langton were burnt in a spectacle at Roma Street forum.
BrisCan organised “The Lost Film festival” during G20 which involved considerable hard work and over 200 hours preparation by one of the filmmakers exhibited – none of the films the organiser sent to the tent embassy were shown in Musgrave Park.
Things were not much better at the West End Uniting Church theatrette.
One filmmaker took her two daughters to show them her own film (Manufacturing Dissent) on Wednesday (12 November).
The theatrette was otherwise empty the rest of the day.
Apparently it was empty the whole day on Thursday as well. And it sounds like 4 or 5 people turned up on Friday (14 November) – only popping in and out?
The organiser reports that there was no attempt to screen any “lost” films in the ‘Open Space’ at the ‘Wandering Cooks’ warehouse over the weekend? I assume there was not enough time and/or personnel available to do anything there.
To top it all off, the sound was very poor.
Discussion and Analysis
[Publishers Note:BrisCAN organisers responded to my critique of the rally, I made no critique of the People’s Summit save for the Lost Film Festival]. The BrisCAN organisers suggested the rally and march were a big success and that I had made major errors of objective fact. I stand by the facts and my interpretation of them.]
If what people say is true (that BrisCAN rally & march and the Peoples Summit were successes, BrisCan should organise a forum so that collective decisions can be made about how we can resist capitalism post G20.
I’m trying to look at the state of play objectively …. since the 1967 referendum aboriginal community has been on the rise … 1982 Commonwealth Games … black organisations formed … 1988 … a challenge to a racist history … successive invasion days growing bigger … more tent embassies …. sovereignty movement to challenge native title … a food program, grannies groups etc
Since 1967 the Left has been in decline no matter what configuration it has taken … the communist party declined and liquidated, Trotskyite groups that had grown during the Vietnam war became curiously irrelevant comic-book Marxists … in an ironic twist IS became SALT … the anarchist movement imploded losing book shops, learning exchanges and syndicalist newspapers … the anti-globalisation came but what has it achieved? … has it prevented a single war? … certainly not Iraq which has gone and come again … notwithstanding 50,000 people marching in Brisbane … not even a VicNet as in Melbourne … a big nothing in Brisbane … this needs to be reversed by hard talk and real work …
Australians are living off their credit cards … still consuming not rejecting capitalism and there is no Left challenging the growing unemployment even in our youth …
In Musgrave Park, a small red tent was pitched during G20 and people gathered around to hear 3CR broadcast 29 intelligent political programs throughout the week. Great effort by the 3CR crew! Where was the Brisbane equivalent? 4ZZZ keeps pumping out the music interspersed by journalism 101 news and not even able to get together one OB for the duration – they said their Outside Broadcasting equipment was not working – fair enough but what about a critique of G20 brand capitalism back at the studios? There was none, just more boring reviews of more bands with out politics … 98.9 Murri radio was also noticeably absent … no historical context can paint a bright picture out of the the failure of 4ZZZ to be remotely political or relevant against the tide of capitalism that G20 represents … there are no red stars at 4ZZZ … the only stars are the type that a boxer sees after the last knockdown and they are not remotely red.
Is more possible?
Of course I am saying more is possible but not around protest, not around G20 which has proven itself irrelevant to human needs. A lot of work needs doing in the workers movement among the unions. The Left is confined to university and students – often with weak liberal politics.
Regarding alternative media in Brisbane, namely 4zzz, Paradigm Shift is one of few political shows on 4ZZZ. Radio Reversal is a good show and people should listen to it, as I do when I get the chance.
4zzz was never really political, not even at the outset in 1975 even though it came out of the anti-war movement. The first show was compered by John Woods who came from the ABC and commercial radio – his opening broadcast cld have been an ABC show.
4zzz refuses to become a left wing media organisation in the way 3CR is, despite efforts by some to increase the political content … for example Zed are still quite mainstream in their approach to news. this political failure at 4ZZZ is even more galling because it is the gift of the building by the Communist Party of Australia that made 4ZZZ’s survival possible.
Zed have benefited directly from the blood and sweat of dedicated unionists and workers and their programmers do not even feel the slightest misgiving or need to acknowledge this … most shows on Zed don’t even support unions or their members. Sorry I have not had time to read Alternatives to G20, not even sure i was aware of it … my work on Ross’s case has been unrelenting every day and nite for the past month.
Tent Embassy and BrisCAN
There were attempts by some to bring BASE and BrisCan together but it was not possible because of personality politics on the Left that you must be aware of – i am not talking about the past here, the sectarianism is very much now, if anything it is worse than in the past because there is no coherent group where decisions can be made.
At the Saturday rally, the young warriors (WAR) from the tent embassy were openly contemptuous of BrisCAN and its organisers. By then it was too late and so the Murri rally went overtime (they let whoever wanted to speak have the mic (fair enough), there was confusion with the PA system so I withdrew the LeftPress PA so that BrisCan could take over with a bigger PA. But they lost the crowd, who ended up wilting under trees and chatting in small groups. The chairperson seemed oblivious to what was happening in the heat and did not use the authority of the chair to bring the rally to a focus … and the politics were abysmal … no focus on G20 or capitalism. It was all very formulaic … this is repeated ad nauseum time and time again … recently during the bombing of Gaza … during gay marriage debates (i still don’t see how marriage, be it gay or not, can be a cause of the Left?) … during the refugee rallies, at march-in-march.
The people’s summit did nothing to ameliorate it – why are people so much in denial of something that stands out like the proverbial? The fact is 2,000 people is a very small number of marchers made impotent by the containment of the Left; not as in the past, with bans on assembly and marching, but through permission and containment.
The Left ambles on thoughtlessly … meaningless and irrelevant … can BrisCAN turn it around? [Should this be placed on their shoulders?] By definition BrisCAn G20 were focussed on G20 which has past. Only if the Left recognises the problems and addresses them can organisation be more responsive, stronger with relevance to ordinary people in the wider community.
Do I sound negative, yes. Have i proposed alternatives? yes … a central forum where decisions are made and people asked to help out … not leaving it to the same old crew.
I received the following comment:
“Despite the organisational failures that occurred (due to the workload and time constraints – all the failures could have been rectified if we had more core people working with us), the Peoples Summit was an unqualified success in my view.”
An essential part of community is that people work together and share the load. Much of the Left abstained during G20 leaving it to people like yourself, why? Why do people abstain from crucial decision making and absent themselves when they do not agree? No organisation is going to succeed if people can opt out because they don’t like the decisions or the personalities of the decision makers. I know that BrisCAN does not see itself as an organisation and eschews central decision making. Isn’t this a weakness?
Compare Brisbane Blacks (not solely BASE) and BrisCAN … on the final march of G20 on the Sunday (16 Nov) there was disagreement about burning the Union Jack, the Australian flag and effigies of Pearson, Mundine and Langton.
Personally I think that the aboriginal flag will be the Australian flag at some point, probably in the remote future, and that Pearson, Mundine and Langton are not the biggest problem for the aboriginal struggle.
Nevertheless there was it was a one-in all-in situation because of the threat of arrest by the public order squad.
Solidarity mandated that young and old be present and support the decision.
When police commanders (no doubt already aware of our decision) paraded the public order squad with long batons on the hillsides overlooking the forum to intimidate and divide us as they have always tried to do. Young men and young women made a perimeter to defend the flag burners. There was no sign of dissent although I could see that several elders present opposed what was about to happen. Every one was solid, so solid I felt compelled to stand with my brothers and sisters who only had their bodies as a defence of the Kevlar jacketted and baton wearing riot squad. Fearing a charge by police, I wore a helmet and padded pants, i brought my bicycle to defend the perimeter.
Fortunately the cops held off and the burning took place in the full glare of the media, for better or worse. The march that followed was solid even though numbers were down on the previous two days. Along the way, the 40 plus degree heat wore down two of the marchers, one an elder. They both tried to march on. Eventually in a state of collapse the elder was being virtually carried by the Street Med team. It was only when I brought up the bus and Maurie ordered the elder onto the bus at my insistence that he would relent. A woman near collapse who had sung beautifully at several rallies during the week and whose niece was killed in custody only weeks before in WA was eventually cajoled into the murri watch bus.
Give me justice or given me exclusion … they gave him a cell.
Meanwhile Ciaron O’Reilly was holed up in the Roma street watch house for the week end after violating a ban on attendance inside the exclusion zone. I do not wish to point the finger at BrisCan organisers here because they did their best to help Ciaron but there was no vigil and no support for Ciaron even though his opposition to the Iraq and Syrian wars has been resolute and his defence of Assange and Manning in London persistent. Where was the anti-war movement? Where were the wikileaks campaigners? And if they have a problem with O’Reilly’s single handed approach to protest why was there no basic solidarity shown in the manner that the elders had showed solidarity with the young people who burnt the flag?
Is central decision-making possible?
Thanks for answering my question about whether ‘a central decision making body is practical or possible’ … I take the BrisCAN response as No, the group/network was not set up that way. It was a question i wished to put to all organisers of the people’s summit but i think yr answer appears conclusive so i will not pursue it any further as some have clearly already lost faith with me anyway.
I agree that we have a lot to thank Northey Street farm for … not solely as a place for food production but also as a friendly gathering place to enjoy music and conversation over the years.
In the end however the fate of Northey Street and other community based ground-up organising comes down to a question of power – who has it and how it is exercised. As people are aware, Northey Street has become the prey of developers and the BCC is a developers council so how is Northey Street to be defended?
As you know, recently the Brisbane City Council shut down Jagera Arts Hall and padlocked the gates to the DOGIT [Deed-of-Grant-in-Trust] area around it. Through legal means, backed by strong political support, the aboriginal community got Jagera back and has control with a long term lease to be signed soon. There was none of the division in the aboriginal community people often speak of … Quirk acted and the aboriginal community responded immediately and won on Melbourne Cup day this year … the fight had taken many twists and turns but i will leave it to others to write its history.
In 2009 the public trustee and a merchant bank moved on a community house in 26 Horan Street West End to sell it … a small group immediately occupied AHIMSA house and police were called … there was confrontation and one arrest … the aboriginal community made the highest bid on the building (offering to pay market value) but it was rejected because the Public Trustee did not want an aboriginal community centre opposite West End Primary School, beside a building the Public Trustee owned and behind the police armoury. The P&F at West End Primary were silent as was the Principal.
Was the Left capable of defending AHIMSA (One person does not even know it existed)?
Answer: No. AHIMSA was sold to a pasta retailer (CJs)and yet another coffee shop sprung up in West End opposite the school where aboriginal kids could have met up under guidance from their elders.
One response from BrisCAN is that “Strong community actions and grassroots mechanisms and local solutions are what will save us” … well of course … but what was the difference between AHIMSA and Jagera Hall?
Jagera Arts Hall is run by the Musgrave Park Cultural Centre Inc – an incorporated association with a board, a membership and central decision making. It has a budget and access to finances. It has legal recognition by the Office of Fair Trading. If one of the board members does a bunk with with the money, she or he can be sued.
AHIMSA had none of this. It was run by a Libertarian (Brian Laver) who defrauded the owner of the building and together with an architect stole about $1.2M … a section of the Left tried to expose him … through a public campaign … 600 signatures were gathered at the West End market … Premier Anna Bligh was literally forced to read out the petition in support of AHIMSA in the parliament on her last day in office … to no avail.
Exercise of power
An old fella who put up the money for AHIMSA was locked up last month (October 2012) in a high security, hign-care dementia unit 110 kms away from friends and support. The Public Trustee and the Public Guardian have sanctioned the theft of his house by an unethical accountant, they have allowed AHIMSA and all other properties sold to build this community centre. Three lawyers backed up by administrative staff and a whole building of lawyers and medical reports have assessed Ross by ticking boxes and categorising him, thus refusing him contact and where some contact is possible, surveillance and reports of his private conversations with friends become the subject of reports and affidavits in court. THIS IS THE EXERCISE OF POWER. The court has sanctioned it and is likely to sanction it again. A small group of friends have proposed a different route for the old fella: ours is through friendship and community ties, with friends who support him with a carer to provide proper structure and discipline for Ross to live in his own home (yes, the one stolen from him). We have minimal chance of success.
There were a series of ‘comments’ on BrisCAN list that I replied to in person:
from WBT site it seems the situation with Ross is more complex than you’re letting on. I can’t find the original article (esp. comments) at the moment but I think it would be fair(er) that you direct people to it when talking on this topic.
Response: There should be no articles on wbt about Ross … the court has ordered that they all be taken down … there are serious consequences for everyone (including Ross) if they are not … the court is not an open court … threats have been made against all concerned … eviction, contempt, even the video shot in Peter Carne’s office (the Public Trustee) received unfavourable mention in court on friday …
I do agree that Ian should post the comments that have come up thus far in response to his original post. Ian??
Response: The posts are on wbt for all to see.
Ian wasn’t even involved in BrisCAN!
Response: Not true … I attended a joint BASE and BrisCan meeting where the program for the week of the G20 was worked out.
Robin asked me to help make peace between the two groups. I couldn’t and explained to Robin that, at the time, i was very busy helping organise a national forum about the ongoing stolen generation.
Adrian asked me to provide the PA for the BrisCan rally which i did; then, for reasons people had better ask Adrian, decided to use a different PA system at the last moment.
I participated in four popular educational forums organised by BrisCAN in the lead up to G20. Probably more than the organisers themselves!
I feel that a defence of Northey Street is going against the corporate tide … the developers endgame will prevail … although the flood plain may save Northey Street … the BCC used the same pretext (asbestos) to close the site as they did with Jagera. I do not know how Northey Street is structured (it is probably an incorporated association dependent on a core group of overworked volunteers) but I do know they will need the right mix of decision making, political support, direct action (the Murris used angle grinders to get access to the hall) to overcome the raw EXERCISE of POWER that is to come.
This is my last post on the matters raised … thank you for your forebearance to a crusty old marxist … i wish BrisCAN (and the Left) all the best.
24 Nov 2014