The Agent Orange Justice art exhibition held in Sydney August 7-11 has been hugely successful, contributing significantly to raising consciousness about this important but all too neglected issue. Australian, Vietnamese and Vietnamese Australian artists donated paintings, posters, cartoons, installations and sculpture to expose the ongoing horror of the Agent Orange chemical warfare inflicted on the Vietnamese people by the US and Australian war in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Jim Percy, the founder of the Democratic Socialist Party and for two decades its national secretary, died from cancer on October 12, 1992, 20 years ago, at the age of 43. Jim’s important political contributions, and the depressing gap left by his absence of 20 years, make it timely to reflect on his life and achievements on this anniversary. From 1965 as a high school student to the last months of his life in 1992, Jim struggled tirelessly for socialism, and worked to build a revolutionary socialist party in Australia that could bring that goal closer.
Australian and Vietnamese artists are contributing works to an art exhibition in Sydney August 7-11 to expose the ongoing horror of the Agent Orange chemical warfare inflicted on the Vietnamese people by the US war in the 1960s and ‘70s. August 10 is the 51st anniversary of the beginning of spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam. Eighty million litres of “herbicide” were sprayed on the forests, fields and people of Vietnam over 10 years, to deny shelter to the Vietnamese freedom fighters, and to deny them food and support from the local community.
The central feature of the international political situation today is the extremely stark contradictions of capitalism internationally, combined with the severe limitations of working class leadership in nearly every country. In the 1930s, during the years of the Great Depression and the rise of Stalinism in the Soviet Union, Leon Trotsky wrote in The Transitional Program: “The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership”.
The many crimes of the rapacious global corporation Monsanto were exposed at a public forum in Sydney November 23, organised by Agent Orange Justice – Australia Vietnam Solidarity Network. AOJ’s Rosanna Barbero presented a very educational talk interspersed with excerpts from videos that thoroughly demonstrated that this capitalist company puts its profits way ahead of the health of individuals and even the health and safety of humanity as a whole. It prompted a very useful and inclusive discussion.
Agent Orange Justice-Australia-Vietnam Solidarity Network, has now been established in Australia. A very successful inaugural meeting was held in Sydney on June 1, attended by more than 40 people, with 20 new members joining AOJ. Speakers were Mai Phuoc Dung, the new Vietnamese consul-general (whose speech is printed on page 19), Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, green bans activist Jack Mundey and Mike Karadjis from AOJ. We also showed part of a powerful 35-minute DVD on Agent Orange from VAVA, the Vietnamese Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, based in Hanoi.
An awakening is occurring across the Arab world – a mass uprising in political activity and consciousness, already resulting in revolutionary mobilisations overthrowing dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt and threatening others. It’s extremely encouraging and inspiring, a big turnaround in the political situation in the region, impacting on world politics as well as the Maghreb and Middle East, which former US President Eisenhower called “the most strategically important area in the world”.
Bob Gould, long-time Sydney political activist, Trotskyist and ALP member, and notorious bookshop owner, died on May 22 aged 74. More than 300 people from many areas of Bob’s political life attended his funeral and the following wake at Newtown’s Courthouse Hotel. This is the obituary speech at the funeral by John Percy, national secretary of the Revolutionary Socialist Party and editor of Direct Action.
The capitalist economic crisis is the most important feature of the world political situation today. It’s the deepest crisis since the Great Depression. It’s affected the whole world. It’s centred on, and began with, the dominant imperialist power, the USA. It’s long lasting and has led to huge attacks on working people, with increasing joblessness, misery, cutbacks in services and poverty.
Agent Orange is the code name of the dioxin-laced chemical used by the United States to defoliate huge areas of Vietnam and destroy food crops during its devastating war against the people of Vietnam. Between 1962 and 1971, the US military machine sprayed 80 million litres of chemical herbicides and defoliants in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Diego Garcia is a very important issue. Mauritian territory was stolen, and the Chagossian people were uprooted to build a huge US military base. The base is there to attack the peoples of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. It plays an important part in US imperialism’s military control of the world.
"A Victory for all humanity" was how the cover of Direct Action welcomed the liberation of Saigon and final unification of Vietnam on April 30, 1975, and that was the theme of a series of seminars in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane organised in September by Direct Action and the Revolutionary Socialist Party.
Vietnam won its independence 65 years ago. On September 2, 1945, in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square, hundreds of thousands of people heard President Ho Chi Minh, on behalf of the provisional government, read out the Declaration of Independence. Led by the Vietnamese Independence League, or Viet Minh, the August Revolution of 1945 ended 80 years of French colonial domination, abolished the monarchy and re-established Vietnam as an independent nation.
Thirty-five years ago the monstrous US (and Australian) war against the people of Vietnam finally came to an end. On April 30, 1975, Vietnamese forces entered Saigon. There were memorable scenes – the Vietnamese tank smashing through the gates of the puppet presidential palace; people streaming to the roof of the US embassy to catch the last helicopters out of Saigon; helicopters being pushed overboard from US aircraft carriers off the coast to make way for more fleeing helicopters.
The Revolutionary Socialist Party gained a good start to the year with its Marxist Education Conference in Sydney on January 2-5. In addition to the high quality talks on Marxist theory, history and politics today, the conference provided a boost to RSP members' morale.
The Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) has decided to press ahead with the final stage of liquidating itself into the Socialist Alliance (SA), which claims to be the largest socialist organisation in Australia. On June 7 the DSP national committee (NC) adopted a report by national secretary Peter Boyle that the DSP would dissolve at a DSP congress in January, and members would from then on operate just as members of the SA. Boyle’s report is available on the DSP website.
Building the Revolutionary Party. Jim Percy Selected Writings 1980-87. Resistance Books, 2008
Traditions, Lessons and Socialist Perspectives. By Jim Percy. New Course Publications, 1994
John McCarthy, a Brisbane doctor who in the 1970s played a significant role in the development of the revolutionary socialist movement in Australia, died on November 1 after a long battle with cancer. While in Britain in the 1960s McCarthy joined the International Marxist Group (IMG), the British group supporting the Trotskyist Fourth International (FI).
The Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI (ML)], held in December 2007 in Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, was its biggest yet, registering the party’s growing support among India’s workers and peasants. Attended by 1100 delegates, the congress culminated in a mass rally for “People’s Resistance, Left Resurgence” at Shahid Minar in Kolkata on December 18, on the 10th anniversary of the death of the party’s former general secretary, Vinod Mishra.
Issy Wyner, one of the pioneers of revolutionary socialism in Australia, died in Sydney in August, aged 92. Issy was an early member of the Workers Party, the first Trotskyist group in Australia, formed in May 1933.
Since the final heroic victory of the Vietnamese liberation fighters on April 30, 1975, the imperialist rulers in both the US and Australia have sought to obscure the historical lessons of their defeat. They’ve been assisted in this by right-wing Vietnamese emigres organising commemorations and war memorials for the flag of the defunct puppet regime Washington tried, and failed, to impose on southern Vietnam after the Vietnamese defeat of French colonial rule in early 1954.
This is the first issue of a new paper, Direct Action, but it has two proud precursors, each with an excellent tradition. The first Direct Action was the paper of the Wobblies (IWW – Industrial Workers of the World) from 1914 to 1917. The Wobblies were an organisation of militant workers that arose in the United States a century ago and took root in Australia soon after.