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Issue #1797      October 4, 2017

Culture & Life

Exit, Stage Left

Tessa Mallos, Australian actress and political activist, died recently. Tessa worked briefly with Eddie Allison and myself at Quality Films. Eddie had long been involved in Sydney’s progressive working class collective, New Theatre, which had grown out of the Workers’ Arts Club in the 1930s. Tessa graduated from NIDA in 1963 and promptly appeared in New Theatre’s hit musical play based on Australian folk songs, Reedy River. She also played roles in plays by Moliere and Mona Brand at New Theatre and Dark of the Moon and Playboy of the Western World at the Old Tote and toured in a supporting role in JCW’s production of Funny Girl.

Left-to-right – Heather Kaldis, Jim kaldis, Win Childs, Ann Symonds, unknown, Tessa Mallos, Jeannette McHugh, Mavis Robertson (kneeling).

She was the narrator for New Theatre’s production of the satirical anti-Vietnam War mixed media event, On Stage Vietnam and played Natasha in their ambitious if not entirely successful dramatization of Tolstoy’s epic War And Peace. After a sojourn in England, she returned to Australia and played in Chekov’s The Seagull and took up direction with A Race Odyssey. From now on she turned increasingly to political activism with her partner, journalist and community activist Tony Reeves.

Tessa was prominent in the Left of the Labor Party and was active with Actors’ Equity and in struggles for equal pay, safeguarding the environment and anti-war. In 1983, she convened a march in Sydney for nuclear disarmament that was attended by an estimated and very impressive 50,000 people.

Four years younger than me, she was the quintessential activist. When diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in 1996, she promptly became an activist for cancer sufferers. During her relatively brief stint at Quality Films, I asked her why – while she worked – she listened to the mind-numbing inanity of commercial talkback radio (which frankly was driving me nuts). She explained that all the people she mixed with were politically active, so she deliberately listened to commercial radio talkback shows in order to learn what issues were being promoted by the bourgeois establishment among ordinary, non-activist Australians. I had no comeback to that!

In the last Russian elections, Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia, was a clear winner, helped by Putin having long ago got free of any lingering ties to the despised Boris Yeltsin and especially by the way Putin had stood up to the anti-Russian machinations of the West. The encouragement of fascist regimes in the formerly Soviet Baltic States and in parts of Eastern Europe (Hungary, Romania) as well as the blatant interference by the US, Britain and Germany in organising “colour revolutions” to bring about the overthrow of anti-imperialist regimes in the Czech Republic, and later in Moldova and still later in Ukraine, could hardly go unnoticed by the people and government of Russia.

They also took note of the spread of NATO into Eastern Europe, hard on the heels of those same “colour revolutions”. Moldova had an elected Communist government for a decade from 1990, but then it was subjected to the now familiar destabilisation, with street “riots” involving free-lance activists from Chechnya, Israel and other centres of pro-imperialist action. Now the Reds are gone and Moldova is an advanced base for NATO.

When the same destabilisation tactics appeared in Ukraine and Western politicians suddenly found reasons for visiting the country and blatantly interfering in its internal affairs, Russia had to take steps to protect itself, but not before chain-wielding fascists on the “Maidan” square coup had killed anti-fascists and ousted the elected government in a coup. The government they installed in Kiev included openly fascist elements.

While the new regime in Kiev celebrated and honoured Bandera, the infamous Nazi collaborator of WW2, the Eastern Ukraine rebelled against the attempt to impose fascism on the region. Their volunteer militias have so far courageously repelled all attempts by Kiev’s forces to crush them. At the same time, the people of Crimea – similarly repelled by the lauding of Nazis by Kiev - voted overwhelmingly in a plebiscite to re-join Russia, a democratic act consistently portrayed in the bourgeois media as “Russia’s annexation of Crimea”.

Crimea is a significant Russian naval base and had it passed into the hands of the ultra-Right anti-Russian Ukrainian regime the Maidan coup had installed in Kiev it would have allowed NATO to dominate the Black Sea. The outcome of the Crimean plebiscite infuriated the NATO powers and the US demanded the imposition of sanctions on Russia, which France and Germany only partially supported, since they have significant trading relations with Russia which they did not want to upset.

Putin’s standing up to these bullying tactics has stood him in good stead with the Russian people. He has also moved to strengthen Russia diplomatically and economically by taking a more active role in the BRICS group of nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) which is already significant and will be of increasing importance especially after the initiation of the new Chinese Silk Road, which will provide a new overland transport route between Europe and the East secure from any US attempts to interdict it.

However, if Putin’s standing is secure in Russia, there is a fierce struggle for the number two position between the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (known by its Russian initials of KPRF) and the party of Right-wing opportunist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the so-called Liberal Democratic Party.

In the most recent elections Zhirinovsky’s party briefly moved ahead of the KPRF. An elated Zhirinovsky, without waiting to see if the results would last – they didn’t – went on television to crow about becoming number two and “defeating” the Communists. He proudly announced that as soon as the results were official “the KPRF would be banned”.

Sadly for Zhirinovsky, the results did not come out as he had briefly anticipated. Hopefully, the Russian people will have taken note of what he plans if he ever does achieve even partial electoral success.

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