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Issue # 1399      18 February 2009


A tragedy galvanising the nation

The Victorian bush fires have claimed at least 200 victims, up to a million animals and hundreds of homes. They are a disaster of unprecedented magnitude and the public response too is unprecedented. It has galvanised the nation, giving expression to the great potential of a society when its members band together around a common objective.

The country has mobilised at the grassroots to gather support for the victims. Over $90 million had been raised in the community at the time of going to press.

Halls and other temporary depots in country Victoria are overflowing with donations of clothes, blankets, food and other basic supplies brought in from all over Australia . Many Queenslanders suffering the effects of major flooding in the north of their state have donated their aid cheques to the victims of the Victorian fires. Fire fighters are rightfully being celebrated as the heroes of the hour.

Such was the public response to calls for people to give blood that  the Australian Red Cross Blood Service called on Victorians to stagger their donations over the coming months. The chief executive of the service said, “It’s been overwhelming. Our resources are stretched. It has been the greatest interest we have had to a single event in the history of the blood service.” As well queuing to give blood, tens of thousands made pledges online.

There were magnificent contributions from emergency service workers – ambulance, health professionals, all the volunteer firefighters; from various tradespeople; businesses big and small; thousands of schools around the country whose students pooled their money to make donations; the trade union movement which immediately swung into action with money donations and volunteers. The various sports – cricket, AFL, NRL, football etc – each handed over amounts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The pervasive spirit of solidarity washes away in an instant the capitalist argument that humans are essentially selfish and greedy, that capitalism accords with these fundamental self-interested drives and that socialism cannot work because it flies in the face of what is falsely called “human nature”.

The response to the Victorian bushfire tragedy is inspiring but not unique. Australians rallied to the aid of the people of Darwin in the wake of Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve 1974 with a toll of 71 lives. People have responded similarly to other natural disasters. The same capacity for stricken communities to organise themselves and for other members of the community to rally to their aid was displayed.

The Communist Party of Australia expresses its sincerest condolences to those who have lost family, friends, their homes, livelihoods and irreplaceable personal possessions.

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