70 Years of Injustice: Freedom for Palestine!

15-05-2018 – 70 years ago today, the Catastrophe (Al Nakba) rained down upon Palestine. The birth of the Zionist state of Israel was erected on the forcible expulsion of at least 750 000 Palestinians, many forced into exile to escape death squads, typified by the Irgun’s massacre of at 254 people, mainly women and children, in the village of Deir Yassin.[1] It was April 9, 1948, and the annihilation of this village set the scene for what was to come. For the next 70 years, the Zionist Israeli state has continued to regard Palestinians as unpeople, against which can be carried out theft, murder, imprisonment and daily denial of basic humanity. The stealing of the very land on which people live is one of the most devastating acts colonialism can practice – and yet it continues to this day, with the borders of Gaza and the West Bank shrinking further and further. It goes without saying that there cannot be peace in the Middle East until there is justice for Palestine.

The Zionist Israeli state has existed for 70 years as it has the open political, diplomatic and military support of the imperialist powers – specifically that of the United States of America (US). Yet for the last seven years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been simmering in the shadow of the US led war on neighbouring Syria – both in proxy and open form. This war for regime change involved the Israeli state bombing Syria whenever it felt like it. It also involved direct collusion between Israeli armed forces and those of ISIS and Al Nusra, even to the extent of free medical treatment for these wounded mercenary barbarians.[2] Israel still occupies the Golan Heights area of Syria, and its role in the war for regime change was not hidden, as it lined up with the governments of the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Kingdom (UK), France, Australia and others. Despite this, much of the Palestinian solidarity movement worldwide fell silent, despite their stated opposition to “Israel”. Many pro-Palestine activists even sided with the regime change war on Syria, despite the strengthening of Israeli state forces which would have resulted if the Syrian Arab Republic had have been overthrown by US backed genocidal terrorists.

The apparent anomaly for some Palestinian solidarity activists – loudly opposing the actions of Israel in relation to Palestine, but not in relation to Syria, is periodically revealed. Roger Waters, the famous guitarist from the band Pink Floyd, has long supported the Palestinian cause. In a recent concert, apparently someone wanted to come on stage and make an announcement about Douma, where the Western governments openly lied, claiming a false chemical weapons attack from the Syrian government. Waters did not allow this, and said that the organisation he supports, the White Helmets, are a “fake organisation that is creating propaganda for jihadists and terrorists”.[3] He went on to strongly argue against calling on Western governments to bomb Syria in response. We can only hope that the Palestinian solidarity movement itself would defend Syria, or would at least speak out against the sinister workings of US and British imperialism, such as the “White Helmets” fraud.

Iran and World War III scenario

The Palestinian solidarity movement in Australia is heavily dominated by what became known as the “imperial left” – the “socialist” parties which followed the Liberal

Thousands of Palestinians march along the Gaza-Israel border on 30.03.2018, calling for the ‘Right to Return’. Image from http://www.middleeastmonitor.com

National Party (LNP), the Labor Party (ALP) and the Greens in strenuously backing the US imperialist wars on Libya and Syria, from 2011 onwards. Much of the Western Palestinian solidarity movement appeared oblivious to the fact that the war on Syria very nearly came to a nuclear war between Russia defending Syria, and the US and Israel almost destroying it. Needless to say, a nuclear war over Syria would probably destroy Palestine, the imperial left notwithstanding. Now, this World War III scenario is on the cards again – this time with the US threatening another of the imperial left’s favourite whipping boys – the Islamic Republic of Iran. US President Donald Trump unilaterally “withdrew” (or openly violated) the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) on May 9,[4] and vowed to impose even tougher sanctions on Iran. US plans for regime change in Iran have not abated since 1979, and it is feared that the US will strike before 2019 – the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution.

The Israeli “Defence” Forces, usually routinely used against Palestinians, wasted no time in taking advantage of US President Trump’s tearing up of the JCPOA. Within one hour, Israeli warplanes struck Iranian targets in Syria, south of the capital Damascus, reportedly killing 15, including 8 Iranians. In response, the Iranian forces fired 20 rockets at the Golan Heights, and area of Syria still occupied by Israel. The Western media twisted and distorted these events to make out that Iran was the aggressor, and Israel was “defending itself”.[5] The Western Palestinian solidarity movement has decried these false claims by Israel and the Western imperialist powers for decades – when it is directed against Palestine. Yet when it comes to a clear regime change operation against Syria or Iran – non-imperialist allies of Palestine – not a sound emanates from them.

There is also a gaping vacuum from the Western Palestinian solidarity movement when Palestine receives material and political support from Hezbollah, in neighbouring Lebanon. Hezbollah risked life and limb to defend neighbouring Syria against the atrocious US/Israeli/Saudi led regime change war, sending armed detachments to battle against the head-chopping lunatics attempting to overthrow Syria. In the process, they defended Palestine, along with the Russian and Iranian forces, in the process of defending Syria. No doubt Hezbollah’s actions in defending Syria were a huge factor in the recent parliamentary elections in Lebanon, where Hezbollah doubled the amount of seats it held, with big losses for the pro-US and pro-Saudi Said Hariri governing bloc.[6] The Western Palestinian solidarity movement beseeches us to support Palestine, but itself offers not an ounce of support to its immediate neighbours – Hezbollah, Syria, Iran – who give material aid to Palestine. It is a mess of contradictions.

Again, the Western Palestinian solidarity movement will be tested. Will they oppose yet another US led imperialist war (on Iran), where they failed, or at least abstained, in Syria? The signs so far are not good, as the imperial left’s bitter opposition to Iran in practice means it forswears any of the desperately needed assistance provided to Palestine by the Iranian government. There are even some liberals who defend Iran on the basis of its long standing anti-imperialist stance vis-à-vis the US Empire, who blanch at hailing Israel or the other main US ally in the region – Saudi Arabia. There is an urgent need for working people with a basic anti-imperialist stance to join the Palestinian solidarity movement to counter, and overcome, the predominance of the imperial left. This needs to be a part of an anti-imperialist anti-war movement in general – given the US Empire’s similar threats to Russia and China.

BDS claims false victories

With a few exceptions, there is a cross-over between the imperial left and the liberal BDS movement – which calls for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” against Israel, which is somehow supposed to free Palestine. As we have mentioned previously, the main problem with the BDS movement is that it attempts to gain the support of the imperialist powers, rather than working to undermine them. The US, British, French and Australian ruling classes know very well why they politically and financially maintain the Israeli state, and they cannot be convinced to do otherwise, no matter how compelling the argument. Falling short of inveigling the imperialist powers themselves into a “Down with Israel” campaign, the BDS movement latches on to any expression of anti-Israel sentiment, as proof of the “success” of BDS.

BDS supporters lauded Oscar winning actress Natalie Portman’s decision not to attend a ceremony in Israel which awards the million dollar Genesis Prize, reportedly over “distressing” recent events in Israel. BDS supporters immediately claimed this decision as a victory for BDS, but Natalie Portman’s own words soon put paid to this contention. Portman, who was born in Jerusalem, but moved to the US at age three, stated on Instagram: “I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear to be endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony…..Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation”.[7]

This pointedly reveals another of the shortcomings of BDS. The BDS movement in practice boycotts 8.54 million Israelis, rather than the Zionist Israeli state, which is responsible for the terrible oppression of the Palestinians. Israel is only 75% Jewish, and only around 15% of these are Ultra-Orthodox. A much smaller percentage is willing to commit violence against Palestinians and Arabs. Indeed, 20% of Israelis are Arabs themselves.[8] Well over half of the population, perhaps more, are therefore not Zionists. However, it is acknowledged that Zionism – the ideology for a Jewish only state and/or homeland – does have strong influence throughout the country. It would seem axiomatic that to defeat Zionist ideology, one would necessarily have to enlist non-Zionist Israelis – the majority of the country. BDS does not have such a perspective, as it is ultimately an outgrowth of the Palestinian nationalism which has led to the current impasse.

When is nationalism progressive?

Some leftists and Marxist inspired Palestinian solidarity activists attempt to justify their backing of Palestinian nationalism by referring to Lenin’s work on the right of nations to self-determination. It is the case that Lenin and the Bolsheviks sometimes supported the “nationalism” of a small state when it was in conflict with a larger, dominating force. We would argue that the Marxist backing of the nationalism of small states goes only so far, and only under strict limits. It is only the direct content of the nationalism of a small state which is directed against imperialism, that can be supported by the working class internationally. Any step further than this, seeps over into petty-bourgeois nationalism, which then works against the prospects of its liberation. For example, the nationalism which currently defends Syria and Iran, in the immediate political context, is used against the dire encroachments of US led imperialism, with the Zionist state of Israel as an adjunct. The US/Israeli plans for Syria and Iran are clearly catastrophic regime change, and thus the nationalism of Syria and Iran in response directly counters imperialism.

Palestinian nationalism, on the other hand, generally does not work in a clear anti-imperialist direction, despite being its victim. Palestinian nationalism, in the hands of Fatah, Hamas or indeed BDS, continually seeks recognition from capitalist imperialism, instead of rousing workers against it. The nationalist Fatah and the Islamist Hamas do so more consciously, whereas the BDS movement does so less consciously. This is largely due to the fact that Fatah, Hamas and BDS seek to install their own Palestinian capitalist nation-state. The approach is one which effectively says to imperialism: “you have your capitalist state over there, we will have ours over here, and we will peacefully co-exist.”

Of course, there can be no peaceful co-existence with imperialism. One look at Libya, Syria, Russia and China today will demonstrate that the US Empire cannot even allow independence, let alone extended periods of peaceful co-existence. Finance capital must expand or die, and internationally this means unending wars for the re-division of the planet. More to the point, capitalism in Palestine will not be able to solve the dire problems affecting working people. Poverty, inequality, unemployment, underdevelopment, lack of infrastructure – which affects workers in Israel and Palestine – cannot be addressed without the overthrow of the system of production for private profit. Only socialism – the public ownership of the means of production, politically led by workers holding state power, can hope to address these urgent issues.

Anti-capitalist political action pre-supposes the linking of Palestinian and Israeli workers in common struggle. As far away as this perspective appears, common working class struggle against capitalism in the region is the only way to break the seemingly insurmountable antagonism between Palestinians and Israelis. Key to this is the forging of a Marxist vanguard party, which would seek to unite Israeli and Palestinian workers in a struggle for an Arab-Hebrew socialist state, which could be a basis for uniting workers across the Middle East and further abroad. Linking in with the defence of Iran, Syria, Russia and China against faltering but still dangerous Western imperialism, a socialist revolution in Palestine/Israel could be a focal point for desperately needed workers struggle in Europe, Japan, the US and Australia. A world of threatening imperialist war can only be ended when those who labour are in power.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

E:workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

PO Box 66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://www.deiryassin.org/mas.html  (08-05-18)

[2] https://www.mintpressnews.com/israel-reconfirms-commitment-to-treating-wounded-syrian-al-nusra-fighters/226714/ (08-05-18)

[3] https://www.jpost.com/International/Roger-Waters-slams-Syria-intervention-attacks-White-Helmets-as-fake-549894 (08-05-18)

[4] https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/live-updates-trump-to-decide-fate-of-iran-nuclear-deal-1.6070574 (09-05-18)

[5] http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/49400.htm (12-05-18)

[6] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-08/hezbollah-stronger-in-lebanon-parliament-after-elections/9737264 (12-05-18)

[7] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-portman/natalie-portman-says-to-skip-israeli-ceremony-due-to-netanyahu-speech-idUSKBN1HS05C (09-05-18)

[8] https://www.indexmundi.com/israel/demographics_profile.html (09-05-18)

70 Years of Injustice: Freedom for Palestine!

‘Change the Rules’ or Elect the Labor Party?

05-05-2018 – It is not a grand statement to make to acknowledge that wages and conditions for workers in Australia have never been at the state they are now. Outright wage theft is rampant, from small business to large scale private and public sectors. The right to strike, an elementary condition without which the line between the modern workers and slavery is blurred, is all but non-existent. Up to 40% of the workforce is not employed on a permanent basis – they are either in casual, temporary or contract arrangements. Enterprise bargaining is failing to deliver much but derisory pay “increases”, many of which are below inflation. Construction workers and their Unions face ongoing government attacks on their right to organise, with massive and crippling fines being imposed even for stopping work if there is a serious health and safety issue. The average pay gap between working men and women is being maintained, pushing many women of near retirement age into precarious housing situations. Penalty rates, a hard won gain from over a century of Union struggles, are being whittled away in industry after industry.

‘Change the Rules’ ?

One response from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is the ‘Change the Rules’ campaign. On the surface, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus appears to be a “breath of fresh air”, in contrast to previous ACTU stale officialdom. The demands and issues she highlights are urgent and need addressing, and her calls for action sound militant. But there is little or no action following the speeches to the National Press Club and the like. The overall political approach soon reveals itself. The ‘Change the Rules’ campaign is ultimately a re-elect the Australian Labor Party (ALP) campaign, being ramped up in a Federal Election year. No matter how much McManus and other top Union officials avoid directly stating it – this is an arm of ALP’s efforts to unseat the Liberal National Coalition government led by Malcolm Turnbull, and install the almost invisible “opposition” ALP leader Bill Shorten. Needless to say, an elected ALP Federal Government will barely change the dire situation for working people.

What McManus and other officials studiously avoid admitting is that the very rules that do need changing were almost entirely put in place by the ALP when it was last in government! The ‘rules’ largely referred to include the (grossly misnamed) Fair Work Act (FWA), the anti-construction Union Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), and the secondary boycott bans in sections 45D and E of the Trade Practices Act. The Fair Work Act was put in place by the Rudd and Gillard ALP governments, which also retained the ABCC and failed to even attempt to get rid of the bans on secondary boycotts – solidarity actions across workplaces. Predictably, there has been no commitment from the ALP that ANY of these anti-worker laws will be repealed, or even amended. It barely needs repeating that the ALP, no less than the Liberal Party, governs for the capitalist class, despite the occasional but fraudulent “pro-worker” lip service. It is a dangerous dead-end to go through the pretence, yet again, that the ALP will do much else other than force workers to swallow more privatisation and public spending cuts. Governing for capital, the ALP makes no apology for whole industries closing, large corporations paying no tax, high unemployment, increasing homelessness and widening inequality.

Lack of Union organisation

Prime responsibility for this situation lies with politically conservative Union officials, who, with a few exceptions, have allowed Union organisation to sink to its lowest ebb. From Sally McManus down, these are the very same careerists who are now claiming that the rules are stacked against them! In a recent speech to the National Press Club, McManus rightly points out that wage theft is continuing across many industries, from celebrity chef restaurants, to 7-11 convenience stores, to Caltex, to Woolworths and more. She then states that wage theft has become a business model but the laws have been too weak to stop them.[1] To put it bluntly, this puts the cart before the horse.  Official industrial relations laws, like wages themselves, come about as a result of the balance of class forces. As long as conservative Union officials fail to organise and mobilise workers to defend their rights on the ground, a thousand laws can be written that benefit employers. Or, more than likely, the absence of Union led struggle emboldens employers – leading them to conclude that there is nothing that can stop them disregarding the remnants of the laws that are on the books. Wage theft – the underpayment of wages to the tune of thousands, or millions of dollars – is one direct result.

Well-heeled Union officials are now comparing the situation for casual labour in Australia to the United Kingdom (UK). In the UK, employees can apply for the benefits of permanent employment (sick leave, annual leave etc) after a period of only three months. Whereas in Australia, there is currently no limit to the amount of time workers can remain on casual or temporary arrangements. In some areas of the public sector, this time limit has been set at two years – but even this is difficult to enforce. Two million workers, or around 40% of the workforce, remain in casual or temporary work.[2] This is a huge proportion. Casual and insecure work has a drastic effect on workers, who cannot begin to plan their lives. But much more than this is the effect it has in the workplace itself. Casual workers can barely question their employer on any issue, such as health and safety, pay and conditions, or anything much at all – as they can be replaced at a moment’s notice. From the employers’ point of view, casual work is the perfect anti-Union measure. This casualisation has been ongoing for more than two decades, yet many Union officials have turned a blind eye, leaving workers to suffer the consequences.

The right to withdraw your labour – without which little there is little differentiation from slavery – is all but illegal in Australia. Under current industrial law, striking is only permitted during an enterprise bargaining period, and even then it is subjected to severe conditions, such as the balloting of members and sufficient notice being given to the employer. And even then, a strike can be ruled illegal, and workers can be ordered back to work, if the action is deemed likely to cause “significant damage” to a part of the economy. In January this year, Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) members were ordered by the Orwellian named Fair Work Commission to abandon a 24 hour strike, as well as planned bans on overtime.[3] This was after train drivers were regularly being forced to work 13 out of 14 days in a row, and being directly rostered to do overtime without their consent. The response of the RTBU officials was to accept the decision of the “independent umpire” !! That was a precise opportunity for the officials to defy the alleged “umpire”, go through with the strike, and call on other Unions and all workers for support.

The only response from the ACTU was that this was a demonstration that the rules are broken, and the rules have to be changed. Yet the only way the “rules” are going to be re-written is by Union led industrial action to challenge the legitimacy of the laws – the laws have to be openly defied, and the state must be challenged to see what they will do in response. “Bad laws have to be broken” – this was the message originally put forward by McManus – but it has scarcely been followed with any action. And only now, with a Federal Election in the offing, does a “Change the Rules” campaign – complete with fancy logo – appear. The blurb of the “Change the Rules” campaign gives the game away – it calls for a government to back working people, not big business. This is code for a return of the Labor Party to federal government.

Capital in Crisis

The ongoing wage theft, the theft of penalty rates, outlawing strike action, lowest wages in history: all of these are a result of the direct crisis that the private profit system is undergoing specifically in Australia, Europe, the United States and Japan. Stagnating economic growth and extremely low rate of return on investment means that investment simply doesn’t happen. The more difficult the conditions for private capital to operate, the more it demands the capitalist state funnel more public funds towards it. In Australia, Liberal and Labor governments oblige, in the form of relentless cuts to government spending, as well as the privatisation of healthcare, education, aged care, public transport, legal aid, the provision of welfare services and any other area where it can politically get away with it. The floundering profit system, especially since the financial crisis of 2008, is the real reason that the “rules” have been changed to give employers unparalleled advantage. Calling for a change of the rules without challenging the political rule of big capital dooms working people to continually beg for things they themselves could achieve.

The threat of war

It should be noted that the fragile and desperate crisis of the profitability of Western capital has its reflection in the reckless and criminally dangerous wars that Canberra flings itself into, which threaten the world with nuclear holocaust. Canberra, Washington, Paris and London recently brought the world to the brink of nuclear war with Russia over a blatantly staged and fake chemical weapons incident in Syria. This followed the blaming of Russia, without a shred of evidence, for the alleged poisoning of a retired double agent in London. The Liberal and Labor parties do not hesitate to ramp up deliberate provocations against the People’s Republic of China, with both gunning for extremely risky provocations with the Australian and US militaries in the South China Sea. After the US came close to a nuclear strike on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or “North Korea”) last year, the Australian government will now reportedly send military aircraft to “monitor” the DPRK’s adherence to punitive sanctions.[4] Both Liberal and Labor parties have not hesitated to back the actions of NATO, constantly mobilising troops right throughout Eastern Europe. Whether it is Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran, China, Russia, the DPRK, the Ukraine or elsewhere, the Australian ruling class risks world war through its war alliance with Washington.

These are directly Union issues, but conservative Union officials have their careers guaranteed by the profit system – if they can contain and restrict the insurgent workers within certain boundaries. This means they are tied to the foreign policy of the “Australian” corporate magnates. Their silence on potential nuclear war is the flip side of their plaintive pleas to “change the rules” with regard to industrial law within Australian shores. Economic crisis in the West can ultimately only be solved by them through recourse to imperialist war, which is one reason Canberra pushes so hard for it. Workers must therefore oppose the entire political outlook of the Australian corporate elite, from working rights on the job, right through to its reckless threat to human civilisation through unthinkable war.

This pre-supposes a struggle for a pro-working class leadership of the Unions. The need is urgent for rank and file committees of workers within the Unions, which exclude the well-paid organisers and officials. Within these committees, leftists need to push an explicitly anti-capitalist line. Marxists need to push for socialist measures within these groups, directly bringing working class politics into the Unions on all issues facing working people – from the threat of catastrophic climate change to the need to oppose imperialism’s drive to World War III. This will entail a bitter but necessary struggle against the Laborite Union leaders, and a whole host of Union organisers and staff who shepherd their own careers. Working people are suffering, and we cannot wait until the day sell-out Union officials decide to seriously organise the working class. For this is a day that will never come.

A pro-worker and class struggle leadership of the Unions would strive to organise workers around demands for a six-hour day, or a 30 hour week. This would address the huge issue of high unemployment, as well as the threat to jobs through automation. Such a demand could seriously galvanise a Union movement in dire need of rejuvenation, after decades of decline. Legions of the unemployed could be mobilised to help the Unions achieve this, which could strongly increase the fighting spirit of working people, and giving impetus towards a drive for a living wage for all of those relying on welfare, such as students and pensioners. This could then spur demands for full public funding of healthcare, education and public transport and other services which have endured savage cuts.

The struggle for a pro-worker leadership of the Unions is necessarily bound up with the struggle to forge a Leninist vanguard party. There are a whole host of left parties who recognise the dire limitations of the conservative Union bureaucrats, and the obstacle of the Labor Party directly on many Union officials, but fear to break politically from them. Some grumble about the lack of action, while others excuse the right-wing politics which accompanies the huge salaries of some officials, which are sometimes double or triple the wages of the workers they are supposed to represent. Rather, what is required is a workers’ party which fights for a workers’ government. Only with workers in power will the numberless crimes of capitalism be able to be curtailed. Then the workers will not only ‘change the rules’, but write them.

 

WORKERS  LEAGUE

 

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO Box 66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://www.actu.org.au/media/1033746/180320-national-press-club-speech-sally-mcmanus-march-21-2018.pdf (05-05-18)

[2] https://www.australianunions.org.au/casual_workers_factsheet (05-05-18)

[3] https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/fair-work-commission-orders-nsw-rail-workers-to-abandon-24hour-strike-20180125-h0o1s1.html (06-05-18)

[4] https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/australianz/australia-to-send-military-aircraft-to-monitor-north-korean-ships (06-05-18)

No to World Nuclear War! US/UK/FRA: Hands Off Syria!

14-04-2018 – There is no longer any pretence, if there ever was. After failing for seven years to bring down the Syrian Arab Republic by arming and funding barbaric mercenaries and letting them loose inside Syria, the governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France are now openly using their respective state military forces to attempt to salvage what has been, for them, a lost war. The US President Donald Trump announced air strikes have reportedly already been largely shot down by Syrian Arab Army air defences, though some appear to have hit the capital Damascus.

This comes after weeks of openly provocative, and barely comprehensible, actions by London, Paris and Washington. The alleged poisoning of a former Russian double agent in London was blamed on the Russian government without a shred of proof being put forward, and no confirmation of the current whereabouts of Sergei and Yulia Skripal being offered. Their false case, a blatant and dangerous war provocation, collapsed for lack of evidence.[1] Directly linked, now an even more obviously false flag chemical weapons “attack” in the town of Douma in Syria has been blamed on the Syrian government and their ally Russia. Russian military general staff have stated that these fake attacks have been carried out by the White Helmets, who are notorious for aiding and assisting terrorist groups in Syria.[2] The “White Helmets” are Al Qaeda linked, and, like ISIS and all other terrorist groups operating in Syria, are funded by Western governments, especially the UK. The French government, alongside the US and Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and others, have acted to support these terrorist forces, in their vain attempts to overthrow Syria, as a stepping stone to wars on Iran, and ultimately Russia.

Reports say that the White Helmets had been pressured by the Western governments for some months to stage yet another false flag chemical weapons attack, in order to enable another turn in the US/Israeli led war on Syria. A sign that the false flag “poisoning” of the Skripals in London was linked to the false flag chemical weapons stunt in Douma, are indications that British Special Forces have been captured in Douma by Syrian and Russian troops – a claim the UK government denies.[3] What credibility the UK government would have after publicly accusing the Russian government of espionage on UK soil without any putative proof, and after refusing repeatedly to display what evidence they had, is anyone’s guess.

Canberra, as always, has played the part of loyal lieutenant to Washington and London, expelling some Russian diplomatic staff, following the lead from other NATO countries. These extremely dangerous games constantly bring the world to the brink of full scale nuclear war. It is less than 12 months since US President Donald Trump almost triggered nuclear war against the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – “North Korea”). This was foiled by heroic resistance yet again from the DPRK, and also desperate moves by Republic of Korea (South Korea) President Moon Jae-In, culminating in a relatively friendly Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Rebuffed there, the imperialist powers revert to another of their war fronts.

Working people of the world must be clear – the threat of nuclear war remains, and the threat is only emanating from imperialism – the ruling classes of the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia and their allies. Standing in the way of Western imperialism unleashing a nuclear war which could terminate human life on planet Earth, are the non-imperialist powers and their allies – Russia, China, Syria, Iran, the DPRK and so on. While workers can and should retain their own political critiques of the governments of the non-imperialist bloc, they must stand with this bloc against NATO-led imperialism in the interests of preserving the chance for future generations to live and prosper. This is scarcely an exaggeration.

Workers internationally, and especially Australia, must also be aware that the prospect of imperialist launched global nuclear war against Russia and China are not only an expression of systemic meltdown, but a direct link to it. The capitalist private profit system tanked in 2008, and has barely recovered. Poverty, unemployment and homelessness are rapidly increasing. There are ongoing funding cuts to education and health care. Aged care has been privatised, along with child care, making both prohibitively expensive. Those who remain in work currently endure the lowest wages, in terms of purchasing power, in Australian history. They are often pushed to the limit of human endurance, through undoable workloads, compromising elementary health and safety.

Working people should also note that not one Australian Union official has spoken out against these war threats, giving the game away as to exactly whose foreign policy they actually serve. Conservative Union officials have been followed by almost every ostensible left party, which in one way or another have fallen in behind the imperialist wars on Libya and Syria. Some have lined up with “their own” ruling class by falling silent in the face of barely concealed threats of war against China and Russia.

There is a crying need for political leadership in these dark and foreboding times. There are handfuls of activists who have been actively opposing the war threats against Syria, Russia, China and the DPRK, but they must be joined by a serious anti-war movement. Yet it must be an anti-imperialist anti-war movement, one which must squarely take aim at the source of the threats of war – Washington, London, Paris, Canberra. It needs to be joined by a workers movement released from the stifling conservatism of its leaders, restraining workers from defending themselves against unscrupulous employers and war-mongering politicians alike. Bound up with this task is the formation of a Marxist vanguard – a workers party which fights for a workers government. Imperialist war against Syria, or anyone else, will be impossibility with workers in power. NO WAR ON SYRIA!

WORKERS  LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO  Box  66   NUNDAH  QLD   4012

 

[1] http://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/03/no-patients-have-experienced-symptoms-of-nerve-agent-poisoning-in-salisbury.html (14-04-2018)

[2] http://tass.com/defense/999108 (14-04-2018)

[3] https://www.activistpost.com/2018/04/reports-claim-syria-russia-capture-british-troops-in-douma-uk-govt-denies.html (14-04-2018)

The aftermath of an Israeli air strike on the Mezzeh air base near Damascus in Syria. Image from Press TV

 

No to World Nuclear War! US/UK/FRA: Hands Off Syria!

No Boycott of the World Cup!  Hands Off Russia!

27-03-2018 – Once again, the world teeters on the brink of nuclear war. The trigger for this situation is barely believable. Western governments, without a shred of evidence, are blaming Russia for the alleged poisoning of a double agent in the United Kingdom several weeks ago. The governments of the UK, France, Germany and the United States of America, without any proof being provided, jointly found Russia “guilty”. The lies behind this obvious falsehood are brazen, and they are lies told by London, Washington, Paris and Berlin with utter contempt for human life, and the future of human civilisation on planet Earth. The word irrational barely describes the actions of the world’s pre-eminent imperialist powers.  Now Canberra has joined this transparent and limitlessly reactionary crusade, by expelling two Russian diplomats,[1] and has hinted at a possible boycott by the Australian Socceroos of the World Cup. Although Foreign Minister Julie Bishop appears to have backed away from a full boycott, “further options” are apparently still being considered.[2]

Ironically, Australia narrowly qualified for the football World Cup by only just squeezing past Syria. If Syria had defeated Australia and qualified, arguably poetic justice would have been served. The Australian government joined with the governments of the US, Saudi Arabia, the UK, France, Israel and others in a vicious attempt to overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic using their own military in support of the ultra-barbaric ISIS and Al Qaeda mercenaries, whom they also sustained with their own funds. Thankfully, this atrocious attempt at regime change in Syria was thwarted by the heroic resistance of the Syrian armed forces, who were aided by military support from Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and some Palestinian militias. Primarily it was Russian military power which turned the tide. Invited into Syria by the Syrian government, superior Russian air power almost single-handedly destroyed ISIS, and effectively defeated what US, British and French imperialism assumed would be a fait accompli.

Smarting from being defeated on the battlefield, the UK cooked up an obviously fabricated incident which could be blamed on Russia directly in the lead up to the Russian Presidential Elections. No recent photos of Sergei Skripal have been produced, no statement of where he is now, no indication of what hospital he may be in – nothing. The immediacy with which the Western powers said “Russia did it” – before any investigation could even be started – gives the game away. It was a crude attempt to de-legitimise the Russian presidential elections, which Vladimir Putin was always going to win, and win easily. It was also an attempt to undermine the prestige Russia will gain by hosting the World Cup later in June – the world’s largest sporting event. In the end, the blatant lies and baseless allegations hurled towards Russia probably resulted in an increased vote for Putin!  As it turned out, Putin received over 76% of those votes which were cast.[3] It barely needs repeating that no Western politician – in an era where capitalism is in universal political and economic crisis – could conceive of anything even approaching 70% support. This is one more reason for the impetuous acts of the West.

Hysterical Russophobia

Western corporate media, playing the mouthpiece role of the depraved governments they serve, are once again stoking hysterical Russophobia, on a level which defies description. Without any probative evidence, they have blamed Russia for invading Ukraine, shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, “annexing Crimea”, bombing civilians in Syria, meddling in the 2016 US Presidential Election, delivering mass cyber virus attacks, doping their Olympic athletes and much more. When the Western governments are asked to provide the proof they have for these wild allegations, they invariably reply that it cannot be released for national security reasons. In the case of the alleged poisoning of the double agent Sergei Skripal, they have refused point blank, several times, to provide samples of the nerve agent allegedly found – a basic requirement of chemical weapons conventions. The fact that leading British politicians have yet to follow the most basic due legal process which arguably underpins Western civilisation – that one is innocent until proven guilty – exposes their entire system as having reached an impasse. Apart from being ugly and unsightly, it is yet another marker of the irreversible decline of the era of “liberal democracy”.

Liberal democracy was always capitalism, and it is capitalism which is seeking a way out of its long slump. It is prepared to risk world nuclear war rather than agree to coexist with other nations. Yet as throughout history, force alone is not enough to wage fratricidal war. Especially in modern times, where the majority of the population have access to instant news, intensive and pervasive propaganda is needed – as is the crushing of any dissenting views. In addition, the imperialist powers (the UK, France, the US, Germany, et al) cannot wage war in 2018 without dramatic racism, alongside a relentless demonisation and dehumanisation of the “enemy” – which is supposed to be Russia. This is the real purpose of Russophobia – the preparation of the world’s working people for the horrors of war. This is so that working people will either support, or at least not oppose, unspeakable crimes against the human ethos.

A climate is created in which anything Russian becomes suspect, in which any questioning of the anti-Russian narrative becomes treason. Mass hysteria is conjured into existence, where critical thinking often is simply bypassed. As one rightfully concerned commentator noted, the current political atmosphere that prevails in the West traces the course of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. The ideology and the targets differ, but the trajectory is exactly the same.[4] The lack of opposition to government lies, perhaps out of fear, but more due to an almost complete absence of working class leadership, enables the accrual of the forces of darkness. This was how Germany, with all its thousands of years of culture, with its towering intelligentsia and prodigious achievements in science, engineering and the arts, under similar conditions, fell under the control of fascism, with barely a scuffle in the street. The world is in danger, and the alarm must sound.

Hypersonic Weapons

On March 1, President Vladimir Putin addressed the Russian Federal Assembly and unveiled some of the achievements of Russian military technology in the ballistic missile sphere. Russia now has hypersonic missiles, which makes most US anti-ballistic missile defence essentially useless. Russia’s Zircon anti-shipping missile, already in use, is more or less uninterceptable – not even the US navy could really defend itself. But now, the Kinzhal (Dagger) missile exceeds it. With a range of 2000 kilometres, the Kinzhal effectively makes any surface naval fleet of destroyers obsolete. Russian ballistic missile technology, which is now capable of practically unlimited range, and launching missiles with 20 warheads each travelling at around 20 times the speed of sound, is a reality. It is a game changer – it will likely take decades before the US or any Western government has a chance of matching it. Some frightened Western commentators have claimed that this means that Russia now has military parity with the West, but this is false. Russian military technology is now several planes ahead of the West, and it will likely take the West decades to catch up.[5]

Putin was also clear on the reasons why Russia has undertaken the development of these frightening weapons. In 2002, the US government, under the George W Bush administration, unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and never again engaged with the Russians on this topic. This was despite Russia making repeated attempts to warn the US government of its entirely legitimate concerns over US missile “defence” installations in Europe and elsewhere. For sixteen years under Bush and Obama, the US has relentlessly provoked Russia by expanding NATO, backing Georgia in a war in 2008, aiding a fascist-backed Nazi coup in Ukraine and almost destroying Syria. In response, Russia has had little option but to develop an effective deterrent. It mirrors the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or “North Korea”), where the DPRK had no option but to develop nuclear weapons after being labelled part of the “Axis of Evil” by George W Bush in 2003. In both cases the US elite are now reaping what they have sown.

Left parties fold under the wave of Russophobia

No leftist makes any claim that the Russian government is aiming to once again lead the world’s workers in a struggle for international socialism. However, insofar as the Russian government defends itself against precipitous US/NATO provocations, Russia must be defended in the name of human survival. In reality, Russia’s nuclear and hypersonic weapons – developed due to the hostile aggression of US imperialism and their vassal states – are currently a guarantor against a nuclear holocaust. This does not mean at all that this situation will remain in place. The dire economic situation of the profit and private property system in the West ultimately means that war is its only way out. The US ruling class attempted this in Syria for seven years, but were ultimately blocked by Russia’s military power. As we go to press, the Syrian Arab Army has liberated all of Eastern Ghouta, which had been held hostage by Western and Saudi armed and funded death squads since 2011.[6]

Reeling from this defeat, the wounded beast of the US Empire screeches and attempts to lash out at the force which comprehensively out-manoeuvred it in Syria. Wave after wave of Russophobia bombards workers around the world, often with comical and pathetic attempts to prove Russian malfeasance. Russophobia contains a toxic mix of racism and anti-communism despite the restoration of capitalism in Russia over 25 years ago. Unfortunately, many Australian left parties fall prey to the sheer intensity of imperialist propaganda, even if they can see through it on other issues. Socialist Alternative are perhaps the most stridently anti-Russian, explicitly stating that “old” anti-imperialism targeting only the West is no longer adequate. Their moral equivalence between the US and Russia in practice means targeting only Russia, while letting the US off the hook.[7] Solidarity are even less restrained in their fanciful claims of Russian “imperialism”.[8] The Socialist Alliance rallies behind “anti-corruption” candidate Alexei Navalny,[9] while remaining blind to Navalny’s own documented record of convictions for corruption, opposition to government funding for poorer regions of Russia, and using direct funding from the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to establish his ironically named “Democratic Alternative”.[10] The Trotskyist Platform’s pathological hatred of Russia leads it to vilify anyone or any group which defends Russia from immensely dangerous imperialist provocations, for alleged acquiescence of “fascism”.[11] All of these left parties therefore make the error of stunting opposition to NATO.

While it is the case that the Communist Party of Australia (CPA)[12], the Socialist Equality Party[13] and the Spartacist League[14] have a position of opposing war provocations against Russia on paper, their chronic abstention from political activity effectively renders their words a dead letter. Predictably, there has not been one Union official who has uttered a word of dissent against a pack of lies on a par or even greater than the infamous “weapons of mass destruction” fabrications which led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The conservative Union bureaucracy works ceaselessly to shepherd workers behind the foreign policy of Australia’s ruling elite, who willingly play an auxiliary role to the US Empire.

No War on Russia!

There is some opposition to the war drive against Russia, which has been active with consistent opposition to the regime change wars in Libya and Syria. Groups such as Hands Off Syria, anti-imperialist individuals involved in DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) solidarity work, dissident CPA members and genuine anti-war activists have been a lone voice in a sea of political paralysis. These courageous individuals largely remain scattered throughout the country, and need to be joined by a working class led mass anti-war movement. This is a political as well as a practical struggle, which could best be assisted by the formation of a serious workers’ revolutionary party. Marxism’s basic precept is that humanity marches forward, or falls backwards, in direct proportion to the state of the leadership, organisation, and politicisation of the working class in line with its own interests. For humanity to survive in this period, workers of the world need to unite to prevent nuclear war. HANDS OFF RUSSIA!

WORKERS   LEAGUE

E:workersleague@redfireonline.com
www.redfireonline.com

PO  Box  66
NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-27/russian-ambassador-says-diplomats-being-expelled-are-not-spies/9593800 (27-03-18)

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-27/socceroos-world-cup-participation-in-doubt-russia-stoush/9592344 (27-03-18)

[3] https://sputniknews.com/russia/201803181062667521-presidential-elections-2018-preliminary-results/ (27-03-18)

[4] https://thesaker.is/what-happened-to-the-west-i-was-born-in/ (28-03-18)

[5] http://www.unz.com/article/the-implications-of-russias-new-weapons/ (30-03-18)

[6] https://www.rt.com/news/422867-syria-ghouta-cities-liberated/ (01-04-18)

[7] https://redflag.org.au/node/5559 (01-04-18)

[8] http://www.solidarity.net.au/imperialism/imperialist-rivalry-and-putins-russia/ (01-04-18)

[9] http://www.links.org.au/putin-russia-elections-left (01-04-18)

[10] https://www.liberationnews.org/alexei-navalny-agent-of-big-money/ (01-04-18)

[11] http://www.trotskyistplatform.com/defend-syria-against-u-s-australian-imperialism-and-their-proxies-australias-left-in-multi-sided-disarray-over-syria-issue/ (01-04-18)

[12] http://www.cpa.org.au/guardian/2018/1816/11-stoking.html (02-04-18)

[13] http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/03/28/pers-m28.html (02-04-18)

[14] http://www.icl-fi.org/english/asp/223/crimea.html (02-04-18)

Map showing the location of venues for the 2018 World Cup, hosted by Russia. Image from Sky Sports

No Boycott of the World Cup! Hands Off Russia!

Hands Off Russia! No to Nuclear War

18-03-2018 – Lies, lies and more lies. Lies which could ignite a world war. It is a cliché that truth is the first casualty of war, but the lies spewing forth from the governments of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France and Germany over the circumstances of the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia go beyond the standard lies we come to expect from Western politicians. These lies test the rational discourse necessary to operate a society on a basis which is even half civil. Capitalism has long since ceased to be civil, if it ever was. And now it pushes humanity towards the brink of the unthinkable – a mutually destructive nuclear holocaust. The prime movers towards this unthinkable are none other than the ruling classes of the supposedly “advanced” West. Russia is but the scapegoat.

Gulf of Tonkin like incident

Former UK parliamentarian for the Labour and Respect parties George Galloway has poignantly stated that the response by the Western governments to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English town of Salisbury is eerily reminiscent of the lead-up to the unforgivable US/UK/AUST invasion of Iraq in 2003. Then, partially on the basis of a UK government “dodgy dossier” which claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which were able to be deployed within 45 minutes, the US and its Western allies carried out an unprovoked invasion, slaughtering up to 1 million innocent Iraqis. He also stated that the blaming of Russia for the poisoning of Skripal will go down in history as one of the great hoaxes, a “Gulf of Tonkin” incident.[1] The Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred in 1964, where the US destroyer USS Maddox exchanged shots with North Vietnamese torpedo boats. Two days later, the US government claimed the Maddox came under fire again. Although most historians now agree this second attack never happened, the pretext was set, and within 12 months 180 000 US troops were on the ground in Vietnam. The war dragged on for years, and slaughtered 3 million Vietnamese and changed 20th century history. This time, the West’s target is not a small country in Asia, but the world’s largest country by landmass – Russia.

As usual, the Australian government has already given an assurance that it will back the provocateurs, as it has done in every real and potential imperialist war for decades. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has stated that “there is no other plausible explanation” that the Russian government ordered the attack, or allowed others to use its chemical agent stockpiles for the attack.[2] Predictably, Bishop stated that the Australian government would back moves by the UK to send weapons inspectors to Russia. That is, in the same manner as in the lead up to the Iraq war in 2003, the West proposes to send chemical weapons inspectors into Russia, when not a shred of evidence to support their wild allegations has been put forward. Arguably 90% of the world’s population strongly opposed the US led war on Iraq in 2003, because they did not believe attempted government justifications for war. Where is world opinion now?

Mother of all distractions

As others have noted, Sergei Skripal was a double agent, and thus had a lot of enemies. He was tried and convicted of handing over the names of 300 Russian agents to foreign powers, and sentenced to 13 years in prison.[3] In 2010, he was able to escape to the UK as part of a spy swap deal. Given the relatively light sentence for treason that Russian courts handed him in 2004, the Russian government seemingly did not recognise him as a major threat. Russia has consistently denied any involvement in the poisoning of Skripal, and has repeatedly asked for samples of the alleged nerve agent used, as provided for in the conventions of the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The British government refused these requests by Russia point blank, while issuing absurd ultimatums to Russia. The discourse from the UK government and its assistant corporate media is childish and pathetic, but there is some basis for their warped behaviour.

The UK, and the imperialist West generally, needed a distraction from the upcoming Russian presidential elections. In these elections, it is almost assured that President Vladimir Putin will win, and win hands down, especially considering his approval rating hovers around the 80% mark. This astronomically high figure can be largely attributed to the fact that Putin and his backers pulled Russia back from the brink of complete social, economic and political catastrophe which followed the capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union in 1991-2. During the 1990s, Russian life expectancy plummeted, leading to Russia’s population shrinking. Economic output more than halved. Alcoholism skyrocketed, as despair set in. From around 1999, Russia with Putin at the helm, started to claw back some of the state owned enterprises which had been privatised during the 90s. Ironically, Putin’s government, despite remaining capitalist, used nationalisation and not privatisation to re-boot the Russian economy. In the process, Putin had to take on and defeat some of Russia’s known oligarchs who had grown rich on the basis of massive and almost unfettered corruption – such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky.[4]

The concept of a Russian leader being overwhelmingly popular, and being endorsed heartily by its citizens, is simply too much for the West to bear. Add to this the fact that the soccer World Cup will in a few months be held in Russia, which will inevitably add at least some prestige to the Russian government on the world stage – and you have a scenario which is tailor made for a Western manufactured “false flag,” of which there have been many over the last several years. Western politicians are arguably universally loathed by working people themselves, due to decades of government funding cuts, austerity, joblessness, homelessness and relentless attacks on living standards. While working people internationally cannot completely endorse the domestic or international politics of the Russian government, working people do have an interest in defending Russia against hysterical attacks from the ruling classes of “their own” countries. In defending itself against the dangerously provocative actions of NATO and Western imperialism, the Russian government takes measures which safeguard the international working class – if only temporarily.

Western defeat in Syria

As the Western governments make lamentable attempts to blame Russia for everything, while presenting no proof, the final stages of the liberation of Syria from the hordes of Western armed ISIS and Al Qaeda mercenaries is taking place. In days past, the Syrian Arab Army announced it had retaken 70% of the areas controlled by terrorist groups in Eastern Ghouta.[5] This follows years of occupation by US/UK armed barbarians holding Syrian civilians hostage, starving them, and shooting at them if they tried to escape. Russia was key to the defeat of the US and the UK in Syria (which was backed by Canberra), which created, funded and trained unhinged cutthroats in an effort to effect regime change. If the West had have succeeded in overthrowing the Syrian Arab Republic, Iran would almost certainly be next on the list, likely followed by Russia itself. In defending itself against this barely concealed aggression, Russia performed a service for humanity which is barely recognised. This is similar to the virtual non-recognition of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi led fascism in the Second World War.

Russia almost single-handedly destroyed the West’s creation – ISIS. The practice of Wall Street employing a barbarian proxy army, who could carry out regime change while the US, UK, French and Australian governments claimed “plausible deniability” was derailed by Russia, in a masterful act of military and political brokering. Russia checkmated the West by taking on all terrorists active in Syria, and inviting the West to help them do so. The West could not join such a campaign – exposing them as the ultimate sponsors. In response the West attempts to whip up a pathological hatred of Russia, which arguably eclipses standard Russophobia. The government of the West are creating an atmosphere of thinly veiled racism against Russians, and an almost unbound dehumanisation of Russians, not just the Russian government or its leader – although there is plenty of that. The dehumanisation of an entire people is meant to sanitise the most horrific depredations against them – including the destruction of millions of innocents through nuclear war. The worlds’ working people must be alert to what is occurring.

Consistently evidence free narrative

The US Empire, backed by its allies in London, Paris, Berlin and Canberra cannot act using force alone. Heavy and sustained propaganda must be used to fool the working people internationally, lest they take political action to force an end to insane war provocations. On every issue where the West has attempted to point the finger of blame squarely at Russia, at the Russian government, and at Putin himself, there has consistently been a distinct lack of any probative proof.

The Russian government was blamed for shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 – with no proof. The Russian government was blamed for invading and “annexing” Crimea – with no proof. The Russian government was blamed for meddling in the 2016 US Presidential election – with no proof. The Russian government was blamed for invading Ukraine – with no proof. The Russian government was blamed for a state sponsored doping program of its Olympic athletes – with no proof. And on and on it goes. The West and their allies don’t need proof – this is not the way the New McCarthyism works. All that is needed is smear and innuendo, baseless allegations from the “authorities” with no substantial evidence. The relentless repetition of what is essentially slander is rained down upon working people in the West. It is assisted by liberals, bought and paid for academics, principle free journalists, conservative Trade Union bureaucracies and some left parties. Genuine anti-war activists are thus faced with an enormous task.

Russian “imperialism”

Unfortunately, some left parties buy into the plainly absurd theory that Russia today is “imperialist”. Such claims are laughable, but it allows them to tail after NATO and the US into war after war, even while they claim they are anti-war. For one thing, Russia today is halting imperialist wars, rather than prosecuting them. Arguably Russia should have intervened in some way to block NATO’s obliteration of Green Libya. But since then, Russia drew a line in the sand in Syria, and skilfully brought the imperialist war machine to a screeching halt. If Russia actually was imperialist, it would not be tactically blocking the advance of NATO, it would be joining in its abominable wars. It has not done this, and neither did it sponsor even one terrorist sent into Syria, in stark contrast to the governments of the US, UK and France. Ironically, the governments of the US, France and Germany have now joined the UK in holding Russia responsible for an alleged murder plot (of the Skripals) on British soil. This very act rebuffs those left parties claiming Russian “imperialism”, and demonstrates precisely just who the imperialists are.

The debate on Russian “imperialism”, such that there is one, requires a separate study. Suffice to say that Russia – a middle ranking capitalist economy at best – cannot be imperialist even if that was the desire of its rulers. An imperialist economy is one totally dominated by finance or bank capital – which necessitates an expansionary foreign policy – either through economic subordination or through outright war. But the only thing which is expanding in relation to Russia is NATO. NATO’s relentless expansion to the East, taking in countries of the former Soviet bloc, in violation of express affirmations that it would not do so, mean that Russia must take more countermeasures.[6] These countermeasures are then painted as “Russian aggression”. One look at a map of Europe will show NATO countries which now include Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey – all lie on the border with, or in the immediate vicinity of, Russia. Russian encirclement by NATO countries strongly suggest that Russia is a target of the imperialists – rather than being one itself.

As if to further underscore the case, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently announced that US, British and French Special Forces are on the ground in Syria, and their governments no longer deny it.[7] That is, military forces of the West who were not at any stage invited into Syria, as Russia was. Syria remains a flashpoint for a potential reckless mistake which could spark a world war. Working people internationally need to stand foursquare in the defence of Russia should such a conflict break out. At the same time, workers need to understand that the threat of war will remain as long as the real imperialism, led by Washington, exists. All efforts must go not only into ending the threat of war, but of ending the profit system which creates these threats in the first place. HANDS OFF RUSSIA!

WORKERS LEAGUE

Sergei Skripal (behind bars) and his daughter Yulia. http://www.abc.net.au

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO Box 66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201803141062501430-skripal-poisoning-responsibility-mystery-investigation/ (18-03-2018)

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-18/australia-meets-with-russia-over-ex-spy-poisoning/9560102 (18-03-2018)

[3] https://meduza.io/en/feature/2018/03/06/a-hundred-grand-and-hundreds-of-betrayed-agents (18-03-2018)

[4] https://qz.com/161135/how-russias-once-richest-man-hid-his-last-170-million-from-vladimir-putin/ (18-03-2018)

[5] https://sana.sy/en/?p=130716 (18-03-2018)

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/putin-says-russia-planning-countermeasuresto-nato-expansion/2016/11/21/83f5673c-afe1-11e6-ab37-1b3940a0d30a_story.html?utm_term=.caab842cc6e3 (18-03-2018)

[7] https://www.rt.com/news/421582-lavrov-foreign-special-forces-syria/ (18-03-2018)

Hands Off Russia! No to Nuclear War

Free Ahed Tamimi! For Palestinian Liberation!

Cartoon depicting Ahed Tamimi over an Israeli Defence Force soldier. Image from http://www.islam21c.com

09-03-2018 – The video footage went viral. A young 16 year old Palestinian woman, Ahed Tamimi, slapping an Israeli soldier as they were invading her family home. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) was yet again attempting to terrorise all Palestinians into submitting to the gross injustice of the Israeli state occupation. Ahed Tamimi and her family live in the village of Nabi Salih in the occupied West Bank. Some reports claim that the slapping incident took place just an hour after Ahed learned that her cousin, Mohammed Tamimi, had been shot in the head by the IDF.[1] Her cousin is just one of the many teenagers who take part in regular protests against the Israeli occupation forces, who frequently invade and threaten any Palestinian who resists, and many who do not. Shootings, being thrown in arbitrary detention to be faced by a military (not civilian) court, checkpoints, physical and verbal harassment and much worse are a daily experience for Palestinians under occupation. These collective crimes, and much worse, against the Palestinian people have continued almost without a pause since 1948, when the state of Israel was established on the forcible expulsion of the Arabic people of the region.

Needless to say, no damage was caused to the slapped soldier, save perhaps some pride. The real impact that Ahed’s actions had were that, despite the massive imbalance of power, the occupying Israeli armed forces were shown to be humiliated by an unarmed young Palestinian woman. The power of world public opinion turned sharply against the Zionist Israeli state yet again. The result was that the Israeli state charged Ahed herself, on ridiculous grounds such as “assault” (of a heavily armed soldier) and now faces arbitrary detention like many other Palestinian children and young people. One estimate has it that 375 Palestinians between the ages of 12 and 17 were under Israeli military detention in 2016, often for the charge of stone throwing.[2]  That children risk their lives daily in an attempt to somehow ward off the fourth strongest military in the world is testimony to incredible bravery the Palestinians constantly display.

US wars of regime change

Ahed Tamimi’s brave actions followed soon after US President Donald Trump’s announcement last December that Jerusalem will be recognised as the capital of Israel – or at least by his administration. This has actually been US government policy for decades, including under the previous Obama administration, but President Trump has only been the first to state it openly. As reactionary as Donald Trump’s actions are towards Palestine, he has been an inconsistent applicant of usual US designs. Trump campaigned on withdrawing the US from the war of regime change on Syria before becoming President. After being elected, he backflipped on this as much as on any issue. Nevertheless, Trump’s lack of total support for regime change in Syria dovetailed with the heroic defence of the Syrian Arab Army, backed by the military power of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. The result was that US imperialism and their allies suffered an ignominious defeat in Syria, even if the war is still smouldering.

Given that the Zionist Israeli state was one of the principal allies of the US in sustaining its catastrophic war on Syria, one would assume that Palestinians themselves and their international supporters would be the strongest opponents of the violent overthrow of a direct neighbour of Palestine by Saudi Arabian armed ISIS and Al Qaeda barbarians. Wouldn’t these perpetrators of unspeakable atrocities – some of whom were injured and then treated for free in Israeli hospitals[3] – turn their guns, or their beheading swords, against Palestine after Syria? Wouldn’t the Western Palestinian solidarity movement – if they truly opposed the Israeli state – vehemently protest Israeli air strikes in support of ISIS, and repeated Israeli air strikes on Syria?[4] Unfortunately, if one assumed this, one would be wrong.

With some important exceptions, much of the Western Palestinian solidarity movement was either silent, or actually gave material and political support to the US/Israeli war of regime change on Syria. Tragically, Palestinians themselves were divided on the “war next door”. In effect, Hamas treacherously backed its arch enemy Israel against Syria, while on the other hand some Palestinian militias fought heroically alongside the anti-imperialist coalition (Russia, Iran, Hezbollah) defending Syria. These Palestinian militias, which include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Liwa Al-Quds and Quwat Al-Jalil[5], fought against imperialist war – the right side of history. In the process, they exposed the shaky politics of large parts of the Western Palestinian solidarity movement.

BDS ?

The direct lesson is that the defence of Palestine is impossible without strident opposition to imperialism. It is imperialism, led by the US, but assisted by Britain, France, Australia and others, which sustains the Zionist Israeli state. Without the financial, military and political backing of US imperialism, Israel would not be a shadow of itself, and a secure Palestine would be closer to reality. Which brings us to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. With notable exceptions, international advocates of BDS and backers of the imperialist war on Syria largely coincided. There are important reasons for this.

BDS is an attempt to garner world opinion against “Israel”, in order to thereby free “Palestine”. Marxists however, recognise no nation as a unified whole, but an assemblage of classes. The BDS movement implicitly has a classless analysis of both Israel and Palestine, and this is then extended onto the world stage. The BDS movement therefore seeks any ally of any class who can be convinced to take any action against Israel. Though they welcome working class support, in effect who they really try to win to their cause are capitalist corporations (“divestment”) and capitalist governments (“sanctions”). BDS advocates are thus literally, and in practice, appealing to imperialism itself – as if imperialism can and should be your ally in a political campaign. Even the “boycott” part is aimed at workers as consumers, not as workers. It assumes that the whole set up of capitalism – and ultimately imperialism – is the natural order of things, and the most we can do is to choose not to shop for certain consumer goods. It was also in the natural order of things for imperialism to wage war against Syria, which many BDS advocates did not oppose, or openly supported. And so the circle closes.

BDS is in practice a moral position, rather than a political one. BDS effectively claims that Israel is uniquely immoral, that its continued occupation of Palestine contains so many crimes that it has no parallel on the planet. Anyone who questions this likewise brings their own morality into question. Yet there are no moral absolutes for those with a basic class struggle perspective. The morality of a worker who toils endlessly for enough to live on cannot be compared to the morality of billionaire financiers who bleed society white in order to purchase another seaside mansion. To be sure, the crimes of the Israeli state against the Palestinians are heinous and abhorrent, and are ongoing. But the nature and scale of these crimes, as repulsive as they are, scarcely reach, let alone exceed, the crimes of its benefactor – the US Empire. The historical colonialist records of Britain, France, Belgium, Spain and indeed Australia – contain abominations at least equal, and sometimes worse – than those committed by the Zionist Israeli state.

Diverse but unequal

There is no denying the manifest crimes against humanity deployed daily by this Zionist state – the detention and likely incarceration of Ahed Tamimi is yet another one. The point, however, is that these are crimes of the capitalist state of Israel, not Israel itself. Israeli, Jew and Zionist are three different entities. Only 75.5% of Israelis are Jewish, and 1% of these are Ethiopian Jews. The religious views and practices of the Israeli Jews cannot at all be lumped together either. Only 7% of Jews are Ultra-Orthodox, while 15% are Orthodox, 32% are ‘traditional’ – but the largest majority of Israeli Jews identify as secular.[6] Arabs make up 20.2% of the overall population of 8.45 million, and another 4.3% comprises minority groups such as non-Arab Christians and Circassians.[7] That is, around 25% of the population of Israel are not Jewish at all, let alone Zionists.

Given these brief statistics, one can already start to see the problems with a boycott of the whole of Israel. But it goes much further. Israel is one of the most unequal countries on Earth. Roughly 20% of Israelis live below the poverty line, with the poverty line declared as less than 50% of the median disposable income. Of the 34 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) countries – the world club of rich countries – Israel is close to the one which sustains the most inequality.[8] Ironically, Israel runs a close second to the US in terms of inequality. Its gross average annual earnings of full time employees sits below the US at just $28, 817, compared to a $40, 060 average for the rest of the OECD.[9]

Housing affordability – a major issue in Australia where young people are basically priced out of the market – is similarly a huge issue in Israel. In 2011, there were massive “Occupy” style protests in Israel specifically targeting the high cost of housing. In fact the scale of these protests dwarfed the Western Occupy protests at that time. One report stated that in Israel between 2007 and 2015, house prices increased by 114%, and rents by 49%, making housing almost unattainable for young people.[10] There is now the phenomenon of young Israelis leaving the country due to the high cost of housing!

Situational irony

We could go on, but just a glance at figures such as these show that there is huge scope for the workers movement to attempt to reach out to Israeli working class to ally with them against capitalism in their backyard, and abroad. Yet the BDS movement could very well set up a scenario of situational irony. That is, the BDS movement could have the opposite effect of what was intended. Rather than the BDS movement somehow turning Israelis against their own state, a boycott and sanctions effort often tends to drive the inhabitants of that state further behind it, in the manner of bunkering down against a siege. For example, when Iraq under Saddam Hussein was sanctioned by the West before its invasion, Iraqis rallied behind Hussein despite whatever crimes he committed previously against Iraqis. In a similar way, Syrians who were ambivalent towards, or even opposed, President Bashar Al-Assad before the US/Israeli led war against their country, soon rallied behind their leader when it became apparent he was leading an anti-imperialist defence of their secular state. BDS, despite its aims, arguably creates more Zionists rather than undermines them.

Most BDS advocates see themselves as left-wing and pro-worker, and BDS is backed by some socialist parties. These groups recognise instantly that inside a workplace, if anyone sides with the boss against the workers, it is an act of utter class betrayal, to be resolutely condemned. Yet they struggle to apply this correct principal outside the workplace, nor internationally. For example, BDS advocates try to unite the world against Israel. But “uniting the world” in practice means working with the political – and corporate – leaderships of the world states who are inveigled to boycott Israel. A worker in one factory who advocated joint efforts with employers of other factories against his own would be laughed out of any Union meeting.  Yet BDS advocates don’t see the contradiction in calling on the very imperialist states and corporations they usually campaign against – to join with them against the “evil” Israel.

Rather than a cross-class, imperialist friendly movement for Palestinian liberation, what is needed is a pro-working class, anti-imperialist movement. Rather than uniting with class enemies who claim to stand for Palestine (the Labor Party, corporations, capitalist governments, imperialist powers), what is required is to unite all those who recognise that class enemies cannot be allies in any way, despite whatever “progressive” language they may throw up from time to time. Palestinian liberation is bound up with the overthrow of the rule of capital in Israel, Palestine and the Middle East. This means uniting the Israeli, Palestinian and Middle Eastern working class in a struggle for socialism in their region. Palestinian liberation can scarcely come about in any other way. A pre-requisite for this task is the forging of Marxist vanguard parties throughout the Middle East and internationally, including on these shores.

FREE AHED TAMIMI!  FOR PALESTINIAN LIBERATION!

 

WORKERS   LEAGUE

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO  Box  66   NUNDAH  QLD  4012

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-behind-ahed-tamimi-s-slap-her-cousin-s-head-shattered-by-idf-bullet-1.5729500 (06-03-2018)

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/01/internet-famous-in-the-west-bank/549557/ (06-03-2018)

[3] http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Report-Israel-treating-al-Qaida-fighters-wounded-in-Syria-civil-war-393862 (06-03-2018)

[4] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43019682 (06-03-2018)

[5] http://www.meforum.org/5775/quwat-al-jalil-a-pro-assad-palestinian-syrian (06-03-2018)

[6] http://cija.ca/resource/israel-the-basics/demographics-of-israel/ (07-03-2018)

[7] ibid.

[8] https://www.haaretz.com/income-inequality-in-israel-among-highest-in-oecd-1.5364971 (07-03-2018)

[9] http://www.jpost.com/Business-and-Innovation/Poverty-inequality-mar-strong-Israeli-economy-OECD-report-finds-443386 (07-03-2018)

[10] https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2017-02-14/soaring-housing-costs-approach-crisis-levels-in-israel-analysts-warn (07-03-2018)

Free Ahed Tamimi! For Palestinian Liberation!

For Real Women’s Liberation….There Is Only Revolution!

Rosie the Riveter, the image which often denotes the Women’s Liberation movement.

10-03-2018 – As we mark another International Women’s Day, a quick glance at basic numbers show just how far away the goal of equality, let alone liberation, for women remains. By the Australian government’s own statistics, women are paid $26, 527 less than men per year averaged out across all occupations.[1] The official gender pay gap is 17.9%, or $284.20 per week.[2]  Domestic violence figures are nothing but shocking. Women are overwhelmingly the victims of the increasing scale of domestic violence. In Australia it is estimated that one woman per week is murdered by her current or former partner, one in three women have experienced physical violence, and one in five women have experienced sexual violence.[3] Aboriginal women suffer rates of domestic violence that are many times higher. To the astonishment of those who believed that it had been previously won, access to the medical procedure of abortion remains on the criminal statutes in Queensland and New South Wales.

Why, despite all the gains of the second wave of feminism (the 1960s and 70s), do women still experience the myriad manifestations of oppression, even in the most “advanced” and wealthiest countries, topped with the most “liberal democratic” parliaments? In a word, because capitalism still rules, at least in Australia, Europe, and the United States, despite the ongoing economic crisis they have endured since 2008. The second wave of feminism, for all its victories, did not aim at the overturn of the rule of capital, despite a section of its participants supporting what they understood as “socialism”. Although some still adhere to a “left-wing” feminism, the second wave was relatively easily bought off and diverted into academia, high-paying public service jobs, or indeed the corporate world itself.

International Working Women’s Day

International Women’s Day began as International Working Women’s Day, as it was Clara Zetkin who was instrumental in pushing for its marking internationally. Zetkin was a German Marxist who worked within the Social-Democratic Party (SPD), but later joined the Independent Social-Democratic Party and then the far-left Spartacist League after the SPD had shown its true colours by fully backing the imperialist slaughter of the First World War. Zetkin was heavily influenced by the Bolshevik Party in Russia, and indeed worked closely with its central leader VI Lenin on a number of issues. Later, after the victory of the socialist revolution, the Soviet Union awarded her the Order of Lenin, the highest honour of the workers’ state. Clara Zetkin, Rosa Luxembourg and other founders of International Working Women’s Day were crystal clear on what can actually lead to the end of thousands of years of women’s subjugation through class society – the triumph of a proletarian revolution.  They were also crystal clear on what the feminists of that time were really about – the winning of acceptance for wealthy and ruling class women within the male dominated echelons of the capitalist elite. All feminists in that time were bourgeois feminists, who cared not one whit about working class and poor women.

The family as a pillar of class society

The ABCs of Marxism locate the oppression of women within society’s smallest repressive unit – the nuclear family. Indeed, the three pillars of class society remain the family, private property and the state. The family is where, despite all the advances of the 20th century, women are primarily responsible for the care and welfare of its members, the upbringing of the young, and an overwhelming proportion of domestic labour. This burden is not lifted even where women take part in the labour force, not simply due to centuries of tradition, but also current government policy. The taxation system rewards mothers who stay at home full-time, and an unemployed woman cannot access meagre unemployment benefits if she is married, or even in a live-in relationship with a man. Basic child care is now privatised, and prohibitively expensive for most working class women. Capitalism is thus not simply an unequal economic system – it is also comes with political and ideological justifications for the second class status of women – which are ultimately enforced by the armed police and military wings of its state.

As the family arose historically in concert with the formation of class society, it follows that the family, and women’s oppression within it, cannot be dissolved without the dissolution of class society itself. Frederick Engels, co-founder with Karl Marx of the theory of scientific socialism, sketched the outlines of how women could be relieved of the duties that society itself should be responsible, enabling the full participation of women in productive, political and social life:

With the passage of the means of production into common property, the individual family ceases to be the economic unit of society. Private housekeeping is transformed into a social industry. The care and education of children becomes a public matter.”

In the aftermath of the 1917 October Revolution, the new Soviet government began to implement some of these far-reaching changes. Communal laundries, communal eating houses and crèches which delivered essentially free child care were established. Marriage was made a civil registration issue, which could be dissolved at the request of either party. Property ownership and inheritance was separated from marriage. The concept of illegitimate children was abolished, as were all feudal laws against homosexuality. Abortion was made a part of the health system, and provided to all women who needed it. Although all these gains were later reversed through the isolation of the Soviet Union and the lack of other workers’ revolutions breaking through, these efforts remain a glimpse of what is possible with workers in power.

Can a feminist movement deliver?

A workers’ government, however, or anything even remotely approaching it, is not the aim of what is loosely described as a feminist movement today. This is not because there are not many women within it who are appalled at the direction in which society is heading, and even are dead against the capitalist system with its numberless crimes. Primarily, this flows from essentially classless feminist ideology, which sees the fundamental division in society as being between women and men, rather than being between labour and capital. Of course, there are feminists who recognise that it is not men per se who are the enemy. There are various strands of feminism which do not advocate separatism. And there are also “socialist” and “Marxist” feminists who claim that socialism and feminism can be melded together as easily as writing down the words in succession. But this is an illusion.

Practice is always the test of theory. And in practice, as long as the feminist movement includes ALL women, or states that its aim is to liberate ALL women, the movement will be tied up in its own contradictions. As long as Gina Rinehart, the billionaire mining magnate, and Anna Bligh, the former Labor Party premier who is now head of the Australian bankers association, can claim that they are part of the feminist movement by virtue of their gender, feminism will lie exposed as a cross-class doctrine which ultimately only serves the elite. Even female small business owners, high-paid lawyers and journalists have no real interest in abolishing the system of private production for private profit. While they may experience some discrimination that all women face, materially they can virtually buy their way out of oppression.

Moreover, a feminist movement which allies itself with ruling class women, or political representatives of them such as the Labor Party – can only damage the prospects of working class women, regardless of their intentions. Sometimes this is explicit. The blurb for the International Women’s Day rally being organised in Brisbane this year actually states point blank that “Women’s liberation means ALL women, all classes [!?!}, all backgrounds, from all countries and all cultures”. It seems unnecessary to have to point out that if class privilege and class exploitation continues, working class women will continue to suffer unbearably, while wealthy women will sail along basically unaffected. And this is to say nothing of the poverty and anguish that women in the Third World endure. Yet this is the logic of an “all inclusive” (classless) feminist movement.

In the same way that humanity cannot be liberated from capitalism other than through the seizure of state power by the working class, women cannot be liberated in any other way other than through a socialist revolution. That is, the oppression all women suffer cannot be eliminated without first liberating working class women. It is axiomatic that a socialist revolution can only succeed by politicising and mobilising the workers, regardless of gender. Its immediate concern is not at all the middle and upper classes. Similarly, a movement for women’s liberation can only succeed if it aims at empowering working class women – rather than well-paid women in comfortable corporate or academic careers, nor indeed, well-remunerated female but conservative Union officials, building superannuation nest eggs on the back of the workers’ dire needs.

Feminists for imperialist war

The political elements leading this year’s International Women’s Day rallies appear to be a combination of the dead hand of the Labor Party (even Labor Party Members of Parliament!), conservative Trade Union officials, the Australian Greens, domestic violence support and health services, polite society women’s peace groups, Amnesty International through to left parties such as the Socialist Alliance and the Cloudland Collective. These seemingly disparate political groups give the impression that they stand not only for a world free of discrimination against women, but also a world full of peace and harmony. Yet little could be further from the truth. Each and every one of these political organisations were either silent, or were vociferous advocates, of the imperialist wars on Libya and Syria, which were unforgivable crimes of annihilation over the last seven years. Further, not one of them utters a word of dispute, let alone opposition, to the relentless drive to thermonuclear war led by the US Empire targeting Russia, Iran, the DPRK (“North Korea”) and China. It is their collective fealty to Anglo/US/AUST imperialist power, rather than their dissent, which enables them to unite for “women”.

To be sure, there are some women and individuals who identify as feminist who genuinely oppose imperialist war, from whichever direction it approaches. But while these folk remain united with the likes of the Labor Party here, not to speak of embracing Hilary “Destroyer of Worlds” Clinton in the US as one of their own, they will continue to pay yeoman’s service to the very cause they themselves oppose. It is scarcely necessary to state that one cannot claim, in any way, to stand for the rights of women while simultaneously backing the potential military obliteration of millions of women from Libya, Syria, Russia, Iran, China, the DPRK or whichever Third World country next bobs up on the Pentagon’s radar.

For a workers’ party which champions women’s liberation

It is one of the most revealing non sequiturs – feminist activists railing against the very real problem of domestic violence against women, whilst looking away as Canberra follows Washington into yet another atrocious war. Yet this contradiction flows naturally from other feminist contradictions. While rightfully highlighting the injustices of the gender pay gap, abortion services remaining out of reach, the double shift (paid work and domestic work), the crushing expectations to be perfect mothers and sex symbols at the same time, not being safe on the streets at night and so on, the feminist movement is effectively still captive to the bourgeois feminists – almost exactly 100 years after the October Socialist Revolution. That is, in practice, the feminist movement campaigns against the effects of the capitalist system, rather than the rule of capital itself. This is consciously backed by the likes of the Labor Party, self-serving Union officials, and pro-corporate women’s advocacy organisations, but unconsciously backed by those trailing in their wake, including some left parties.

The second wave of feminism, in the 1960s and 70s, undoubtedly made some serious gains for the standing of women, at least in the countries of the First World. However the feminist movement today is still hampered by a political leadership loyal to ruling class women, but now with a more sophisticated “inclusive”, and even pro-Union, vernacular. What is desperately needed is not a feminist movement as such, but a movement for women’s liberation. The political leadership of such a movement would be committed to irreconcilable opposition to the capitalist system in toto. This means a leadership which does not hesitate to split from ANY representative of the ruling elite, especially the likes of the Hilary Clinton, Anna Bligh or Annastacia Palaszczuk. More than this, the capitalist Labor Party cannot be allowed to pose as the saviour of women for a moment longer. Women’s liberation can only be really championed by a Marxist vanguard party, which stops at nothing to weld together the most politically advanced and class-conscious women and men in a resolute struggle to overturn the lawless rule of finance capital. The liberation of women begins with the triumph of socialism. Let us build it now.

————————————————————————————————————

WORKERS   LEAGUE

E:workersleague@redfireonline.com

P.O. Box  66   NUNDAH  QLD   4012

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-17/women-paid-$26,527-less-than-men-per-year-but-pay-gap-narrowing/9159468 (24-02-2018)

[2] www.security4women.org.au/equal-pay/gender-gap (24-02-2018)

[3] https://www.ourwatch.org.au/understanding-violence/facts-and-figures (24-02-2018)

For Real Women’s Liberation…There Is Only Revolution!

Change, Abolish or Overthrow?    Which Way to Indigenous Justice?

26-01-2018 – As the calendar marks another January 26, the spotlight is once again focused on the revealing fact that Australia’s national day marks the beginning of an attempted extermination war fought against the indigenous people of this land. The war raged for 150 years, and its legacy remains burned into the very establishment of the imposed capitalism the British Empire spread in the days of its colonial “grandeur”.  In many ways the war continues, and Aboriginal people still cop the iron heel of oppression which no amount of “reconciliation” can gloss over. For example, Aboriginal people represent no more than 3% of the total Australian population, yet make up 28% of the prison population. A staggering 48% of juveniles in police custody are Aboriginal. The United States of America was founded on African-American chattel slavery, yet today 0.6% of African-American men and women languish in the notoriously overpopulated US prison system. By contrast, 6.7% of Aboriginal men and women are behind bars in the “wide brown land”.[1]

The life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people remains at around 10 years, with Aboriginal people perishing, on average, 10 years before non-indigenous people. By the government’s own figures, much greater incidences of circulatory, respiratory, nutritional and endocrine related disease account for most of this, as well as increased rates of cancer.[2]  Figures for the rates of indigenous employment are particularly galling. As recently as 2015, less than half (46%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 15 were employed.[3] The housing conditions for indigenous people, especially in remote areas, are arguably worse than comparable Third World standards. On Palm Island, there is an average of 17 people per household staying or living there, often in only 3 bedroom dwellings. In the Northern Territory (NT), 90% of all homeless people are Aboriginal, and the NT is the location for 60% of all “severely overcrowded dwellings”.[4] The “cashless welfare” trials – first used only on Aboriginal people, where welfare payments are quarantined onto a credit card – directly sets up apartheid like system of open public discrimination.[5] These elements are only a part of the real oppression faced by the first inhabitants of what became Australia, a presence that pre-dated British colonialism by some 60 000 years. White Australia does indeed have a Black history, but one that is continually trampled on – with January 26 as the “national day” representing an open wound.

Change the Date or Abolish Australia Day?

January 26 marks the first landing of Captain Cook at Sydney Cove in 1788. From that date, the genocide and dispossession of the Aboriginal people began (hence “Invasion Day”). It was not until 1967 that Aboriginal people were officially recognised as part of the Australian population. This stark injustice has been protested by Aboriginal people and their supporters for decades – the first known protests taking place in 1938. Australia was established as a colonial-settler state, but genuinely acknowledging the prior custodianship of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would call into question the legitimacy of the Australian nation. Hence, the Australian ruling class attempt to deny this history, while its police and state institutions deal out horrific levels of repression against indigenous people.

In recent years, demands to change the date of Australia Day have become louder and louder, prompting the radio station Triple J to cease playing its “Hottest 100” on January 26. Last year in Melbourne, Invasion Day protests gathered a crowd of 50 000. The Australian Greens have been prominent in supporting demands to change the date of Australia’s national day from January 26 to another day. A Greens Victorian MP, who is herself indigenous, reportedly received death threats for suggesting that the Australian flag should be flown at half-mast on January 26, to recognise that the day is a day of mourning for many Aboriginal people.[6] Struggles to change the date of Australia Day will need to confront and defeat the prevalent racism that has resulted from its colonial history.

This year, the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR) have raised the demand “Abolish Australia Day”, seemingly as a counter to the demand to #changethedate. WAR play a tremendous organisational role in facilitating and enabling political action to fight the ongoing injustices perpetrated against Indigenous people. WAR certainly have a point that the “change the date” demand is being backed by some conservative and mainstream elements, who seek to foster a kind of liberal nationalism. The Greens and the ABC funded Triple J are certainly at the forefront of this drive, but it is even backed by some employers. However, while the struggle of the Aboriginal people against their oppression is always progressive, it does not necessarily flow that the politics of the leading Aboriginal groups will follow in this direction. WAR’s political program is that of Aboriginal nationalism.[7] We argue that all nationalisms represent a dead end for working people, and Aboriginal nationalism, especially the separatist variety sometimes given credence by WAR, is also problematic.

In asserting their own Aboriginal nationalism, by raising the demand “Abolish Australia Day”, WAR effectively deny the only national identity available to their non-indigenous allies, the most important of which is the multi-racial working class. For workers, neither is Australian nationalism the answer, as the fundamental division, as in all capitalist societies, is between the working class and the ruling (capitalist) class. However, we argue that the demand to change the date of Australia’s national day should be given critical support by working people, only insofar as it represents the wresting of an important concession from the elite who are responsible for the oppression of both the indigenous people and the working people. The support is critical, because it can easily be recognised that liberal and conservative working class opponents (corporations, employers, NGOs, the Greens and even some within the ALP and the LNP) can also come behind this demand – and some already have.

What is a nation?

Russian revolutionary leader VI Lenin once quipped a nation is “the bourgeoisie together with the proletariat”. This apparently off-hand remark nonetheless exposes all nationalisms as inimical to the interests of working people, in Australia and internationally. Marxists recognise that nations correspond to a particular socio-economic mode of production (capitalism), which came into existence with its rise, but will fade away into irrelevance once it stagnates into decay, to be replaced by a superior and higher mode of production (socialism). Nations are constituted historically, politically and economically, over a period of time. There is no doubt that the Australian nation was founded on barbaric genocide against the Aboriginal people, who were forcibly dispossessed. The profit system was then established on the mainland as well as surrounding islands, on the backs of the exploitation of wage labour. Despite the Aboriginal people not being fully integrated into the working class, through no fault of their own, it is the shared oppression that the Aboriginal people experience alongside Australian workers which is the key to their liberation. This remains the case even as we recognise that the oppression of Aboriginal people is in many ways more substantial than that of working class oppression.

The demand to Abolish Australia Day certainly sounds militant, but does not offer a way forward. WAR are correct to imply that simply changing the date of Australia’s national day will do little to address the ongoing issues the Aboriginal people face. We do not critically support a minor reform in order to thereby garner greater support for the Australian nation, much less the billionaire class which rules Australia. On the contrary, we critically support democratic reforms in order to allow the best conditions for the building of working class opposition to capital – the real source of Indigenous and working class oppression. Minor reforms, once achieved, tend to highlight the fact that conditions have not substantially changed, and attention often then turns to more basic aspects of capitalist exploitation.

WAR can also refer to indigenous people as “First Nations People”. Through this they imply that the approximately 500 Aboriginal tribes which inhabited what is now known as Australia were actually nations – either already established or in the making. These did occupy certain areas of the continent, and spoke their own languages. But the possibility of an Aboriginal nation – either one single one or five hundred small ones – coming into being through mutual economic exchange and the development of a definite political economy was annihilated by the invading British colonialists, who went on to establish their own nation over the top of the remnants of their brutal conquests.

This nation today contains vast inequality, being a component link in the chain of global capitalism, not to speak of being a willing vassal of US imperialism. As such, its economy today is in dire recession, and has been since the onset of the “global” financial crisis in 2008. Unemployment, poverty, homelessness, relentless de-funding of health and education are just some of the inevitable results. What is needed is the overthrow of the rule of capital and the establishing of a workers government, as part of the first rounds fired in struggle for world socialism. Only with workers in power will the long suffering Aboriginal people have a chance to seriously address their intolerable material conditions. In part, WAR does recognise the necessity for working class support, through their various contacts with some Unions.

For revolutionary integration

To be sure, it is understandable that some Aboriginal groups may make the error of adopting variations of cultural or black nationalism in the absence of a strong working class and left-wing movement. The chief culprits for this dire state of political affairs, where most younger workers can barely imagine what class struggle looks like, are the conservative and craven careerists of the trade Union bureaucracy, who ideologically defend capitalist rule. With a few exceptions, these well-paid Union careerists have almost totally abandoned the Aboriginal people to their fate – when they should be at least helping to mobilise workers to defend indigenous rights. This manifest misleadership of the Unions is assisted by some left parties, who recognise the betrayal of the Union leaders, but fear a political break with them.

In a similar way in which the Black Panther Party in the US was formed as a reaction against the tame liberalism of Martin Luther King, WAR appears to be a militant Aboriginal reaction to the abject lack of Union-led defence of the oppressed people of Australia, and the lack of a strong left-wing workers party. Despite the heroic bravery of the Black Panthers, their black nationalism impeded their political development in the direction of genuine Marxism – despite some adopting off-cuts of Maoism. The Black Panthers were unable, or chose not, to link with the US working class, and thus were eventually eliminated by the murderous police actions of the US state. We sincerely hope that nothing like this will be the fate of WAR, but their adoption of the ideas of Aboriginal and/or cultural nationalism loom as a barrier to forming the necessary bonds with Australian workers.

A bridge must be found between the primitive socialism of the Aboriginal tribes and the advanced socialism which supercedes capitalism as a higher mode of production, where advanced technology is used for the purpose of reducing, and eventually eliminating, alienated labour. That bridge is the multi-racial and multi-ethnic Leninist vanguard party, integrating the most class-conscious militants from amongst the Aboriginal, migrant and Australian born working class communities. Such a party will champion Aboriginal liberation as a component part of the socialist revolution which must overturn the rule of the banks, the CEOs, and the stock exchange.

The centralised political power of the ruling elite, with its army, its courts, its prisons and civil service must be met by the centralised political power of the working class, despite all manner of its heterogeneous cultures, backgrounds, indigenous and non-indigenous heritage, languages and so on. So long as the majority of Australian workers follow, or cannot articulate an opposition to, conservative Union leaderships, there will be no revolution – and no liberation for Aboriginal people – in this country. A revolutionary workers party is aimed at resolving this crucial issue. Let us build it now.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

PO Box  66   NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/law/aboriginal-prison-rates (18-01-2018)

[2] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/indigenous-australians/mortality-life-expectancy-2008-2012/contents/summary (20-01-2018)

[3] http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4714.0~2014-15~Main%20Features~Labour%20force%20characteristics~6  (20-01-2018)

[4] https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/land/overcrowded-houses (20-01-2018)

[5] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-02-15/shopping-with-basics-card-like-apartheid/331940 (20-01-2018)

[6] http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/aboriginal-mp-receives-vile-threats-over-australia-day-flag-call-20180119-h0l51i.html (20-01-2018)

[7] https://issuu.com/BrisbaneBlacks/docs/war_manifesto_d91595ceee8754 (20-01-2018)

Invasion Day rally in Melbourne. From http://www.abc.net.au

Change, Abolish or Overthrow? Which Way to Indigenous Justice?

Hands Off Iran! No More Western Backed Regime Change Wars!

03-01-2018 – Like a broken record, the same old regime change rhetoric is being wheeled out once again by the paid and unpaid agents of Western imperialism. In the name of “human rights”, “democracy” and “freedom”, we are once again being softened up for yet another Western backed regime change war – this time on Iran. This follows the catastrophic regime change wars waged by the US Empire and its domestic and international allies on Libya and Syria. Regime change intervention was also attempted by the US Empire in Yemen, Ukraine, Venezuela and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or “North Korea”). Many of these interventions could have triggered World War III – nuclear Armageddon.

It’s a dead giveaway – when “protests” in Iran are backed by US President Donald Trump, Hillary “Destroyer of Worlds” Clinton, the Zionist Israeli state, and the Wahabist Saudi Arabian monarchy, you know they are suspect. When the same celebrities who cheered on arguably the dirtiest imperialist war in history – the six year war on Syria – clamour to cry crocodile tears for “freedom” in Iran, you know something is off. When US Senator John McCain – known for posing in photos with Ukrainian fascists and ISIS mercenaries, and farcical US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Nikki Haley – infamous for the absurd claim that the DPRK is “begging for war” – tweet in favour of an alleged democratic uprising, you know the reality must be the opposite.

This is of course not the first time that the US has attempted to foment a “colour revolution” in Iran. In 2009, some protesters hit the streets claiming, without a shred of evidence, that the elections which resulted in the re-election of then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were fraudulent. The US hailed a “Green Revolution” which, however, did not gain anywhere near majority support amongst Iranian people, and was subdued by the security forces. This time, sources from inside Iran have stated that the protests in Iran over the last week are much smaller than the ones in 2009, and so have even less chance of gaining mass support amongst Iranians.

In fact, what have been more or less ignored by the Western corporate media are pro-government demonstrations which have been held, which vastly outnumber the anti-government rallies. Last Saturday, pro-government demonstrations were held in 1200 cities and towns across Iran. These rallies have been held every year since 2009, to demonstrate opposition to attempts by Iran’s international enemies to foment destabilisation.[1] The chances of the current anti-government demonstrations gaining overwhelming support amongst Iranians are miniscule. But that is not the point – their aims are precisely to gain international “assistance” – in the form of a US led regime change war, a la Syria. The parallels with the so-called Libyan “rebels” in 2011 openly calling on NATO to bomb their country are striking.

 

Another clue that Western governments and some of their client states are behind the anti-government protests, is the fact that “economic” demands very quickly became “political” demands. Apparently beginning over concerns about unemployment and inflation, chants have rapidly moved towards a line identical with that of the US deep state designs for the Middle East. Reports have it that some protest chants went: “Let go of Palestine…not for Gaza, not for Lebanon…I’d give my life for (only) Iran.”[2] Without mentioning it, this refers to Iran’s role in preventing the victory of ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria, along with the assistance of the Lebanese Hezbollah – not to speak of Russia. Iran currently has the permission of the Syrian government to clean up the remnants of ISIS which are still in Syria, and still being backed by the US government, though not openly. If Iran, Russia and Hezbollah had not intervened to help defeat the US funded mercenaries, Iran would almost certainly have been the next target. The Iranian military’s actions were necessary not just for the survival of Syria, but for the survival of Iran itself. Yet the anti-government protestors condemn the Iranian government for possibly even saving their own lives.

It should be noted that there are indeed some serious economic problems in Iran, which working people would be justified in protesting about. Reportedly there is 12% unemployment, along with 25% youth unemployment. Economic growth is stagnant, and inflation is pushing up the price of necessary items such as food. Yet in fact, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei has been one who has been vocal in demanding government action about this!  The Western supported protestors target Khamanei regardless, giving the game away as to what they are really demanding. What is more, the US led economic sanctions on Iran are to a large degree responsible for some of the poor economic conditions within Iran.  And in fact, Iranians arguably have more democratic rights to protest about such things than the citizens of the governments now assaulting them – Israel, Saudi Arabia, and arguably the United States.

While the world’s workers need not politically endorse the economic or political actions of the theocratic Iranian government, it is in the interests of the working class to stand by Iran during imperialist attempts to undermine or overthrow its state. In addition, there is a dire need to stand with anti-imperialist and non-imperialist states whose actions are, for the moment, preventing the US and their allies from launching a nuclear holocaust. Such states include Iran, Russia, China, Syria and the DPRK.

One system is responsible for the ongoing threat of a global nuclear war, from which much of humanity may not recover. This is the system of capitalist-imperialism. A worker led struggle to uproot this system and replace it with socialism is an urgent task. As part of this, an anti-imperialist anti-war movement must be built to not only demand an end to civilisation threatening wars, but to demand the restoration of basic living standards which the profit system has denied us. HANDS OFF IRAN!

WORKERS LEAGUE

Flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

PO Box 66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran-counters-protests-with-pro-government-rallies-521392 (03-01-2018)

[2] https://www.activistpost.com/2017/12/what-the-hell-is-happening-in-iran.html (03-01-2018)

Hands Off Iran! No More Western Backed Regime Change Wars!

West Papua: Can Independence Deliver?

24-12-2017 – To the casual observer it appears to be an open and shut case. An indigenous people are occupied by a superior military power, which attempts to forcibly integrate the inhabitants within the larger and more powerful state, denying national and cultural rights that all people should enjoy. The oppressing power installs settlers in the occupied region, who, over time, come to overwhelm the original inhabitants. This power enjoys the backing of the “advanced” First World powers, which supply it with political and diplomatic support, along with state of the art military hardware. In response, the international left backs a movement for independence, linking with the domestic leaders, while applying political pressure to “their own” wealthy but rapacious governments. It all sounds straightforward. But in the case of the independence movement for West Papua, as in many things political, issues are not all what they seem.

Parallels with East Timor?

Progressive minded folk might object – but isn’t it a re-run of the situation of East Timor, where we have an obligation to back an independence movement? In fact, while not ignoring some similiarities, there are several reasons why the situation of West Papua differs significantly. Firstly, East Timor was militarily invaded by Indonesia in December 1975, days after a declaration of independence was made following the withdrawal of the former colonial power Portugal. The Indonesian military occupied East Timor from 1975 until 1999, when a United Nations (UN) sponsored referendum resulted in an overwhelming vote in favour of independence. Pro-Indonesian militias then embarked on a rampage, slaughtering around 1400 people, and pushing hundreds of thousands into West Timor as refugees. A UN badged INTERFET (International Force for East Timor) Force was sent in, which had the effect of preventing further violence. Although the exact role of the UN and the Australian military forces in East Timor at the time was dubious, East Timor was recognised as an independent nation in 2002.[1]

This military invasion and occupation of East Timor in 1975 was not recognised by the UN, not backed internationally, and in reality only the Australian government openly sided with Indonesia. In the case of West Papua, there was no overt military invasion, though Indonesian rule in West Papua came about in deceitful circumstances. The western part of Papua New Guinea was once a Dutch colony, but the Netherlands prepared for withdrawal during the 1950s. In 1961, West Papuans first raised the “morning star” flag, and sentiment for independence began.

However, Indonesia soon asserted what it believed to be its sovereign rights over the area, and a conflict broke out with the Dutch and indigenous West Papuans. In 1962, a UN sponsored treaty known as the “New York Agreement” was drawn up, which appointed Indonesia the temporary administrator. The agreement included a clause of which the intent was that all West Papuans would be able to vote in a referendum on independence. Unfortunately, when this referendum was held, the Indonesian military held 1026 West Papuans at gunpoint, and threatened themselves and their families with elimination if they voted for independence. This so-called “Act of Free Choice” was approved by the UN, despite the circumstances, and this remained in place for decades afterwards. West Papuans dub it the “Act of No Choice”, and it forms one of the planks of independence sentiment today.

Transmigration

There are also significant differences between East Timor and West Papua in relation to Indonesia’s long running transmigration program. The Indonesian government claims that transmigration is a necessity to alleviate population pressures on the densely populated islands such as Java, Bali and Madura, and assisting the development of outer areas such as Kalimantan, Timor and West Papua. There seems to be credence in critiques of transmigration from some groups, which claim that transmigration in Indonesia has barely alleviated the population pressures at all, and has led to significant environmental damage through forest and land clearing. Despite this, it has had the financial backing of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank throughout the 80s and 90s.[2]

Many West Papuans see the Indonesian government’s transmigration program as an attempt to outnumber them over time, to make them a minority in their own land. There is some justification in this view, as there are many reports of the Indonesian government backing transmigrants that identify their traditional lands as suitable for settlement, clear the forests, and then give indigenous West Papuans the “choice” to live in a transmigration settlement area as a minority.[3] This understandably fuels antagonism towards the Indonesian government and the transmigrants themselves, and fosters further sentiment for independence.

The sheer numbers are vastly different though, between West Papua and East Timor. A research paper by Dr Jim Elmslie, a specialist in West Papua studies at the University of Sydney, estimates that the current non-Papuan population in West Papua now comprises 51.27%, or around 1.8 million, whereas the Papuan component comprises 48.73%, or around 1.7 million. This is incomparable to the situation four decades ago, where Papuans made up 96.09% of the total population.[4]  This is the “slow motion genocide” West Papuan independence supporters refer to.

The transmigration issue for East Timor, on the other hand, was not in the same league. While there was transmigration into East Timor, it was at a significantly lower rate, and by no means ever attained a majority. On the contrary, it is estimated that between 1970 and 1990, the non-Timorese population in Timor (mainly comprising Indonesian, Chinese and Portuguese descendants) rose from 1.6% to 8.5%.[5] Thus, at the time of the UN sponsored referendum on independence in East Timor in 1999, the non-Timorese population in East Timor would presumably have not exceeded even 10% of the total. This 10% was excluded from the vote in 1999, where over 80% of the people of East Timor voted for independence.

UN petition

In August this year, West Papuan independence activists delivered a petition to the United Nations in Geneva, symbolically swimming across Lake Geneva to present it. Exiled West Papuan independence identity Benny Wenda stated that the petition had been signed by 1 804 421 people, which was comprised of 1 708 167 indigenous Papuans and 96 254 Indonesian settlers. Dr Jim Elmslie estimates that this represents 70.88% of the indigenous Papuan population.[6] Reportedly, hard copies of the petition were smuggled from area to area in West Papua after the Indonesian government blocked its distribution online.

The petition and its dramatic submission certainly attracted worldwide attention, but it also raises a potential problem for the West Papuan independence movement. What way would the other half of the population of West Papua vote, if given the opportunity? Moreover, given that almost all of this part of the population are non-Papuans, what incentive would they have for voting for independence? The cultural and ethnic divide between the Melanesian Papuans and the Austronesian Indonesians is one that can create animosity, given that the Austronesian transmigrants appear to be backed by the Indonesian government at the expense of the indigenous Melanesians. The strategy of large parts of the West Papuan independence movement seems to rely upon calling for a UN overseen referendum on independence. Yet if this was to come about, there seems little guarantee that the vote in favour of independence would be overwhelming, given that a little over half of the population  are non-Papuan. This is not to deny the fact that elementary justice should allow some form of fair ballot to take place, to replace the discredited “Act of No-Choice”.

Religious divide

In addition to the ethnic division, there is also the religious aspect. The Austronesian transmigrants are overwhelmingly Islamic in religion, and it seems some of them are more strident in defending this than others. The Melanesian Papuans, apparently due to large scale missionary work, appear to be overwhelmingly Christian, which appears to co-exist with their tribal ties. There can be a perception, therefore, that the West Papuan independence movement is backing a Christian West Papua against a Muslim Indonesia. This potentially sets up an unhealthy dynamic in a world political environment where US imperialism has been guilty of deliberately whipping up extreme Islamophobia to generate support for its regime change wars, most recently in Syria.

There was an instance where a “Free West Papua Party” turned up to speak at a rally organised by the ultra-racist far-right group Reclaim Australia in Perth. Reportedly, some West Papua independence supporters also turned out to a Reclaim Australia event in Cairns. To its credit, large parts of the Free West Papua movement in Australia issued a statement expressly disassociating itself from the “Free West Papua Party” and from Reclaim Australia. The statement, signed by around 40 representatives of various West Papua independence supporters, rejected the use of racism or religious exclusion entirely, and especially in the case of the struggle for West Papua’s rights.[7] The statement did acknowledge some tension between Christianity and Islam in West Papua, but claimed that this tension has not yet generated into a religious conflict which has broken out in other parts of Indonesia. In our view, the Free West Papua movement needs to be more forthright in declaring that their movement does not attempt to exclude anyone on a religious, cultural or ethnic basis.

Development divide

As in so many class struggles throughout history, the religious aspect is often a cover for very real class struggles bubbling away. This is reflected in the West Papuan divide between the relatively developed coastal cities and towns, and the overwhelmingly rural interior. Austronesian transmigrants predominate in the coastal cities, especially the capital Jayapura, and are the most prevalent in the jobs in the private sector, and those connected with commercial activity. These areas attract higher educated Indonesians, who also dominate in manufacturing, and an estimated 90% of jobs connected with trade.[8] As more transmigrants arrive in the West Papuan cities, they naturally form connections with “their own”, which affords them more job opportunities, which unfortunately crowds out indigenous Papuans.

Indigenous Papuans are then often forced back into economic activity such as subsistence farming, which is obviously not as lucrative, and which has little connection to the modern, cash and international economy. This, along with a lack of development in such areas, contributes to a justifiable resentment towards transmigrants, and towards Indonesia in general. While the Indonesian government is spending large amounts of money on West Papua, very little of it reaches the rural interior, overwhelmingly inhabited by indigenous Papuans. This leads to issues such as poorer education outcomes, where apparently 56% of Papuans have less than primary education, and 24% have remained illiterate. The lack of development indicators are stark, as in many rural Papuan interior areas, 80% of villages have no electricity, 90% have no telephone, and 83.5% have no access to banking or credit facilities.[9] Combine this with the fact that around half of Papuan villages are accessible only by dirt road, and one can see how many Papuans might follow the offered “solution” of independence.

Infrastructure spending by Indonesian government

Perhaps in an effort to divert West Papuans from taking the path of demanding all out independence, the Indonesian government of President Joko Widodo (also known as “Jokowi”) has pledged to accelerate infrastructure development. Last February, the Indonesian government announced it was spending US $371 million on infrastructure and housing in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, including a trans-West Papua highway.[10]  The Indonesian government has also prioritised the improvement of facilities at the regional airports at Saigun, Weror Tambrauw, Marinda and Fakfak.[11] Plans for the building and running of a railway in West Papua are also well in the pipeline, with the proposal to run a railway line from the city of Sorong in the West through to Manokwari in the East, passing through South Sorong, Maybrak, Teluk Bintuni, South Manokwari and Manokwari.[12]

Electricity infrastructure is also receiving Indonesian government investment. Joko Widodo announced the building of six new electricity infrastructure projects on his fifth visit in October 2016, including 4 hydro-electric power plants, and around 200 kilometres of power lines.[13] Much more would be needed to electrify all of West Papua, but it would seem the Indonesian government is keenly aware of the need for this infrastructure, and the need for it to be NOT seen as only benefiting Jakarta.

Military and political repression

Of course, all of the infrastructure development in the world is unlikely to completely offset other Papuan grievances, such as the military and political repression that it accompanies. The Indonesian military regard the raising of the West Papuan morning star flag as high treason, and often those who attempt to raise it risk long jail terms if caught. It is also claimed that 500 000 Papuans have perished in skirmishes with the Indonesian military. For their part, the Indonesian military claim they are only responding to an armed insurgency. The Indonesian military are accused of slaughtering pro-independence Papuan fighters, and, in turn, the Indonesian military accuse the Papuan militias of taking non-Papuans hostage.

There is also little doubt that the Australian government backs the Indonesian government’s position, and “respects the territorial integrity” of the Indonesian archipelago. After the experience of East Timor, however, many Indonesians simply do not believe such Australian government assertions. Nevertheless, there appears to be strong evidence that Indonesia’s Detachment 88 is trained and supplied by the Australian Federal Police.[14] Detachment 88 are suspected to have been behind the gunning down and murder of Mako Tabuni, who was at the time the deputy chairperson of the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB). In fact, it is not only the Australian Federal Police who “train” and “advise” the Indonesian police, but the police of the United Kingdom, Denmark and Canada.[15]

Independence with which politics?

In the case of East Timor in the early 1970s, the Indonesian government and its backers in Australia and the US appeared to be concerned, with some justification, that an independent East Timor would be a communist outpost, a Cuba in the Pacific. The political leadership of the various East Timorese pro-independence groups was certainly left-leaning. However, so far it appears that the politics of the various West Papuan independence groups are not so left wing. Many on the left perhaps understandably believe that an indigenous people fighting for their rights will automatically adopt progressive, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist politics. This is not usually the case, and in fact, in the absence of a strong trade union movement, or strong left-wing workers’ parties, the politics can often tend towards liberalism – which is a component pillar of capitalism.

The Indonesian government is doing what it is doing to West Papua not because it is Indonesian, or because it is predominantly Islamic. The problem is capitalism in Indonesia, including West Papua, and of course including the United States, Australia and New Zealand. This is one reason why independence for West Papua – if this means the setting up of a small capitalist state in the Indonesian archipelago – will scarcely solve the problems that capitalism in the region is responsible for in West Papua – poverty, unemployment and under-development. East Timor is now discovering this, even as we can acknowledge that the Timorese are of course in a better situation without the presence of the Indonesian military.

From this distance, it appears that the politics of the various pro-independence West Papuan groups has not developed in an anti-capitalist, much less a socialist direction. Some leftists will point to Lenin’s support for the right of nations to self-determination as justification for endorsing the West Papuan independence movement wholesale. Yet Lenin also always stressed that the interests of socialism and the interests of the socialist revolution take priority over a struggle for national self-determination. That is, working people cannot discount a genuine desire for national self-determination, especially that of a former colonial country. At the same time, nationalism has its own logic. If you wage a campaign on strongly nationalist terms, it often directly leads to recognising the nationalism of all nations – even the huge imperialist powers, which are responsible for your oppression in the first place. The nationalism of a small nation, thus often becomes dependent on larger and stronger patrons. Hence the West Papuan independence movement, as much as it criticises Australian and British government backing of the Indonesian government, at the same time appeals to Australian and British parliamentarians to raise and fight for West Papuan independence within their “corridors of power”. The independence movement, in fact, becomes dependent on the large states it inveigles us to campaign against.

Under world capitalism, a small state can barely survive unless it has the backing of very large states. This is why an alternative for West Papua should be a perspective of uniting the working class of all of Papua – non-Papuan and Papuan alike – in a struggle to overthrow capitalism in Papua, Indonesia, and throughout the Asia-Pacific, not the least in Australia and New Zealand. Independence gained in this way would have the potential to address the issues of poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment in West Papua, concern over which is currently being directed towards a movement for (capitalist) independence. This requires the building of Marxist vanguard parties in Papua and Indonesia in the struggle for a socialist Asia-Pacific.

As far away as this perspective may appear, nationalism ultimately offers very little for the working people of Papua. It also does not advance the class struggle in neighbouring Australia, where solidarity can end up being an exercise to lobby for concessions from the Australian government – rather than working to delegitimise the ruling class in the eyes of the workers.  Nevertheless, it can be recognised that the West Papuan people should have the right to determine their own affairs, if indeed this is what they choose, up to and including the right to secede to form their own state. Such a binding referendum, however, would have to include the entire 3.5 million people who inhabit West Papua, indigenous and non-indigenous alike.

Working people internationally should also demand the Indonesian government allow all political activity in West Papua, including that which agitates for independence, to proceed without interference. The flying of the morning star flag should not attract any punishment, let alone jail terms. At the same time, working people should urge the West Papuan independence movement to link with non-Papuans in Papua and Indonesia in a joint struggle against Indonesian capitalism – which is underwritten by its imperialist sponsors.  A socialist West Papua as part of an Indonesian workers’ republic would vastly advance the interests of the workers of West Papua, and spur on class struggle throughout the Asia-Pacific. This would be a movement worth fighting for.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

A feature demand of the West Papuan independence movement is the call for a UN sponsored referendum. Image from http://www.bennywenda.org

PO  Box  66   NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_East_Timor (26-12-2017)

[2] http://www.downtoearth-indonesia.org/old-site/ctrans.htm (26-12-2017)

[3] http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/issues/1990/10/marr.html (26-12-2017)

[4] https://sydney.edu.au/arts/peace_conflict/docs/working_papers/West_Papuan_Demographics_in_2010_Census.pdf (26-12-2017)

[5] https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/east-timor-old-migration-challenges-worlds-newest-country (26-12-2017)

[6] http://humanrightspapua.org/news/23-2017/273-papua-independence-petition-delivered-to-the-united-nations (27-12-2017)

[7] https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B27n3cmOkqI4OUQ3WTZyc0syU28/view (27-12-2017)

[8] http://apjjf.org/2011/9/37/David-Adam-Stott/3597/article.html (28-12-2017)

[9] http://apjjf.org/2011/9/37/David-Adam-Stott/3597/article.html (28-12-2017)

[10] http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/15/government-invests-rp-7-6t-in-infrastructure-in-papua-w-papua.html (28-12-2017)

[11] https://en.antaranews.com/news/106427/president-prioritizes-infrastructure-development-in-west-papua (28-12-2017)

[12] http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/321489/indonesia-steps-up-plans-for-west-papua-railway (28-12-2017)

[13] http://papuanews.org/jokowi-inaugurate-6-electricity-infrastructures-in-west-papua/ (28-12-2017)

[14] http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2012-08-28/papuans-claim-australian-link-to-death-squad/4228710 (29-12-2017)

[15] https://www.jclec.org/stakeholders (29-12-2017)

West Papua: Can Independence Deliver?