Fidel Castro – Red Salute!

Statement of the Workers League

29-11-2016 – Fidel Castro has left this world, but his legacy will live on. Fidel was a colossus of the socialist movement, and a monumental figure of 20th century history. Arguably, the revolution which overthrew the US backed Batista regime in 1959, and the introduction of socialism which has led Cuba since, would not have succeeded without Fidel’s leadership.

Possessing an incredible intellect, and immense physical and mental application, Fidel gave himself completely to the political struggle to free his compatriots from US led domination. The formidable achievements of Cuba’s socialism are due in no small part to the efforts of Fidel. The high quality and free health care and education systems are renowned the world over. The international efforts to assist those fighting for their liberation from colonialism, in Angola, Ethiopia and Mozambique, are also part of Fidel’s legacy.

Fidel used the platform of the United Nations as a rostrum to both further the cause of socialism and to expose the anti-working class machinations of world imperialism. A consummate diplomat, Fidel worked with the Non-Aligned movement to help raise other Third World countries into a situation where at least formally, the countries of the “global south” should be seen as the equal of the powerful developed countries of the West.

While working people the world over should acknowledge the almost unmatched contribution of Fidel to the socialist movement, there were some limitations to Fidel’s politics. Fidel was a devotee of the approach of some parties which adhere to what they believe is “Marxist-Leninism”. Generally speaking this approach holds that people can be mobilised to struggle for socialism while appealing to nationalist motivations, regardless of their class position. While there certainly was an international aspect to Fidel’s socialism, there was a nationalist aspect as well. If an achieved socialism is kept within its own borders, many compromises against the interests of working people, internally and externally, have to be made. It tends to conservatise, rather than radicalise, working people in Cuba and internationally.

Cuba under Fidel always sought “friendly” relations with all countries, regardless of whether they were socialist, capitalist – or something worse. This meant friendly relations with many countries while ignoring serious incursions against working people in that country, and even sometimes supporting these incursions. For example, Cuba under Fidel generated friendly relations with the genocidal Sri Lankan government, despite its horrific repression of the Tamil people. Even when the Sri Lankan military went on to slaughter around 20 000 Tamils during the final war in 2009, the Cuban government loudly proclaimed its backing of this annihilation within the United Nations.

Another example was the welcoming of the Pope to Cuba. Both Fidel and Raul welcomed different Popes to Cuba, in the name of seeking friendly relations. However, the Vatican is a reactionary body, which has historically done more to dismantle socialism than build it. The Vatican organised and led anti-communist opposition to the socialist states of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Especially in Poland, the Vatican was a key reason for the eventual overthrow of these countries where capitalism had previously been abolished. Embracing the Pope was thus a dangerous move which undermines the socialism they built.

While the internationalism of the Cuban doctors which volunteered in many countries around the world was legendary, and to be applauded, the other aspect was that these doctors would never mention politics or the international struggle for socialism. Also, Australian socialists probably noticed the dual role that Cuban government representatives played when they visited these shores. On the one hand, such representatives would meet with left parties and solidarity groups. On the other hand, they would also seek to meet and mingle with the most notorious representatives of the Australian capitalist state – senior Liberal and Labor politicians.

In Cuba internally, Fidel led a socialist state which in many ways was a thousand times more democratic than that which workers experience in the capitalist West. For example, all Cuban citizens from the age of 16 can run for election to any state body. Money plays no part in the election process, and the Cuban Communist Party endorses no candidates at these elections.  At the same time, the Cuban Communist Party, despite seeking wide consultation with the populace, lacked internal democratic rights. From what can be observed, Cuban revolutionaries inside and outside the Cuban Communist Party are now dealing with the legacy of elements such as the withholding of internal criticism.

Despite limitations, the socialist movement owes a debt to Fidel Castro. Workers who desire an end to capitalism internationally, and the victory of socialism, would do well to aspire to emulate the commitment and the devotion to the cause of socialism that Fidel gave willingly. Above all, Fidel proved that no matter what the odds, no matter what the difficulties, the victory of socialism is eminently possible. It can be done. Vale Fidel Castro!

 

Workers League

http://www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO Box 66 Nundah QLD  4012

 

US Election 2016 – World War III Averted – For Now. For Workers’ Struggle against All Wings of the Elite!

18-11-2016 – The shock result of the US Presidential Election is beginning to sink in. Donald Trump, a rogue billionaire who unexpectedly gained the nomination for the Republican Party, even more unexpectedly won the election, albeit on the basis of Electoral College votes. Despite not having the support of the US ruling class or the US political establishment, Trump’s triumph resembles the Brexit vote in the UK, which was fuelled by large doses of xenophobia. Trump certainly used racism and bigotry in his campaign, but this is not the reason he won. Primarily, US voters turned to Trump as they believed that he represented a break from the ruling class politics which had decimated US society, resulting in the dramatic lowering of living standards as a result of the Great Recession which began in 2008. Hilary Clinton and the Democrats represented a continuation of unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, brutal police killings of African-Americans, an escalating cost of living and much more – which the Barak Obama administration had delivered for eight years.

For the world’s people, the most important bullet which was dodged was that with Clinton’s defeat, World War III has been averted – at least momentarily. Hilary Clinton, tied by a thousand threads to the military-industrial complex and the rest of the US ruling class, was the most dangerous person, man or woman, on the face of the planet. It was virtually assured that with Clinton in the White House, war against Russia, and also possibly against China, would simply be a matter of course. Clinton, who had bragged in 2009 that “if I am President, we will attack Iran”, had openly threatened Russia, referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as “the new Hitler”, and claimed that Russia was infiltrating the US elections. For this there was not a shred of evidence. Clinton had openly threatened a “no-fly zone” over Syria, which her own Generals advised would be a declaration of war against Russia and Syria. Clinton, who as Secretary of State, had NATO bomb Libya to smithereens, and then gloated about the murder of its leader Colonel Gaddafi – represented nothing less than nuclear world war.

Due to the fact that Trump was an outsider within the US ruling class, he was able to separate himself from the Obama-Clinton foreign policy nightmare, the central plank of which was the arming and funding of genocidal ISIS and Al-Qaeda terrorists throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and further afield. Thanks largely to the intervention of the Russian military, at the invitation of the Syrian government; the US led war for regime change in Syria has come to a grinding halt. Trump, who despite his billions is somewhat detached from the US ruling class, called out and denounced the mass crime of outsourcing US wars. He could also see that Russia was deadly serious about taking out ISIS, whereas the US was not. Russia was almost single-handedly responsible for preventing the threat of ISIS from spreading, and this, more than anything else, exposed the US Empire.

None of this means, however, that Trump’s foreign policy will always coincide with the interests of working people the world over. In fact, indications are that the Trump administration will back the Zionist state of Israel with its horrendous suppression of the Palestinian people to an even greater degree than previously. There are also indications that Trump will seek to start a trade war with China, by lumping huge tariffs on all incoming trade of Chinese products. A military confrontation with China, however, does not at this stage appear to be on the cards. Trump has made numerous statements indicating a desire to make Japan and South Korea pay for US protection in the Asia-Pacific, alongside demanding European members of NATO also pay for their own “protection” from Russia. Of course there is no threat from Russia – the threat is the other way, from NATO members provocatively mobilising troops and missiles right on the border with Russia. NATO also helped to install a fascist-led Nazi government in Kiev, Ukraine, which was directly aimed at Russia.

Working people in the US, internationally, and especially here in Australia, have a military side against US imperialism, and with the states currently holding back the US Empire, and thus preventing World War. That is, working people should militarily ally themselves with Russia, China, Iran, Syria and their allies such as Zimbabwe, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and others. Political support for these states, on the other hand, is conditional. This is because some of the capitalist states such as Iran and Russia, are likely to seek to appease imperialism, perhaps mistakenly believing that imperialism can be negotiated with. In turn some of the socialist states such as China, Cuba the DPRK, can also seek to cut deals with imperialism in order to safeguard their domestic socialism, and act which nonetheless erodes international socialism.

Opposing this axis is of course is the US Empire, with its allies  Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Qatar and so on. To what extent Trump comes to terms with Russia and Iran, or to what extent the US state will allow Trump to come to terms with Russia and Iran, is an open question. Even though working people can back Trump’s willingness to join with Russia to quash ISIS once and for all, Trump and the Republican Party are of course not reliable allies. Further, it is possible that a further contraction in the capitalist economy in the US and in Europe and the West could lead to the breakout of a world military conflict regardless of the intentions of the Trump administration. Production for private profit drives its own outcomes, unless checked by an active and mobilised working class.

Prospects for working people domestically

With Trump’s election, living and working conditions could decline still further for US citizens. Racists and fascists could be emboldened to organise even further than what they have been. But the conditions which have created this have not been created by the election of Trump. The conditions which have led to economic and social near collapse has been the day to day operation of the capitalist system, which for the last eight years was overseen by Obama and Clinton. Working people fighting back therefore, need to target not only Trump and the Republicans, but Clinton and the Democrats, and the entire US ruling class. Rising up against Trump only will serve to rehabilitate the Democrats, whoever their next leader will be. Racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny – these are all cancers which must be fought by working people. But they cannot be fought by backing one side of the ruling class, or calling for a “people’s movement”, which inevitably becomes class-collaborationist. Voting, or in any way supporting, the lesser evil always means that workers cop the lesser evil and the greater evil together.

It is possible that here in Australia, far-right groups and parties will be encouraged to organise still further by the election of the Trump administration. And like in the US, the racism, xenophobia and bigotry of the far right here – such as that of the United Patriots Front, the Party for Freedom and even One Nation, cannot be fought on the simple plane of their misguided ideas. Working people are attracted to the far right not because they are inherently racist, but because they see no other option to address their plight. Hence, the material reasons for the drift to the right have to be undermined by sustained left wing class struggle.

Some claim that the left cannot fight the far-right because the left is divided. In fact, the “left” – such as it exists, is united – but on a liberal basis, rather than a working class basis. Many leftists believe that a “broad” or “people’s” movement is all that is needed to combat the right. However, a “broad” movement, encompassing anyone from a rank and file worker, up to liberal NGOs and the Australian Greens, will not be able to begin to address current problems because it is tied to the “progressive” wing of the ruling class. Not only will such a movement not be able to counter racism and/or fascism, it will not be able to materially improve the living and working conditions of working people.

What is desperately needed is not to unite the classless “people”, but to unite the workers in struggle. A key demand which could play a huge role is beginning a fightback is the demand for a 30 hour week with no loss in pay!  Workers and Unions leading such a mass struggle would draw in other sectors of society who want to find a way out of the current impasse. Other basic demands, such as for free, or at least affordable, housing, health care and education would be discussed in the process. Such a movement would inevitably lead to a discussion amongst workers at to what kind of society needs to replace capitalist decay.

An obstacle to this necessary path of struggle will be conservative Trade Union officials, who can only maintain their self-serving careers by preventing workers from seriously challenging their own oppression. A sustained political struggle against them, and against all the forces of the old world, will unleash workers’ abilities as never before. From mass strikes can emerge the beginnings of a mass workers party, the necessary prerequisite for a successful socialist revolution. Only sustained class struggle can roll back the far-right, and only a workers’ revolution can abolish the daily horrors thrown in our faces.
FOR WORKERS STRUGGLE AGAINST ALL WINGS OF THE ELITE!

 

Workers League

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

 

Shut down Nauru! For an Anti-Empire Refugee Rights Movement!

30-10-2016 – The United Nations (UN) refers to it as abuse. Amnesty International refers to it as torture. Others believe there are no words to describe the inhumanity dealt out to asylum seekers on the Australian run detention centre on the remote island of Nauru. The latest report from the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child highlights the “inhuman and degrading treatment, including physical, psychological and sexual abuse against asylum seeking and refugee children living in the Regional Processing Centres.”[1] The report also notes the concern that visas for journalists travelling to Nauru are now charged a non-refundable fee of approximately $10 000. A more blatant attempt at a cover up could scarcely be imagined.

Amnesty International’s report, titled Island of Despair, is even more damning. Amnesty researches interviewed detainees on Nauru and found a common tale of incredible mental assault, with any number of horrific practices being frequently used to deliberately break men, women and children, causing physical and emotional scars that will barely ever heal. Inside or outside the detention centre, Nauru is simply not safe for refugees and asylum seekers, and this is known to Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield), and the Australian Government. In fact, the report emphasises that it is the Australian state, not the Nauruan state, which is responsible for the detention centres. Amnesty concludes that “The conditions on Nauru – refugees severe mental anguish, the intentional nature of the system, and the fact that the goal of offshore processing is to intimidate or coerce people to achieve a specific outcome – amounts to torture.”[2]

The United Nations and Amnesty International, on these occasions, appear to be offering global humanity a service, in seeking to expose the virtually satanic aims of imperial powers such as the Australian capitalist state. Yet this view would be far too superficial. Institutions ranging from bodies such as the United Nations down to NGOs such as Amnesty International are decisively not opposed to the system which produces vast numbers of refugees – the global imperialist order. Therefore, working people must be on their guard when responding to any call to action by such bodies.

The “humanitarian” wing of the Empire

For example, both the United Nations and Amnesty International, for all of the laudable work exposing the crimes of the Australian government’s nefarious actions on Nauru, have at the same time facilitated  some of the very reasons why refugees have been created in the first place. UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Raad Al Hussein recently chimed in on the Aleppo situation, claiming it was a “slaughterhouse”. Trying to appear even handed, he condemned the firing of mortars by “armed opposition groups” into other parts of Aleppo, while claiming that indiscriminate bombing by the Syrian government and their allies was responsible for the majority of civilian casualties.[3] This is a barely concealed call for the West to hurry up and overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic. The fact that the West has attempted this for at least five years by arming, training and funding world history’s most barbarous mercenaries and sending them into Syria doesn’t rate on their moral spectrum. In a similar vein, in August Amnesty International claimed that 18 000 people have died in Syrian state jails since 2011.[4]  How the Syrian state could organise this, while simultaneously pushing itself to breaking point resisting arguably the worst dirty war waged by the West over the last 100 years, is anyone’s guess.

There are many reasons why millions become refugees, poverty and political persecution among them. But the primary reason in the last period is the wars of regime change which have been waged by the US, with the support of Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel (with the support of Australia) against Libya and Syria. Their proxy war in Syria is now presenting the world with imminent danger, as Russia’s efforts to defend Syria against annihilation have led to fury on the part of a US ruling class used to getting its way. World War is not an unlikely scenario, but the provocateur exemplar is the one and only Empire, led by the US ruling class.

This ruling class, backed by Canberra, London, Paris, Riyadh and Tel Aviv, has learnt how to manipulate basic human emotions such as compassion and solidarity for those in distress. It has artfully used this wicked skill to prosecute its imperialist wars, dragging in many which opposed previous imperialist wars, such as that against Iraq in 2003. Willingly signing up to do the propaganda ground work for the empire are organisations such as the UN, and a host of NGO’s such as Amnesty International, Save the Children, Medicines Sans Frontiers, AVAAZ and others. These organisations wax lyrical about “human rights” and saving refugees, while simultaneously issuing open calls for regime change in Syria – an effort which could very easily spark nuclear war. What we are presented with in fact is a pro-war refugee rights movement. Consciously or unconsciously, on our shores we find the Refugee Action Collective as an active protagonist.

The Imperial Left

To be sure, the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) contains many individuals who are genuinely horrified by the abuse of refugees – humans seeking a safe place to live – and are also bitterly opposed to war. Yet these individuals are led down a garden path into the parlour of the Empire by left parties which dominate RAC. All three, Solidarity (Sol), Socialist Alternative (SAlt) and Socialist Alliance (SAll) have been front and centre in efforts to rally those who support humane treatment of refugees behind the nefarious aims of the Empire, earning them the collective nickname of  the “Imperial Left”. They are backed by a certain constituency which, while justifiably enraged at the mistreatment of innocent people fleeing for their lives, see these as mistaken policies, rather than inherent workings of a profit gouging system based on the exploitation of wage labour.

The latest article on the war on Syria in Green Left Weekly, the newspaper of the Socialist Alliance, fails to oppose Australian involvement in the bombing of Deir ez-Zor, despite the Australian government immediately admitting it was involved. Despite evidence presented by Russia to the contrary, SAll go on to state that Russia was the most likely culprit of the bombing of an aid convoy in country west of Aleppo two days afterwards! [5] Despite backing away in recent years from their more open calls for the overthrow of Syria, the emphasising of Russia’s “crimes” pushes them and their supporters inexorably into the web of the US war machine.

SAlt has no such qualms – it has remained forthright in its calls for regime change in Syria from day one. It is at least honest, despite being on the wrong side. SAlt leader Corey Oakley’s latest article in Socialist Alternative’s paper Red Flag is explicit – in black and white it claims the three main parties to blame are Syria, Iran and Russia.[6] It goes on to urge people not to remain wedded to the “old” anti-imperialist position of “just” opposing the US Empire. This appears to be a clear call for active opposition to be directed at those who resist US plunder, i.e., Syria, Russia, Iran, China, etc.

Solidarity, to give them some credit, at least in words opposes Australian involvement in the war on Syria. Yet they also call for opposition for all “outside intervention” in Syria, seeking to portray their position as anti-war.[7] The clear difference, though, is that Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have either been invited into Syria by the Syrian government, and/or,  are co-ordinating their military operations with the Syrian armed forces. Sol also claims that the Iranian forces are “Shia-jihadist” as opposed to “Sunni-jihadist” – referring to the throat cutting mercenaries they call “rebels”.  If the Iranian forces are waging a “jihad”, it is against the US Empire. And the Iranians above all are aware of just how evil this Empire can be.

Refugee rights in the service of Empire

Is all this relevant to RAC called actions to close down the Nauru detention centre? If prosecuting imperialist wars of regime change, on either Iran or Syria, and closing down Nauru could be separated, this would assist immensely. However, this is not the case. At the RAC organised rally in Brisbane today, a keynote speaker is one Mojgan Shamsalipoor, who allegedly fled Iran and ended up in detention in Brisbane, after being taken from Yeronga High School. Ms Shamsalipoor is of the Baha’i faith, which claims to be persecuted in Iran. The Iranian government, for their part, regard the Baha’i as “Zionist spies”. Is this unfounded? Not when you consider that the Baha’i’s spiritual and actual head, the Universal House of Justice (UHJ) is located in Haifa, Israel. Despite this, the Baha’i are actually banned in Israel, as they are in Iran, and many other countries. Why? They have principles which hardly any country could accept as being promulgated, such as: ending national sovereignty, world government, universal currency, universal language, world tribunal, anti-communism, retention of constitutional monarchy, the abolition of non-Baha’i legal systems, the retention of a class system, the abolition of tariffs and an international police force![8]  With political principles such as these, it is a wonder that any country would allow the Baha’i to operate freely. Even so, in Iran, Baha’i are permitted to practice their religion amongst themselves. Yet why do Baha’i claim they are persecuted in Iran, but not in Israel, when in fact open Baha’i practice is banned in both countries?

Regardless of the circumstances of Ms Shamsalipoor, the imperial left parties, dragging RAC in its wake, pounced on the “Free Mojgan” campaign as a means by which to ramp up imperialist pressure on Iran – which is constantly targeted by the US for regime change, ever since its Islamic Revolution in 1979. It dovetails nicely into their five year agitation for US led regime change in Syria, which, if achieved, will almost certainly morph into a war for regime change on Iran. That is, if a nuclear war against Russia, provoked by US belligerence, does not finish us off first.

Break with the Empire!

It is not only the imperial left who shepherd workers back into the fold of their own oppressors. With a few exceptions, all of the liberal intelligentsia and “civil society” stand behind the Australian ruling class, and by extension, the US Empire, in its drive to war. For working people crucially, so does the Union officialdom. We do not know of one Union official, in any capacity, which has even spoken out against the war on Libya or Syria, or the war preparations by the West and NATO against Russia and China, let alone attempt to organise opposition to war amongst Union members and workers generally. With only a few exceptions, neither have any Union officials attempted to mobilise workers to defend refugees in any serious way. This is one of the Union leadership’s key betrayals – for if workers cannot defeat attempts to divide them, either by nationality or racism or refugee status – workers will not be able to defend themselves against the encroachments of capital.

Refugees on Australia’s borders do not fall from the sky – they are yet another symptom of capitalist class society in extreme crisis. It is intricately linked to the unbearable cost of living for working people, relentless assaults on Union organising in workplaces, the desecration of the natural environment – and most especially the wars for regime change being waged by the US Empire – inevitably backed by Canberra. These wars threaten to break out into an open war by the US Empire (US, Britain, France, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Israel and their allies) against those resisting imperialist domination, which are arguably preventing World War III – Russia, China, Iran, Syria and their allies. Working people have a military side with the anti-imperialist bloc. Politically, working people must push forward their own agenda of ending the basis for capitalist war – class struggle, ultimately leading to the workers replacing the capitalist state with their own socialist state. The conditions will then be created for the rational and humane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and indeed rational treatment of working people themselves. SHUT DOWN NAURU!

Workers League

PO BOX 66   NUNDAH  QLD  4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-07/un-slams-nauru-treatment-of-refugee-children/7914132 (27-10-2016)

[2] https://newmatilda.com/2016/10/18/australia-tortures-asylum-seekers-the-gut-wrenching-details-of-amnestys-trip-nauru-report/ (27-10-2016)

[3] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37727800 (28-10-2016)

[4] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37113748 (28-10-2016)

[5] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/syria-new-horrors-outside-powers-worsen-crisis (28-11-2016)

[6] https://redflag.org.au/node/5559 (28-10-2016)

[7] http://www.solidarity.net.au/mag/current/95/bombing-wont-end-war-syria/ (28-11-2016)

[8] https://thebahaiinsider.com/tag/uhj/ (28-10-2016)

No to Refoulement, No deportations! For the liberation of Tamil Eelam!

12-11-2016 – Refoulement – literally, the return of refugees and asylum seekers to a country where they are likely to be persecuted, or even executed – is illegal under international law. As is well known, however, real violations of international law have rarely in the past prevented the Australian government from carrying them out. The return of Tamil asylum seekers by Australian government authorities, sometimes while at sea, plumbs new depths of inhumanity. Tamil asylum seekers are likely to be arrested, or tortured or killed, or all three, at the hands of the Western backed Sri Lankan government now headed by President Maithripala Sirisena, if they are forcibly returned. The numbers are staggering. Since October 2012, the Australian government has forcibly returned 1248 Tamil asylum seekers.[1] Not that this is a concern for the Australian ruling class, who are hell bent on producing ever more scapegoats in an attempt to deflect working people’s attention away from the collapse in living standards, crumbling infrastructure, vanishing public services and rising unemployment.

Sri Lanka’s history is one of rule by not one but three colonialist powers – Portugal, Holland and Britain. But it was British rule which largely laid out the conditions for the horrific oppression of the Tamil people, which used the Roman-like adage of “divide and rule”. This history requires a separate study. One key factor was the “Sinhala Only” Act in 1956,[2] introduced by the Sri Lankan Freedom Party(SLFP), some years after formal independence from Britain, which made Sinhalese the sole language in the country. This had the effect of driving out Tamils from the public service, depriving many of a living and institutionalising discrimination against them. Later, in 1971, the government introduced the so-called “Standardisation” policy, which in effect made it extremely difficult for Tamil students to be accepted into Universities.

These discriminatory policies, and other exclusion measures, whipped up several racist mass riots against the Tamils in 1956, 1958 and 1977. Young Tamils began to think of how this severe repression could be fought against and overcome. It was possible that the course they could have chosen would be that of class struggle socialism. However, an epic betrayal by two self-proclaimed socialist parties, one “Trotskyist” and the other “Stalinist”, probably pushed Tamils seeking justice onto the path of nationalism. The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party (CP) had some influence amongst a country where socialist ideas are generally popular. However, in 1964 both the LSSP and the CP joined with the SLFP led capitalist government, and some took ministerial posts! That is, they joined with the same party in government, which had initiated the “Sinhala Only” Act. This treacherous act condemned the “socialists” in the eyes of Tamils struggling to free their people.

The betrayal of the “left”, combined with the conservative parliamentarism of such groups as the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, seems to have convinced Tamil militants to take up arms. This perspective was even further ingrained after yet another appalling pogrom in 1983, during which around 3000 Tamils were slain by rampaging Sinhala mobs, often led by Buddhist monks. So, under the leadership of V Prabakaran, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) emerged. Within a few years, they had assembled a formidable fighting force of armed guerrillas. While the LTTE were nationalist, rather than socialist, they nevertheless carried out a just struggle against a US backed Colombo elite which used savage racism to maintain themselves in power.

Military defeat of the LTTE

For the five months preceding the final military defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May 2009, the Sri Lankan military slaughtered between seven and 20 000 Tamils, who were indiscriminately bombed to death in LTTE held areas. The LTTE previously had won a series of battles with the Sri Lankan military, despite being vastly outgunned. The Colombo elite has been militarily and politically backed by the United States and Israel, and politically aided by Canberra, for decades. So what factors enabled the Sri Lankan military to defeat the LTTE in 2009? There were several factors, but a key one was the banning of the LTTE as a “terrorist” organisation along with the anti-democratic “anti-terror” laws imposed by many Western countries in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in the US. These laws, or their equivalent, enacted by the US, Canada, Britain, Australia, India and the EU in 2005, severely restricted financial and other support to the LTTE from the large Tamil diaspora. Also critical was the defection of Colonel Karuna to the Sri Lankan government, who reportedly took a section of the Tigers with him, and began supplying information on LTTE positions and practices. Another factor was the Indian state funnelling intelligence from the US to the Sri Lankan government. These and other aspects created a vast advantage for the notorious Sri Lankan military.

Thus the LTTE on its own may well have been able to stand its ground, and hold the 15 000 odd square kilometres it controlled. However, some of the world’s strongest imperialist powers combined to back Sri Lanka in Eelam War IV. Not only that, at the time the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution at the height of the war, supporting Sri Lanka’s conduct!  Unfortunately, voting for this resolution were also several fellow Third World countries such as Ghana and Nigeria, as well as some socialist states such as Cuba, Vietnam and China. The respective leaderships of the socialist states, via their interpretation of the theory of “peaceful coexistence” often lend themselves to betrayal in favour of seeking friendly relations with capitalist states – which often means turning a huge blind eye to manifold crimes within those countries. Alas, the Latin American countries which are supposed to bring to life “21st century socialism”, such as Evo Morales’ Bolivia, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela and Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua also backed the Sri Lankan government, due to a similar standpoint.

At the time, and continuing today, Washington, London, Canberra, New Delhi – with the support of Tel Aviv, all act to back Colombo, and repress the Tamil liberation struggle. These imperialist powers, at all costs, wish to prevent the Tamil and Sinhala workers joining together to challenge Sri Lankan capitalism. The natural deep water port of Trincomalee is what they consider a strategic asset, and indeed Sri Lanka is bypassed by vast amounts of trade sailing from West to East. It is the jewel of the Indian Ocean. With this in mind, the Tamil solidarity movement internationally, as well as the refugee rights movement here, needs to take account of just who will be allies in this struggle and who will be enemies.

Refugee rights in the Asia-Pacific

The refugee rights movement in Australia is now facing the incredible possibility of the federal Liberal government permanently banning refugees imprisoned on Manus Island or Nauru from ever entering Australia, even on a tourist visa, for the rest of their lives.[3] Despite the refugee rights movement being very active over many years, and despite winning some minor reforms, overall it is still being forced back. While this has been happening, Tamil asylum seekers are being deported to almost certain death in Sri Lanka.

In recent years, the refugee rights movement has largely been held in thrall to the vagaries of the imperialist powers, despite its intentions. The last five years have seen two savage imperialist wars which have caused tens of thousands of refugees to flood into Europe, and indeed to other parts of the world including ultimately, Australia. These have been the wars of regime change, first against Libya, and then against Syria. In both cases, some of the same war machines which backed the genocidal Rajapaksa government, armed and funded barbaric mercenaries which were sent into Libya and Syria to lay the unspeakable foundations for the West to step in as “saviour”. This included the US, the UK, Israel – all backed politically by Canberra. Yet what we have experienced is a refugee rights movement which did not oppose these wars, but sung praise about mythical “revolutions”. The refugee rights movement largely came behind sustained Western corporate propaganda, which claimed that Colonel Gaddafi and Bashar Al-Assad were “dictators”. They even switched to call for Syrian refugees to be accepted into Australia – which in practice makes it much easier for the Syrian government to be overthrown. We had, in effect, a pro-war refugee rights movement.

While the refugee rights movement appears to be “putting pressure” on the Australian government to release and humanely treat refugees and asylum seekers coming to this country, in fact they are strengthening the very forces they believe they are protesting against. This is due to the fact that the demands are always placed on the government, rather than against the government. No amount of pleading for human rights, for compassion or for due process, will override the needs of the Australian ruling class to seek and punish innocent scapegoats. The Australian “captains of industry” need to foster and foment extreme racism and nationalism amongst Australian workers in order for them to divert their anger over economic recession and declining living standards from the ones responsible – the corporate and financial elite.

The Tamil solidarity movement, and the refugee rights movement, thus need to turn to the one force which does have the power, and the interest, to win real justice. That force is the working class, here and overseas. To unleash their power requires a political struggle against the Union officials, which, almost universally line their own pockets by steering workers into backing US/AUST imperialism in the Asia-Pacific. This will more than likely require a split in both the refugee rights movement and the Tamil solidarity movement, into pro and anti-worker divisions. By limiting itself to nationalism the Tamil struggle eventually fell, despite remarkable courage, dedication and self-sacrifice. Similarly, by limiting itself to pleading with the Australian rulers, the refugee rights movement here repeatedly takes blows from which it has to repeatedly recover. The bottom line is that the enemy for Tamils and refugees and asylum seekers are the forces and allies of the US Empire, from Washington, to London to Canberra to Colombo. The only ally which can win are the workers themselves, mobilised in opposition to the “masters of war”. NO TO REFOULEMENT!  LIBERATION FOR TAMIL EELAM!

Workers League

PO  BOX  66   NUNDAH  QLD  4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://nswlegalnetwork.wixsite.com/ainswlegalnetwork/single-post/2016/06/08/Discrimination-against-Refugees-Expulsion-of-SriLankan-Tamil-asylum-seekers-arriving-in-Australia-by-boat (07-11-2016)

[2] https://www.britannica.com/event/Sinhala-Only-Bill (07-11-2016)

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-30/manus-nauru-refugees-asylum-seekers-to-be-banned-turnbull-says/7978228

Shut down Don Dale! Release the Aboriginal, Youth and Refugee Detainees!

29-03-2016 – In scenes reminiscent of the notorious Abu Graib prison during the US/UK/AUST imperialist war on Iraq from 2003, the ABC’s 4 Corners program last Monday night broadcast horrific images of Northern Territory “correctional” guards torturing youth detainees at the equally notorious Don Dale Youth Detention Centre. Although one of the detainees shown being shackled and hooded to a chair was white (Dylon Voller), the overwhelming majority of inmates are indigenous. Aboriginal people represent but 3% of the national population, but fill out 28% of the prison population.[1] Pushing the bounds of reality, a staggering 97% of youth detainees in the Northern Territory are of Aboriginal heritage.[2]

The images shown by the 4 Corners report show detainees being tear gassed, beaten, stripped naked, hog tied and hooded, causing untold psychological and physical trauma, in actions which are clearly criminal, according to any definition of the term. Some indigenous leaders are now calling for the Northern Territory government to be sacked or dissolved, saying the gross mistreatment of youth in detention should result in a forfeit of a right to govern.[3] The Federal Government’s response has been to call a Royal Commission, in a well-worn path of attempting to divert mounting anger into long drawn-out and ultimately fruitless channels. The last Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody in 1987, as is widely known, handed down 330 recommendations – virtually all of which have never been implemented. It was a classic whitewash, as will be the latest one. Ultimately, there will be no change when the capitalist state investigates itself – in the same way that police cannot independently investigate police.

Both the Federal Government and the Northern Territory government cannot now claim to be shocked as to the latest events to be revealed. For at least 5 years, the abuse of detainees at Don Dale has been known to all levels of government, regardless of which parliamentary party sat on the benches of government. In fact, repeated incidents of abuse at Don Dale were reported between 2010 and 2012, when it was not a Liberal National Coalition government, but one formed by the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens. All parties, both Federal and Northern Territory governments, the police and the “corrective services” management knew of gross maltreatment of those supposedly in their care, yet did nothing.

The fact that Aboriginal and non-indigenous youth have carried out petty crimes and crimes against property and end up in detention, is ultimately an end result of the vicious cycle of poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment. There literally is little future in a society which offers them no or low-paying jobs, an unaffordable cost of living, disintegrating public services and crumbling public infrastructure. Amongst this dire outlook, the marginalisation of Aboriginal people and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds is yet another damning indictment of a society which subordinates almost all human endeavour to the accumulation of capital into the hands of a numerically insignificant but obscenely wealthy minority.

There are striking parallels between the torture meted out to the detainees at Don Dale and that imposed on innocent human beings seeking asylum and a safe place to live in Australia. Australia has the ignominious distinction to now be known worldwide for clearly illegal and inhumane treatment of refugees who are more often than not fleeing the very wars which Canberra has waged alongside Washington in the Middle East and elsewhere. In both cases, at Don Dale and refugee detention centres either on the mainland or off-shore in Nauru and Manus Island, the unfortunate people are treated as less than human, as something to be denied humanity, dignity and physical and mental health. The further the system of private profit declines, the worse the treatment of its victims.

The repression is creeping into society as a whole. Catch a train or walk down a city centre, and you are likely to cross the path or be accosted by heavily armed police, or public transport guards who have the power to detain, beat and/or prosecute you. It is in public, not just behind the walls of detention centres, that indigenous people, youth, people of colour, Muslims or anyone deemed to be an “other”, can be targeted for state sponsored repression. The increase of repression and the falling rate of profit are directly linked. The ruling classes are aware that their system is on the ropes, and are preparing to prevent a large scale fight back. This is precisely what working people and their supporters need to organise.

Despite the horrors we see almost on a daily basis, there is no need for despair. The crisis presents an opportunity to fight, push through, and win the deep changes for which working people are crying out. Political strategy is crucial. While indigenous people suffer the worst effects of oppression in capitalist Australia, their oppression is linked to the oppression of working people. Thus it is imperative that Indigenous activists and their supporters look towards efforts to win over people as workers and draw them in to political action which engages in a class struggle against the source of both Aboriginal and worker misfortune – the ruling class and its state apparatus.

The main block to mobilising people as workers is the ideologically pro-capitalist Union bureaucracy, which seeks to restrict industrial action to that which is acceptable to the corporate magnates. The battle to replace the conservative careerists at the head of almost all Unions with a leadership committed to the needs of workers and the oppressed is bound up with the struggle to forge a multi-racial revolutionary workers’ party. Such a party would seek to assist all efforts to end indigenous disadvantage with the same vigour as it would defend the interests of working people.

While every effort should be made to end the horror of Don Dale, those struggling for justice would do well to recognise that indigenous oppression is common only to those countries where capital rules. Countries which have established workers’ rule – China, the DPRK, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba – do not and cannot oppress their own indigenous people. Indeed, through the mechanism of their respective workers’ states, often the indigenous people are heading up and leading these countries’ path towards socialism. Release the Aboriginal, youth and refugee detainees!

Workers League
PO Box 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/law/aboriginal-prison-rates (27-07-2016)

[2] http://www.sbs.com.au/news/thefeed/article/2016/07/26/facts-about-indigenous-youth-detention-australia (27-07-2016)

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-26/indigenous-leaders-call-for-nt-government-to-be-sacked/7662150 (27-07-2016)

Shut down Nauru! No wars of “regime change”! Full citizenship rights for refugees and migrants!

27-08-2016 – The Nauru files, a cache of 2000 reports totalling over 8000 pages, present yet more overwhelming evidence of worsening mental, physical and sexual abuse of refugees on the Australian run detention centre on Nauru. Around half of the files present evidence of serious harm to children. Refugees, who have committed no crime, are being subjected to grossly inhumane conditions which amount to nothing less than torture. The files are replete with stories of guards asking for sexual favours from female asylum seekers, beating children and dehumanising the detainees daily.[1] The files are reportedly grim reading for anyone with a shred of humanity.

The detention centre on Nauru is wholly the responsibility of the Australian government. Nauru is the world’s smallest island state, with a population of around 10 000 people. Although the Nauruan government signed the deal, it is not in a position to bargain equally with Australia, which has the world’s 13th largest economy. If the Nauruan government said no to the Australian government run detention centre, the Australian government could easily withhold much needed trade and basic supplies. The refugee rights movement is correct to point the finger directly at the Australian state.

While the refugee rights movement in this country is to be commended for its relentless activity and commitment, which has given the opportunity for those opposed to inhuman behaviour against innocents to mobilise, it also needs to take stock. The refugee rights movement has won some minor gains, but overall the situation remains dire. The Australian government has repeatedly given every indication that no amount of exposure of its crimes against human beings, no amount of damage to the international reputation of the country, and no domestic or international law will deter it from administering unparalleled brutality against those who are its convenient scapegoats. The Australian government rules for the interest of capitalism internationally. It considers that one of the most important duties it must carry out is to actively prevent workers from binding together against the “market forces” which are denying workers here a decent standard of living. If keeping working people blaming “refugees”, “migrants” and other “others” for their own misfortune means carrying out appalling human rights abuses against asylum seekers, then this is what they will do.

For this reason, if no other, the refugee rights movement will either move forward together with the labour movement, or they will fall back separately. It is in the direct interests of the workers to end the vicious mistreatment of refugees, so they can also fight back against their own mistreatment in the workplace, a direct product of the ongoing capitalist economic crisis. The refugee rights movement therefore needs to strategically orient to the labour movement, and seek to encourage it to enter the field of class struggle. It is noted that this is extremely difficult, as the major block towards mobilising workers in their own interests, as well as for basic humanity, is the ideologically pro-capitalist Union officialdom, which, with a few exceptions, so thoroughly integrates itself into the capitalist state that it virtually functions as an arm of the government. In an effort to overcome this, the refugee rights movement should at the least raise demands and slogans aimed towards workers as workers. There are many ways to formulate such demands, but one could be: Workers Demand – Shut Down Nauru!

Against War

The refugee rights movement as it stands carries out numerous actions in which working people and supporters of humane treatment of asylum seekers can be a part of. Groups such as the Refugee Action Collective are to be applauded for the organisational work they ceaselessly engage in. At the same time, there are severe political limitations which hamper its impact. For one thing, the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) – and the left parties which underpin it, such as Solidarity (SOL), Socialist Alternative (SALT) and Socialist Alliance (SALL) – make little or no attempt to explain one of the major drivers for the refugee exodus from the Middle East and North Africa – the US led wars for regime change in Libya and Syria. This is for very good reason – these left parties, to the last letter, have not opposed these wars, but backed them. This then flows on as the defacto position of RAC. In this, they are joined by the more mainstream Australian Greens, the labour bureaucracy sitting atop the Unions, and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) front groups such as GetUp! and “Love Makes a Way”. Despite their differences, all of these groups and left parties, RAC, the ALP, the Greens and conservative Union officials line up with the foreign policy of Canberra – tied as it is by a thousand threads to that of the US behemoth.

Make no mistake, the US led war for regime change in Syria has been perhaps the most dishonest of dirty wars ever waged in history. Professor Tim Anderson’s book on the subject has the apt title “The Dirty War on Syria”. The US Empire has been unequalled in the savage barbarism it unleashed in the form of “ISIS” and at least 20 other “Islamic” mercenary terrorist groups. It is an open secret that ISIS and all “opposition” groups in Syria was armed, and/or funded with aid from the governments of the US, France, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan, with assistance from Israel.[2] US Special Forces have entered Syria, and recently pictures emerged of British Special Forces on the ground in Syria.[3] The notion that the US and British troops are there to fight “against” ISIS is patently absurd. It is much more likely that they are in the process of securing patches of Syria as “ISIS-free zones” in order to occupy them themselves and thus facilitate the break-up of the Syrian Arab Republic. For years, Western governments have chanted in unison “Assad must go”, while arming the most reprehensible misanthropes in an effort to do just that.

The wholesale slaughter of men, women and children across Syria has necessarily forced some to flee the country, some becoming refugees within Europe, others fleeing further, including to Australia. At a certain point, imperialism itself used the refugee crisis to further its war agenda. Witness the outcry over the pictures showing a Syrian boy of Kurdish background being washed up after drowning trying to cross with his family from Turkey into Greece in early September 2015.[4] At that moment, groups such as GetUp! and RAC took the bait, and took the streets to demand “action” in Syria. Though unstated, the “action” they demanded was an outright imperialist war of conquest. Many genuine people were thus mobilised for a cataclysmic war, under the guise of concern for refugees.

It was soon after this that Russia finally drew the conclusion that if the US was to overthrow Syria, not only the Middle East, but the entire region could descend further into a conflagration which would almost certainly reach their doorstep. Thus on September 30 2015 Russia, at the invitation of the Syrian government, began a military campaign to eliminate ISIS and all mercenary terrorist groups seeking to overthrow the Syrian state.[5] The military campaign has been devastatingly effective in a military and political sense. Militarily, it has finally turned the tables decisively in the interests of the sovereignty of Syria. Politically, it has exposed the US role as the benefactors of ISIS and other terrorist groups, for the US did not want to harm its investments in Syria. Russia has also been joined by Iran, the Lebanese Hezbollah and most recently, China.[6] We should be clear, the intervention of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and China on the side of Syria has dealt a decisive setback to the aims of US imperialism, and thus these actions can only be supported by working people worldwide. This does not necessarily imply, however, political support for the governments involved.

Furthermore, the turning of the war against US imperialism can only improve the drastic situation for refugees, for now some Syrian refugees are already seeking to return to their home. For with the military might of Russia behind it, it is more unlikely that the Syrian government will be dislodged. It should also be noted that in practice the call to welcome Syrian refugees to Australia was deeply reactionary, in that the draining of the Syrian population from Syria can only ease the conditions for an ISIS victory. But this is precisely what RAC, its constituent left parties, and GetUp! et al overtly spruiked. It is a subtle call for the overthrow of the Syrian government – their aim all along. All of these groups, especially SOL, SALT and SALL, bizarrely refer to US armed mercenaries in Syria beheading their way across that country as “revolutionaries” – without ever being able to name a single group or individual. Thus, while refugee rights supporters should not oppose Syrian refugees coming to Australia, neither should we call specifically for it.

It would be remiss of refugee rights supporters to ignore the role of Canberra in the war for regime change in Syria. In fact, the former Liberal government dispatched Australian troops to Syria, along with six fighter jets, and claimed to be bombing ISIS targets. This has to be taken with a large grain of salt. The Australian ruling class is lockstep with Washington, whose aim has always been regime change. It is more likely that any such bombing clears the way for ISIS. However, this facet of the war became moot when Russia entered the war at the request of the Syrians. The Australian jets soon had to turn tail and run, lest they come up against the far superior Russian jet fighters.[7] Australia, however, still maintains its hardware and troops in Iraq and Syria. This does not assist anything except creating more war and thus more refugees. The refugee rights movement and working people here need to loudly demand: Australian Troops: Out of Iraq and Syria!

Link the refugee rights struggle to standards of living

One reason why the Federal Government’s deplorable treatment of refugees does not immediately provoke mass outrage is the deteriorating living standards which the recession prone capitalist economy has been imposing on Australian working people for at least the last 30 years. It is all too easy, in an economic environment where unemployment is rampant, housing virtually unaffordable, and health and education costs, together with basic services such as electricity and water are skyrocketing, to blame an “other” – in this case refugees. To cut against this, the refugee rights movement needs to link the efforts for humane treatment of those seeking asylum to the struggle to maintain decent living standards for working people. This way, workers can see that there is no contradiction between assisting refugees and asylum seekers, and improving living conditions for everyone here. For example, the refugee rights movement could demand that a job, a Union, housing, health, education and welfare services are entitlements of everyone living here, including refugees and asylum seekers. To undercut any concern about a lack of jobs to go around for Australians and refugees, the Union movement should demand and fight for a drastic reduction in the working week with no loss in pay, to share around the available work and allow all to take part in their communities. It should also demand automatic wage indexation to offset inflation. If the Unions could lead a determined struggle for these demands for all workers, angst towards refugees is likely to fade away.

Despite their pro-war stance, to their credit RAC demands permanent visas, instead of the agony of temporary visas, which allow refugees and asylum seekers to be deported at the whim of the government at any time. However, the refugee rights movement should go further and demand full citizenship rights for all refugees and migrants. There is no more basic right than to be acknowledged as a citizen, and thus have the right to access jobs, housing, healthcare, education, pensions, join a Union, apply for jobs in the public service, and so on. The ruling class does not have the right to decide who can be, and who cannot be, a citizen. To our knowledge, throughout history it is only social revolution which has won this simple democratic right. The first time was during the French Revolution of 1789, the second time was during the Paris Commune of 1871, and the third time was during the October Revolution in Russia in 1917. At that time, the new Soviet government made it clear that any working person, regardless of nationality, resident within the area covered by the victorious revolutionary forces would be welcomed. Before our movement reaches such heights, we need to demand full citizenship rights for all those who have made it to these shores.

 

Unfortunately, the depth of the economic recession has, in the absence of a strong left-wing alternative, produced ultra-right wing political excrescences such as One Nation, Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front. Mistakenly associating ISIS with Islam, these fascistic goons also blame refugees for the failures of “free enterprise”. The environment of war combined with the “war on terror” propaganda has resulted in some street attacks on those identifiable as “Islamic”. In response, we call for integrated workers defence guards, both to defend refugees and those who follow the Islamic faith, in order to secure peaceful communities for working people to live. At the same time, we give no endorsement of any religious views, recognising that these should remain a private matter.

We should be aware that even if we are able to win humane treatment of refugees here, the world’s refugee crisis will not be solved while capitalism rules five-sixths of the world. The global capitalist economic crisis generates ever more reckless imperialist wars, and flirts with world war against Russia and China. The vast inequalities created by “free markets” cause massive poverty as a matter of course, forcing people to flee in search of a better life. And this is to say nothing of the potential incineration of humanity via runaway climate change, which has already caused its own flow of refugees. The only hope for working people here, and not only to solve the refugee crisis, is to fight for a Socialist Republic of Australia, which can then link up with the existing socialist states in the Asia-Pacific, and reach out to the hundreds of millions of workers in Indonesia and Japan. This task requires the formation of a workers’ vanguard party, which is bound up with efforts to win a class struggle leadership of the Trade Unions. Shut Down Nauru!

Workers League

PO Box 66 Nundah QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/aug/10/the-nauru-files-2000-leaked-reports-reveal-scale-of-abuse-of-children-in-australian-offshore-detention (21-08-16)

[2] http://www.globalresearch.ca/logistics-101-where-does-isis-get-its-guns/5454726 (22-08-16)

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/09/pictures-appear-to-show-british-special-forces-on-syrian-front-line (22-08-16)

[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/aylan-kurdi-s-story-how-a-small-syrian-child-came-to-be-washed-up-on-a-beach-in-turkey-10484588.html (22-08-16)

[5] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-russia-idUSKCN0RU0MG20150930 (22-08-16)

[6] https://southfront.org/chinese-military-to-provide-aid-training-to-syria/ (22-08-16)

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/oct/07/australian-airstrikes-in-syria-on-hold-as-russias-entry-complicates-mission (22-08-16)

Demand Free Education – Just like in the DPRK!

24-08-2016 – The figures are staggering. $20 billion of government funding cut from the University sector, a drift towards total deregulation of fees, $100 000 degrees, and the privatisation of higher education. Combine this with a further slated 20% cut in funding, and a 100% increase in class sizes over the last generation,[1] and the labelling of tertiary education as being “Americanised” is no exaggeration. Along with the daylight robbery type fees, crowded lectures, more online courses and less contact with tutors have become the norm. Higher Education in Australia is becoming, or has become, unaffordable for all but the most privileged.

The quality of the education provided at Universities today and the fees charged proceed in inverse proportions. The worse the quality, the more fees are charged. University staff also suffer – there has been a raft of job cuts at Universities around the country, and many tutors who have some employment are only taken on for short-term contracts. Casualisation is rife, with tutors sometimes only paid for the actual student contact hours. In contrast, the remuneration for University Vice-Chancellors continues to be obscene. Figures for VC salaries from 2015 reveal that the lowest VC salary was $540,000, while seven VCs pulled a salary of over 1 million per year.[2] Universities have become commercialised degree factories, whose graduates are endorsed for uncritically accepting the privatisation of virtually everything.

The rapidly approaching full deregulation of fees will adversely affect international as well as domestic student. A HSBC report found that despite Australia having the highest education costs of any country in the world,[3] international students make up 20% of tertiary student body. These students are treated by University administrations as little more than cash cows, who are charged higher fees than domestic students. These international students have to work to pay the tuition fees in addition to their living expenses, while somehow studying full time. This leads many international students to undertake any available work, often ending up being illegally underpaid by notorious outfits such as the 7 Eleven convenience stores.

While the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has done some positive work to oppose the further drift to full fee deregulation, and to highlight the dangers of $100 000 degrees, it still ultimately retains an electoralist and parliamentarist strategy to address the almost terminal state of accessible higher education. In amongst encouragement to attend rallies, the NTEU officials talk about “helping out at election time” , “writing a letter to your MP”, and “ensuring that the government not abrogate its role in providing [higher education]”. The left party Socialist Alternative (SAlt), the largest left group organising on University campuses, also ultimately plays into a perspective of “pressuring” parliament and parliamentary parties, despite its laudable organisational role. SAlt correctly recognise that both Liberal and Labor parties back the effective privatisation of higher education, but often tailor their calls to target Liberal party ministers, which opens the door for work on the ground with Labor and Greens aligned students.

To be clear, the ongoing attacks on higher education in this country are not a result of the ideas or ideology of the major political parties, nor are they the result of the ideology of “neoliberalism”. Higher education is being privatised due to the economic crisis engulfing the capitalist world economies, mired in effective recession since 2008. In this country, the privatisation of higher education began in 1989 under the Labor Party, but has continued ever since, regardless of whether there has been a Liberal/National, Labor or Labor/Greens coalition. All of these parties are committed to maintaining the capitalist system at the expense of the suffering of working people. All “liberal democratic” governments in this country are thus in practice arms of a dictatorship of the owners of the means of production. This is why they no longer see it (if they ever did) as “their role” to provide accessible higher education, as the NTEU leadership implores.

It is only a socialist government which genuinely sees its role as providing education for all working people. It is in the material interests of a socialist government to ensure all its citizens have access to all forms of education to establish an educated workforce, but also to ensure the scientific and cultural progress of that society. There is a socialist state in the Asia-Pacific region which does provide all its citizens with free education – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – referred to by the corporate media as “North Korea”). The DPRK has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is only 1.3% the size of Australia’s GDP[4], yet it is able to provide education at all levels, including 12 years of schooling, and between 3 and 5 years of University education at no cost to DPRK citizens. What is more, all University graduates are guaranteed employment, as the concept of unemployment is unknown in the DPRK.

It is a far cry from what young working people in Australia face – crippling or unaffordable tuition fees, and a high likelihood of unemployment upon graduation. The contrast between capitalism and socialism could not be more stark. While we face the barrier of wholesale deregulation, however, the same methods used to secure a socialist state – class struggle – is ultimately the only way of obtaining a decent and accessible education system now. Students, as an intermediate body between school and the workforce, do not have the social power to bring the system to a halt. Only the working class, particularly on campus, but also in the public service and workplaces across the country, has the potential to ramp up the class struggle, through mass actions up to and including the withdrawal of labour.

The main obstacle to the linking of the student’s struggle for free education with workers’ power is primarily the influence of the top officials presiding over most Unions, who see their role as channelling any just demands into the capitalist state via pleading with “our” politicians. These politicians are not “ours” no matter how much snake oil they sell. Students and workers need to rely on their own strength, independently of the parliamentary system, to forge a mass movement which has the power to win. This will also require the formation of a workers’ party, which can champion the struggle for both free education and socialism.

DEMAND FREE EDUCATION!

Workers League

PO Box 66 Nundah QLD 4012

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

[1] http://no100kdegrees.org.au/#!portfolio-item/100k-degrees/ (06-08-16)

[2] https://the-scan.com/2015/06/10/vice-chancellors-salary-packages-on-the-rise/ (07-08-16)

[3] http://www.about.hsbc.com.au/news-and-media/australia-the-most-expensive-country-for-education-hsbc-report (10-08-16)

[4] http://www.tradingeconomics.com/north-korea/gdp (10-08-16)

For Public Housing, Green Space and Livable Cities!

21-08-2016 – Concrete jungles, unaffordable housing, expensive public transport, the privatisation and commercialisation of more and more public space, traffic congestion – all this has unfortunately become the norm for Brisbane for some years now. The imposing “West Village” development in West End is scarcely different. Seven 15 storey high-density luxury apartments are proposed by development corporations with no other agenda other than to pocket themselves millions of dollars, and damn the consequences, for they do not live anywhere near the monstrosity built.

Local State Member of Parliament, the Australian Labor Party’s ALP Jackie Trad, has, after objections, initiated the process of “calling in” the West Village development.[1] But this does not at all mean that the project will be stopped – it could be merely a mechanism by which an ALP politician can claim that they have carried out “public consultation”. The ALP, along with the Liberal National Party (LNP) are bought and paid operatives for the system which creates unsustainable development in the first place. In fact, the entire parliamentary system, from the local council right up to the Federal Government, is not a system of “representation”, but a system of suppressing the right of working people to make political decisions.

The parliamentary apparatus is the sham political arm of the capitalist system – the system of private production for private profit. At the same time, privately organised production uses the social labour of the working class to amass all the monetary gain, returning only enough to working people the means to reproduce themselves – or not even that. This system has been in recession for years in Australia, with no current signs of any kind of recovery. Capital seeks an ever greater return on its rate of profit, and thus will undertake projects which glean the highest rate of return – irrespective of what working people and the communities in which they live actually need. Affordable public housing, cheap or free public housing, green space and public parks and amenities – capital pockets no profit from building or maintaining such needs for working people.

Developments such as West Village are an example of the contradiction between private property and social property. As long as the Absoe Furniture site remains private property, the capitalist system will allow, and is set up to enable, the private owners to do as they see fit – short of a huge intervention by working people. Private property in land underpins capitalism. Opposing this system is social property owned in common – socialism. The struggle for rational social planning, for green space, for public housing and public amenities, therefore, is ultimately a struggle against private property. Such a struggle ultimately can only successfully be waged as a working class struggle. A “community” campaign, due to the fact that it appeals to all “locals” regardless of class, just won’t cut it.

Historically, where the working class has waged such a successful struggle which has resulted in victory, working people have reaped the benefits. While in Australia we have governments of all stripes which have privatised public housing, in the People’s Republic of China, their government has embarked on an immense public housing program. By the end of 2014, the Chinese government had supplied 40 million families with low-rent public housing.[2] Housing in China is seen as a responsibility of the government. Or take the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – referred to by the Western media as “North Korea”). Its capital Pyongyang has a whopping 58 square metres of green space per person[3], and is known for its 10 metre wide footpaths. Compare this to Brisbane, with a maximum of 4 square centimetres of green space per person.[4]

The crucial difference is that, with all its imperfections, socialism rules in China and the DPRK, whereas capitalism remains unchallenged in Australia. Local struggles, such as the one against the rapacious property developers, backed by the Brisbane City Council, seeking to bury West End under an avalanche of luxury units, are important way before the struggle advances to the stage of posing questions of the entire system. The efforts of all those struggling to make Brisbane a livable city are welcome. Yet even here class differences will become apparent. Residents and working people will have a totally different conception of “livable” compared to Councillors, developers, real estate agents and even small shopkeepers. They all see dollars in their pockets, whereas as working residents desire a pleasant and amenable place to reside for themselves and their families. In fact, the struggle for livable cities is inseparable from the struggle for decent working conditions, a lower cost of living, decent public transport and basic public services. With the right strategy, a win in one area can mean a win in others. Down with “West Village”! 

Workers League

PO Box 66 Nundah QLD 4012

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/jackie-trad-considers-calling-in-west-end’s-west-village-development-20160727-gqelwv.html (14-08-16)

[2] http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-02/14/content_19590172.htm (15-08-16)

[3] Willoughby, R., 2014, North Korea – The Bradt Travel Guide.

[4] https://prezi.com/ja61waahkmhx/green-space/ (15-08-16)

Black Lives Matter – in the USA, Australia and Libya!

23-07-2016 – The deadly intimidation towards African-Americans residing in the United States of America continues unabated. Police in the US routinely extinguish their lives without fear of being held to account. Alton Sterling and Philando Castille follow Mike Brown and Tamir Rice as only the most well-known US citizens to have been blown away by cops. Latino Americans and a small minority of white Americans are also taken out without cause, but the overwhelming majority are African-Americans, suffering the brunt of a racist society founded on slavery. The website Killed by Police tracks the fatalities committed by cops in the US. It lists 96 fatalities in May this year, followed by 100 in June.[1] That is, close to two hundred in two months – with African-Americans predominating.

The daily discrimination perpetrated against African-Americans in the US takes on a plethora of forms. African-Americans suffer higher levels of unemployment, vast inequalities in financial wealth as opposed to white Americans, higher rates of poverty, lack of access to higher education, disproportionately higher levels of incarceration and much more. Approximately one quarter of African-Americans live below the poverty line in the US, compared to less than 10 per cent of white Americans. African-American males have a 1 in 4 chance of being imprisoned, compared with white American males having a 1 in 23 chance of being imprisoned.[2]

US society is falling apart at the seams, but it is important to trace this latest unravelling to the devastating impact of the “Global” Financial Crisis which began in 2008. The “normal” functioning of capitalism in the US proceeds with extreme racism against African-Americans at the best of times, but when the profit system falls into crisis, working people and the most oppressed are made to pay for it. It is for this reason that there has been a spike in the number and extent of brutal police killings of African-Americans in the last couple of years. Capitalism means the breakdown of society. In the US, this means even more extreme racial oppression domestically, combined with even more US led wars of regime change internationally. The two are interlinked, and actions in response should reflect this reality.

The theme of “Black Lives Matter” is also directly applicable to the Australian context. Here, the Aboriginal people, who had been custodians of this continent for at least 40 000 years before British colonisation, continue to endure racial oppression no less significant than that which occurs in the US. After almost being wiped out in a genocidal war of occupation which lasted for 150 years, the Aboriginal people miraculously survived, with parts of their ancient culture intact. Yet the establishment of Australian capitalism has prevented Aboriginal people from basic participation in society as equals. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that modern Australian society was founded on the dispossession and brutalisation of its indigenous people. To seriously acknowledge this would call into question the very basis of the “Commonwealth of Australia”.

A brief glance at recent figures indicates the depth and extent of Aboriginal disadvantage in Australia. Aboriginal people die ten years earlier than non-indigenous people in Australia, and they are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned. The indigenous infant mortality rate is double that of non-indigenous people. Only 60% of Aboriginal students finish year 12, and only 47.5% of indigenous people in Australia are employed.[3] Aboriginal deaths in custody continue to occur, 25 years after the Federal Government’s Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. In fact, since that commission, a further 330 indigenous people have perished in custody.[4] Essentially there has been no reduction, and no progress on the basic right of Aboriginal people to be treated as others are treated in custody, or in society.

If the US ruling class has no regard for Black Lives domestically, it certainly doesn’t in its prosecution of its wars for Empire. During the US led war of regime change against the former government of Libya in 2011, the US, with the assistance of Saudi Arabia, armed and funded mercenary Islamic fundamentalists in order to overthrow the imperfect but nonetheless anti-imperialist government led by Colonel Gaddafi.[5] The US had in fact never ceased it’s funding of Islamic fundamentalists since it’s arming of the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s. Due to the fact that these mercenaries in Libya had little domestic support, they were unable to overthrow the Gaddafi led government. So in stepped the US and its NATO allies with a lethal bombing campaign which brought about a horrific end to Libya as it was known.

The armed Islamic fundamentalists were referred to by the corporate media as “rebels”, and many liberals were unable to break from this spurious imperialist pretext. Some left parties even lauded them as “revolutionaries” and cheered them on even as their atrocities became known. Many of these atrocities were carried out against Black Africans, who are mainly concentrated in the south of Libya. These Black Africans were seen by the “rebels” as supporters of the Libyan government, and thus were targeted for slaughter.[6] As leading Hands Off Syria academic Jay Tharappel has pointed out, despite the massacres of Black Libyans, the “rebels” were politically backed by some left parties, who fell into line with the US as it went to war. These parties in Australia include the Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative, Solidarity and the Communist Party of Australia. Despite their silence on the extermination of Black Libyans, most of these groups now throw their support behind Black Lives Matter.

The hideous racial oppression of Black people in the US and Australia, and the prosecution of imperialist wars overseas – from Libya to Syria to Ukraine to the potential wars against Russia and China – are thus all linked. Capitalism needs racism to survive, both to divide their domestic working classes against themselves, and to gain at least their passive acquiescence to racist imperialist wars against the Third World, and any country which even hints in the direction of political independence from the US Empire. Canberra plays its own role as an imperialist power in the Asia Pacific, as well as a foot soldier for the largest US wars of conquest. Fighting the oppression of African-Americans in the US, and the Aboriginal people in Australia requires a simultaneous struggle against all facets of imperialism.

In a sense, the police patrolling the streets are the domestic embodiment of imperialism. In essence, police are mercenaries, hired by the ruling class to protect the private property of the ‘captains of industry’. To do this, they must suppress the workers, who create every dollar of capitalist profit through their labour. The harshest repression, however, is meted out to those with black skin, either in the US or Australia. Police officers are virtually licenced to harass, threaten, beat, incarcerate or kill those they see as black, with impunity. To end this requires the overturn of the entire system of capitalist exploitation and violence, through workers’ revolution and the victory of socialism. This requires the formation of a multi-racial workers’ party, which can champion the liberation of black people through leading class struggle. While Black people experience the worst effects of capitalist repression, it is only by allying with the working class that enough social power can be mobilised to undermine, and eventually overthrow, the ultimate source of oppression – private capital.

FOR BLACK LIBERATION THROUGH WORKERS’ REVOLUTION!

Workers League

PO BOX 66   NUNDAH   QLD   4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://killedbypolice.net/ (16-07-16)

[2] http://minorityrights.org/minorities/african-americans/ (16-07-16)

[3] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/closing-the-gap-five-numbers-that-should-shame-australia-20160210-gmqlbl.html (16-07-16)

[4] http://www.amnesty.org.au/indigenous-rights/comments/41572/ (16-07-16)

[5] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/americas-secret-plan-to-arm-libyas-rebels-2234227.html (17-07-16)

[6] https://humanrightsinvestigations.org/2011/07/07/libya-ethnic-cleansing/ (17-7-16)

NATO: Troops Out of Eastern Europe! Lift the Sanctions! Hands Off Russia!

03-05-2016 – In a rational world, a fleet of warships belonging to country A patrolling 50 miles from the shore of country B would be seen as a considerable threat to the security of country B. Not so if you happen to be a part of the Western corporate media, and country A is Russia, and country B is the United States of America. In that case, Russia is seen as a hostile provocateur, and the US is seen as waging a heroic struggle to contain an aggressive rogue state. The massive and ongoing mobilisation of US and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) troops on the borders of Russia, far from being seen as unwarranted, is seen as a necessary amassment to prevent the evil Kremlin plotting against Europe.

Needless to say, the world labouring under the hegemony of US imperialism, is not rational, and won’t be until the dragon is slayed. Thankfully, some of the actions of the Russian state are staying the hand of the US imperialist dragon, but this is something which the arrogant hegemon cannot forgive. An example is the Russian intervention on the side of the Syrian Arab Republic against the atrocious proxy war being waged against it by the US and its allies Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and backed by Israel. At the invitation of the Syrian government, from September 30 last year, the Russian military began taking out the US proxy ISIS forces, and other armed mercenary groups committing barbaric acts against civilians across Syria. The actions of the Russian government, supported by Iran and Hezbollah, tipped the balance decisively in favour of elementary justice – the right of a sovereign state to exercise its own policies independently of imperialism. At the same time, the Russian moves thoroughly exposed the US role in funding and arming jihadist barbarians and trucking them into Syria. The US could not openly defend its own monsters, for even the most blind would clearly see what is an open secret.

Even if Russia had not come to the material aid of Syria, however, Russia would still be relentlessly targeted, and indeed, surrounded on many sides. In an important sense, the US war for regime change is not just directed at Syria, but Russia. It’s not difficult to see that the US/NATO backing of a fascist coup in Ukraine in 2014 was and is another front aimed at Russia. On top of this, Pentagon officials have recently announced plans to deploy 4000 troops, 250 tanks and 1700 pieces of wheeled military hardware to Eastern Europe.[1] It is thought that the Britain and Germany will contribute to these four new battalions. NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander General Philip Breedlove is being replaced by US Army General Curtis Scarapotti. Scarapotti reportedly told a US Senate hearing that Russia was displaying “increasingly aggressive behaviour that challenges international norms, often in violation of international law”.[2]

Such rhetoric is scarcely credible. And what should be the response of Russia when NATO essentially occupies Europe? One would think a natural response would be one in which Russia makes every move to defend itself against what could potentially be a dire threat. And this is apparently what has occurred – Russian military troop movements and exercises in the vicinity of the borders with the European countries. Yet the US responds by claiming that the Russian troop movements are “extraordinarily provocative”. The US has sent its troops and advanced military hardware thousands of miles to be stationed on Russia’s borders. In response, Russian troop movements – on Russian territory – are regarded as “extraordinarily provocative”.[3] Welcome to the upside down world of the New Cold War.

Why a New Cold War? 

The reasons for the reigniting of the West’s New Cold War against Russia are relatively easy to identify. The capitalist counterrevolution which destroyed the Soviet Union was only the first step for the US. At first, during the 1990s, the US rulers could quite easily work with a pro-US drunkard, Boris Yeltsin. The catastrophic decline in industry, manufacturing, and life expectancy in Russia at that time was largely facilitated by Yeltsin and other oligarchs, who handed US capital, in a financial and political sense, more or less open access. None of this shock treatment had any effect other than to make the dire economic conditions dramatically worse for the majority of Russians. Consequently, Yeltsin and his accompanying “democracy” was almost universally detested in Russia.

Beginning around the turn of the 21st century, the rise of Vladimir Putin and his cohorts saw a vast change in direction for Russia. Putin sought to nationalise some resources, arrested and tried some of the more corrupt oligarchs, and slowly the economy began to pull itself out of the doldrums. Conditions are still not rosy, but by most measures an improvement on the devastation of the 1990s. This is one reason for the popularity of Putin domestically. Another is the fact that under Putin, Russia has sought a path independent of, and not subordinate to, the US behemoth. This alone is enough to enrage the US elite, and they have responded by demonising Putin and Russia itself in endless media propaganda. A string of newspapers and magazines depict Putin as a new version of Stalin.[4]

Yet the more Putin stands up to the US, the more admiration he receives both from Russians within and others internationally, including those who do not at all have left-wing sympathies. The view is prevalent that Putin is a leader who at least, “knows what he is doing”, as opposed to Western politicians who are unable to do anything about their collapsing economies or declining living standards for the majority. Therefore the propaganda of the media scribes in the West becomes ever more shrill, and ever more extreme. In response to some Russian Navy ships sailing in the vicinity of Australia during the G20 Summit in 2014, the Murdoch tabloid the Herald Sun hysterically headlined “The Reds are Coming” complete with Putin in a Navy uniform and a hammer and sickle![5] Tabloid newspapers in the West are not refined publications admittedly. However the tone of the propaganda was alarming. In fact, one could say that the relentless Western corporate propaganda against Putin and Russia, despite Russia being capitalist for the last 25 years, is a distorted form of anti-communism. It is therefore in the interests of working people to reject it entirely, and seek to combat it.

Of course, working people should not seek to politically endorse Putin, as he is no socialist, and does not seek to lead an anti-imperialist revolution domestically or internationally. The Russian government cannot be extended political support either, as it does contain some particularly objectionable positions, not the least of which is a seeming defence of Zionist Israel. Nonetheless, to the extent that Russia resists the world dominance of the US, and resists the infractions of NATO on its own doorsteps and elsewhere, the world’s workers find themselves in a temporary bloc with the Russian state. Like all political blocs, it not permanent and it is conditional, but for the interim it needs to be real. For example, Russia’s actions in the defence of Syria have arguably prevented a wider regional war. In Ukraine, despite the non-intervention of Russia to back the anti-fascist resistance in Donetsk and Lugansk, the threat of it probably stayed the hand of the US from pushing its proxy ultra-nationalists to wage all-out war on the east against Russian borders. And this is before we even begin to discuss the increasingly independent economic agenda of Russia, in joining forces with rising non-Western nations such as the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

While Yeltsin was pro-US, Putin is not. Putin and his backers seek to protect Russia’s interest not in terms of socialism, but in terms of capitalism. For the US Empire, however, the rejection of socialism in Russia in practice means very little. As Eric Zuesse writes, for the US led West:

“….jihadists are just a side show. The main event is Russia. The end of communism, and of the USSR, and of the Warsaw Pact, doesn’t really make any difference to them. They want the land, and its resources. They don’t care about the people on it – anywhere.”[6]

Moreover, Putin and his cohorts are not willing to subordinate themselves to the US, and are not willing to be controlled by them. Perhaps naively, they may have imagined that the US would welcome them into the family of capitalist nations if they abandoned socialism. Yet this is not the way imperialism works. Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, demands total subservience, which means zero independence. For the Putin led wing of the Russian rulers, this is unacceptable. They believe they have a right to form independent relations with other nations, to engage in trade, cultural and diplomatic relations with any other country, from the first or third world. Yet to even think this, let alone begin to carry it out, is to enrage that entity which arrogates to itself the title of world leader. The fury of the US Empire vents itself in a veritable storm of anti-Russian and anti-Putin propaganda, almost all of which is based on barely concealed lies.

The left and “imperialism”

Many fall for this base level Western propaganda. This is to some extent to be expected, for without significant and strong workers parties in the West, many working people never hear a view opposing the US line. Yet this excuse cannot be claimed by the left parties which exist – for they should know a lot better. Unfortunately, for some of them Russia today is the Soviet Union of yesterday, which even at that time they opposed. Some others hesitate to back Russia out of supposed concern over classic middle class issues such as the lack of “democracy” and limitations on homosexual relationships – as important as these are. Some others subscribe to the absurd theory which claims that Russia is “imperialist”, and is therefore simply competing with the US to divide up the world. All of these positions in the end amount to a capitulation to capitalist propaganda – even if on other issues such groups can see through corporate spin.

The left party Socialist Alternative, publishers of Red Flag, are perhaps the most strident in putting forward the “Russia is imperialist” fantasy. They hold to a type of moral equivalency between the US and Russia, which dates back to their forbears during the 1980s, who proclaimed “Neither Washington nor Moscow but international socialism”. In the same way in which “Neither Washington nor Moscow” in previous decades meant in practice support for Washington, today the “Russia is imperialist” furphy in practice means embracing the US empire, albeit with little conviction. In the case of the proxy war on Syria, Socialist Alternative thus sees the Russian assistance to the Syrian government as “imperialist” intervention.[7] Needless to say, if it was it would be the first imperialist intervention in history where the invaded country issued a formal invitation to its subjugator!

Solidarity, the estranged sister organisation to Socialist Alternative, likewise see Russia as simply a rival imperialist vis-à-vis the US. For them, NATO’s installation of a fascist backed government in Kiev in February 2014 was some kind of justifiable uprising. The real culprit, according to them, is Russian intervention. The “Russia is imperialist” theory immediately paints Russia as world enemy number one, while US imperialism is seen as something minor, or even benign. At times, it even lends itself to covert calls for US intervention. Referring to Crimea’s vote to re-join Russia, which was passed by over 90% of Crimeans, as an annexation (!), Solidarity then go on to lament the lack of action by the US Empire, and their allies:

“The West has denounced Russian intervention in strident terms. But they have been reluctant to take any serious action. Both US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have ruled out sending troops into Ukraine.”[8]

This is because the NATO backed fascists have done the work of imperialist troops! Better to arm proxy forces, even if fascist, than to send in your own uniformed mob. Solidarity here are pining for the West to take “serious action”. It illustrates well the political direction the “Russia is imperialist” theory pushes you – in the direction of the Oval Office in Washington.

The Socialist Alliance, publishers of Green Left Weekly, equivocates on the question of Russian “imperialism”. It appears to be a case of trying to hold on to some fragments of one’s heritage, while also partially chiming in on the anti-Putin/anti-Russia corporate bandwagon. Some of their leading members hold different public positions within the organisation. For example, Chris Slee subscribes to the Russia is “imperialist” theory,[9] while Renfrey Clarke opposes it.[10] Yet Green Left Weekly largely orients itself to real US led imperialism in retrospectively supporting the “independence” of Ukraine in 1991.[11]

Needless to say, what occurred was not “independence” as such, but a capitalist counterrevolution which destroyed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), arguably the greatest setback for the world’s working class to have ever occurred. “Independence” for Ukraine meant the recreation of capitalism, which in turn led to social and economic catastrophe, which ultimately led to the intervention of NATO and a fascist-led coup. In fact, if the USSR had not been overthrown by capitalist counterrevolution, there would be no basis for fascism in Ukraine today. Working people can well do without such “independence”.

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP), to their credit, continually warn about the dangers of a US led war on Russia. Their World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) is full of well researched information on the ongoing military, political and diplomatic brinkmanship and war being carried out by the NATO countries against Russia. They are also skilled at noting how propaganda weapons such as allegations of Russian athletes being on state sponsored doping programs, are used at precise times which coincide with the geopolitical objectives of the US ruling class. They correctly observe that the current unproven allegations against Russian athletes are aimed at getting Russia banned from the Rio Olympics as well as attempting to prevent Russia from holding the soccer World Cup in 2018.[12] However, the SEP in practice are known to be reclusive, and rarely take part in political activity where other left parties are involved.

The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) has quite good positions on the question of Russia and Ukraine, at least on paper. They do stand in opposition to the NATO installed fascist-led government in Kiev in February 2014. They also have defended the right of the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) to operate, and defended them against persecution by the ultra-nationalists – despite some of the actions of the KPU. The CPA noted that the KPU sought governmental and parliamentary alliances not only with Victor Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions, but also with reactionary nationalist Yulia Timoshenko, who is now a part of the fascist Kiev junta.[13] However, the CPA, like the SEP, is known for abstention and lack of activity on many fronts, and the anti-war sphere is another one.

One left group which is very active, however, was inactive on the whole question of the US led fascist coup in Ukraine. Trotskyist Platform (TP), which ordinarily puts forward a class struggle perspective on most issues, fell in with other left groups which were paralysed by the events and the aftermath of the events in Ukraine in 2014. The cardinal error which TP commits is that it takes seriously the claim that Russia is “imperialist”. Although, in their lengthy article on the situation in Ukraine, they do not mention the word imperialist in relation to Russia, they do state that Russia is a “rival” to the imperialist West.[14] But for Russia to be any kind of “rival” to the imperialist powers – the US, Britain, France etc. – which are backed by Canberra – it would have to be “imperialist”. But this is plainly false.

This topic would need a separate study in itself. Suffice to say, for Russia to be “imperialist” a number of factors would have to be proven. Firstly, it would have to be proven that finance capital completely dominates the Russian economy. Secondly, it would have to be proven that the Russian state aggressively uses its military power to prize open markets in foreign countries by threats, invasions, occupations and wars. Thirdly, it would have to have a network of military bases in many parts of the world, OR it would have to co-operate its military alongside the United States, Britain, France, Germany and so on. Clearly, none of these factors exist.

Russia’s economy only began to recover from the total devastation of the 90s when Putin and his allies began re-taking parts of it back into state hands. The military conflicts the Russian state has been involved with have been primarily defensive, actions which defended Russia in a territorial or political sense. And in recent times it is quite obvious that Russia is the military target of the US-led West, despite necessary agreed ceasefires where Russia and the US are both militarily active – though for different sides, in Syria.

TP does correctly raise the demand for the lifting of Western sanctions on Russia. However, on other issues such as the US led bombing against Libya in 2011, TP were vociferous in their opposition to NATO. Yet in relation to Russia, their mention of NATO is negligible. In Ukraine, the NATO powers, later backed by Canberra, were instrumental in the installation of a fascist-led government in Kiev. This is while NATO for years has been completing a military encirclement of Russia. In the last couple of years, this military encirclement has pushed the region to the brink of war. The latest US provocation was the switching on of an $800 million missile “shield” in Romania.[15] Just imagine if Russia had moved ANY troops anywhere near the US, let alone surround it, let alone set up missile bases on their doorstep. This is the reality for Russia today. Yet it appears that TP cannot mention NATO’s extremely dangerous provocations against Russia. If they did, it would tend to undermine their claim that Russia is merely a “rival” to the US led West. The reality is that despite Russia being capitalist, it is still enemy number one, alongside Red China, as far as the US empire is concerned. The left needs to defend Russia despite its socio-economic system and despite its political leadership. Working people have a side where Russia defends itself against NATO.

The struggle against fascism

TP seems to view the conflict in Ukraine as one between Ukrainian fascists and Russian fascists, and therefore tries to apply a “plague on both your houses” position, albeit with words backing the Donbass “self-determination” struggle. They raise the reports of attacks on Roma people in Ukraine, and attribute them to what they call the “pro-Russian” side.[16] However, some reports have stated that while some assaults of Roma people in Ukraine were carried out, there is no hard evidence that these were in fact carried out by the “separatists”.[17] It is of course a huge concern that the Eastern Ukrainian resistance included some with pro-monarchist, pro-tsarist and even pro-Nazi political views, in amongst pro-Soviet, pro-USSR, pro-Lenin political views. It is a massive contradiction, born of the rift between the loss of living standards that accompanied the destruction of the former USSR, and the rejection of bureaucratic and politically repressive rule that occurred during those times. In the process of rejecting the lack of workers’ political rights in the former Soviet Union, some turned to nationalism, tsarism and even fascism.

TP is correct to call for a political struggle within the Donbass resistance for the victory of internationalist, pro-working class politics, which overcomes backward political views. Yet the contradiction is that those within the resistance with shady political views are in practice fighting back against US and NATO backed fascism. The principal axis of the struggle there is the one against US imperialism, which in the case of Ukraine is backing real fascism. The resistance in the East of Ukraine was not, as TP claim, one of “self-determination”. The Eastern Ukrainians did not desire self-determination as such – they simply refused to live under a fascist government – and thus were forced to declare their own regional republics. They did this by taking up arms, and with incredible bravery, facing shelling and missiles from the NATO backed Kiev military. The dynamic of the Donbass struggle is overall a struggle against a fascism which hails its origins with fascists who fought with the Nazis in World War II. This is its character despite the presence of some tsarist and anti-Semitic views amongst those who have joined the anti-fascist resistance.

TP is also correct to note that Canberra has played its own role in backing the US/NATO juggernaut in Ukraine, and by extension, Ukrainian fascism. At the time Liberal PM Tony Abbott openly embraced US backed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and jetted to Ukraine to join his “advisory council”.[18] Canberra also blasted Russia, without a shred of evidence, for the downing of Malaysian airlines flight MH17. This appeared to be a part of the US plan to destabilise Russia, by any means. Yet while TP makes muted calls to oppose Canberra’s “meddling” in Ukraine, the best way to do that would be to oppose fascism in Ukraine, while defending Russia against NATO. Yet this is precisely what TP did not, and cannot do. Such actions would undermine its view that Russia is merely a “rival” of the US. And since no one doubts the US is imperialist, labelling Russia a rival is tantamount to labelling Russia as imperialist also. For only an imperialist power can “rival” another imperialist power.

Without formally endorsing the right-wing “Russia is imperialist” theory, TP tips their hat in this direction, placing them in the company of those who they correctly criticise for their opposition to Red China – groups such as Socialist Alternative, Socialist Alliance and Solidarity. They all of a sudden go very quiet with their opposition to NATO, which is marked because they were at the forefront of opposing NATO’s criminal actions against Libya. It is notable that they have also been silent on Russia’s intervention against the US proxy ISIS forces in Syria. Even outright opponents of the Russian state cannot openly disapprove of Russia’s jet fighters taking out the genocidal ISIS mercenaries. If they were consistent, they might claim that such actions were intended as part of “rivalry” with the US.

The moment a left group utters the word “imperialism” in relation to Russia, they are propelled into the camp of NATO, despite their intentions. There is only one imperialism, and it is led by the US. Any mention of Russia as “imperialist” or as a “rival” of the US, immediately lets the US Empire off the hook – its monumental crimes are lessened or forgotten, and it even begins to attract some sympathy – as if it is being targeted by “evil” Russia. Workers can start believing US propaganda about the deployment of huge military arsenals in Eastern Europe as “routine exercises”. US planes on the borders of Russia being warned away can start to be seen as “Russian aggression”. This is how the US aggressor can, through sophisticated corporate propaganda, be seen as “just doing its job”. This is how imperialist wars begin. Left parties, more than others, should know better.

 

In practice, TP was a part of the left’s silence on the imperialist war provocation against Russia, which included the arming and political backing of fascists in Ukraine. They joined with the Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative and Solidarity in either quietly backing, or attempting to remain neutral, on NATO backed fascists and ultra-nationalists taking power in Kiev. The underlying reasons lay either in original opposition to the Soviet Union, OR, falsely ascribing “imperialism” to the current Russian state. In practice, they meant the same thing – a deathly silence when Russia and the anti-fascist resistance in Ukraine desperately needed international solidarity. At best, at least they did not hail the fascist coup as a “revolution” – despite some of them using this label for similar activity in Libya and Syria. At worst, it meant tacit endorsement of yet another US sponsored effort at regime change – an effort which could have sparked World War III.

No to NATO

The central axis of the West’s confrontation with Russia is the use of NATO, what should be a Cold War relic, to aggressively strengthen US imperialism vis-à-vis Russia. While workers cannot politically endorse the Russian government or the Russian state, workers internationally have an enormous stake in defending Russia against NATO and against US led imperialism. Washington, with Canberra’s backing, seeks the destruction of any semblance of independence from Russia in any sphere – political, diplomatic or military. The world’s workers have a vital interest in pushing back against a rapacious US imperialism, which is lashing out in inverse proportion to its economy’s prospects. The US Empire is prepared to ally with, or arm, anyone – even Nazis – to further its goals.

The main political line in Ukraine for workers is to see the defeat of NATO and its fascist forces. In practice this will mean forming a temporary bloc with pro-Russian forces, but only insofar as they are combating Western aggression. There should be an internal political struggle amongst the anti-fascist resistance for genuinely internationalist and socialist aims. International workers and left parties can assist this struggle by resolutely standing with the anti-fascist resistance against US backed Nazism. Ultimately, there needs to be a political movement for workers’ power and for socialism in Europe and Russia, as the only ultimate prevention of war. Hands off Russia!

Workers League

PO Box 66 Nundah QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.pravdareport.com/world/europe/12-04-2016/134143-usa_troops_europe-0/ (08-05-2016)

[2] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nato-russia-idUSKCN0XT1ZR (08-05-2016)

[3] http://russia-insider.com/en/nato-wants-put-german-troops-russian-border/ri14170 (08-05-2016)

[4] http://rinf.com/alt-news/featured/propaganda-success-u-s-govt-reveled-success-lying-propaganda/ (09-05-2016)

[5] http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/11/13/media-briefs-tabloids-battle-the-reds-abc-line-up-audiences-desert-tv/ (09-05-2016)

[6] http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2016/05/06/america-biggest-of-all-big-lies-ii.html (10-05-2016)

[7] https://redflag.org.au/article/left-can-oppose-russian-intervention-syria-without-capitulating-our-own-rulers (12-05-2016)

[8] http://www.solidarity.net.au/imperialism/imperialist-rivalry-and-putins-russia/ (12-05-2016)

[9] http://links.org.au/node/3795 (12-05-2016)

[10] http://links.org.au/node/4629 (12-05-2016)

[11] https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/56944 (12-05-2016)

[12] http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/05/14/dope-m14.html (14-05-2016)

[13] http://www.cpa.org.au/guardian/2014/1665/15-culture.html (14-05-2016)

[14] http://www.trotskyistplatform.com/down-with-natoaustralian-meddling-in-ukraine/ (18-05-2016)

[15] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-13/us-missile-shield-starts-up-in-romania-to-russian-fury/7410566 (18-05-2016)

[16] http://www.trotskyistplatform.com/down-with-natoaustralian-meddling-in-ukraine/ (19-05-2016)

[17] http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1397936989 (19-05-2016)

[18] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-21/tony-abbott-visits-ukraine-joins-international-advisory-council/7262822 (19-05-2016)