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


[1] (27-10-2016)

[2] (27-10-2016)

[3] (28-10-2016)

[4] (28-10-2016)

[5] (28-11-2016)

[6] (28-10-2016)

[7] (28-11-2016)

[8] (28-10-2016)

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