Justice for ALL refugees! Labor, Liberal, Greens: No Choice!

18-06-2016 – The ruling of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Supreme Court that the refugee detention centre on Manus Island was illegal[1] has led to a situation where neither the PNG government nor the Australian government is willing to take responsibility for the approximately 850 refugees and asylum seekers trapped there. The Liberal Party Minister Peter Dutton continues to be unmoved, while the Labor Party in response, has outrageously reaffirmed its support for off-shore detention. Make no mistake, the two major parties are the architects and executioners of refugee and asylum seeker abuse in this country, and in the region. They coldly calculate that cruelty towards “others” from overseas, even those seeking a safe place to live, will be a vote winner while many workers in this country are encouraged to look for scapegoats for a lack of jobs, infrastructure, healthcare, education and unaffordable housing. The unspeakable horror dealt out to those either fleeing for their lives or simply seeking a better chance at life exposes the more than Machiavellian moves of these misanthropic spokespersons for abuse. For them, if torture equals votes, they have no issues with it.

Working people and those with even a modicum of human compassion recoil with loathing at such behaviour from so-called political “leaders”. Understandably, some then turn to what appears like the next available political option – the Australian Greens. Surely the Greens must stand for a principled position on the issue, and would take immediate steps to end this if in office – right? Actually, no. The last federal government, from 2010 to 2013 was an ALP-Greens coalition. The ALP governed with the support of the Greens. And it was in 2012 that the ALP-Greens government re-opened the detention centres on Manus Island in PNG and Nauru. Sure, the Greens mouthed some opposition, but their actions were somewhat different. Rather than threatening to, or actually, quitting the government over the issue, the Greens remained on the parliamentary benches and pointed accusing fingers towards the ALP. That is, the suffering of refugees and asylum seekers was nowhere near as important for them as retaining their overpaid parliamentary positions. This fact should indicate how the Greens intend to operate if there is another ALP-Greens coalition government which forms out of the coming Federal Election.

Previously, the Greens have written that, if elected, they would close down the “worst” detention centres.[2] Are there “moderate” detention centres? All detention centres mete out abuse, in a situation where the detention itself is illegal even according to the laws of the ruling class. The fact is that voting for, or even giving preferences to the Greens will not free the refugees. The refugee rights movement must face up to this fact. This is not because the Greens are not nice people. It is because the Greens, no less than Labor and Liberal, defend the capitalist system at all costs – even if they don’t like to mention it. It is the faltering profit system which is causing a breakdown of society – the lack of jobs, affordable housing and public transport, the stripping of basic civil rights, the massacre of the natural environment, and – the debasement of refugees and asylum seekers. These “facts on the ground” will not be altered no matter how many Greens Senators are allocated a parliamentary bench on July 2.

Electoral “change”

It might be objected, but the Greens can only do so much without governmental power. What if we were able to elect a government of Greens, or a government of Greens and other progressive parties and independents – a “government of the left” ? Surely that would be the end of the matter? Unfortunately not. Look at what happened in Greece. There an allegedly “left” party which called itself “radical” – SYRIZA – was elected in January 2015. It took them a few hours to form a governmental coalition with the far-right ANEL (Independent Greeks). The SYRIZA government then went on to impose even more crushing austerity than that they had said they were opposed to before being elected. Working people continue to suffer job cuts, wage cuts and a decimation of pensions and social services. And with regard to refugees and asylum seekers, time and again Greek riot police have been sent in to assault them. In December last year, SYRIZA Immigration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas declared that refugees had to either leave voluntarily, file a claim for asylum within 30 days, or be forcibly repatriated to other countries.[3] In the last couple of months, the SYRIZA government is doing its utmost to implement the European Union (EU)-Turkey deal, where any irregular arrivals in Greece are deported to Turkey. In response, even some generally apolitical NGOs have suspended their operations in protest.

The SYRIZA party was never left-wing, let alone radical, no matter what it called itself. And there is a world of difference between winning governmental power and state power. The SYRIZA fraudsters won governmental power – of a capitalist state. This meant that it would have to implement what the capitalists – either from the EU or domestically – ordered. They ordered more austerity, and refugee repression, and SYRIZA delivered. The only way this could have been avoided would be if SYRIZA was actually a socialist party, which aimed to prepare workers for the taking of state (not governmental) power. But SYRIZA, like the Australian Greens, have no intention of ever breaking with the capitalist system which provides them with electoral office. Hence refugees, asylum seekers – and working people – become entirely expendable.

War and refugees

Working people voting for, or preferencing, the Greens or the ALP not only crosses class lines. It actually enables the very conditions which create refugees. This is most especially apparent with regard to war. The Greens and the ALP have both fully endorsed the US-led proxy wars on Libya and Syria, from 2011 to this day. These wars have been a huge reason why there is a disastrous refugee crisis in Europe, with some of them fleeing to other parts of the world, including Australia. The danger of war is ever-present today, ultimately as a result of the inability of capitalism to restart industrial production. Consequently, we see the US war machine preparing extremely dangerous military provocations, not only in Libya and Syria, but along the border with Russia and along the border with China. If one of these flashpoints breaks into war, refugee numbers will explode. But the ALP and the Greens remain wedded to US imperialism, no less than the Liberal Party. A vote, or preference, for the ALP or the Greens is a vote for refugee producing war.

It is not only the Greens who enact a war agenda, despite some anti-war hot air. Some left parties which heavily influence the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) also, despite their intentions, fall into the pro-war camp. From 2011 until today, Socialist Alternative (SALT), Socialist Alliance (SALL) and Solidarity (SOL) have extended full backing to the appalling imperialist wars on Libya and Syria. In both cases, such groups have been outspoken in pleas for the destruction of the states of those countries, giving a blank cheque to the US Empire to do just that. Today, SALT, SALL and SOL clamour for regime change in Syria, while simultaneously denying that they are supporting the only forces attempting regime change – the US, Saudi, British, French and Turkish armed mercenaries of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra and Ahrar Al-Sham, amongst others. These barbarians, which operate in concert with the Israeli Defence Force,[4] have recently embarked on yet another wave of atrocities in the Syrian cities of Tartus and Jableh, explicitly targeting civilians.[5] This bloodbath, which slaughtered at least 100 Syrians, is part of a reigniting of the war by the US and its allies after being decisively rolled back by the Russian intervention on the side of the Syrian Arab Republic since September 30 last year. Despite these unspeakable acts, SALT, SALL and SOL variously refer to the NATO armed mercenaries in Syria as either “opposition”, “rebels” or “revolutionaries” !?!

The intervention of Canberra on the side of the US into this war has not caused these groups any pause for thought. Despite opposing Australia sending troops to invade Iraq in 2003, SALT, SALL and SOL join with the Greens in only mouthing muted calls, if any, against Australian military involvement in Syria. The Russian intervention, however, soon pushed Australian military hardware out of Syria. Australia, with a token few jet fighters, would not dare take on the might of Russia, and consequently the FA-18s were diverted soon after Russia began striking ISIS targets.[6] Refugee rights supporters, all working people, and all those opposed to war need to loudly demand a complete end to Australia’s involvement in yet another US led war for regime change. Australian troops: Out of Iraq and Syria!

There are many genuine people contained in RAC and other refugee and asylum seeker support groups, who are keen to help in any way they can to end the suffering of innocents. The problem is not one of a lack of people willing to help, but one of political strategy. RAC and the left parties which guide (or mislead) it continue with a political strategy of seeking the “unity” of all those who seek justice for refugees, regardless of political orientation, regardless of class, and therefore regardless of material benefit from the profit system. The ALP, the Greens, and the Union bureaucracy, all have their well remunerated positions guaranteed IF they guard the profit system by keeping social and political movements within certain parameters. The refugee rights movement is no exception – in fact it is a prime example. The ALP, the Greens and conservative Union leaders are very skilled at intervening into social movements in order to steer it in a direction which suits their needs. Refugee rights activists need to be aware of this, and need to be prepared to counter it. In fact, the refugee rights movement needs to be prepared to split from the influence of the parliamentary parties and the Union bureaucracy to give it a fighting chance of succeeding.

This does not mean that the backing of Unions is not necessary – for it is vital. Yet the conservative Union officials are a direct obstacle to the desperately needed mobilisation of workers for refugee rights. It would greatly assist if the refugee rights movement adopted an independent and pro-worker political basis. Rather than organise actions which gather a crowd before which the electoralist Greens or Union bureaucrats are allowed to self-promote themselves, rallies and meetings could be organised with an orientation which is independent of the parliamentary parties and with a pro-worker outlook. A workers’ rally with clear demands about ending the on-shore and off-shore detention of refugees would be a good start. If Greens or Union leaders wanted to speak, they would have to speak to the demands of the action, rather than their own agenda. In other words, the refugee rights movement needs to dictate the political terms to the Greens and the Union leaders, rather than ceding political control to them. This will require a refugee rights movement which is prepared to politically break with the Greens, Union bureaucrats and left groups which tail them – but it is vital if we are to ever end refugee torment in this country.

This political break cannot be fulfilled until working people are convinced that 1) NONE of the current parliamentary parties will or can act to end the suffering of refugees and 2) that political struggle independent of the parliamentary parties – and the elections they run in – must take priority and 3) such a political struggle must also remain independent of the self-serving Union bureaucracy, while never ceasing to demand these officials take serious action. The welfare of refugees AND that of the working class will either go forward together, or will remain isolated from one another, leading to yet another defeat for both. While working people cannot ignore the election process set up by the ruling class, neither should we be diverted into campaigns which only aim at pleading with political machines who know very well for whom they are acting.

The refugee rights struggle, therefore, is not simply one of cruelty versus compassion. Ultimately it is one of capitalism versus socialism. This is not just the case in the future – it is the case now, long before workers are prepared for a revolution. A socialist revolution involves a fundamental split in the social movements between all those who are employed or mislead by the old order, and their hangers-on, and all workers and their supporters who are risking everything to construct a new social order. In a similar way, decent treatment of refugees can only be won by those seeking a new order – workers and their supporters – with or without those who cling to the old world – the Greens, the ALP, Union bureaucrats and their left backers.

RELEASE THE REFUGEES!           SHUT DOWN NAURU AND MANUS ISLAND! 

Workers League

PO BOX 66   NUNDAH   QLD   4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-26/png-court-rules-asylum-seeker-detention-manus-island-illegal/7360078 (23-05-16)

[2] http://greens.org.au/end-mandatory-detention (23-05-16)

[3] http://www.globalresearch.ca/syriza-government-sends-greek-riot-police-to-attack-refugee-camp/5496244 (23-05-16)

[4] https://friendsofsyria.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/un-finds-credible-ties-between-isis-and-israeli-defense-forces-2/ (25-05-16)

[5] http://www.syrianews.cc/us-uk-unleash-bloodbaths-tartous-jableh/ (25-05-16)

[6] http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/oct/07/australian-airstrikes-in-syria-on-hold-as-russias-entry-complicates-mission (25-05-16)

Shut down ALL detention centres! Release the refugee prisoners!

29-04-2016 – Two recent events have once again shone the spotlight on the Australian Government’s barbaric system of refugee and asylum seeker incarceration.

Firstly, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea (PNG) ruled last Tuesday that the detention of refugees in their country by the Australian Government is illegal and unconstitutional. The case, initiated some two years ago by elements of the PNG Opposition, maintained that the constitution of PNG had been altered to benefit the government of a foreign country (Australia). The ruling, a stunning victory for elementary justice, is an example of ruling class law temporarily breaking from the control of Canberra, the centre of the region’s imperialist power.

Secondly, a horrific incident of self-immolation took place the very same day on Nauru. A 23 year old Iranian refugee set himself on fire, in protest at inhuman conditions being endured by those detained on Nauru. The incident appeared to coincide with the visit to the island by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees). A spokesperson said that the UNHCR was visiting the island to monitor the “seriously deteriorated mental health” of refugees and asylum seekers.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Executive Director Kenneth Roth told Lateline, “What does it take to self-immolate? It takes complete despair, it takes seeing a life before you which is no life.”[1] These words, while true in themselves, drip with the type of breathtaking hypocrisy which only a spokesperson for imperialism itself can utter. For at least five years Kenneth Roth has been the foremost agitator for the US led war of regime change on Syria. Over and over again, Roth repeatedly used his media platform to denounce the Syrian government for use of chemical weapons and “barrel bombs” against civilians – without providing a shred of evidence. These baseless lies were a crucial part of the attempt to overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic. The other main part was the arming of mercenaries and trucking them into Syria, where they would carry out unspeakable atrocities, including summary executions of innocent civilians. Roth’s role was that of a classical “psy-ops” operation. He loudly demonized the enemy – in this case the popularly supported Syrian government – to justify a genocidal war for regime change. This war, along with NATO’s war on Libya, has created unprecedented numbers of refugees across Europe and North Africa. Inevitably, some of those fleeing end up attempting dangerous journeys with the aim of seeking asylum in Australia. Canberra has played no small role in the US led war on Syria, deploying six Super Hornet fighting jets and up to 1000 troops – most of whom are stationed in neighbouring Iraq. The notion that these troops are fighting ISIS – primarily a US creation – is absurd. The refugee rights movement must demand: Australian Troops: Out of the Middle East!

The partial breakthrough the PNG government has offered the refugee rights movement must be capitalised on, for the sake of those refugees already incarcerated. But while this partial victory has been delivered by a generally conservative government, it would be a mistake to rely on further pleas to the Australian government to deliver justice for refugees. Not the least reason is that the Australian government is the very body which oversees the current detention travesty. Nor can we afford to rely on pleas to alternative governmental parties such as the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Greens. The last time these two parties sat on government benches, the off-shore nightmare was reincarnated by the ALP, and the Greens kept this government in power, albeit with a few verbal grumbles.

We should be clear – the appalling treatment of refugees is ultimately a result of the capitalist system entering a period of sharp decline. It is only the working class which has the unencumbered interest in the termination of the profit system via its overthrow. Therefore the struggle for refugee justice can only be definitively won by utilising the inherent power of the working class, especially through its Unions. It is organised labour which must lead the struggle to free the refugees, for Unions cannot effectively function while racist ideas retain any currency amongst working people.

The main obstacle standing in the way of the mobilisation of Unions is the conservative Union bureaucracy, who is tied by a thousand threads to the capitalist state and its political parties. Despite this, workers can position their officials so that they have little choice but to mobilise their base. Union members, where possible, should approach their officials in numbers.

The refugee rights movement can assist this effort by appealing directly to the interest of workers, rather than amorphous appeals to everyone to show compassion. While basic compassion is a pre-requisite for creating a better world, anyone can claim they are compassionate, irrespective of their class position. For example, human rights and welfare organisations, such as GetUp! and Amnesty International, along with governmental political parties such as the ALP and the Greens, all boast of their compassion, while in practice defending and strengthening the very system which facilitates the hideous abuse of refugees. Thus, in the same way in which the Union movement can only defend workers if it breaks with the capitalist state and its parties, the refugee rights movement can only free the refugees if it politically breaks with all those individuals, organisations and parties who only seek what are relatively minor reforms to the system – such as humane treatment for refugees, as essential as that is. Both in the immediate sense as well as in the long run, such reforms strengthen the system, rather than improve it.

It is worker unrest, or the threat of it, which has the potential to reverse the bi-partisan policies of persecution of refugees, not demonstrations of compassion, however well meaning. Similarly, the ultimate expression of worker unrest – revolution – is the only guarantee of liberation. It is socialism which corresponds to the interests of all working people, including desperate refugees from neighbouring lands. Before reaching such a goal, we must act according to the higher standards of socialist society – beginning with a defence of those fleeing from the operation of the current system of poverty, war and repression.

SHUT DOWN ALL DETENTION CENTRES!   RELEASE THE REFUGEE PRISONERS!

AUSTRALIAN TROOPS: OUT OF THE MIDDLE EAST!

Workers League

PO BOX 66 NUNDAH   QLD   4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-27/refugee-sets-himself-on-fire-in-nauru-protest/7363530

For a Uniform 35 Hour Week with No loss in pay! 7 hours work, 8 hours rest, 9 hours play!

02-05-16 – Workers! We need to take stock. We are faced with an ongoing economic crisis, one which is not of our making, but has been thrust upon us. The system of private production for private profit has once again come to grief, or at least in those countries where capitalism rules. Europe, the United States, Japan and Australia are all gripped in an economic crisis which appears to have no end. This crisis has many consequences, not the least of which is ever-increasing unemployment. Thousands of sackings have hit Australian workers over the last eight years. It is not only manufacturing which is closing down, other industries are also shedding jobs. Working people, both employed and unemployed, are suffering, and something must be done.

If the system cannot generate jobs for all, then the available work must be shared around, so that all those who can work, have work. And this must be done without a decrease in weekly earnings for workers. This will mean an increase in hourly pay rates, but we must be clear – this increase must come at the expense of the profits of big business and government coffers. We know that 600 of the largest corporations in Australia essentially pay no tax, and we know that the privatised banks (one of which once was publicly owned), rake in billions of dollar in profit each year. This is to say nothing of corporations such as the 7 Eleven Convenience stores, now infamous for drastically underpaying its staff. Australia is literally swimming in cash, but very little is finding its way into the pockets of those who produce this wealth – working people.

There are several reasons why there needs to be a reduction in working hours with no loss in pay. Firstly, it will begin to address the chronic problem of unemployment and underemployment which plagues Australia. The official rate of unemployment of around 6% is widely regarded as suspect. According to these figures, anyone with one hour of work per week is not counted in these figures. Underemployment added to unemployment realistically adds up to around 18% of the workforce.

Youth unemployment is a severe problem. We have the tragic situation where young people leaving school and university cannot find work, and it is extremely difficult for them to get a start in whichever careers they wish to pursue. This generation, just starting in life, is being ground down by a system in crisis. The severe downturn in manufacturing and other industries means less firms taking on new apprentices. The cutbacks to the public sector mean less young people being employed full time, or on a permanent basis. Outsourcing usually results in casual and part-time work.

Those over 50 years of age are having extreme difficulty finding work. Some figures show that those over 50 years of age on average spend at least 2 years simply looking for work, before an opportunity may arise. This is simply a waste of labour, to say nothing of the suffering and poverty it causes amongst senior Australians. Recently the federal government increased the retirement age to 67, meaning more seniors will need to find work. While we should also campaign to restore the retirement age to 65, we also need avenues for those over 50 to be gainfully employed.

The Scourge of Exploitative Unpaid Overtime

Research from the Australia Institute has found that the average Australian worker performs six hours of unpaid overtime every week. It is estimated that this amounts to a figure of over 100 billion dollars each year.[1] This is on top of working weeks in some areas which are 38, 40 or more hours per week. If a uniform 35 hour week across all industries and across the public sector was legislated and enforced, in the vicinity of 1 million extra workers would be required based on a workforce of 10 million. It would pump more money into the economy while increasing tax revenue. If accompanied by a clampdown on massive tax evasion by monopoly capital (big business) alongside an increase in the corporate tax rate from 30% to 50%, it could result in a huge expansion of public sector expenditure including public hospitals, public education, public transport and public housing.

The Origins of May Day

As we march to mark International May Day, it is important to note its origins. In 1889 the Second International adopted a resolution “calling for the simultaneous celebration of May 1st 1890 in all countries, in memory of the courageous but tragic action of the Chicago workers on May 1st 1886.” On that occasion 6 workers were killed and 50 injured during a demonstration of over 40 000 workers demanding an eight hour day. Australian workers were in the forefront of the struggle for an 8 hour day, including strikes, from the 1850s onwards. In 1948 the Commonwealth Arbitration Court granted workers a 40 hour week acknowledging in its decision that “this working class claim has been and is the basis of industrial dispute and unrest.” (In Union Is Strength, Turner, Ian, p.102)

Workers Taking the Offensive

A uniform 7 hour day, if won through struggle, would be a significant victory for workers. The labour movement is in desperate need of such victories. Once one such victory is won, it will spur confidence amongst workers and Union members to demand more, or even to demand conditions which have been lost over the last 30 years. Workers in many workplaces are being pushed to the limit daily, and feel that they have little option but to cop being pushed around and bullied by supervisors and managers. In many workplaces, especially in construction, the safety of workers and the general public is being put at risk due to the cutting of corners and a race to build. Some workers are being pushed beyond what they are capable of doing, and are being pushed out of work if they can’t “perform”, i.e. produce quality work at breakneck speed.

ENOUGH! The labour movement must fightback against these injustices – but the best place to start is to demand a uniform 35 hour week with no loss in pay. This should be a nationwide effort across all industries. Spread the word far and wide, through your workplaces, through the community and especially through your Unions. Join the campaign! 

For a 35 Hour Week Campaign

Post: PO Box 66 Nundah QLD 4012

Ph: 0421 408 692

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/unpaid-overtime-hours-increase-for-australian-workers/5902296 (23-04-16)

NO to war with China! Lift the Sanctions on the DPRK!

09-03-2016 – It’s a scenario that would have seemed unimaginable even six months ago – a new war in the Pacific. Yet this is precisely what working people across the world stare in the face. The US Empire, smarting from its defeat at the hands of the Russians in Syria, have yet again ramped up its hostile provocations against the People’s Republic of China, with Canberra obediently falling in behind. It follows on from Resolution 2270 passed by the United Nations Security Council[1], imposing the harshest possible sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), for the “crime” of preparing for its own self defence in response to unending hostility from the US government. This year’s “military exercises” – in reality live practice for an invasion – on the doorstep of the DPRK will be the largest ever, involving troops from the US, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and others. The slightest error in these war games could trigger a global war – a war in which working people will be the ones who suffer first, and the worst.

It’s the supreme irony – China and the DPRK are almost universally referred to in the West as tyrannical communist dictatorships in which basic democracy is absent. At the same time, Washington and Canberra are preparing for major military operations against both China and the DPRK – without seeking, let alone gaining, any semblance of public support for war. We must ask, where exactly is the dictatorship? Working people here and internationally generally harbour a passionate hatred for war, which is one reason why the respective Western ruling classes do not even present the question for discussion, let alone debate. To be sure, many unsuspecting people will be drawn in by the corporate media’s compliance, and presentation of the question as if there is no other option. But it is essential for workers and all those opposed to war to speak out and protest loudly, not only for elementary justice, but to prevent a catastrophic war from engulfing the globe.

Barely a month passes without yet another open US provocation against China from either their military or those of toady allies in the South China Sea. Part of the US “pivot to Asia”, the goading of Taiwan, the Philippines and Malaysia to pursue spurious claims to reefs and islands they previously had little interest in, is part of the US strategy to build a new “coalition of the willing” against Red China. Like the disaster of Iraq which the previous “coalition of the willing” carried out, the ultimate agenda is no less than war. Unfortunately, the leaders of socialist Vietnam have prostrated themselves to the US against China, an act of disloyalty. Canberra has added fuel to the tinder-box by flying its own “freedom of navigation” operations through the disputed areas.[2]

The arch-reactionary US/Australia alliance has used so-called “freedom of navigation” operations on and off for decades, stretching back to the Vietnam War. One can imagine what the reaction from Western powers would be if China or Russia simply claimed “freedom of navigation” and flew fighter bombers up and down the east and west coasts of the US and Australian mainlands !! Bear in mind, the US has once again signalled that its advanced long-range B1 bombers may well be stationed in northern Australia.[3] Given the release of the Australian government’s Defence White Paper, which contains $195 billion worth of military spending in preparation for war, China has every right to believe that it will be targeted sooner rather than later.

Working people might ask, why would Washington and Canberra want war with China, when there is so much trade at stake? Indeed, China’s powerhouse socialist economy is a major reason why Australia has not sunk into a recession anywhere near as deep as Spain or Greece. There are some indications that the Australian ruling class is to some extent divided in going all the way to war with the US. However, all of the parties of the capitalist class currently represented in what passes for the federal parliament, are in lockstep with Washington, from the Liberals to the ALP to the Greens and Nationals. It seems suicidal, but not from the pathological rulers of the US Empire, who are driven to a state of frenzy by China’s inexorable rise. Make no mistake, China’s rise is due to its predominantly collectivised i.e. state owned, and planned economy. However much “capitalism” appears on the surface in the People’s Republic, its real drivers are its gigantic state owned enterprises, precious gains of the 1949 socialist revolution. The US, in contrast, is in a state of deep recession, with its workers paying a heavy price through unemployment, poverty and crumbling infrastructure.

The US knows that the longer it allows China to rise unimpeded, it will soon overtake the US as the number one world power. US rulers cannot allow any challenge to its bloodthirsty rule of the planet, and certainly not from an arch enemy socialist state. The US of course is not militarily strong enough to invade and overthrow 1.3 billion people, but that does not for a moment slow their other plans to undermine or break up Red China. One is the funding of numerous “labour rights” and “human rights” NGOs in China, another is the backing of anti-socialist religious and national groups within China, from Tibet to Xinjiang to Hong Kong. Another major plan is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a massive free trade deal with 12 Pacific Rim countries specifically excluding China. The TPP is quite literally the economic arm of the “pivot to Asia” – the plan for the US to station 60% of it’s external forces in the Pacific by 2020. Needless to say, the “pivot to Asia” is a euphemism for war.

No less a preparation for war is the annual US-led “military exercises”, carried out on the doorstep of the DPRK. This years “Key Resolve/Foal Eagle” operation will be the largest ever, containing some 300 000 troops – an amount close to the number which invaded Iraq in 2003. As usual Australian troops will be participating, but for the first time New Zealand troops will also take part. These war games are quite literally a rehearsal for an invasion of the DPRK – a socialist state which has defied the US war machine for 60 years. As in the original Korean War, the US and their imperialist allies aim to overthrow not only the DPRK, but also set the stage for the undermining and/or break up of China itself. China’s leadership is well aware of this, despite its treacherous vote in favour sanctions on the DPRK in the United Nations.

Working people have no interest in a war with China or the DPRK. In however a distorted form, the conflict between Washington and Canberra on the one hand, and Beijing and Pyongyang on the other hand, is a battle between capitalism and socialism. If war does break out, working people need to refuse to participate in such a war, up to and including the point of taking concerted industrial action, regardless of whether conservative Union officials back us. Ultimately, such a struggle can only be successful as a struggle for the victory of socialism. Capitalism needs war to survive, but working people do not need capitalism.

NO TO WAR WITH CHINA!                                  LIFT THE SANCTIONS ON THE DPRK!

Workers League

PO BOX 66   NUNDAH   QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12267.doc.htm (10-03-2016)

[2] http://thediplomat.com/2015/12/did-australia-secretly-conduct-its-own-freedom-of-navigation-operation-in-the-south-china-sea/

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-08/long-range-bombers-could-rotate-through-nt-general-says/7231098 (10-03-2016)

Shut down the penal camps! Withdraw from US led wars! Unions must defend refugees!

20-02-2016 – As we go to press, the protest by refugee supporters outside the Lady Cilento Hospital in South Brisbane has won a partial victory. Baby Asha, a one year old girl and her mother were transferred from the hospital to “community detention” in Brisbane, rather than be sent back to the hell-hole of Nauru. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton claimed that this was not a back down in the face of protests, and that the issue had been “hijacked” by refugee advocates.[1] The Liberal Party Minister went on to state that the baby and her mother could yet be returned to Nauru. The 10-day picket by refugee supporters has once again highlighted the barbarous practice of the detention of children, and indeed adults, in off-shore detention centres which are little more than penal camps specialising in the imposition of unbearable torment.

Baby Asha was amongst 80 children which was part of a group of 267 refugees which faced imminent deportation to Nauru.[2] Australia has already become notorious internationally for its appalling treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. As if to further entrench Australia’s backward status, the case of Baby Asha followed a High Court ruling that the Australian government has the power under the constitution to detain people in other countries, and that such conduct was within the law! [3] If ever there was an exhibition of the limits of the rule of law under the profit system, this is it. When the detention and effective torture of innocent people fleeing desperate situations is found to be legal, the entire system condemns itself. It is a dead end seeking justice in such courts. These are the very courts before which working people cannot afford the small fortune required to either defend themselves, nor bring a case before them. It is another lesson reaffirming the negative case with regard to the alleged neutrality of the capitalist state.

The barbarous practice of the rape and/or sexual assault of refugees by detention centre guards on Nauru and Manus Island rightly horrify all those with a bare minimum of human compassion, on top of the already atrocious situation of incarceration without committing any crime. Combine this with reports that asylum seekers on Nauru are told that they will never be settled in Australia. The psychological trauma this could trigger is almost unimaginable. The scale and extent of the pain inflicted on those who have harmed no one and are looking for a safe place to live, is difficult to believe IF one looks at the situation in isolation. However, it can and must be explained if we are to move towards a strategy which can finish it.

Groups such as the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) perform laudable work organising meetings, rallies and pickets in an effort to put an end to the abominable treatment of those seeking protection. However, the valuable organisational work RAC performs is undermined by a political outlook which tends to focus on appealing to the humanity and compassion of people from all walks of life, from the rich to Union officialdom, from workers to politicians, from the churches to the business elite. All those “who care” are encouraged to take part. The approach tends to be one which assumes that the sum total of a movement is greater than its constituent parts. The political outlook is that of a “broad” or “popular” front. Workers plus Union officials plus church ministers plus students plus liberal political parties or groups and so on add up to – an unstoppable movement, or so the conventional wisdom goes. However, if the strategy should be a mere matter of one plus one, simply building in a linear fashion until “everyone” is on board is all that is required. Unfortunately, politics does not work solely by the method of simple arithmetic. If this was the case, there would be no need for science, nor study, nor theory.

No matter how complex modern day society has become, it is a basic Marxian precept that it rests on the turbulent relation between labour and capital. This is not only the case for the historically required workers insurrection, but the reality for political struggles now, including the struggle for refugee rights. One of the main reasons why there is a deepening of the cruelty towards refugees and asylum seekers now, as opposed to the 1970s and 80s, is that the capitalist economic system is in far worse shape than it was in previous decades. It is true that the Australian Labor Party (ALP) introduced mandatory detention in the early 90s, but world capitalism entered a precipitous decline beginning in 2008, and has yet to recover, if it ever will. Accordingly, the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers worsens almost in direct relation to how far the rate of profit for the “captains of industry” declines. The capitalist class, and its political machines, are acutely aware of how much they need to increase racism and nationalism in a time of economic crisis, to prevent workers from uniting against them. If skilful enough, the financial elite can divert all anger at the deteriorating living conditions towards “the other” – refugees, migrants, or anyone “not from here”.

All this is well known to the left parties which buttress RAC, such as Solidarity (SOL), Socialist Alternative (SALT) and Socialist Alliance (SALL). Despite their sworn allegiance to Marxism, however, in practice such groups commit the cardinal error of entering an unprincipled bloc with the liberal wing of the ruling class – either in the form of pro-capitalist Union officials, or self-serving political parties and groups such as the ALP, the Greens, or GetUp! What this means for the refugee rights movement is that almost all of the actions initiated by RAC, while necessary in themselves, become politically subordinate to forces which aim to prevent any systemic challenge to capitalist rule. Such actions are thus confined within a liberal framework – the shell of pleading for reprieves from “our” politicians and other elites. Far from applying “pressure” to the system, such actions strengthen the very “democratic” façade which, with a federal election looming, will be wheeled out once again. Refugees, however, continue to suffer regardless.

Occasionally, the forces of the “left” wing of the capitalist class directly involve themselves in the struggle for refugee rights – precisely in order to restrict the political demands, or even to garner support for their political ends. A classic case was the picket at the Lady Cilento Childrens Hospital in mid February. While this action involved many people who wanted to contribute, and did temporarily prevent a deportation to Nauru, it was also politically handed over, at crucial times, to operatives of the ALP, GetUp! and the conservative Union bureaucracy, including representatives of the Queensland Council of Unions. (QCU). The takeover of the movement by such forces was both a help and a hindrance. Numbers swelled, and protestors were heartened by some backing (finally!) by some Unions. However, it soon became apparent that the real aims of the QCU, the ALP, GetUp! and the Greens were both the upcoming Brisbane City Council and Federal Elections, and the political containment of the refugee rights movement in an election year. Some Union officials gave fine sounding speeches, it is true, but it was not backed by Unions mobilising workers. For example, members of Together/ASU – the main public sector Union in Queensland – were not even sent an email about the action!!

The left parties who predominate the organising committees of RAC (SOL, SALT, SALL) were either oblivious to this manoeuvre, or willingly took part in it. Moreover, their strategy remains that of building the broadest possible front on the lowest possible common denominator. They apply their theory that the broader the movement, the more politically powerful it is. This is an inversion of reality. The broader the movement (in terms of the left and right joining hands), the more powerless it becomes – and the refugee rights movement is forced to refight its battles over and over and over again. Parties and groups representing a section of the “left” wing of the ruling class (i.e. the ALP, GetUp!, the Greens, Union officialdom etc) cannot “free the refugees”, or anyone else for that matter. This is because these forces have a material interest in preserving, not abolishing, the real source of refugee oppression – the capitalist economic casino.

The theme of this year’s Palm Sunday rally is “Stop the War on Refugees”. This is rich coming from RAC and its SOL, SALT and SALL apparatchiks. These groups have stood solidly behind the US led imperialist wars of regime change in Libya and Syria, wars which have created untold numbers of refugees. They were also silent when NATO installed a fascist junta in Ukraine, to undermine Russia. Such groups whine about “Russian imperialism”, which is an implicit endorsement of the NATO juggernaut. They are even more silent while the US is relentless with its hostile provocations against Red China, especially in the South China Sea, but also against the DPRK (North Korea). This is the golden thread which binds these left parties to the nationalist Union bureaucrats, the ALP, the Greens, and “community” groups such as GetUp! – “grassroots community activism”, in the service of imperialism. GetUp! is at least halfway honest about where its funding comes from – some Union leaderships, but it also admits being a part billionaire financier George Soros’ death star like constellation of regime change NGOs, such as Avaaz.org and MoveOn.org.[4] SOL, SALT and SALL, who do not receive such funding, nonetheless continually deny ever politically backing US/UK/FRA/Turkish/Saudi/NATO armed jihadists in Libya and Syria, while at the same time being the loudest voices calling for the overthrow of the African or Middle Eastern states targeted by the US Empire. Neither have SOL, SALT or SALL raised virtually any call for the withdrawal of Australian troops from the Middle East. Indeed, while Australian troops assist the US empire in the horrific game of regime change – an aim they share – why would they?

What this means for the vitally important refugee rights movement is that while it remains politically subordinate to imperialism domestically and internationally, it will remain a plaything in the hands of those we should be protesting against. Thankfully, the intervention of the Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah forces on the side of the overwhelmingly popular Syrian government has tipped the balance in Syria in favour of the world proletariat. As we write, a ceasefire between the US led forces and their armed mercenaries, and the anti-imperialist forces of Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah is being etched out. Regardless of whether it holds completely, the situation on the ground is that the NATO powers have been soundly defeated in Syria. Hundreds of thousands have paid with their lives for this victory, something that should never be forgotten. But it is another example which demonstrates that the US Empire and its murderous reign at the apex of world capitalism does not always win. This is something we need to keep in mind as we struggle for refugee justice.

We would suggest that the refugee rights movement’s tasks are threefold. Firstly, it needs to seek to combat the influence of liberal capitalist elements (the ALP, Greens, Union officials, GetUp! etc) and not cede leadership to such elements when they barge their way into the movements to bolster an election campaign or to back yet another US led war. This means seeking to politically combat left parties which act as proxies on the ground for more conservative political forces. The aim should be the mobilisation of all working class forces and their supporters independently, not only from the major parties, but all political groups working for them, be they paid or unpaid.

Secondly, the refugee rights movement needs to orient to the mobilisation of Unions in defence of refugee rights. This is not just because the movement backs anyone who is progressive, but because the mobilisation of labour is one of the few things that has the possibility of winning lasting gains for refugees and asylum seekers. We must reiterate that the main reason why the unspeakable abuse of refugees recurs is to divide the working class yet further, in order to prepare for further attacks, as the capitalist system slides deeper into recession. Unions will not be able to defend themselves if they do not defend refugees. The main obstacle to the mobilisation of workers and their Unions are the self-serving Union officials, who seek only to extend their well-remunerated careers, rather than fight for the cause of working people. Such officials must be positioned so that they MUST call meetings of members and start organising. Refugee rights supporters should not accept no to a demand for a meeting of members and delegates to address urgent issues.

Thirdly, the refugee rights movement needs to oppose all imperialist wars, which generate and exacerbate an already dire refugee situation internationally, as a result of the ongoing failure of free market capitalism. Today this means opposing the US led war on Syria, NATO belligerence in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, and US warmongering against Red China. It means demanding that all Australian troops be withdrawn from the Middle East (Iraq, Syria) and be withdrawn from all war games with the US aimed at China and the DPRK. Anyone of these conflicts could spill over into a world war – an unprecedented nightmare for refugees and the world’s working people. The struggle to end war should be simultaneously a struggle for socialism – a collectivised world economy where working people are free to move based on an international division of labour.

SHUT DOWN THE PENAL CAMPS! WITHDRAW FROM US WARS!

UNIONS MUST DEFEND REFUGEES!

Workers League

PO BOX 66   NUNDAH   QLD   4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

W: http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-21/baby-asha-brisbane-doctors-agree-to-community-detention-plan/7187716 (20-02-16)

[2] http://www.amnesty.org.au/action/action/41212/ (20-02-16)

[3] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/high-court-finds-offshore-detention-lawful-20160202-gmk5q6.html (ibid)

[4] https://www.getup.org.au/about/donations-disclosure (20-02-2016)

Mobilise Unions to demand: Free Healthcare for All Citizens!

20-02-2016 – Step by step, cut by cut, Australia’s health care system is being ripped from the hands of working people. Federal “Health” Minister Susan Ley announced a $650 million cut to Medicare incentive payments as a “Merry Christmas” gift at the end of last year. It will likely lead to up-front costs for pathology tests, blood and urine tests, pap smears, imaging and ultrasound services.[1] This comes on top of 23 medical procedures slated for “review” – read: cut – from Medicare. But these 23 are just the first of a projected 5700 items in the line of the razor.[2] Make no mistake; the aim is not just the abolition of bulk billing, but the complete dismantling of Medicare, or anything resembling public health care in this country. To say that the end result will be a user-pays US style “health” system is no understatement.

Working people should be under no illusions – the real cause of the savage attacks on basic public services such as healthcare is not the ideological predilections of the Liberal Party, for the Labor Party (ALP) and the Greens are offering scant resistance. The real cause is the deep and ongoing economic crisis of the capitalist system, which has ravaged the US and Europe since 2008. If Australia has avoided a Greece or Spain type economic catastrophe, it is due in no small part to extensive trade links with the still growing socialist led Chinese economy. Red China’s enormous economy props up, and feeds, sparks of growth in the faltering “free enterprise” of the West. Yet even China’s vast resources will not be enough to significantly re-start production on these shores. Consequently, Australia’s capitalist class and their political servants deem it natural that ANY social spending which is not directly related to assistance for the accumulation of private profit for the corporate elite shall be cut, and cut mercilessly. As has been the case with previous cuts, the latest health care cuts will disproportionately affect women, pensioners, all those on lower incomes and their children. It is no less than economic warfare.

There needs to be an immediate, robust and unrelenting offensive movement, not just to “defend Medicare”, but for an entirely free and universal health care system. Such a system must come primarily at the expense of the profits of the banks, mining companies and other corporate conglomerates, many of which currently escape paying any tax at all. This movement needs to be led by those with the social power and class interest to do so – the Trade Unions, which can then draw in unorganised labour, pro-working class students, pensioners and others. Yet sitting atop the Unions we find an overpaid and self-satisfied labour bureaucracy – officials who build their careers and handy superannuation nest eggs by suppressing, not enabling, workers’ struggle. As ever, the crisis of the labour movement is the crisis of its leadership – with barely one official even raising a murmur against the rapidly deteriorating health care system. For example, take the Queensland Nurses Union Secretary Beth Mohle. Speaking in relation to a report about the poor performance of Queensland hospitals in relation to waiting times, Mohle stated that she believed the Australian public “would be prepared to pay higher taxes to continue with the high quality health and education services that we have now.”[3] Like hell !! With the amount of tax working people already pay, free health care and education is already justified. This complete lack of perspective of class struggle gels with a wealthy Union official’s complete distance from the hardships of the life of working people.

The indifference of the Union officials, however, only exists as far as working people allow it – inside and outside the respective Unions. Unions, unlike the governments and parliaments of the rich, are based on the working class – the funds and organisation of workers themselves. This is why Union leaderships can be “pressured” into taking action, given sufficient organisation. The federal, state and local governments, on the other hand, are but committees for managing the affairs of the ruling class, to quote a famous figure. They are not accountable to working people, no matter how many demands are laid at their feet. Focusing on lobbying them can only lead to paralysis before the campaign has even begun.

A huge danger for the campaign against the cuts is that is that it will be railroaded into an effort to elect an ALP/Greens Federal government, with elections due this year. In fact, indications are that this perspective has already become dominant. National rallies against the Medicare cuts have been called for February 20 – a Saturday. Make no mistake, rallies and demonstrations are necessary. However, a rally on a Saturday or Sunday means there can be virtually no workplaces that take industrial action and walk out to join the demonstration. It is the weight of the workers which will be decisive in this struggle – as in many others. The ruling class can sustain any number of rallies on a weekend, which involve no industrial action, in which any number of people attend. Even a rally of millions on a weekend has no discernible impact on the financial aristocracy, because such an action is aimed at pleading, even begging, with the government. What is urgently required is a national campaign of industrial action, up to and including general strikes. If this was to occur, it would be the workers who would be bargaining from a position of strength. Plaintive appeals of “stop the cuts” – to those who are already carrying them out – is profoundly disempowering.

In practice, unfortunately, the latter strategy is the one often imposed on actions by representatives of the ALP, the Greens and Union officialdom. They are supported in this perspective by some left parties who help organise “These cuts are killing us” actions. Such left groups would argue that it is necessary to build a “broad”, “inclusive” movement which can mobilise the most numbers. They would claim – the more numbers, the more “broad” the political forces, the more “unity”, the more likelihood of success. Yet this is profoundly mistaken. Politics does not work by numbers alone, and positively malfunctions where there is “unity” between progressive and conservative elements. What is decisive are the two basic classes of capitalist society – labour and capital. If working people are mobilised alongside, and march side by side with political forces which do not share their aims – in this case, the ALP, the Greens and the Union bureaucracy – the movement can only bolster the fortunes of those pushing to privatise health care. In this case, such a movement will be used by the more conservative political forces for their aims – the election of an ALP/Greens government.

Needless to say, an ALP/Greens government will NOT deliver free health care, or anything approaching it. Therefore, the campaign for free health care must not be politically subordinated to those parties, or its allies in the Union bureaucracy. Working people need to demand free health care without qualification. They need to demand their Unions mobilise workers independently of all parliamentary parties and those that serve them. Such a campaign would link up with the already overstretched nurses and doctors who are still in what remains of public healthcare. Based on the mobilisation of labour, it could draw in supporters who rely on, and would politically support a universal healthcare system – students, pensioners, retirees and others. Such a movement would then also be in a position to demand public spending on other vital services such as education and public transport.

In the course of this struggle, we would do well to recognise the two countries which have the best free and universal health care systems in the world – the Republic of Cuba, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Cuba’s free healthcare system has long been recognised the world over, and Cuba is renowned for sending doctors and medical teams overseas to aid impoverished countries. Less well known, but just as effective, is the universal and free health care system in the DPRK. Yet these universal healthcare systems come courtesy of their respective socialist revolutions which overthrew capitalism and consigned it to the dustbin of history. The victory of socialism will be the ultimate guarantee of free healthcare.

FOR UNIVERSAL AND FREE HEALTHCARE FOR ALL CITIZENS!

 

Workers League

PO BOX 66   NUNDAH   QLD   4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.mamamia.com.au/health-minister-pap-smear/ (28-01-2016)

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/dec/28/sussan-ley-lists-23-medicare-items-for-review-as-funding-overhaul-begins (28-01-2016)

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-28/queensland-public-hospitals-fail-national-targes-ama-report-card/7119684 (ibid)

China: Stock Markets, Unions and War

By Adam Baker

In late July, the Western corporate press was, for a brief moment, consumed with urgent warnings about an impending stock market crash in China. The ABC news website warned that the Chinese stock market had plunged, with “fears of worse to come”.[1] The Sydney Morning Herald carried an article complaining that China’s stock market was the “world’s biggest casino”.[2] The BBC posted a piece which claimed that “panic” had set in in China’s stock market, and the government was to blame.[3] All at once, the warnings that the Chinese economy was set to crash just as the capitalist world economies had in 2008, seemed to be coming to fruition. We had to buckle our seatbelts, apparently, and wait for it. But then it vanished. The stories of a crash with huge ramification dried up as quickly as they had appeared. What of the warnings from the Western economic and journalistic experts – why had they suddenly gone quiet?

When it comes to China’s economy, the propaganda tasks for the capitalist West’s vassal scribes are multifaceted. On the one hand, they must work assiduously to convince “their own” working classes that socialism is an economic failure, which cannot provide any hope of a future for those where it is being attempted. The scribes are permitted to admit to some of capitalism’s shortcomings, but in general the message is that if you want prosperity and economic growth and dynamism, capitalism is the only game in town – so “we” had better stick with it. On the other hand, the stunning economic growth which China’s economy has delivered – over 10% growth each year for 30 years – directly refutes the plaintive warnings about the economic “failure” of socialism. This is especially the case when contrasted to the current capitalist financial crisis which has afflicted the world’s capitalist economies since the latter half of 2008. This crisis, which has thrown millions out of work, has sharply increased inequality, and has greatly increased the suffering of workers, is the elephant in the room. The debacle of Greece highlights this problem even further. With Greek workers being crushed by almost unbelievable austerity, now being imposed by a SYRIZA “left” government, it becomes a tad difficult to convince workers in the West that capitalism can deliver.

When China’s economy faced only a few minor hiccups when the Western economies were being buffeted by the “global” financial crisis, the Wests’ vassal scribes kept trying to predict that China will come undone, its bubble will burst, and thus show that the crisis really is “global”. But this simply did not happen. For seven long years after the financial crisis broke in the West, China kept powering on. Surely China’s economy could not possibly keep going – a crisis must be about to break out, mustn’t it? Then in recent months, a stock market “crash” appears in China. Ha ha exclaimed the Western experts, we told you so. China is coming down now, it’s a good old fashioned stock market crash. China is just as vulnerable as everyone else, or so it was implied. But the “crash” came and went. There was no significant flow on to the rest of the stock market, the banks remained rock solid, and overall economic growth was largely unaffected. Another potential stump for the West to bring down the Chinese behemoth evaporated.

Why and how does it come undone, repeatedly, for these paid pen-pushers? It should be noted that, for one thing, the sheer scale of the Chinese stock market is hard to comprehend. The stock write down up to the end of July 2015 came to around 3.2 trillion dollars. When talking about China, home to 1.3 billion people, the numbers and figures about anything are necessarily huge. Yet the paid Western journalist also has to grapple with what appears to be an unreality – China seems to make its “capitalism” function, and appears to use government intervention to do so. So it’s doubly confounding. One the one hand, China’s “capitalism” functions, while the West is in dire economic straits. On the other hand, the “capitalist” economic success is largely brought about by government intervention – which is just not supposed to happen, according to Western economic theory. So for Western paid functionaries, the dilemma arises of how to report on China, while still trying to convey the notion that government intervention in the economy, and much less socialism, “doesn’t work”.

We should shed no tears for the difficulties of the tasks of bourgeois scribes. But what workers and their allies should understand in relation to China’s economy is that in its majority, it is not capitalist. Capitalism does exist in China, and is used by the government to develop its economy. Yet overall, it is not capitalism which dominates in China, but socialism. The gains of the momentous struggle in China, which triumphed in 1949, are those which we would expect from a victorious socialist revolution – a workers’ state administered and politically led by those inspired by Marxism. Economically, the gigantic Chinese state owned enterprises (SOE’s), as well as the immense state owned banks, are also precious gains of 1949. And it is the operation of the SOE’s plus the state owned banks, which has basically enabled the Chinese economy to continue relatively unhindered despite the aforementioned 3.2 trillion dollar loss on its stock markets. An economy which uses state owned banks and SOEs, which remain in the hands of a workers’ government, to develop and deliver economic growth while staving off a depression afflicting many of its trading partners – cannot be capitalist. This is not what capitalist economies do. The workers of Greece, with their immeasurable suffering, can give us graphic detail about what a capitalist economy does, especially during a crisis – no thanks to the SYRIZA fraudsters.

A regulated stock market? 

One of the main functions of a stock market in a capitalist economy is to raise capital funds for investment in one private venture or another. Trading of stocks increases the value of private investor portfolios, largely through speculation. One of the end goals is to stimulate economic activity, but in the sphere of the private ownership, and use, of capital. In China, on the other hand, one of the most essential functions of their stock markets is to increase the value and stocks of the state owned enterprises. The more the SOE’s are strengthened, the better able is the Chinese government to control the economy, and use the SOE’s to deliver benefits for workers, such as employment. The Chinese government uses a plethora of methods of controlling stock market trading to ensure this occurs. Some shares are simply prevented by regulation from being traded. Some shares can only be sold at certain times, and there are different categories of shares. At all levels, China’s stock market is regulated by the government, which is the opposite of what a stock market in the West is supposed to be about. Government regulation, which in most respects benefits working people, is associated with socialism, not capitalism.

Not only is there government regulation in the Chinese stock market, there is also significant and ongoing government intervention, and often this intervention is carried out with the intention of keeping the values of shares high. In fact, as even the Wall Street Journal noted, one of the reasons for the latest dip in the Chinese stock market are fears that the Chinese government is reducing the scope of its measures to prop up the market.[4] In China, there is an expectation that the government will both regulate and intervene in the stock market to ensure it functions. Those who claim that China is “capitalist” should attempt to explain why these expectations exist, and why the government responds as it does. We should remember that the People’s Republic of China was formed out of a decades long revolutionary struggle, led by the Communist Party of China (CPC), in which hundreds of millions of Chinese fought and overcame feudal and foreign capitalist domination. As a consequence, there is the constant expectation that the People’s Republic of China lives up to, and enacts, Chairman Mao’s famous dictum of “serve the people”. No such expectation on governments exists among workers in the capitalist West, which, suffice to say, have not yet embarked on a revolutionary path.

Another reason why the stock market “crash” in China does not threaten to bring the whole system to its knees, is that the size of China’s stock market is small relative to the size of the overall economy. The Market.com website reported that the numbers of shares available for trading in China historically represent between 25-30 % of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is minor compared to the United States at 150% of GDP, and most other developed economies, which range from 85-100% of GDP.[5] So even if a full scale stock market crash did occur – which is unlikely, given the amount and extent of government intervention – the whole economy would not “tank”. Which, ironically, is the very fear which stalks every stock market crash in the capitalist West.

How is the stock market regulated in China? It starts with the ruling Communist Party, which is odd for a “capitalist” state, but quite normal for a socialist state. The CPC’s Central Financial Work Committee is one body which overseas both the financial markets and the banking system. Its work appears to be twofold; on the one hand, it lays out policy objectives for banking, insurance and securities supervision. On the other hand, its task is the recruitment and surveillance of the leading personnel of the country’s regulatory financial bodies and key financial firms.[6] Under the CPC’s Central Financial Work Committee lies the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC). The role of the CSRC was considerably expanded following the 1998 “Asian” financial crisis, and was handed supervisory control of China’s two stock exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen. The CSRC has often demonstrated its power in cases of market misconduct, by occasionally removing the managers of brokerages and investment Xfunds, as well as imposing monetary penalties on a number of financial firms.[7] Through these bodies the central Chinese government recently ordered the suspension of trading of around 25% of shares, in an effort to prevent a further plunge.[8] Needless to say, stock markets which are regulated by the ruling Communist Party, and several bodies established by the central government, are not run-of-the-mill stock markets. The whole principle of a stock market, at least in the West, is free trade. When this conflicts with the interests of the Chinese economy, the central government puts a stop to it. Can this be “capitalism”?

If the stock markets are heavily regulated by the government, perhaps the banking system is where the free market is let rip? As it happens, no. The banks are also highly regulated and controlled, and, moreover, most of them are state owned. The Chinese “big four” banks – the Bank of China, China Construction Bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank of China – are all state owned. The central bank, the People’s Bank of China, is also state owned. It had a supervisory role until 2003, when its powers were transferred to the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC). Amongst the CBRC’s functions are the monitoring of the activities of each of China’s banks to ensure all operations remain within Chinese law, and to examine the qualifications of senior banking managers.[9] What this means is that in the event of terms of stock market fluctuations or “crashes”, the banks are almost entirely unaffected. There is little to no chance of a stock market crash in China affecting the banking system. In fact, China’s largest state owned banks are not really banks as we know them in the West. They are not primarily commercial enterprises which operate on the basis of the accumulation of private profit. They are primarily administrative bodies which ensure funding and credit for China’s state owned enterprises, particularly with regard to funding and credit for infrastructure development – a key driver of China’s stunning economic growth over the past 30 years.

The Anti-Red China Left

Unfortunately, some left parties here remain hostile to Red China – the China that emerged out of the workers’ revolution which triumphed in 1949. Whether they are aware of it or not, their invective against the People’s Republic lends weight to the political campaigns of “our own” ruling class against Red China, in concert with US imperialism. Prime amongst these parties is Socialist Alternative (SAlt). SAlt contends, along with other parties based on Tony Cliff’s theory of state capitalism, that China has always been capitalist, and that the real Chinese revolution occurred in 1927. Such claims lead to mutually contradictory claims when reporting about China today. One of SAlt’s responses to the stock market dip in China was an anti-China screed authored by SAlt leader Tom Bramble, titled “The Crisis in China’s Economy”.[10] In one section, Bramble claims that “Real wages rose in the coastal provinces in recent years as labour shortages began to emerge under the impact of the one child policy and the gradual exhaustion of surplus labour in the rural areas.”[11] Soon after, he states “Rising wages in China, combined with a currency that has become stronger against the US dollar since 2005, are already encouraging some investors, both local and overseas, to relocate their operations to countries that are now cheaper, such as Bangladesh and Cambodia.[12] So wages have risen in China due to the one child policy and the lack of workers streaming in from rural areas, apparently. Yet these rising wages have been so marked, that some investors are packing up and moving to neighbouring countries where wages are lower.

Mr Bramble doesn’t appear to notice the contradiction – if wages have been rising so far as to cause investors to move to neighbouring countries, exactly what type of “capitalism” is it? Real capitalism does not take too kindly to workers winning ongoing wage increases, and certainly couldn’t sustain the years of high wage rises as has occurred in China. Wages for workers in China has been rising for the last ten years, in part due to labour shortages as Mr Bramble points out. Yet labour shortages can’t occur without a rapid expansion of an economy. Moreover, the economy is overseen by Chinese government five year plans. And the most recent five year plan states that workers’ wages must rise by 13% per year, but many local authorities push firms to raise yearly increases even higher.[13] Imagine Australian capitalists being ordered to pay their workers wage increases of 13% every year! An expanding economy, one overseen by a five year plan, along with a government ordering wage increases for workers, is quite peculiar for “capitalism”.

Not to be outdone amongst the Anti-Red China Left is the Socialist Alliance (SA). Unlike the Socialist Alternative, the Socialist Alliance recognise that a socialist revolution occurred in China in 1949. However, they go on to claim that capitalism was restored in China in 1992, marked by former leader Deng Xiaoping’s famous “Southern Tour”. They are able to recognise certain facts regarding China, but the “restored capitalism” mindset also leads to generally unacknowledged contradictions. In their newspaper Green Left Weekly, John Rainford, covering the stock market dip in China, wrote that: “The country responded to the GFC (Global Financial Crisis –ed) by ramping up infrastructure spending….in 2009, it began the largest infrastructure stimulus spending in history….new credit available across the economy increased by more than $20 trillion….”.[14] Like Mr Bramble and SAlt, Mr Rainford and SA don’t appear to notice the contradiction in their positions. If China responded to the GFC by dramatically increasing infrastructure spending along with vastly expanding the amount of credit available, to the tune of more than $20 trillion, how exactly was it able to do this? Or more to the point, how could a “capitalist” economy come up with the exact measures needed to avoid a catastrophic decline? To answer this, we have to venture into territory which the Anti-Red China Left consider unthinkable. There are many imperfections on either side, but overall, the Chinese economy and the Chinese state are in fact predominantly not capitalist, but socialist. A five year economic plan, administered by a Communist Party, a largely state owned economy, and state owned banks, are not usual indicators of “capitalism”. The workers’ revolution which established a socialist state in 1949 is still intact, despite zig-zags and despite problems in a number of areas. Overall, however, these problems have a basis from which solutions can begin to be addressed – as the accumulation of private profit through private production does not rule in China. Certain capitalists exist in China, but they do not have political or state power.

Is government or state led infrastructure going to happen in Australia, at any time? The organisation Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), which the Socialist Alliance hails for its claims that Australia can be run by 100% renewable energy, has also made the call for high speed rail to be built between Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. They claim this high speed rail system could be built for a cost of 84 billion dollars.[15] All BZE can do though is call for, or plead with, the government and the private sector to build it. Though most people with an ounce of awareness know that neither the Australian government nor the private sector (capitalist corporations) will spend this type of money without seeing a capital return. Railways generally do not receive a return, unless they charge thousands of dollars for a ticket, which is impractical. So with Australian capitalism in power, it doesn’t happen. On the other hand, leading the world in high speed rail is China. It is not just that China’s rail companies are gigantic. More to the point, they are largely state owned. The Chinese government can thus direct China’s rail companies to build high speed rail infrastructure, whatever the cost. The Chinese government, albeit in a bureaucratic manner, can plan to build infrastructure which benefits the working people and their country as a whole. They do not have make money out of building infrastructure. In fact, building infrastructure such as high speed rail can be used to serve social purposes such as providing employment, assisting the economy to function, connecting the vast areas of the country, and thus raising the standard of living. In Australia, the average worker knows there is not a chance of this happening, whether there is a Liberal or an ALP/Greens government. The more politically aware amongst the left should be able to identify the distinction between the rule of capital and the rule of labour.

The Anti-Red China Union Leaders

One of the main reasons for the extremely low level of class struggle in Australia for the last thirty years has been the misleadership of the officials of most Unions, which have tied their fortunes either to that of the ALP or to capitalism itself, or both. The workers are crying out for some kind of fightback to arrest their plummeting wages and conditions. The lack of a strong fightback led by the Union movement has had its unfortunate spin-offs, not the least of which are some workers turning to crackpot conspiracy theories, or even turning towards the fascism of groups like “Reclaim Australia”. Many workers simply have barely ever seen the Unions mobilise on a political issue. Yet recently some Union leaderships organised demonstrations and rallies around the country around a very political issue. The target was ostensibly the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement.[16] In practice, however, these were national demonstrations against Red China and backhandedly supporting the very business class the Union movement should be exposing and mobilising against. Furthermore, whipping up angst against reds at the same time as “your own” ruling class is hosting a US military base in Darwin aimed at China, inevitably draws workers behind imperialism in what could potentially be a world war.

Conservative Union leaders who have not sought to mobilise workers against the depredations of Australian capitalism and its nefarious assault on workers have all of a sudden become activists – against China. It is all too easy to blame a foreign country for the economic woes of capitalism on home shores. It is even easier when the target of the blame can be painted as “communist”. This avoids the difficult task of convincing workers that it is the class based system of capitalist exploitation which is the main enemy, and that “Australian” capitalists are a component part of this global capitalist class. Much easier to point the finger of blame elsewhere. Yet the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) who are railing against the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) now, were as silent as a church doormouse about both the signing of the Australia-Japan FTA, as well as the Australia-South Korea FTA in recent times. All three Free Trade Agreements contain similar measures. The fact that the ACTU have only mounted a public campaign against a FTA with China, but not a FTA with South Korea or Japan, speaks volumes.

The ACTU are ostensibly concerned with the ability of China to bring some Chinese nationals into Australia to work on projects worth more than $150 million or more, without “testing the local labour market” first, i.e., advertise for jobs locally. ACTU President Ged Kearney claimed that “…Free trade agreements must support local jobs and industry and all indications are that the deal with China does not….there must be strong rules around labour market testing and labour mobility clauses in the China free trade deal to ensure local jobs are protected….Unemployment has been at or above 6 per cent for one year yet it appears the government is intent on selling out even more jobs.”[17] Ms Kearney mentions the main reason why there is such concern about Chinese nationals working on Chinese invested projects in Australia. If there were plentiful jobs, if unemployment was low and if work was easy to find for all those currently residing in Australia, there would scarcely be an issue. The fact that the Australian capitalist economy is in dire straits economically and is unable to provide anywhere near the amount of adequate jobs required for workers xnow, is an indictment of the Australian “captains of industry”. The ACTU should have been mobilising workers to demand the Australian ruling class provide jobs for all those residing here.

One effective way to do this would be to mobilise workers around a demand for a shorter working week with no loss in pay. The demand for a 35 hour week with no loss in pay, if achieved, would share around the available work, and lower unemployment. It would mean a rise in the hourly (or yearly in the case of salaried workers) rate of pay, but the Union movement could be clear that this rise must come out of the profits of the employers – the capitalists raking it in on the back of the workers who produce the wealth. This could be combined with a demand for automatic wage indexation, that is, wage rises linked to the cost of living, or consumer price index (CPI). These demands, effectively a sliding scale in wages and hours, can be highly effective in leading workers to the conclusion that any system that cannot guarantee decent jobs with decent conditions for all workers, needs to be replaced with another. In this context, the ground for socialists to argue for socialism over capitalism becomes more amenable.

The ACTU, on the other hand, has done nothing like this. With a few exceptions, the ACTU leadership has allowed Australian capitalism to run roughshod over workers here for at least the last 30 years. Then all of a sudden, they point accusing fingers towards China. The Union officials, with few exceptions, are only prepared to campaign on issues that are acceptable to the capitalist class, and moreover, the Australian capitalists. Seeking a partnership with “Australian” capital for “Australian” labour inevitably means workers lose out. Hard class struggle is the only perspective that can offer immediate and longer term solutions for the labour movement. Yet this very class struggle could quickly move out of the control of the Union officials, and could even bypass them, placing their well-paid positions in jeopardy. So instead, they choose to ally with the Australian ruling class which just happens to also be joining the US in provocative war moves against the People’s Republic of China. Obama’s “pivot to Asia” is code for war against China, as crazy as a war against 1.3 billion people may appear. Incidentally, this is the main reason for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement which locks out China and is aimed against China. Workers in Australia and internationally have no interest in a trade or military war of the US led West against China. Rather, workers here and internationally have an interest in allying with Red China against US imperialism. This is despite the often nationalist and self-serving interest of the Chinese political leadership. The overall aim should be to fortify the Union movement through strengthening the forces for socialism. Rallying workers behind US imperialism strengthens the hand of capitalism over socialism.

Rallying against Red China also places you in extremely undesirable political company. At the July 31 Union organised rally ostensibly against the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, were not only thousands of Union members urged on by their officials. There was also the fascist Party for Freedom, along with the left wing parties the Socialist Alliance and the Communist Party of Australia! “Left” and right united to condemn Red China. Such a motley assemblage can only help the Australian ruling class whip up anti-China chauvinism, which are part and parcel of a preparation for war. As far as the Socialist Alliance is concerned, their placards railed against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement itself.[18] The Socialist Alliance might claim that was their concern, but the overall tenor and thrust of the politics is anti-China, i.e. socialism, in the context of US led preparations for military action against China. They would also claim that they are against the fascist Party for Freedom. However, the fact is representatives of both parties were at the same rally demanding the same thing. The Socialist Alliance’s position of calling for the overthrow of the Chinese state appears to have led them into a de facto pairing with the far right.

The Socialist Alliance does not extend any political support to the People’s Republic of China, so its position is to some extent expected. However, the Communist Party of Australia certainly does have a position of support for China and for the Chinese government generally. So how does it explain its presence at the anti-China demonstration, alongside the Socialist Alliance and the far-right Party for Freedom? The CPA Secretariat statement of July 22 made a number of correct points regarding the double standards of those opposing the FTA, and also opposing China.[19] The statement acknowledged the falsity of Australian Union leaders complaining about Chinese government subsidisation for Chinese companies, while simultaneously calling for Australian government subsidies to Australian companies. It noted the contradiction of accusing China of lax environmental and labour laws, when the Australian government is one of the world’s worst offenders. And, most importantly, it highlighted the ignoring of Australia’s involvement with the US military’s pivot to Asia, especially the hosting of US marines in Darwin, with a base clearly aimed at China. Despite all of this, the CPA urged workers to attend the rally, which was clearly against China! Unfortunately, the CPA sometimes allows its Australian nationalism to override its advocacy of socialism.

We might also expect trade union misleaders who have effectively contained class struggle for 30 years, to have conservative politics, and therefore, jump at the chance to condemn Red China. However, the new Queensland State Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Bob Carnegie, is supposed to be cut from a different cloth. On many fronts, Mr Carnegie has bravely led a series of important labour struggles in this country. However, Mr Carnegie has also led the charge against China, ostensibly under the guise of attempting to protect Chinese nationals who may be brought into Australia to work on projects operated by Chinese companies. In response to a suggestion that the Union protests against ChAFTA were driven by racism, Mr Carnegie was quoted “This government thinks we’re racist because we do not want Chinese workers coming to this country and being paid a pittance….that’s not racism, that’s good unionism. We are not about workers anywhere being exploited. Unions are about picking people up, not putting them down.”[20]

 

The intention is not racism, this much we can agree. However, it’s certainly a form of anti-socialism, wittingly or unwittingly. And when the US war machine, with Canberra’s backing, installs US troops in Darwin, clearly aimed at China, it is extremely difficult to avoid being swept up in anti-China hysteria, if at the same time you are demonstrating in the streets against China. And when imperialism goes to war, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria or China, a fair dose of racism is required to cow Australian workers not to resist yet another war. It’s even better for the capitalist class to have workers and Unions mobilising behind their war drive. Unfortunately, some Unions have already offered themselves as cannon fodder for the war against China – which is directly in conflict with the interests of workers here and overseas.

In an interview for Red Flag, the newspaper of Socialist Alternative, Mr Carnegie was asked what gives him hope. One of his responses was “The growth of the unofficial trade unions in China.”[21] Mr Carnegie is making a mistake. “Unofficial” trade unions in China are a key plank of the unceasing efforts principally led by US imperialism, for the undermining and overthrow of the Chinese government. It is no exaggeration to say that “labour rights” along with “human rights” agitation against Red China are open calls for capitalist counterrevolution. This occurs outside of China in the Western countries, but also inside China with many labour rights “NGOs” claiming to stand for the rights of Chinese workers. In practice, they foster and foment unrest which threatens, if spread widely enough, to bring down the socialist state. And this is their unstated aim, which happens to also be the unstated aim of US imperialism.

Union leaders and leftists in Australia should be aware of the different operating circumstances of trade unions operating in a socialist state, such as China, and unions operating in a capitalist state, such as Australia. Unions in Australia have the task of organising and mobilising against the capitalist state. Unions in China, on the other hand, have the task of working with the socialist state in order to facilitate the best conditions for providing work for all, as well as developing the economy such that it can provide for all workers. This task is made still more difficult due to the fact that China, despite all its advances, is still not at the level of the advanced industrialised countries. Having said this, we can recognise that the All-China Federation of Trade Unions has shortcomings, and sometimes does not organise or defend workers. This is jumped on by pro-capitalist “activists” who then advocate “unofficial” trade unions, ostensibly to fight for worker’s rights. Yet the game is given away due to the fact that these China “labour rights” activists never call for “independent” or “free” trade unions in the West. In the West, arguably the problem of Unions refusing to organise and defend workers is far greater than in China. So in reality in China, these unofficial trade unions become vehicles for anti-government, and therefore anti-socialist, agitation.

The Chinese government is well aware of the potential danger posed by often US backed NGOs operating in China, particularly “labour rights” NGOs. The Chinese government is in the process of passing a new NGO law which will increase police scrutiny. An article in the Financial Times noted that Li Yufu, Vice-Chairman of the ACFTU, recently highlighted the role of foreign “rights” organisations. Mr Li was quoted as saying, “Hostile foreign forces are intensifying their infiltration…. They are attempting to wreck the solidarity of the working class and trade union unity with the help of some illegal ‘rights’ organisations and activists.”[22] We can only imagine the outcry from liberals and other right wingers in Australia if Chinese NGOs were operating here, agitating for the overthrow of the government, under the guise of “labour rights”. Would workers here think something was amiss? Yet Western funded “labour rights” organisations operate in China, and they are lauded by some Australian Union leaders, and, unfortunately, some leftist parties. In agitating for “labour rights” in China, such organisations are effectively operating for the US empire they claim to oppose.

Unions must defend China

The Australian Union movement has no interest in mobilising against China, especially in a heightened period of anti-China military activity in Australia, and the Asia Pacific. The Australian ruling class is well aware that labour and war are intertwined, and are seeking to use this connection to their advantage – i.e to further the aims of US imperialism. In the midst of a dire economic crisis for the capitalist economies, of which China is exempt, war becomes more and more an option for Western capitalists who have literally run out of options in attempting to re-start their faltering industries. It is up to organised labour, principally the Union movement and also left parties, to turn against the Washington-Canberra organised war drive against China, in the interests of avoiding catastrophic war and the concomitant disasters for working such a conflict would engender. It is extremely dangerous for Unions to rally against a Free Trade Agreement with China, as it offers them up as cannon fodder for US plans for war against China. Rather, the Unions and the left here need to ensure that they ally themselves with Red China, and against the capitalist class itself, here and internationally, in a mighty struggle for socialism. Socialism should be the goal, and the strongest ally we have, despite all diversions, is the world’s most powerful socialist state. The fate of Australian workers, and the workers of the world, could depend on it.

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-27/chinese-share-market-plunges-with-fears-of-worse-to-come/6652000

[2] http://www.smh.com.au/business/comment-and-analysis/the-chinese-stock-market-is-the-worlds-biggest-casino-20150708-gi7q1f.html

[3] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-33405199

[4] http://www.wsj.com/articles/asian-stocks-fall-pressured-by-weak-earnings-overseas-1437961185

[5] http://www.marketwatch.com/story/china-has-only-itself-to-blame-for-its-stock-market-collapse-2015-07-24

[6] http://chinapolitik.org/studien/china_analysis/no_15.pdf

[7] Ibid, p.6

[8] http://www.afr.com/markets/equity-markets/a-quarter-of-chinalisted-shares-suspended-as-beijing-intervenes-20150707-gi6p2s

[9] http://www.china.org.cn/english/features/state_structure/66265.htm

[10] http://enpassant.com.au/2015/08/06/the-crisis-in-chinas-economy/

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] http://beta.tutor2u.net/business/blog/rising-wages-in-china-causes-and-consequences

[14] https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/59456

[15] http://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-updates/highspeed-rail-australia-could-build-network-for-30nbspbillion-less-according-to-beyond-zero-emissions/story-e6frfq80-1227029051027

[16] http://www.australianunions.org.au/china_fta_rallies

[17] http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/06/17/what-does-chafta-mean-australia

[18] https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/59650

[19] http://www.cpa.org.au/guardian/2015/1694/05-ftas-not-in-workers-interest—cpa.html

[20] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/media-barred-in-brisbane-as-unions-rally-against-chinese-free-trade-agreement-20150727-gileix.html

[21] https://redflag.org.au/article/new-direction-mua-queensland

[22] http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b5c16e4e-c0ac-11e4-876d-00144feab7de.html#axzz3jWsIGsn5

Change the Name! Change the Date!

26-01-16 – As we surge deeper into the 21st Century, the Australian political establishment has not yet dealt with its 18th Century history – the founding of white Australia by the invading British colonialists and the resulting genocidal war against the Aboriginal people. This war lasted 150 years and formed the basis of “Australia” as we know it today. The exact numbers of Aboriginal people who perished in this war as well as from the deadly impacts of colonisation are not known, but some estimates are as high as one million. January 26, 1788, and the landing of the first colonialists in what is now New South Wales, was essentially the first shot fired in a horrific slaughter which scarcely speaks its name. Yet January 26 is the day which the Australian capitalist class marks as “Australia Day”. Australia is one of the only countries in the world to have its national day marking a hostile invasion. Zionist Israel is another.

It is miraculous that some Aboriginal people survived, and continued to survive to this day. From children stolen by government forces, to being expelled from ancestral lands, to being herded into missions, to being unjustly incarcerated, to deaths in custody, the abuses from Australia’s rulers have continued, almost unabated. The theft and removal of Aboriginal children from their families was government policy for 60 years.[1] Between 1990 and 2008, an average of 14 Aboriginal people died in custody each year.[2] Despite every injustice imaginable being perpetrated against the oldest living culture on earth, the Australian rulers insist that the day which marked the start of all of the injustices be marked, even celebrated, as the national day. This grotesque practice cannot be anymore insulting to the Aboriginal people, and to all those with a shred of humanity. Working people should join with Aboriginal people in placing the simple demand that, at the very least, “Australia Day” must be moved to another day – any of the other 364 days of the year would suffice.

In 2008, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered an “apology” to the stolen generations. At the time it united many indigenous people and their supporters. Now, many have turned against it, as it became obvious that in essence it was lip service with nothing material behind it. In fact, Rudd went on immediately to continue the former Howard government’s military intervention in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, rule out any form of compensation, and refuse to countenance moving Australia’s national day from January 26. In a similar way, the “Recognise” campaign – a move to recognise Aboriginal people within Australia’s national constitution – appears to be another attempt to forever sideline the movement for basic rights to somehow offset the oppression of Australia’s traditional owners. The Recognise campaign has been tasked to Reconciliation Australia – a body with an even handed sounding name, but with sinister backers. Its website proudly announces that its “supporters” include: the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (!), and corporate vandals such as BHP Biliton, Lend Lease, QANTAS, Rio Tinto, Woodside and the Commonwealth Bank.[3] With backers such as these, a who’s who of the capitalist elite, Reconciliation Australia is hardly going to break any establishment norms. With the appalling disparity in life outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous people in this country, be it in health, education or employment, “Constitutional Recognition” will do little but justify continued inaction on an intolerable situation. As renowned Aboriginal rights advocate Chris Graham wrote: “Constitutional Recognition is a poor man’s treaty. It is another national apology, without compensation.”[4]

Ironically, perhaps the only way to properly “recognise” Aboriginal people as the original inhabitants and custodians of the land is with the concluding of a national treaty, or a series of treaties. The act of concluding such treaties places the current Australian government, the modern day representative of the colonial power which established it, in the position of acknowledging that what we now know as Australia could not have been founded without the violent dispossession of the original owners. It is not automatic, but it would establish a precedent which would go far beyond the Mabo and Wik High Court decisions.

The Aboriginal people themselves, despite their often heroic political resistance which is demonstrated around the country, will be hard pressed to win such a demand on their own. The indigenous people must be joined by the organised Australian working class, the body which, if sufficiently organised and politically led, has the power to lend significant weight to all battles against the millionaire class. The Trade Unions have the resources, and the interest, to assist the Aboriginal people win their liberation as part of the struggle in leading workers against the onslaught of capital. On occasion in the past, some Unions have assisted the Aboriginal struggle. For example, it was marching Unionists in August 1996 which came to the aid of Aboriginal fellow demonstrators marching on the Federal Parliament. It was the MUA which primarily came to the defence of Palm Island hero Lex Wotton, who was charged with “riot” for justifiably rising up against yet another black death in custody. Yet these instances have been few and far between, not least due to the conservative and self-serving Union officials which preside over almost all Unions today.

While workers should give scant regard to the constitution of a capitalist state with regard to indigenous peoples (e.g. Australia), it is another story entirely when it comes to the constitution of socialist state. Indeed, socialist states in our region accord equal status and even special support for the maintenance and development of the culture of indigenous peoples, regardless of how small their numbers may be. For example, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam recognises 53 indigenous peoples within Vietnam, and its constitution states that all indigenous peoples (referred to as “ethnicities”) have the right to speak and write in their language, and to promote their culture.[5] The People’s Republic of China unites 55 indigenous peoples outside the majority Han people. Under its constitution, all minority nationalities are entitled to appropriate representation on the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the highest organ of state power in the world’s most populous nation.[6] The recognition and promotion of indigenous peoples and cultures in these cases has only been possible out of the waging of a successful workers’ revolution which has established a socialist republic. A socialist republic – the collective rule of the working class – has no material interest in the suppression of indigenous peoples. In fact, they are needed as equal partners. Not so for Australian capitalism, which has been built and maintained via the continual denial of their prior custodianship of the land. The oppression of the indigenous peoples can thus be finally ended by the overthrow of capitalist rule and the establishment of indigenous/non-indigenous workers’ power.

FOR A SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF AUSTRALIA!

Workers League

PO BOX 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

W: http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.australianstogether.org.au/stories/detail/the-stolen-generations (09-01-22016)

[2] http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/1301.0~2012~Main%20Features~Deaths%20in%20custody~73

[3] https://www.reconciliation.org.au/ (13-01-2016)

[4] http://chrisgrahamatlarge.com/2013/04/01/a-poor-mans-treaty-the-con-in-constitutional-reform/ (13-01-2016)

[5] http://vietnamnews.vn/politics-laws/250222/the-constitution-of-the-socialist-republic-of-viet-nam.html (16-01-2016)

[6] http://www.npc.gov.cn/englishnpc/Constitution/2007-11/15/content_1372965.htm (16-01-2016)

Syrian “Opposition” Rima Flihan: Wanted Criminal! For Anti-War Refugee Action!

11-10-2015 – When a refugee rights protest has a keynote speaker who expresses “no remorse” for the slaughter of 87 University students sitting an exam, you know something has gone terribly wrong. Unfortunately, such is the actuality of the “Stand Up for Refugees” action in Brisbane today. One of the speakers is one Rima Flihan, billed as a “Syrian human rights activist”. Far from it. Ms Flihan cares only about the human rights of NATO armed death squads which have been committing unspeakable atrocities across Syria for the last four years. The Syrian government has an outstanding warrant for her arrest, after collaborating with US and Saudi Arabian armed mercenaries attempting to overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic. Wanted criminals as “human rights activists” – you have got to be kidding.

The reasons why the Syrian government had little option but to seek the arrest of Ms Flihan became obvious when she gave an interview to a Lebanese television station in January 2013, soon after a mercenary terrorist attack on the University of Aleppo, in which 87 students sitting exams, were slaughtered. Ms Flihan stated that she felt “absolutely no remorse” for the students, as they were “supporters of the regime”.[1] Since fleeing Syria in September 2011 to avoid facing criminal charges, Ms Flihan has paraded around the world as a “political activist”. Such “activism” in her case, means being a part of virtually every body which claims to be a legitimate opposition in Syria, from the “Local Coordinating Committees” (which included non-local expatriates!!)[2], to the “Syrian Opposition Council” to the “National Council of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces”. All of these bodies have now vanished, and some have now been absorbed into the “Free Syrian Army” which has in turn absorbed itself into ISIS.

At fault is not the Refugee Action Collective – the organisers of today’s rally – per se. The Refugee Action Collective contains many honest and ethical people who are doing what they can to protest against both the Australian government’s horrific abuse of refugees and asylum seekers as well as against the US led wars which have created waves of refugees worldwide. Yet the Refugee Action Collective has become beholden to what has become known as the “Imperial Left” – leftist parties who, despite claims to “socialism” and “Marxism”, have nonetheless been the biggest backers of the imperialist wars waged first on Libya, and then on Syria. The Imperial Left has the greatest amount of influence in the Refugee Action Collective, and similar respective bodies around Australia. Such parties include Socialist Alternative, Socialist Alliance and Solidarity. Buying into the fanciful claims of Libyan and Syrian “revolutions”, such parties have performed yeoman’s service for the very imperialist powers they claim to oppose. In fact, so far have the imperial left gone in providing “left” cover for US led wars, they now virtually omit any mention of imperialism, or even claim that US imperialism is not the main enemy!

Imperialism can be succinctly described as “the expansionist policy of finance capital”. That is, where finance capital dominates, it must expand into other countries (i.e. through war) in order to seek an adequate rate of profit after the home market has been exhausted. And, with the capitalist economies worldwide in a state of deep recession, especially in Europe, the US, Japan and Australia, unprovoked wars against independent nations – or even those deemed to be not totally compliant – become ever more part of daily operation. However, there is resistance. Syria today is a laboratory for the imperialist versus anti-imperialist global blocs which have emerged. On the one hand, imperialism is represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany (despite some differences with the others) and their allies Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey and other Gulf Monarchies. The anti-imperialist bloc is represented by Russia, China, Iran, Syria and their allies such as Belarus, the DPRK, Cuba and Zimbabwe. The anti-imperialist bloc contains some socialist states – China, the DPRK, Cuba – and some capitalist states – Russia and Iran. However, without necessarily endorsing the politics of the respective leaderships, workers of the world have a stake in mobilising in temporary blocs with the anti-imperialist alliance where its actions coincide with the interests of working people. Currently, Russia’s assistance to Syria is objectively in the interests of preventing wider war, in the sense that they have checkmated US imperialism by calling their bluff and actually carrying out the demolition of ISIS, which the US and their allies falsely claimed the current “war on terror” was all about.

To permanently end the scourge of war, what is required is nothing less than the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of socialism. In the meantime, what the refugee rights movement desperately needs is to break free from the “left” parties which have railroaded the movement in support of US led wars. The refugee rights movement needs new leadership, one which allies it with the interests of the working class domestically and internationally. This means advocating for the rights of refugees while simultaneously opposing, not backing, Washington and Canberra’s latest criminal wars. This may mean temporary blocs with those forces halting the advance of the NATO/Saudi/Israeli forces to gain a breathing space from which to prepare the organisation of the working class for its historic tasks. To truly be pro-refugee, we need to be anti-war.

Workers League

PO Box 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012

http://www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

[1] http://orientalreview.org/2013/01/22/aleppo-the-final-test/

[2] http://carnegieendowment.org/2012/12/20/local-coordination-committees-of-syria

No to the Assault of the TPP! Defend Red China!

18-10-2015 – Thanks once again to Wikileaks, the draft text of the notorious Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been released into the public domain.[1] The draft text contains a vigorous assault on the general conditions and standard of living of working people throughout the Asia-Pacific, as well as yet more potential destruction of civil liberties and pathways to yet more desecration of the natural environment. The TPP has been in discussion for six years, led by the world’s foremost imperialist power – the US. The TPP contains a litany of attacks on working people, courtesy of “free trade”. The TPP, if fully enacted, could:

  1. Undermine the ability of governments to spend money on public health services.
  2. Undermine any environmental protections put in place.
  3. Increase the off-shoring of jobs by reducing barriers to relocating workplaces overseas.
  4. Further empower internet service providers to police content posted by users.
  5. Dramatically increase the cost of pharmaceuticals and essential medicines.
  6. Reduce the ability to put in place regulations of the financial and banking sector.
  7. Reduce the quality of food safety standards of imported food.
  8. Allow corporations to effectively sue governments for restraint of trade.[2]

All of these things, and much more, are possible under this mega free trade deal. However, this is not just another free trade deal as such. The countries that make up the TPP give the game away. The TPP is an agreement between the governments of the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – all countries of the “Pacific Rim”. All countries that is, except China. How can there be a Pacific Rim without China? When it is the target. The US “pivot to Asia” is the military wing of the escalating confrontation with China, whereas the TPP is the economic wing. An economic war, combined with a propaganda war can only presage a shooting war.

Why does Washington, and therefore Canberra, recklessly pursue war with China? It’s not so much China which is their concern – it’s Red China, i.e. socialist China. Virtually to a man and woman, bourgeois academics, the corporate media and social democrats label China as “capitalist”. The US and Western ruling classes are happy to go along with this charade, in order to disorient “their own” working classes. But it’s certainly not the way they act. They are aware, much as they don’t like to admit it publicly, that Red China is indeed Red, and that Red China’s powerhouse economy is propelling it to the status of world’s number one superpower. China’s incredible economic growth over a 30 year period has left the entire capitalist West in its wake. And even during the “global” financial crisis, China’s economy continued to grow at least three times the rate of the capitalist West, despite a marginal slowdown. You wouldn’t know this if you read the West’s media – they try to paint the Chinese economy as if it is on the verge of collapse. They wish!

The US rulers are desperate. They know that the longer they allow Red China to continue to power along, with its gigantic socialist state led economy lifting its own people out of poverty AND effectively preventing a capitalist world from sliding deeper into recession, the less chance they will have to reassert what dominance they may once have had. China recently establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was another example of the increasing rise of Chinese superiority along with waning US influence over the globe. In order to stop, or even slow down, this process, the US rulers may be prepared to resort to full scale war. This time, the US realises that it cannot wage a war (even economic, let alone a shooting war) against China alone. So it ropes in its lackey allies into a “free trade” agreement, while goading other toady countries to claim islands in the South and East China Seas. It also sails its navy through both these seas, claiming to stand for “navigational rights”. These hostile military moves are couple with an intense anti-China propaganda campaign, whether over spurious claims for Tibetans and Uighurs, “labour rights”, “human rights”, or just straightforward anti-communism.

Working people here and internationally need to not only resist the anti-China moves of their respective rulers, but to act in solidarity with Red China. This does not mean agreeing with all policies of the central government in Beijing. However, it does mean defending China against all economic, military and propaganda provocations. It is needless to say that a shooting war with China may very easily escalate into a global conflagration, which will cause immense suffering.

Many progressive minded Australians have pointed out the potential damage to the interests of working people that the TPP can do if fully implemented. Others decry the loss of decision making power for the Australian parliament that the TPP engenders, and state that we must act to ensure it is safeguarded. But since when has the Australian parliament safeguarded the interests of working people? If anything, this parliament has become ever more beholden to the very corporations we are concerned about even before the TPP came into being! In addition, “our” politicians are already in the process of abolishing democratic rights and civil liberties, privatising health care, education, public transport, water and electricity even without the TPP. Hence, all politicians, whether Labor, Liberal, Green or National, need to be positioned such that it becomes politically impossible for them to extend any support whatsoever for the TPP.

It should be noted that the demand “Stop the TPP” falls short of the mark. It implies that capitalism can be regulated to such an extent that it will provide a human existence for all – but this is a fantasy. In order to actually stop the TPP, or stop any of its effects, we have to take action which will directly counter the system. We can do this by demanding not the regulation of the capitalist system, but that which working people are entitled to. Such things include, but are not limited to: permanent jobs for all workers, a 35 hour work week, publicly funded health care, education and basic services. If the top end of town respond by saying this is impossible under our system, we should reply that we, the workers, will replace it with a system which will. We can do this while defending Red China against the barrage of “our own” imperialism. The struggle for a socially just society can only succeed by allying ourselves with, not against, Red China. The TPP is an attempt to reassert the predominance of global capitalism, with all of the horrors this incurs for working people. It is our task to ensure this attempt fails. For socialism in our time!

Workers League

PO Box 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] https://wikileaks.org/Second-release-of-secret-Trans.html

[2] http://www.exposethetpp.org/TPPImpactsYou.html