Change the Date! For Aboriginal Liberation through Workers Unity!

26-12-2017 – 229 years after the first British colonialists landed in Sydney Cove, what became the Australian nation state still “celebrates” the beginning of a genocide against the original inhabitants, who had tended this continent for upwards of 50 000 years. A war of near extermination was carried out by the colonialists for 150 years against the Aboriginal people, first with guns and unimaginable cruelty, then by horrific governmental oppression. The Australian nation, such as it is, could not have been founded without these barbaric practices, which were both official and unofficial policy. It is a perverse affront that January 26th, the day the settler-colonialists arrived in 1788, is still marked as Australia’s national day.

The physical war of extermination of Aboriginal people may have ended, but the oppression of Australia’s indigenous peoples remains as entrenched as it has ever been. A few statistics will illustrate this. Figures from recent years indicate that the suicide rate of indigenous people is four times higher than that of the non-indigenous population.[1]  The unemployment rate for indigenous people is three times that of those who are not descended from the traditional owners.[2] Most revealingly, Aboriginal people are fifteen times more likely to be thrown in prison than those who have no Aboriginal lineage.[3] In a very real sense, Aboriginal people remain prisoners in their own land.

To even begin to redress the historic and present crimes being inflicted upon the indigenous people, at the very least Australia’s national day must be changed to a date, any date, which does not mark the beginning of a colonialist war. While the changing of Australia’s national day would be a progressive reform, by no means would it mean the end of the oppression of the Aboriginal people. The oppression of the Aboriginal people is bound up with the capitalist mode of production, which was established over the top of them, and all other working people who ended up here. The capitalist socio-economic system requires deep divisions within the working class, to prevent them from uniting to liberate themselves and other repressed layers. Working people are also oppressed by the capitalist private profit system, though to a lesser extent than Aboriginal people. Liberation for Aboriginal people is thus linked to workers’ liberation, which can only be realised through a united struggle for a workers’ republic, i.e. for socialism.

International socialism is an ally

Aboriginal political resistance, therefore, falls into error if it inadvertently tilts against socialism. Such a political direction aids Australian (and international) capitalism – the source of their subjugation.  The Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance (WAR) play a tremendous organisational role in leading a fight for justice for indigenous people. On occasion, however, WAR can adopt positions which, we suggest, are harmful both for the liberation of Aboriginal people and working people generally. For example, in Issue #7 of The Black Rising, WAR’s publication, an article appears criticising Australia’s compulsory voting laws. It is a valid concern that Aboriginal people today are being directed to vote for the very establishment which was, and is, responsible for their colonisation, and it is correct to raise a discussion of alternatives. However in doing so, WAR fall into the arms of the very establishment they wish to disown. They write:

“The Australian government, like North Korea, (emphasis added – WL) enforces compulsory voting laws meaning that the federal government expects us Aboriginal people to vote in its elections. Australia expects us to help choose the next leader of the government which invaded our ancestors only 228 years ago. We are required to vote for a person to represent the very same government who refuses, to this day, to sign a treaty and formally acknowledge Aboriginal sovereignty and title. We are expected to participate in this colonial structure and perform the civic duties of a good citizen while the federal government mines and pollutes our land, deregisters, desecrates and builds over our artefacts and sacred sites.”[4]

We do not, of course, dispute that the Australian government refuses to sign a treaty, refuses to recognise Aboriginal sovereignty, presides over an order which blocks the advance of Aboriginal people, and much more. Yet by simultaneously criticising North Korea – whose real name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), WAR line up with the Liberal Party, the Labor Party, billionaire magnates and virtually the entire Australian ruling class. These elements of private capital, and their underlings, also virulently oppose the DPRK, from the standpoint of preventing the advance of socialism. For whatever distortions that may exist in the DPRK, the fact is that they defend their system of socialism, and have done so against the might of US imperialism for 60 years. Workers remain in power in the DPRK, preventing the US and Australian ruling classes from forcing capitalism back onto the entire Korean peninsula, and by extension, into China and Vietnam. The DPRK is thus an opponent, not an ally, of global capitalism – and is therefore an ally of workers and the oppressed in all lands. This includes working people in Australia, and, especially, Aboriginal people.

For defending socialism, the DPRK is almost universally demonised in the West. It is frequently vilified by the corporate media, often without a shred of evidence, or even basic facts. Regrettably, WAR has also chimed in with the false allegations constantly directed at the DPRK. For it is not true that the DPRK “enforces compulsory voting”. Here is Article 66 of Chapter V of the Constitution of the DPRK:

All citizens who have reached the age of 17 have the right to elect and to be elected, irrespective of sex, race, occupation, length of residence, property status, education, party affiliation, political views or religious belief.
Citizens serving in the armed forces also have the right to elect and to be elected.
A person who has been disenfranchised by a Court decision and a person legally certified insane do not have the right to elect or to be elected.[5]

That is, DPRK citizens have the right to elect their representatives, and to stand for election themselves, enshrined in their constitution. Needless to say, they have this right regardless of how much money or property they may possess. In practice, in the Australian capitalist political system, millions of dollars are required to run an effective campaign against the major parties. The almost total turnout for elections in the DPRK, combined with relentless Western propaganda, may give the unenlightened the impression that voting is compulsory in the DPRK, yet this is not the case. DPRK citizens overwhelmingly support their government for several reasons, one of which is that the DPRK remains a workers state. Thus the DPRK, as it is currently formed, aligns with the class interests of Korean workers. It is not only a defence against the ever-present threat of a US invasion which leads most Koreans in the North to collectively back their nation. It is also the constitutionally guaranteed free healthcare, education, and even housing, plus – guaranteed employment. It is likely that none of this would remain if the US was able to overthrow the DPRK.

Moreover, the Korean people are the indigenous people of their land – their history stretches back at least 5000 years. When the US and Australia launched a war on Korea in 1950, essentially to prevent socialism prevailing on all of Korea, and also to undermine the recently victorious Chinese socialist revolution, 4 million Koreans perished. Out of this unprecedented brutality emerged an independent socialist Korea in the north, and an occupied, capitalist Korea in the south. The DPRK thus gives more weight to the claim that the only way for an indigenous people, or for any working people, to free themselves from capitalist rule is to struggle for your own workers republic. Therefore, we would suggest that WAR should ally themselves with, or at least not oppose, the workers movement.

For a united Aboriginal, “ethnic” and Australian born workers party

The Aboriginal people suffer intolerable discrimination in Australia, “Australia Day” being but one manifestation. The Aboriginal struggle against this dire situation is thus always progressive. However the politics of the leadership of this struggle is another matter, especially if it develops in isolation from a strong workers movement, and a united workers party. In fact, separated from a workers movement, and particularly the Union movement, it is often the case that the politics of certain leaders of the Aboriginal struggle can veer towards conservative, liberal, and/or anti-socialist ideas. WAR’s condemnation of the DPRK is but one example.

To be sure, WAR are not at all responsible for the situation they find themselves in. The main culprit for the abandonment of the struggle for Aboriginal rights is the leadership of the Australian Union movement, from the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) down to the highly paid top officials of various Unions around the country. There is some rhetoric from Union officials about supporting Aboriginal rights, but little to no action. In many instances, Aboriginal rights do not even appear on the radar of most well-heeled Union officials. Under these circumstances, it is understandable that the leaders of the Aboriginal rights movement look to other means, or other political ideologies.

However, history has yet to provide a systemic opponent of capitalism other than socialism. WAR and similar groups are in a sense correct to demand special attention to the struggle of Aboriginal people, for the suffering of the Aboriginal people is unique and does require a tailored approach. We agree that the struggle for justice for Aboriginal people cannot simply be swept into a generalised workers movement, as if it was only a component part of a movement towards socialism. What is required is a workers’ vanguard party, which can champion Aboriginal rights, and the rights of all other oppressed peoples, in a mighty mass movement which aims to end the rule of capital.
The class character of the workers vanguard party should not be in doubt – only the combined working class has the power to challenge the rule of capital. Yet the various social movements should not be competitors for the leadership of the workers. Rather, the best elements of them should be integrated into the vanguard party. This includes the most class conscious elements of the movement for Aboriginal rights. There cannot be a separate workers party for white Australian workers, and another party for Aboriginal workers. WAR and similar groups are in a sense correct to demand that the Aboriginal struggle should not be subsumed within a general struggle for the rights of all minority ethnicities, and migrant groups – for the indigenous people are neither migrants nor “ethnic”. Yet neither should they be totally separated from them when struggling against a common foe.

The workers vanguard party should thus be multiracial and multi-ethnic. It should combine pro-worker Aboriginal people, Australian born “white” workers, and pro-worker migrants of various national backgrounds. Such a party will strive to win the movement for Aboriginal rights to the theory and practice of Marxism, the program for workers emancipation. The Aboriginal rights movement will not be asked to forsake any of its culture or its history for the pursuit of socialism. On the contrary, the workers party will demand the inclusion of all Aboriginal particulars, alongside the special needs of all oppressed strata which rely on the working class for their existence. The combined and integrated struggle of all working people, through their vanguard party, is the guarantor for the successful combination with the Aboriginal struggle for elementary justice. The Aboriginal struggle and the workers struggle will either go forward together, or fall back separately. FOR ABORIGINAL LIBERATION THROUGH WORKERS UNITY!

 

WORKERS LEAGUE

PO BOX 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/mental-natsisps-strat-toc~mental-natsisps-strat-1~mental-natsisps-strat-1-ab (05-01-17)

[2] http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features20Nov+2013 (06-01-17)

[3] http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-editorial/aboriginal-prison-rates-shame-our-nation-20160408-go1y5o.html (07-01-17)

 

[4] https://theblackrising.com/2016/12/04/australias-compulsory-voting-laws-no-room-for-dissent/ (08-01-17)

 

[5] http://www.kfausa.org/chapter-v-fundamental-rights-and-duties-of-citizens/ (09-01-17)

 

What’s wrong with protesting the Trump Inauguration?

by Paul Nave

If you think there is something slightly odd about protesting the result of an election, you are not alone. The result of the election may not be what you desired – but whoever heard of protesting because the majority did not vote for what you wanted? Undeterred, some left parties are pressing ahead organising a protest against the inauguration of US President Elect Donald Trump on January 20, 2017. This may well be the biggest strategic blunder in many years.

Firstly, for working people and those who see themselves as progressive politically, it is necessary to understand how Donald Trump won and why. It is difficult not to conclude that Trump won because he offered something different to the same old Obama/Clinton legacy of devastation, abandonment, war, unemployment, the collapse of social services, the hollowing out of entire cities, towns and neighbourhoods, the skyrocketing cost of living and so on. It may well be that Trump will not be able to implement any of his “Make America Great Again” slogan, or will not come through with his airy promise to bring back jobs. But, at least as far as the US electorate was concerned, he promised something. Clinton and the Democrats were barely promising anything. The US people read this to mean that Clinton and the Democrats were going to persist with an intolerable situation. That was enough for the US electorate, or the ones who did vote, to cast a vote for Trump. And who can blame them?

Those left parties who are organising a protest against the Trump inauguration should take note of at least one factor: like it or not, large sections of the US working class support Trump. They may be misguided in doing so, but on the other hand, the other option – Clinton and the Democrats – may well have been worse for them. It is of course a negative that sections of the US working class are moving to the right, and potentially towards the fascist organisations which also support Trump. But to protest against them now, before a die has been cast, will likely push these sections deeper into the arms of the far-right. The aim of the left and working class supporters should be to try to win back that section of Trump supporters which do not regard themselves as Nazis. But this cannot be done by denouncing them for “racism, sexism and homophobia” – even though this certainly exists.
Secondly, it is also difficult not to conclude that the aim of a protest against Donald Trump on or near inauguration day, is to garner support for Clinton and the Democrats, even if the organisers specifically deny this. The demands are not anything like: “Down with Clinton, Trump and the Ruling Class”.  The demands, such that we can tell, are only aimed against Trump. The reason for this is that these left parties want to draw in liberal backers of Clinton, that is, they want them to be part of the actions. Similarly here in Australia, the politics of the proposed actions are such that any liberal can take part without any questions being thrown their way. That is, once again, these protests, even if on the face of it are directed against a President who appears to be the most backward in decades, really boil down to a demand for a slightly more liberal capitalist top official. This is not radical at all, and continues the political malaise which produced something like the Trump phenomenon in the first place.

Thirdly, despite what leftists think of the capitalist electoral system, and particularly its shortcomings as it is practiced in the United States, Donald Trump won the election. Whether he won it on outright votes (which it appears he did not) or on electoral college votes (which it appears he did), according to the electoral system in place, and despite all we know about the usual irregularities (people not appearing on electoral rolls, anyone who has ever had even a minor conviction not being allowed to vote, and much more), Trump and the Republicans won the election. And they won because most Americans who did vote surmised that Clinton and the Democrats were a worse option. And they were not all wrong.

In fact, in sheer terms of war, Clinton represented something almost unimaginable – the real likelihood of World War III. No matter how bellicose some of Trump’s rhetoric towards some states may be, at least he was not willing to launch world war, or at least against Russia. The hysterical screeching of Clinton herself, and her liberal backers, that Trump was an ally of Putin or even a Russian stooge, just do not stack up. Clinton would have ramped up the already hostile manoeuvres against Russia in Eastern Europe, Ukraine, and Syria. In fact, even some US generals were not keen to launch a world war with Russia over Syria. As quirky as it seems, compared to Clinton, Trump was almost an anti-war candidate. Let that sink in for a moment.

Trump’s one progressive position – peace with Russia – may well be contradicted by a seeming strident opposition towards Iran. However, it could also potentially mean an end to US wars of regime change. Trump has made comments stating that the Middle East was better off with both Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi still in power in Iraq and Libya. Many are aware that what Trump says, especially with regard to foreign policy, may not be carried out, or, more than likely, will be stymied by the “deep state”. The US establishment, driven to a state of despair by the faltering state of US capitalism, engages in wars to save itself, and hang the consequences. Even someone with Trump’s politics can see the ultimately self-destructive results of this.

And what of Donald Trump’s racism, sexism and homophobia? No doubt this exists, but were Clinton and the Democrats going to be markedly better?  Racism, sexism and homophobia, amongst other things, are structurally part and parcel of the capitalist system. In the best case scenario, the Democrats would utter words against racism, sexism and homophobia, and a very mild reform perhaps. But they would not be able to end the oppression of African-Americans and others, women and LGBTI people. This requires a socialist revolution, at the least.

These “left” parties, these “socialists” who are agitating to “fight Trump”, swear blind that they do not support Clinton and the Democrats. Such assurances are so much empty rhetoric. Their political practice, including the organising of actions against the Trump inauguration, tells a different story. Moreover, for the last six years, invariably these “left” parties have wholesomely backed Washington’s wars for regime change (at least in Libya and Syria) throughout the Obama/Clinton years. What these “revolutionaries” really stand for is the election of the more liberal candidate in bourgeois elections. And they are not prepared to break from the entire liberal establishment to ensure this. Working people, on the other hand, have learnt through bitter experience, that sometimes, or indeed often, the liberal candidate will cause more harm to them than the conservative. This experience, at least in part, helped produce the Trump victory.

Hence, the way to defeat the right wing is not to attempt to push working people back into supporting liberal candidates and liberal parties – which they know from experience carry out similar, or worse, attacks on their livelihoods. Nor will anyone defeat the right wing by joining these same liberals, organised and unorganised, in protests against the one elected establishment figure which is rejected by the large majority of the US ruling class. Why not work on the contradiction within the US ruling class, to see where it leads?

Rather than joining hands with liberals and protesting conservatives, the way to win working people away from both the liberal and conservative wings of the ruling class is to build politically independent mass campaigns which aim to win real gains for workers. Demands such as: a shorter working week with no loss in pay, fully funded public healthcare, decent and affordable public transport, publicly owned utilities, an expansion of public housing, and the nationalisation of the banks could be just the start. Once working people see a movement which aims to fight and win real gains, and seeks to sign them up,  the appeal of both liberal and conservative parties – and even fascist groupings, will subside away into disuse. The organisation of a working class movement presupposes the formation of a workers’ party.  A workers’ party which fights for a workers government is the beginning of the end of the capitalist nightmare, and the opening of the road to socialism. Amongst other things, this is what is worth a demonstration in the streets.

 

Which strategy for Aboriginal Liberation?

By Paul Nave

 

In the wake of the horrific footage of youth detainees being abused by guards at the Don Dale detention centre, aired by the 4 Corners television program, Aboriginal activists and their supporters took to the streets to protest yet another indicator of the oppression Australia’s indigenous people face on a daily basis. While one of the detainees was white, the overwhelming majority of youth in detention in the Northern Territory and in other states, are Aboriginal. Indigenous and Aboriginal men and women also make up a wholly disproportionate segment of the total prison population, a fact which has not been altered for decades.

Some of the protest actions were led and organised by the Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance (WAR) – a group that formed during the protests against the G20 Summit held in Brisbane in November 2014. We admire the defiance and the militancy of the WAR activists, their commitment to their struggle and their refusal to be co-opted into the mainstream of the Australian political establishment. They are also correct to back the Malcolm X style struggle for black/indigenous people’s dignity, rather than the pacifist liberalism of the ilk of Martin Luther King. However, in our view the political program of WAR is mistaken in that it remains on the path of Aboriginal or cultural/indigenous nationalism. If Aboriginal nationalism becomes the dominant strategy adopted, in our view the struggle for the liberation of Aboriginal people will not occur, and could become co-opted into the capitalist political parliamentary system they rightly reject. Aboriginal oppression is bound up with implantation of Australian capitalism, the operation of which adversely affects Aboriginal people more than others. However, the overcoming of this oppression means linking with all others seeking liberation from oppression – especially the working class.

Aboriginal Nationalism?

WAR declare that their program is that of Aboriginal nationalism. The first issue of Black Nations Rising, their publication states clearly:
Aboriginal nationalism (emphasis in original) is a philosophy….Separatism is integral to the worldview of Aboriginal nationalism. As Aboriginal nationalists, we identify with our respective tribal groups and the pan-Aboriginal nation. We are separate to ‘Australia’ – a colonial state built upon the theft of Aboriginal land and the genocide of Aboriginal people.[1]

Despite our strong political disagreements on other issues, the Spartacist League first noted the existence of Aboriginal nationalism amongst WAR activists, and alerted workers to it. They correctly note:

“One of the key demands of WAR is self-determination for Aboriginal people. For Marxists, self-determination means the right to national independence. The cohering of nations is fundamentally a material process, not an idealist one. What is decisive is contiguous mutual economic exchange continued over a more or less lengthy period of time, which develops into a coherent political economy. It was the development of capitalism which drove the formation of the nation-state in its modern sense. The possibility of the independent development of Indigenous people into a modern nation was severed by the British colonisers, who almost obliterated the Aboriginal people leaving the shattered remnants of different tribes who continue to be viciously oppressed today.”[2]

It is incontrovertible that the Australian colonial capitalist state was built on the theft of Aboriginal land and the genocide of Aboriginal people. This fact is the basis on which the oppression of Aboriginal people remains today. But the claim to an Aboriginal nation is another thing entirely. Marxists recognise the formation of nations as requiring elements such as a common language, territory, economic exchange and a culture. Nations form over time, historically, until all such factors are satisfied. Needless to say, these factors have not been present in the past, or now. WAR claim a pan-Aboriginal nation, but seemingly through a process of resisting the existing capitalist state which accords with the Australian nation.

Non-Aboriginal people of course do not experience the oppression of the indigenous people, and thus must respect the right of Aboriginal people to lead political movements which counter such oppression. However, non-indigenous people who wish to end Aboriginal oppression and join political movements to address this, must have the right to disagree with the political perspective being put forward. Aboriginal people do not necessarily come up with the correct political program to end their oppression in the same way in which workers also do not automatically propose the correct political program to end their oppression. There needs to be friendly and comradely political discussion and debate as to which strategy and tactics to adopt. To disagree with one’s political strategy does not amount to “disrespect” – it’s simply a political disagreement, a part of the struggle.

As socialists we warn against the political programs of Aboriginal or Black or cultural or indigenous nationalism, not because we don’t respect Aboriginal activists, but because we hold the view that the liberation of Aboriginal people is bound up with the struggle against capitalism, and is therefore bound up with the struggle to end the oppression of workers, through the strategic goal of socialist revolution. It should be noted in addition, that the oppression of women will also not be ended except through joining with workers in a common struggle to overthrow the rule of capital. Aboriginal people make up approximately 2% of the Australian population, but even if the proportion was substantially larger, there would still be a need to link up with, and fight alongside, the working class. Without the mobilisation of the working class, the Aboriginal rights movement cannot effectively be protected from capitalist state repression, let alone win complete liberation.
Lack of Union backing

One of the reasons why Aboriginal groups such as WAR adopt stances such as Aboriginal nationalism, is the almost total lack of Union backing for the struggle of Aboriginal people against their oppression by capitalist Australia. While it is true that there are a lot of fine words, and even some material support for Aboriginal actions, in the main the conservative Union bureaucrats sitting atop most Unions refuse to mobilise workers behind the cause to which they give verbal adherence. The rallies called by WAR in response to the exposure of the Don Dale abuses were dotted with a few Union T-shirts, but generally there were no organised Union contingents. Overpaid Union officials are long on the rhetoric of support for Aboriginal rights, and sport the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags on some wares from their Union wardrobes, but very short of organising workers behind this show. For example, in response to the Royal Commission announced by Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as a result of the Don Dale exposé, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary Dave Oliver penned an open letter to PM Turnbull, which welcomed the Royal Commission, only asking for the terms to be expanded.[3] That is, no organising or attempting to activate workers in support of Aboriginal rights, but a letter to the PM! There have been exceptions, but generally speaking, the Union officials leave the Aboriginal rights movement to fight its own battles – an impossible task. This, combined with the glaring failure of liberal “reconciliation” can lead to some groups such as WAR to adopt the view that they are on their own. This feeds the sentiment towards separatism, and the militant sounding but politically compromising Aboriginal nationalism.

 

Careerist Union officials are well schooled in shepherding workers back into support for the Australian political establishment. They seek to integrate Unions and workers closer to the Australian capitalist state, and hence back “official” channels of the capitalist state investigating itself – such as Royal Commissions. It is hardly a secret that governments often launch Royal Commissions as a pressure relief valve, to give the impression that the powers that be are actually accountable. In practice, they draw out the process for years on end, while those suffering and some activists wait interminably for an outcome. Invariably, such inquiries become little more than a whitewash. Recommendations found by the Commission have no power to be enforced, and rarely are. Such was the result of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody, which released its recommendations in 1991. What is vital is that Unions are organised independently of all aspects of the capitalist state – from its politicians to its courts to its parliaments, and its “Royal Commissions”. Workers must be shown that they themselves have power collectively – a power far greater than any parliament or institution of the old world, and one which has the potential to usher in the new world of socialism.

WAR and the left
Since the formation of WAR, there has been tension between it and some left parties when it comes to working together in joint actions. WAR has in the past demanded that the left groups selling newspapers at WAR organised events to donate all of the monetary proceeds to them or whichever cause they are taking action over. Recently, in a post on Facebook, WAR appears to ban the Socialist Alternative and the Socialist Alliance from any future events organised by WAR.[4] This post was then “liked” by some individuals from other left parties.

We are obviously not a part of any discussions that may have taken place between WAR and the two SA groups. We understand that WAR, as organisers and leaders of certain actions, have the right to lead these actions, and run the public events in general. It is of course recognised that in a broader sense, Aboriginal people have the right to lead the struggle against their own oppression, and should be respected as such. However, we do not believe it is reasonable to attempt to prevent left parties from distributing, or selling, their own publications at such public events. To ask for permission from WAR to run a campaign stall at a WAR organised event is understandable. More than this though, WAR cannot expect to control the actions of every single person which attends their public events, especially the members of left groups.

If there has been flagrant disregard for Aboriginal people and Aboriginal leaders at such events by some left parties, they should of course be reproached for it. However, there is a difference between this and an attempt to effectively censor the politics of left groups which are supporting Aboriginal rights actions. To attempt to prevent the distribution of Socialist Alternative’s Red Flag, or Socialist Alliance’s Green Left Weekly at WAR organised events appears to be direct targeting of left groups for their political views. It also does not appear fair given that presumably, WAR’s publication Black Nations Rising is being distributed unhindered. It may not be the intention, but it appears to be an attempt to censor the politics of socialist groups, in favour of the politics of WAR. By all means WAR has the right to put forward and argue for its politics, but as with all political views, it must compete with other perspectives. WAR cannot expect to retain a monopoly on the politics of every individual or group attending actions which they have organised. They must seek to convince others within the Aboriginal community and the non-indigenous but supportive community which demonstrably support their cause.

 

It is possible to respect, and give solidarity to, Aboriginal political groups, while disagreeing with their political outlook. The political outlook of WAR, by the own words, is separatism and indigenous nationalism. Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance can speak for themselves, but generally socialists do not agree that indigenous nationalism will lead to Aboriginal liberation in any meaningful way. In fact, because it turns away from the working class – the only class with the power to win Aboriginal liberation – the politics of Aboriginal nationalism can tend to alternate between a stand-alone militant defiance – which can be relatively easily crushed by the capitalist state apparatus – and liberal lobbying, such as appeals to the very politicians and parliament enabling their oppression. The two approaches are ultimately ineffective, and neither points a way forward. Both are effectively appeals to the powers that be, rather than an attempt to mobilise indigenous people, workers and their supporters in class based struggle against the powers that be.
The Aboriginal people suffer horrific racial oppression under Australian capitalism – this is not in dispute. It is also acknowledged that their struggle against this oppression can never be reactionary. However, it does not necessarily follow that the politics of the Aboriginal activists leading this struggle will always be revolutionary, or always progressive. Backward political positions can be inadvertently practiced, due to a number of societal and political factors, not the least of which is the almost total lack of working class mobilisation in support, due largely to conservative Union officials consciously preventing active workers’ support for indigenous people. Another factor is that some left parties do not challenge the politics of Aboriginal activists where they disagree, out of “respect” and “solidarity”. Such is for example, the program of Aboriginal nationalism. Aboriginal people do not form a nation, as they have not developed over time, a common language, common culture, common territory and common economic exchange. The possibility for this was eliminated by the invading British colonialists, which established an Australian capitalist state which also oppresses, though to a lesser extent, Australian workers.

An Australian nation has been formed, over time, comprised of Aboriginal people, descendants of British colonial rule and a myriad of migrants from numerous other nations. Aboriginal people unfortunately remain the most oppressed group within this nation, a historical wrong which needs urgent address. This however cannot be done without the overthrow of capitalist rule in the Australian nation, and in the Asia-Pacific region.  The Australian nation is also a junior imperialist power, which oppresses the peoples of the Asia-Pacific, and, via partnership with US imperialism, the people of the world. This is one reason why the declaring of, and the fight for, a separatist Aboriginal nation is not progressive, but reactionary. It automatically excludes those who can assist the struggle for the liberation, rather than joining with them to overthrow the rule of capital.

Left parties and individuals which acquiesce to groups such as WAR when advocating political doctrines such as Aboriginal nationalism, are doing so out of a mistaken conception of “respect” and “solidarity”.  The crucial element is to reach out to supporters of indigenous people in their capacity as workers, in order to mobilise industrial strength behind the cause. If this were to occur, it is likely that despairing ideas such as Aboriginal nationalism would not have a material basis on which to arise. However, the main obstacle is the self-serving Union officialdom, which view their own comfortable careers way above any token support for Aboriginal rights. The struggle to replace class-collaborationist Union leaders with a class-struggle leadership is bound up with the struggle to forge a revolutionary workers party, based above all on the theory and practice of Leninism. Such a party would champion the rights of Aboriginal people as part of a struggle to replace the system perpetuating the oppression of Aboriginal people and the domination of working people – that of social production for private profit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://issuu.com/blacknationsrising/docs/black_nations_rising_issue_1__online (31-07-16)

[2] http://www.icl-fi.org/english/asp/226/aboriginal.html (31-07-16)

[3] http://www.actu.org.au/actu-media/media-releases/2016/letter-to-malcolm-turnbull-on-royal-commission-into-nt-youth-detention (03-08-16)

[4] https://www.facebook.com/WARcollective/posts/1071999899562235 (03-08-16)

The Limits of a “People’s Movement”

By Kurt Unmack

The election of Donald Trump in the United States, coupled with the re-emergence of Pauline Hanson and One Nation in the Australian parliament is yet another wake-up call for working people and those who see themselves as part of the political left. Although Trump and Hanson are not explicitly fascist themselves, neo-Nazi elements which are attracted to this far-right populism form a part of their support base. All such elements need to be counteracted by a serious fightback from the left. But how?

It should be noted that Trump, aside from the standard right wing political positions, tapped into sections of the disenfranchised working class abandoned by Obama, Clinton and the Democrats. To a lesser extent, One Nation taps into the disenfranchised working class which was long ago abandoned by Labor in Australia. In throwing their electoral backing behind the far-right, these sections of the working class are unconsciously rebelling against the encroachments of capital – but doing so in a way which further strengthens capital’s hold over them. The collapse of living standards, unemployment, the decimation of social services, crumbling infrastructure – all of these things and more are identified with a political system which ignores their suffering.

“People’s Movement” ?

In response, some left parties, as well as significant sections of the Union bureaucracy, attempt to apply a universal tactic – a “people’s movement”. There are other labels for this tactic, such as a “broad front”, “unity of left and progressive forces”, “broad left alliance” , “people power”, “democratic front”, “popular front” and on and on it goes. In practice, it usually boils down to the same thing – the unity of all political forces apart from the right. It all sounds harmless, and like “common sense”. Simply “unite” everyone together and that’s how we can win against the right. Unfortunately, politics simply does not work like this – especially socialist politics.

A “people’s movement” which is not based on the working class, very quickly becomes a tool in the hands of the “left” wing of the ruling class, and their representatives. Almost immediately the politics of the “people’s movement” becomes subordinated to those with the most conservative political positions. In an alliance between left and right wing forces, the right wing wins every time, and the workers lose every time. In such circumstances, the “people’s movement” becomes politically powerless. It cannot achieve serious reforms which benefit working people, let alone win lasting gains. Revolution becomes impossible – but then, this is the aim of the more conservative forces of the “people’s movement”.

The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) is one left party which explicitly calls for a people’s movement. Before we comment on this, we should note that it is highly ironic for the CPA to be calling for a people’s movement. The CPA is known to be barely active at all. It rarely involves itself in any political actions where conservative Trade Union officials do not appear. The CPA’s hermit like abstention from whole spheres of political activity means that we have to take its prescriptions with a pinch of salt.

For the sake of argument, however, let us assume that the CPA would actually take part in a people’s movement if one arose. What politics would such a movement have, if working people were to take up the CPA’s calls?

An article from the CPA’s Guardian of November 16, 2016, lays out its ideas. The article states:

“Every aspect of life on the planet is falling prey to imperialism. Workers, small farmers, agricultural workers and an immense range of social strata, interest groups and NGOs are being forced to confront the big transnational corporations as those forces intensify their exploitation of the world’s people and resources.”[1]

We can wholeheartedly agree with the first sentence. However, the next sentence gives a clear indication of who the CPA believes should comprise a “people’s movement”.  Not only the working class, but small farmers, an “immense range of social strata”, and NGOs (!?!) automatically become a key part of the “people’s movement”. Working people with an elementary level of class consciousness would be able to immediately identify a problem here.

Small farmers, despite perhaps not being part of corporate agribusiness, nevertheless are not proletarian working people. They own their own means of production, even if a relatively small parcel of land, and the implements to work them. No doubt they experience difficult conditions and experience being shafted by big capital. Yet they still have an alien class position vis-à-vis the working class. A working class movement can seek to win such small proprietors to the side of the workers, but it would be impermissible to work in a “broad front” with those with capitalist aspirations.

So-called Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) are to a large degree the capitalist state outsourcing itself. True, there may be some which are independent of governments, but in the main the NGOs play the part of the very government that enforces the oppression of working people. The CPA should be aware of the role regime change NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Avaaz, Amnesty International and co played in being the most outspoken propaganda voice calling for the overthrow of the Syrian Arab Republic at the behest of the US and Saudi Arabia.  Closer to home, government funded “NGOs” such as the Multicultural Development Association (MDA) are one of the most conservative advocates of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.  The often diametrical opposition that NGOs have to even the most basic social justice movements means that  any substantial political alliance with them effectively derails or prevents the militant action required to win gains.

“Community”

The Socialist Alliance is another left party which has long practiced what it believes is a “people’s movement”. They stood candidates at the last federal election explicitly calling for one.[2]  It is one of their core beliefs – the broadest possible movement is the only one which will have a chance of succeeding. The “unite” organisation, despite splitting from the Socialist Alliance in 2016, puts forward its own form of a “people’s movement” by strongly emphasising the role of “communities” and “community” organising in social justice movements.  While they take supportable positions opposing drastic corporate overdevelopment, they imagine that “community” organising is the key strategy. Commenting on the controversial Toondah Harbour development, they state:

“If we want to actually have a say in how our community looks and functions – to have democratic development, then it is up to us get involved in our communities, to oppose these development plans and put forth alternative visions that actually reflect the desires of the community.”[3]

The subject of the role and function of “community” campaigns in relation to the struggles of working people requires its own study. Suffice to say, that EVERYONE, regardless of class, social standing, accumulated wealth and so on, regard themselves as part of the “community”. If  employers, capitalists, corporate developers , corporate politicians and so on, are part of the “community” then for working people it’s all over before we even start.  Working and oppressed people in  the same movement, working alongside the small and big capitalists- or their representatives – which common position is going to be agreed on here?

The term “community” is thrown in to all kinds of movements, especially by those wealthy and powerful interests that wish to create the impression that they themselves are popular and harmless and almost universally supported. Deliberately, the “community” tag has no class basis at all, and further ingrains the myth that working people reside in a community in which all residents are equals. The “unite” organisation would scoff at such a suggestion that all residents of a nation have common interests, yet they appear to believe that all members of a “community” have common interests.

For a United Front of Working People

As convivial and harmless as a “community” movement sounds, not to mention a “broad front” ,  “left and progressive alliance”,  “people’s movement”  etc, such a grouping actually produces the very political forces it is set up to oppose. That is, in the end it produces fascism. How can this be?

Firstly, the very combination of political forces regardless of class, renders such a formation a plaything in the hands of the more conservative political forces. This is the case even if the majority of the “broad front” are nominally left wing, and only a minority are right wing. In order to keep the numerically small conservative forces on board, the left wing has to accommodate, or moderate, or even refuse to raise what it stands for. This is while the conservative right wing does not have to change their backward views whatsoever. The right wing effectively control the politics of the movement, without even a challenge from the “left” of the “people’s movement”.

Secondly, the broad front or “people’s movement” rarely achieve serious gains, if at all, due to the political limitations of the movement. The “left and progressive alliance”  very quickly becomes a toothless tiger irrespective of the numbers of people who mobilise behind it. It tends to become a lobby group, begging for crumbs from the powers that be. In fact, often its spokespersons clearly state that it “is trying to send a message” – that is, to the politicians and the “powers that be”. As long as such a movement issues political appeals to the establishment, it remains a political vassal of the establishment.

Thirdly, because the broad “people’s movement” is virtually politically powerless, and achieves very little, working people quickly become disenchanted and begin to look for other avenues to address the problems facing them. In especially acute economic times such as today’s recession, some working people will turn to the right, seeking some action – or at least the promise that a certain group will fight the establishment, rather than humbly beg before the establishment for things which never come.  Further, if the amorphous “people’s movement” – which achieves almost nothing – is seen by working people to be what passes as the “left”, it is then no wonder that some working people seek answers from the political right – even fascism. This is not at all because working people are inclined towards fascism, but because they are so desperate for solutions to their political problems.

To prevent working people from turning to fascism, the left and workers forces must break from a “people’s movement” and seek to build a movement in the interests of working people. This movement should be led by the Unions, but the crippling obstacle here are the conservative and often ideologically pro-capitalist Union officials and leaders.  It is up to the left parties and their supporters, such as they exist, to both challenge the conservative Union leaders and push forward with demands that the working class desperately needs. Such demands could include things like:

  • A 30 hour week with no loss in pay
  • Public housing for those who cannot afford to rent or buy
  • Free, or subsidised, public transport
  • Free health care
  • Free education
  • A livable pension at 60 years of age

 

A strong working class movement, fighting for these or similar demands, drawing in Unions,  the unemployed, the homeless, rural and regional working people and others, is not only the way to revitalise a weakened Union movement. It would have the power to undermine,  if not extinguish, the appeal of the far right – be it Donald Trump, Pauline Hanson and One Nation, the Party for Freedom etc.  Those from alien class backgrounds, such as the petty bourgeoisie, could join the movement, but only on the condition that they fight for workers’ demands. This way, the politics cannot be subordinated to the middle and upper classes – and in reality – the ruling class.

A cross class “community” or “broad” movement against the right – a popular front – lays the path for the politically disenchanted workers to return to the arms of the right. Crucially, it also destroys the possibility of the emergence of what is perhaps most desperately needed – a workers’ vanguard party. If in “popular” movement all ostensibly “left” political forces are equal partners, even the beginnings of a vanguard party cannot get off the ground. If the “socialist” parties are equal partners in a “broad” movement with openly pro-capitalist formations such as the Labor Party, NGOs, the Greens and so on, why even bother arguing for socialism? In fact, why not join the Labor Party – why waste time building any other organisation?

The workers need their own working class movement so that a workers vanguard party, can begin to be formed out of the leadership of such a movement. A “broad” or “popular” i.e. cross-class, movement works directly against achieving that which working people need. It also permanently stifles the formation of a workers’ party which is the precondition for not only leading the workers in struggle, but for achieving their own workers government. Further, it even limits the demands which can be put forward. Trump and Hanson are concerns, there is no doubt.  But they cannot be combatted without a working class movement, and a working class party. This is the urgent task of our times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.cpa.org.au/guardian/2016/1757/01-building-the-peoples-movement.html (04-12-16)

[2] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/lets-build-powerful-peoples-movement-unity (07-12-16)

[3] https://www.facebook.com/unitebrisbane/?fref=ts (07-12-16)

Russia: Friend or Foe?

By Adam Baker

The New Cold War is raging. Day after day, the world’s working people are bombarded with Western propaganda targeting Russia, and it’s President Vladimir Putin. Hilary Clinton, the now defeated US presidential candidate, in 2014 compared Russia’s moves to hand passports to Russians outside Russia’s borders, as being akin to what Hitler did in the 1930s.[1] The supreme irony of Clinton attempting to slur President Putin with the Hitler tag, while the US was simultaneously removing an elected government in Ukraine, and installing one openly backed by Hitler following Nazis and other fascists, is striking.[2] The slur is enough though, for the purposes of the US ruling class – Russia is the enemy, and Putin is the new Hitler. Facts and reality are never allowed to impede the US drive to Armageddon.

We had the Australian ruling class, via former PM Tony Abbott, screaming that Russia, and even Putin himself, was responsible for the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine,[3] all without a shred of evidence. We had some Russian athletes being banned from participating in the Rio Olympic Games, on spurious charges that the entire Russian team was involved in doping programmes. This was a gross violation of the Olympic Charter, not to speak of being manifestly unfair.[4] US athletes who had previously served a sentence for doping were allowed to take part, whereas Russian athletes in the same situation were automatically banned.

Then followed the disgraceful banning from the Paralympics of the entire Russian Paralympic Team, on allegations of systemic doping.[5] Little could beneath the human condition than to deny disabled people, who had trained for years, the opportunity to compete in their favourite sport simply because the nationality stamped on their passport. And this on the basis of totally unproven allegations. Needless to say, a win in any sport, let alone the Paralympics, has little meaning if your opponents are banned from competing.

Before this, we had the spectacle of the US all of a sudden discovering the “corruption” of the International Federation of Associations Football (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter, soon after awarding Russia the hosting rights for the 2018 World Cup. Instead of pursuing mega-corporate tax avoiders, crooked bankers or arms dealers, Washington pressured the Zurich based FIFA to extradite FIFA officials to the US to face corruption charges.[6]  FIFA has for decades been suspected of taking bribes for favours, but the US jumped soon after Russia was awarded hosting rights.

In 2014, Russia was unceremoniously dumped from the G8 group of the world’s leading economies. It then became the G7, comprising the United States of America, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Japan and Italy.[7] The reason? The sanctimonious imperialist powers could not accept Russia’s alleged contravention of international law over the “annexation” of Crimea! That is, when, in March 2014, over 95% of Crimeans overwhelmingly voted to re-join Russia.[8] When people vote against the interests of imperialism, even by a margin of 95%, imperialism refuses to recognise it, and goes on to accuse Russia of breaking international law. A fantasy writer could not write such a script.

Then we have the very real military threats being arrayed against Russia. In May 2016, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces installed and opened Aegis Ashore missile bases in Romania and Poland, which will be operated by US Army Officers.[9] The US farcically claims that the missile defence systems will be used to defend themselves against “rogue states” such as Iran, when the target is clearly Russia. The Russian government understandably protested the threat to regional and global security. Unstated was the increased risk of nuclear war.

On top of this, actual NATO troop deployments in Eastern Europe have reached their highest level since the height of the original Cold War. In response to the “annexation” of Crimea, in reality, the voluntary reuniting with Russia, NATO had already deployed a battle group of 4000 troops into Eastern Europe. Now, they will be backed by 40 000 NATO troops, in a “rapid reaction force”, which will rotate through the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and Poland.[10] What, pray tell, is Russia supposed to do in the face of the largest numbers of NATO troops massing on its borders since the days of the Soviet Union?

If this was not enough, in October Russia was kicked out of the United Nations Human Rights Council, over alleged “human rights” abuses in Syria, but Saudi Arabia was re-elected.[11] That is, Russia has, at the invitation of the Syrian government, intervened to strike out ISIS and Al-Qaeda terrorists, preventing more human rights atrocities being carried out by Western armed mercenaries. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has mercilessly bombed thousands of Yemenis to death in their own country, while funnelling arms and millions of dollars in funding to the very mercenaries Russia is doing its best to prevent from slaughtering innocent Syrians. Yet Saudi Arabia is welcomed back on to the UN Human Rights Council, but Russia is kicked out. Welcome to double standards, imperialist style.

Imperialism comes in many forms – it is not simply the military takeover and occupation of smaller countries. In addition to the military spectrum, it is forceful in political, diplomatic and economic spheres. It is ever present in the corporate media, stretching into literature and screen entertainment. It bombards people in a myriad of different ways. It is so intense it becomes difficult for working people to question it, let alone resist it. But resist it we must, and we know that imperialism is vulnerable to a challenge, as its history potentially nears its end.

It is up to the political left to lead this struggle against imperialism, first in the sphere of politics. In the face of imperialist propaganda, one would assume that the first duty of the left is to seek to directly counter the barrage. With regard to Russia, it would appear logical that the first duty would be to challenge and break down the imperialist propaganda being levelled unfairly, and, we could say, hysterically. If the US Empire and all of its acolytes blusters that Russia is the enemy, and Putin is the new Hitler, even a rank and file trade unionist would at least question such claims. Others are able to conduct their own independent research to verify, or discount, such claims. What would be impermissible, from a left-wing, pro-working class point of view, would be to repeat some of the imperialist propaganda against Russia, or even argue their case using some of their argumentation.  Unfortunately, some left parties fall victim to the “ideological bullets of the bourgeoisie” which on other issues they are quite capable of deflecting.

Trotskyist Platform (TP) is one such left party which falls under the spell of imperialist psychological warfare with regard to Russia. While on most other issues, TP stoutly defends the interests of the international working class, when it comes to Russia, their sense of objectivity is thrown out of the window. TP released a statement commenting on the election of Donald Trump and the Republicans to the White House following the November 8 ballot in the US. It makes some supportable comments regarding the need to counter the encouragement of racist, far-right political elements which may be emboldened to target people of colour, migrants and others. It also correctly warns against the dangers of promoting protectionism, as the nationalist aspect of this “solution” creates further dangers for working people. However, when it turns to international issues, the statement ventures onto a perilous path.

Leninism?

Under the sub-head “Implications for the Leninist Program on International Questions”, TP makes the astounding claim that one of US President-elect Donald Trump’s aims is to draw Russia into a “capitalist super-alliance” which will be used against the US’s European imperialist rivals, and more specifically, against China.[12] In subsequent paragraphs TP indicate that the influence of other factors may prevent this, but that it remains “quite possible”. Where has TP been? Do the substantial US political, military and diplomatic manoeuvres against Russia, which were hot long before the war on Syria got under way, and have continued at fever pitch since, count for anything?  What about the NATO missiles being installed in Poland, Romania – all aimed at Russia?  40 000 NATO troops cycling through the Baltic states right on the border with Russia – does this indicate anything? Threats of Russia being thrown out of the Olympics – when within living memory was the US boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980? Extensive US sanctions being applied to Russia – are these part of a Cold or Hot War?

TP claim to be Leninist, and thus seek to advise the working class to follow “Leninist” principles. It stretches the imagination, however, to hold that Leninists today, in 2016, should stridently oppose the Russian state, and the Russian President, almost to the same level as the US state and the US President. One of Lenin’s firmest principles was that Marxists should always uphold the absolute equality of all nations. This was not to reinforce nationalism, but on the contrary, to create the conditions for the undermining of nationalism. If the equality of all nations was achieved, then the struggle of the working class has fewer constraints, which gives it unbridled impetus. Given that the equality of all nations is not possible under imperialism, the call for the equality of all nations essentially becomes a demand, or an actual struggle, for socialism.

The incredible double standard which imperialism applies to Russia in recent years has stuck out like a warning beacon. From the ignoring of the vote of 95% of Crimeans to re-join Russia, to the evidence-lacking blame placed on Russia for the alleged shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, to being thrown out of the Paralympics, kicked off the UN Human Rights Council to being booted out of the G8, it is clear that Russia is being targeted by ALL imperialist states, not just the US. At times some German politicians may make some noises about opposing the US drive to war against Russia, or even easing the sanctions on Russia.[13] Overall, though, the European NATO partners appear far more willing to join with the US against Russia, economically and militarily, than the US is to work with Russia against the European NATO partners.

TP appear to follow a formula. Russia is a capitalist state which is headed by a capitalist government. Therefore, it must be the enemy of all working people under all circumstances and all conditions. While Leninists can certainly agree on the capitalist nature of the Russian state, Lenin himself would pour scorn on such a rigid application of a political position. Lenin would be the first to emphasise the “concrete analysis of concrete conditions”. When all of world imperialism, led by the US, is targeting Russia, and indeed threatening it, and the world, with nuclear annihilation, one would think that “Leninists”, or pro-socialist working people, would seek to defend the target of world imperialism, rather than join in with the imperialist propaganda war. Not so for TP.

“Imperialism”

Why the hostility of TP towards Russia? It seems that TP’s actual position is that Russia is imperialist, not just capitalist. However, they seem unwilling to argue that position publicly. Nonetheless, they point to it in their statement on Trump’s electoral victory. They claim that a Trump administration

“will be, in effect, an alliance of hard-right wingers like himself and more mainstream figures from the right wing of the Republican Party. The latter are less inclined to an alliance with Russia as they believe the U.S. is strong enough not to share its spoils with any emerging power and do not want to allow a new player into the imperialist club.” [14]

This passage indicates that TP believes that Russia is in a position, at least, to “become imperialist”, or that it is next in line to be the next imperialist. The debate about whether or not Russia is imperialist requires an extensive separate study. However, if the TP position is that Russia is a capitalist state which is on the verge of becoming imperialist, we have to say that this is a delusion. Russia is a middle ranking capitalist state, with a relatively strong military – but even the military strength pales in comparison with the lead imperialist – the United States. Russia currently is nowhere near “becoming imperialist” – economically, politically or militarily.

TP at least has to angle in the direction of naming Russia as imperialist, however, because only a real imperialist state can rival the lead imperialist. And doing so enables TP to engage in a moral equivalence between the US and Russia. The classic case of moral equivalence was that of liberals during the 1930s (and afterwards), when they equated the Soviet Union under Stalin and Nazi Germany under Hitler as both equally bad “totalitarian states” – which ignored the essential class differences between the two. The effect of the liberal’s position, as always, is to end up siding with “democratic” capitalism. Similarly, TP’s position of opposing both Russia and the US in virtually equal measure, in practice pushes them and their supporters into the camp of imperialism. To imply that Russia and the US are, in effect, “both as bad as each other” – in practice ends in backing the stronger side – in this case the US Empire.

Syria

The working class of Syria, not to speak of workers the world over, however, would quickly smack down the idea of Russia being just as bad as the US. In Syria, the masses have seen and experience the horrific reality of US imperialism thrown down upon them. The arming and funding of barbaric ISIS and Al-Qaeda mercenaries slaughtering thousands in the most gruesome ways imaginable, is the Syrian experience of the US empire. What has been their experience with Russia? Assistance – after a period of time admittedly – genuine aid, and the almost total elimination of the deadly threat to their lives! Russian military intervention into Syria prevented regime change, prevented wider war, and possibly also prevented World War III. On the US side – unmitigated slaughter and destruction of people standing in their own land. On the Russian side – friendly assistance to save them from extreme danger and imminent death. Is there no difference here, according to TP?

TP at one time, had a position of defending Syria against the US/Saudi proxy mercenaries, and were very active in putting it forward. However, all this changed once Russia intervened at the invitation of the Syrian government on September 30, 2015. From that point, TP became very quiet on something which had been a major campaign for them. It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that TP’s virtual withdrawal from the defence of Syria came about because their position against Russia was exposed. If Russia was the big bad capitalist power which oppresses other countries, why did it save Syria (admittedly a long term ally – even going back to Soviet times) from total destruction? Why did it put itself in danger to assist a country being subjected to imperialist attack? This is not normal behaviour for capitalist states, to say the least.

The fact is that Russia, despite being a capitalist state, and despite the administration harbouring some or many positions against the interests of the working class, almost single-handedly destroyed ISIS – the creation of the US, Saudi, Israeli, Qatari and Turkish states. Of course imperialism will continue to back ISIS so that it springs up elsewhere, in some other form. Yet in Syria, the ISIS scourge has, for now, effectively been put down. Russia made Syria their “Red Line”. Why? Perhaps the words of US State Department spokesperson John Kirby on September 27, 2016 might give an indication. Kirby stated that unless Russia “stops the violence”:
Extremist groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which could include attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities. Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and will continue to lose resources, perhaps even aircraft.[15]
That is, the US openly threatening that the “extremist groups” – which they arm, fund and to a large extent direct, will attack “Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities” !!  The US state has created an unspeakable horror in Syria, and then openly threatens to send it into Russia to attack Russian cities. Russia, on the other hand, has at its own expense, fought with the Syrian government and others to defeat this blight on humanity. Given this, can anyone – let alone TP – imply that Russia is “just as bad” as the United States?

TP hints towards a near term position where they will officially abandon Syria to its fate. Claiming that a US-Russia “capitalist super alliance” could be formed, they state, “….a U.S.-Russia capitalist super alliance is certainly quite possible and if it does transpire this may affect the position that communist internationalists should take towards events in Syria.”[16] This sounds like TP getting ready to officially jump ship and go over to opposing the actions of Russia in Syria for aligning with the US Empire. There is no written position of such as yet. However, TP is mistaking a temporary alliance for the single purpose of eliminating ISIS in Syria, for an ongoing or more permanent alliance. Certainly Russia has been desperately trying to form a military alliance against the ISIS mercenaries, a move which has almost completely exposed the US Empire. The US, after whipping up a worldwide scare campaign about ISIS, could not openly intervene in Syria on the side of ISIS, and other mercenary groups they are backing. From what we can tell, Trump himself has so far only stated that he would be willing to join with Russia in the fight against ISIS. He has made no statement that we are aware of which proposes on ongoing alliance with Russia on a series of issues.  We must ask, does TP now oppose an alliance of the US and Russia working together to eliminate ISIS?

China

TP’s strength has always been a clear defence of the Chinese workers’ state. In fact a defence of socialism, such as it exists, in China is perhaps their core position. However, they believe so strongly in this position – which is correct in itself from a working class point of view – that they appear to attempt to shape  reality into fitting with their idiosyncratic political outlook. In their statement, TP claim that Trump’s aim is to draw Russia into an alliance against “socialistic” China.  As previously mentioned, they appear to confuse the almost embarrassing position of the US being forced to publicly oppose ISIS in words in relation to Syria, with something substantial. While the Russian government would certainly welcome an alliance with the US on many issues, the US ruling class is locked into mortal combat with Russia. Trump, as an outsider, perhaps cannot see or understand why this is.

Trump has indicated a willingness to work with Russia, and has suggested that V Putin is a strong leader who he thinks he would get on with. But we can see no evidence that the basis for Trump’s supposed overtures to Russia is to form an ongoing alliance against Red China. For one thing, one of the few election promises Trump now appears to honour is the tearing up of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).[17] The TPP is the economic arm of the war against China. It was the economic arm of the “pivot to Asia”. Despite the betrayal of the leadership of socialist Vietnam, which signed up, the TPP was a dagger aimed directly at the People’s Republic of China – specifically its economic rise. For Trump to pull the US out of the TPP is to the strategic advantage, not disadvantage of China.

It’s true that Trump’s motivation in withdrawing from the TPP is not for the benefit of China. Trump’s primary motivation appears to be an attempt to bring back US corporations which have expanded operations overseas, to advantage “rust belt” areas within the US. It’s also true that Trump has also indicated he will slap a 45% tariff on goods coming into the US from China. This could lead to a trade war; however one likely effect in that case could be increased trade between China and Russia.  Russia hardly has an interest in threatening this trade by joining TP’s alleged “capitalist super alliance” against China.

President Putin

A key aspect of the West’s New Cold War against Russia has been the ongoing demonization of its President V Putin. Bitter denunciations of Putin himself spew forth from the Western corporate media and liberal and conservative capitalist politicians alike. Partially, this is a desperate attempt to undermine a world leader which actually has some level of domestic support. Politicians in the West, who have overseen the decimation of working conditions, ongoing fruitless wars, the collapse of social services, deepening unemployment and so on, have never at any time been so loathed by their electors. They perhaps are bitterly jealous that Putin retains a great deal of public support, and is seen as a “strong leader”.

To be sure, working people cannot give a blanket political endorsement to President Putin, or the Russian state. Yet working people must be aware of the need to directly counter an imperialist demonization campaign, which, along with serious NATO military provocations, has the potential to spark World War. World War, or even a regional war of NATO on Russia’s borders, would be a greater catastrophe for working people than concerns over Putin’s “homophobia” – although this issue does exist.  A litany of Western NGOs condemn the “homophobia” by the Russian state as an effort to undermine or overthrow the Russian state, alongside allegations of corruption, lack of democracy and so on. It’s more than a little humorous to hear Western NGOs condemn Russia for a lack of democracy – when the states which back them fund them to sabotage whatever form of democracy Russia practices.
The Empire

With the world experiencing dangerous times, who or what exactly should Leninists – or working people – regard as the chief adversary? Is it Russia, which has not waged war on any country? Which has, at least for now, saved the world from ISIS?  Is it Russia which has plundered the world with corporate globalisation? Is it Russia which threatens Third World countries with invasion if they do not virtually privatise their entire economies?

Such questions do not require an answer. It should be obvious that the sickness which is infecting the world emanates from the only imperialism which exists, which is led by the US. Working people should be clear also, that the Australian ruling class is part of this Empire, and of course that working people in the US and internationally are allies in the struggle against this Empire. When the Empire attempts, by all manner of subterfuges, to implore us to believe that the real enemy is Russia, we can only laugh. It is extremely dangerous for working people to take on any imperialist propaganda, in any form. TP understands this in relation to China, but drop the ball in the case of Russia.

Working people therefore need to defend Russia against US led imperialism, without at the same time endorsing the politics of the Russian state. The current Russian state is not a consistent ally against imperialism, despite being threatened by it. Nonetheless, Russia’s self-defence against NATO coincides with the interests of working people the world over.  Leninists above all, understand the need to use tactical flexibility without the sacrifice of political positions. Right now, a temporary and conditional alliance of working people with the Russian state is necessary for self-defence, as well as for the struggle for socialism. This is the political basis of the slogan: Hands Off Russia!

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2014/03/05/hillary-clinton-says-putins-action-are-like-what-hitler-did-back-in-the-30s/ (19-11-2016)

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-ernesto/the-irony-of-clintons-com_b_4914972.html (19-11-2016)

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/12/tony-abbott-vladimir-putin-consider-apology-compensation-mh17 (19-11-2016)

[4] http://theduran.com/heres-russian-athletes-unfairly-banned-olympics/ (19-11-2016)

[5] http://www.bbc.com/sport/disability-sport/37002582 (19-11-2016)

[6] http://www.globalresearch.ca/washington-wages-war-on-international-soccer/5452281 (19-11-2016)

[7] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2588490/G8-G7-leaders-kick-Russia-Its-not-big-problem-says-Putins-foreign-minister.html (19-11-2016)

[8] https://www.rt.com/news/crimea-vote-join-russia-210/ (19-11-2016)

[9] https://www.newcoldwar.org/new-nato-threats-in-eastern-europe-as-poland-romania-to-install-u-s-missile-system/ (19-11-2016)

[10] http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-10-26/nato-pushing-biggest-military-build-russias-borders-cold-war (19-11-2016)

[11] http://www.salon.com/2016/10/28/russia-kicked-off-u-n-human-rights-council-but-saudi-arabia-was-re-elected/ (19-11-2016)

[12] http://www.trotskyistplatform.com/as-a-hard-right-racist-bigot-enters-the-white-house-oppose-economic-nationalism-protectionism/ (21-11-2016)

[13] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-germany-steinmeier-idUSKCN0Z50AI (21-11-2016)

[14] http://www.trotskyistplatform.com/as-a-hard-right-racist-bigot-enters-the-white-house-oppose-economic-nationalism-protectionism/ (22-11-2016)

[15] https://www.rt.com/usa/360992-us-warns-russia-violence/ (22-11-2016)

[16] http://www.trotskyistplatform.com/as-a-hard-right-racist-bigot-enters-the-white-house-oppose-economic-nationalism-protectionism/ (23-11-2016)

[17] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/23/trump-dumps-the-tpp-conservatives-rue-strategic-fillip-to-china (23-11-2016)