Don’t fall for One Nation! For struggle based leadership of the Unions!

22-02-2017 – It would have seemed implausible even just a few years ago. One Nation, spitting vile racism, logic defying Islamophobia and ugly ultra-nationalism, is fast becoming a “normal” part of the Australian political system. One Nation was effectively ushered out of the political system around 15 years ago by both left-wing anti-racist protests and the political establishment itself seeking to eliminate a potential rival. In 2003, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson spent 11 weeks in jail for fraudulently obtaining electoral funding. Now, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s indication that the Federal Liberals will not follow former Liberal PM John Howards policy of preferencing One Nation last, is an indication of the re-emergence of One Nation – at least in terms of capitalist electoral politics.

In state elections, the Liberal Party is falling over themselves to either join, or work with, One Nation. With a Queensland election looming later this year, four former Queensland Liberal National Party (LNP) Members of Parliament (MP) have crossed over to sign up with One Nation.[1] This reflects a large degree of opportunism, with One Nation now apparently polling at a staggering 23% support amongst the Queensland electorate.[2] In Western Australia, with a state election due in March, the Liberal Party is now preferencing One Nation above their traditional conservative coalition partners, the Nationals.[3] It is possible that by the end of the year, there could potentially be Liberal and One Nation coalition governments in two of Australia’s states.

Some commentators have noted that 15 years ago, people would generally not admit publically that they support One Nation, but they would just vote for One Nation in the privacy of the ballot box. Now, more people are no longer embarrassed about it, as One Nation more and more becomes noted as a “regular” parliamentary party. How did this come about? Firstly, it should be noted that developments in Australian politics do not occur in a bubble sealed off from the rest of the world. Political developments here are inextricably linked to the world political and economic situation. The issues which caused the serious economic crash in the West, which began in 2008, have not been resolved, and to some extent have even become worse. This has driven a further deepening of assaults on the living and working conditions of working people, in tandem with reckless and lawless imperialist wars being waged overseas. At this late stage, capitalism can only save itself by turning against those who produce its life giving surplus value.

In Australia there has been relentless job cuts from all industries, as well as the public sector. The cost of living continues to climb, resulting in a homelessness crisis. Housing itself is now virtually unaffordable for young people and most graduates. The ongoing privatisation of essential public services has pushed electricity, gas, water and sewerage services to prices which reduce the spending power of large swathes of workers. Those still in employment are often working at a breakneck pace, enduring oppressive bullying and harassment from managers. The future for young people, let alone older workers, looks bleak. This is part of the war at home, which both reflects, and is an extension, of the wars being waged by the US – with the support of Canberra – in the Middle East and North Africa, and potential wars with Russia and China.

Rise of ISIS produces Reclaim Australia – and One Nation

Such attacks on working people had been ongoing for around 35 years, with varying degrees of intensity. Yet it was Washington’s war on Syria – backed by Canberra – which provided the pretext for the fantastic invocation of “ISIS” (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). In reality, ISIS were, and are, barbarous mercenaries hired by the governments of the US, Saudi Arabia, the UK, France, Qatar and Turkey (although Turkey has come to accept that the war of regime change in Syria has failed), with the assistance of Israel. The gruesome brutality of ISIS in Syria, especially the beheading of innocents, spurred the formation here of “Reclaim Australia”, which was under the massive illusion that ISIS was primarily a part of the Islamic religion. The fact that some ISIS mercenaries were a part of the Wahabist sect of Islam, which remains basically at war with all other strands of Islam, was ignored or not understood.

It was at this time that Pauline Hanson and One Nation re-emerged, chiming in with the less than worldly understanding of Reclaim Australia. Proclaiming “No Mosques, No Halal” and more, One Nation rocketed back into popularity, at least in the electoral sphere. Reclaim Australia, comprised at its core of Neo-Nazi groups, split into groups such as the United Patriots Front. Counter-demonstrations against Reclaim Australia were largely successful, especially in Melbourne, where the racists were outnumbered, often at least by a ratio of 5 to 1. Yet the counter-demonstrations were often led by some left parties – such as Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance, as well as some anarchists – which were some of the strongest backers of what they termed the “Syrian Revolution”. Given the context that the only forces attempting to overthrow the Syrian state were ISIS, Al Qaeda and other Western armed mercenaries, it appeared to Reclaim Australia – and those who would go on to back One Nation – that the “left” actually supported ISIS and Al Qaeda in the name of “defending Muslims”.  With some justification, these elements were repulsed by the “left” appearing to back ISIS, and thus steered themselves sharply to the right – into the arms of One Nation.

There were sections of the left, and other anti-war and anti-imperialist activists, which defended Syria against the US-led war for regime change. These elements, some of whom were involved in the Hands Off Syria group, almost led a lone hand against a predatory war of the great powers. Yet with all of the corporate media, the federal government and most of the “left” baying for the blood of President Assad, these activists could not spur a desperately needed anti-war movement. Such a movement would need to overcome not only the fraudulent “left”, but also the top echelons of the Union bureaucracy.

The support, electoral or otherwise, for One Nation is unfortunately broader than those who are prepared to mobilise under the ultra-nationalism of Reclaim Australia or the United Patriots Front. Tragically, some sections of the working class are turning to One Nation, often out of a desperate lack of political options. In the absence of a Union movement which is prepared to fight for workers needs, and a corresponding workers party, some workers feel they have no option but to turn to demagogues such as Pauline Hanson even if they personally disagree with racist discrimination against “foreigners” or against those professing the Islamic faith. It is not that they necessarily “don’t care” about humane treatment for those of “difference”. However, they can be easily led into extreme xenophobia if they believe that the protagonists are also, in some way, “fighting the system” which exploits them.

Careerist Union officials refuse to fight

Perhaps the prime reason why some workers are turning to the far-right One Nation is that they have seen, and experienced, an almost total lack of response from Union leaders to the plight of their ever-worsening living and working conditions. There are some exceptions where Unions have organised some resistance, in some workplaces, and managed to hold off the most savage reproaches of capital. Overall, however, there is total silence from top Union secretaries even after the most egregious broadside against working people in their workplaces, and/or in society in general. For example, recently it was revealed that Australia Post CEO Ahmed Fahour is paid 5.6 million dollars per year.[4] This is on the backs of job cuts, and over-inflated prices that people now have to pay for a postal service. Not one Union official spoke out against this indefensible public theft. In fact, even conservative PM Malcolm Turnbull politely suggested the CEO was being paid too much.

Again, in January the story broke of the unbelievable collection of thousands of dollars of fake debt from Centrelink welfare recipients – some of the most vulnerable people in the country.[5]  This time, there were some statements from the Union representing Centrelink workers – the Community and Public Sector Union. CPSU Assistant National Secretary Michael Tull mentioned that thousands of jobs had been cut from the Department of Human Services over the last five years, and that 36 million phone calls to that department had gone unanswered last year.[6] Yet, as far as we can tell, there was little or no attempt to help organise staff to resist management attempts to ram through the virtually illegal collection of unowed “debts”, let alone an attempt to organise workers in other departments to take action. Major attacks are raining down on working people repeatedly, with little or no response from Union leaders. It is such inaction which contributes to some workers concluding that Unions and the workers movement, and by extension, the left in general, does not exist or does not do anything. These factors drive some workers to what they see as the only option – One Nation.

It is not that Union officials themselves back One Nation – many of them oppose it. The problem is that Union officials and top ranking secretaries have a material interest in maintaining the system which produces the likes of One Nation – the rule of capital over labour. They may offer words in defence of workers at the hands of unscrupulous employers, and may even spend their working hours defending some workers against some of the worst excesses of some employers. Nevertheless, most Union officials, and certainly the top leaders, pay themselves very handsomely – using members’ money – for their “service”. Some officials are paid many times more than the workers they represent. These comfortable salaries, while not comparable to CEO pay, provide them generally comfortable lifestyles, generous superannuation, ability to invest in property, and more. To speak out against the faltering profit system, not to speak of helping to organise workers to fight back, potentially jeopardises their careers and their retirement nest eggs. So they opt to protect themselves, while workers suffer.

For struggle based leadership of the Unions

One Nation’s re-emergence is the product of several interlocking factors, but perhaps the most prominent is the fact that it is the product of the lack of leadership of the workers’ movement, principally by over-remunerated Union big-wigs, whose loyalty to Australian capitalism prevents them from speaking out, let alone helping to organise a mass workers’ fightback against the onslaught of a faltering system. Yet Union members, and working people in general, are not powerless victims. On the contrary, faced with the obstruction of well-heeled officials, it is by no means beyond workers to rise against do-nothing officials, sweeping them aside and forging a leadership willing to fight on all fronts for the re-establishment of basic rights and decent living standards. Chief amongst the demands that workers should raise throughout the Union movement is the demand for: a 30 hour week with no loss in pay!  The struggle for such a demand has the potential to re-ignite a long dormant Union movement, which will directly undermine working class backing of the likes of One Nation.

The workers striving towards a class struggle leadership of the Unions is at the same time an effort to form a workers’ party. Such a party will seek to mobilise all workers in their own interests, which coincide with the interests of society at large. Paraphrasing Marx, the working class cannot raise itself up, cannot liberate itself from its condition without at the same time shaking the entire foundations of capitalist exploitation to the core. The socialist objective – working people’s ownership of the major means of production, communication and exchange – must remain as the strategic goal. A workers’ government will soon demonstrate to millions of workers that their interests lie in the collective welfare of all working people. Don’t fall for One Nation!  For struggle based leadership of the Unions!

Workers League

PO BOX 66  NUNDAH QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

 

[1] http://www.wauchopegazette.com.au/story/4441546/queensland-lnp-torn-on-one-nation-preferences-as-turnbull-rules-out-doing-a-john-howard/?cs=7 (18-02-2017)

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-11/pauline-hanson-one-nation-gains-support-in-qld-opinion-poll/8262182 (18-02-2017)

[3] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/liberals-to-put-one-nation-ahead-of-nationals-in-unprecedented-election-deal-20170211-guaw3p.html (18-02-2017)

 

[4] http://www.afr.com/brand/chanticleer/ahmed-fahours-salary-a-symbol-of-board-weakness-20170208-gu8ks1 (19-02-2017)

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jan/17/centrelink-under-scrutiny-over-use-of-robo-debt-system-to-target-aged-pension (19-02-2017)

[6] http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/centrelinks-debt-debacle-its-going-to-get-worse-says-union-20170109-gto51j.html (19-02-2017)

You Can’t Fight Trump and Turnbull with Shorten and Di Natale! Defend Refugees by Opposing Imperialist War!

11-02-2017 – Selective outrage is flavour of the week. In the wake of US President Donald Trump’s executive order banning the entry of people from 7 Middle Eastern and African Muslim majority countries, protests have materialised at US airports and other locations around the world. Claiming to oppose racism and Islamophobia, these actions have focused attention on the first weeks of the Trump Administration. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s phone call to the US President, where presumably the PM attempted to get Trump to honour the deal he signed with Obama to take refugees from Manus Island and Nauru, turned into a running joke.[1] One could argue that if President Trump refuses the sordid deal, more pressure can be placed on the Turnbull government, to bring the refugees, who are enduring unbearable suffering, to the Australian mainland.

Yet, as US comedian Jimmy Dore noted, why is it ok to bomb the seven Muslim majority countries, but it’s not ok to ban them from entering the country?[2]  Where were these people – who are now protesting the ban on some Muslim immigration – when Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton were either bombing or arming and funding “Islamic” mercenaries in an open war for regime change in the seven proscribed countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen? Why is it fine to send drone bombs, as well as high technology “ordinary” bombs, and to arm ISIS and Al Qaeda, and funnel them into an overseas country to overthrow their government and behead innocent men, women and children – yet to ban refugees fleeing from those same countries is somehow beyond the pale? Murder, torture, slaughter – no problem. Not stamping passports? That’s outrageous!

Behold the logic of the liberal. Any crime, no matter how heinous, can be excused, justified, or even lauded, if it is carried out by the liberal side of capitalist politics. When the conservative side of capitalist politics does exactly the same, the liberals throw up their hands and shriek in horror. The hypocrisy is limitless. Especially considering the work of Seth Frantzman, who found that, in fact, there was a “Muslim ban” before the 2017 “Muslim ban”. The Trump executive order does not mention six of the seven countries – it only specifically mentions Syria. The other six countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen – were selected by the previous Obama administration. The “Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015”, was signed into law by the US Congress on December 18, 2015, as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of FY (Fiscal Year) 2016.[3] The only reason why this two year old law was not fully enacted was that it was attached as a rider to the spending bill. Yet, the list was drawn up, and placed in the drawer, by the Democrats, led by Obama, with Hilary Clinton at his side, two years beforehand. All Trump did was to add Syria, and voila!

It is not just another example of liberal logic – it is a spin-off of what we have experienced here for some time – a pro-war refugee rights movement. Of course this is a direct contradiction in terms. Yet this is what has occurred. Some left parties – such as Socialist Alternative (SAlt), Socialist Alliance (SAll) and Solidarity (Sol), which have been behind the “fight Trump” actions thus far, have also helped organise the refugee rights movement – while at the same time standing strongly behind the imperialist wars which have created the current refugee crisis. Unfortunately, some in the Refugee Action Collective have fallen in with the pro-war “left”, and have joined in the calls for regime change – in Libya and Syria – alongside Canberra, which is responsible for the detention and torture of refugees in off-shore prison camps. As we have stated previously, it is impossible to defend refugees without opposing the imperialist wars which create them.

No to war on Iran, Russia, China

To be sure, there is plenty about the first two weeks of the Trump administration that working people should oppose. For example, on February 3, Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn announced new sanctions on Iran, targeting 25 individuals, in response to a ballistic missile test carried out by Tehran.[4] Also, the new US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Nikki Haley, asserted that US sanctions on Russia will remain until Crimea is returned to Kiev.[5] The fact that over 95% of Crimeans voted to re-join Russia after the US and NATO powers helped install a fascist backed coup government in Kiev in early 2014, doesn’t seem to enter the equation. These moves counter Trump’s campaign rhetoric, where he gave every indication he would work with Russia to fight ISIS in Syria, and maintain peace generally. In addition, Trump’s newly sworn in Secretary of State and recently retired Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, made provocative statements about not only attempting to stop China “building islands” in the South China Sea, but also blocking China’s access to them.[6]

Any of these actions could precipitate the unthinkable – war against Iran, Russia and China. In effect, this will be a third world war. World War III – one would think that not only left parties, but the entire liberal intelligentsia and their organisations – such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Get Up! etc., would step up and speak out against such potentially civilisation-threatening conflagrations. One might expect this – if one forgets the liberal compendium. Contained within it are strict allegiances to the wars of the US Empire, especially against those nations which have been, or are, anti-imperialist. Iran, Russia and China are demonised by the entire Western ruling classes for this reason. Liberals, from Amnesty International through to Medicines Sans Frontiers through to some left parties, cannot be relied upon to oppose such wars. In fact, they may well be their loudest backers.

In the same way in which working people in the US cannot “fight Trump” using the Democrats and the Green Party, working people in Australia cannot “fight Turnbull” using the Labor Party and the Greens. Why? Because whatever disagreements the Liberal, Labor and Greens parties have, these parties represent and speak for the same class interest – that of the ruling class. This is why, despite whatever noises the Australian Greens make crying foul over the mistreatment of refugees, they do not desire, for example, working people led by Unions taking concerted action to end this horror. This could lead on to other areas of serious class struggle, which could shake the capitalist system. This type of action is the only one which can end the torture of refugees – not the making of fine arguments in favour of “human rights” or “decency”. Labor’s Bill Shorten and the Greens’ Richard Di Natale, despite whatever consoling words they may offer, remain part of the system which incarcerates refugees. The refugee rights movement generally recognise that the Labor Party cannot be an ally. Yet many of them still hold on to vague hopes that the Greens can fill the void. This is mistaken.

Many refugee rights supporters imagine that liberalism in general stands for fair treatment of people, and that “at least” they are not conservatives. Yet liberalism is just one part of the whole of capitalist imperialism – so it includes backing of wars, poverty, spying on citizens, the shredding of even basic democratic rights, capital’s relentless assault on jobs and working conditions, and everything else. This is one reason why we can expect that the entirety of the liberal establishment – from liberal corporate media such as the Sydney Morning Herald, through to Amnesty International, to Get Up!, to Oxfam, right through to left parties such as Socialist Alternative – will not oppose the imperialist war designs of the Trump administration against Iran, Russia (despite Trump’s pre-election words), or China. They may well be – as was the case during the wars of regime change against Libya and Syria –  ground troops for organising support for these wars – perhaps under the guise of “refugee rights”. Why? Because all liberals agree with conservatives that Iran, Russia and China are “repressive regimes”.

The Socialist Alliance brandish placards which state: “Resist Trump’s Agenda”.[7]  Yet the fact that they, along with the liberal establishment, agree with the Labor Party and the Greens when it comes to Iran, Russia and China, lets the cat out of the bag. To “fight Trump”, and to “fight Turnbull”, in any sense, requires a break with both the liberal and conservative wings of Washington and Canberra. This is the case for refugee rights as much as all of the other important issues the working class faces in 2017 – ironically the centenary of the world shattering event which was in the interest of the working class – the October Revolution in Russia in 1917. We state again, refugee rights will remain in the service of the US Empire, unless it opposes all of the wars, and potential wars, which the US Empire threatens. Further, it is axiomatic that those who came behind the wars of the Obama Administration cannot lead the fight against the wars of the Trump Administration. Nor can they lead a refugee rights movement.

For a class struggle against war and for refugee rights

Of course, the current predicament is not due solely to the misleadership of parties which call themselves socialist. A much, much larger slab of the blame falls on the top Union officials, from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), down to the branch secretaries and other officials of localised Unions. To our knowledge, not one Union official has spoken out, let alone organised, any opposition to the refugee creating wars in Northern Africa and the Middle East over the last five years. This is to say nothing of actually organising workers, or even calling a meeting of Union members, to discuss and decide what to do about the world imploding. Nor did any Union official speak out when the Australian military admitted, on September 19 last year, that they were part of a bombing raid in Syria on the town of Deir Ez-Zor, which slaughtered at least 60 Syrian soldiers. Unfortunately, the top officials of the Union bureaucracy are solidly behind the foreign policy of Australian imperialism. So too are the liberal intelligentsia, and bringing up the rear are the opportunist “socialist” parties. The way we are trending, Trump could launch a war on Iran, and be applauded by the “left”, and by Union officials, for taking down a “totalitarian regime” !!!

Humanity is running out of time. It faces the imminent threat not only of nuclear war, but the potential termination of at least large slabs of civilisation through ecological collapse and runaway climate failure. Working people cannot afford being herded, once again, back into the arms of the liberal wing of what passes for politics under the corrupt influence of corporate-run “democracy” – whether that be the Democrats in the US, or Labor and the Greens in Australia. What is desperately needed is a class struggle fight against imperialist war and for the rights of refugees, in the course of leading the workers in a battle for their liberation. This entails a split with all liberal forces, not unification with them.

Working people should be clear of their role in the event of war being triggered by US recklessness, driven by the faltering economies of the West. If the US Empire starts such a war, working people would have a military brief with the anti-imperialist axis – Iran, Russia and China – but without writing a political blank cheque for the leaderships of such states. Of these states, only one – China – remains a workers state. The US Empire and its bloc, on the other hand, including the governments of the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia, as well as its Gulf allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, constitute the obstacle that working people must rid themselves of to eliminate the threat of war and to ensure decent living and working conditions for refugees worldwide.

For refugee rights, as for other issues facing working people, the key is to politically break from all liberal institutions. Rather than more Greens or Independents, what is required is a party composed of, and committed to, the workers of all lands. Such a party would use class struggle methods – large meetings, strikes, demonstrations and other forms of mass action, to empower working people themselves and build the class solidarity which can cut out the roots of the dire politics which produces the Trumps of this world. Such a party could not be formed without a series of battles with the well-paid Union officials who grow rich through preventing the rising of the workers. Refugees especially, cannot wait any longer. DEFEND REFUGEES BY OPPOSING IMPERIALIST WAR!

WORKERS  LEAGUE

PO  BOX  66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.news.com.au/world/north-america/american-comedy-shows-having-a-field-day-with-trumpturnbull-phone-call/news-story/9a6e48a56ae11550437871095eeca2ad (04-02-2017)

[2] http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46349.htm (04-02-2017)

[3] https://sethfrantzman.com/2017/01/28/obamas-administration-made-the-muslim-ban-possible-and-the-media-wont-tell-you/ (04-02-2017)

[4] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-usa-idUSKBN15H253 (04-02-2017)

[5] https://news.tj/en/news/world/20170203/236299 (04-02-2017)

[6] https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/02/02/rex-tillerson-south-china-sea-exxon-russia-offshore-oil-gas (04-02-2017)

[7] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/brisbane-rallies-against-trump (05-02-2017)