Queensland Elections 2017 – Little Choice for Working People

Statement of the Workers League

The Queensland Elections, due to be held on November 25, 2017, offer almost nothing to the majority of working people. The economic crisis of the capitalist profit system grinds on, while corporations and the governments that serve them continue to make working people pay. Unemployment, poverty, housing distress, and a skyrocketing cost of living are just some of the obstacles many people face on a daily basis.

The Labor Party (ALP) government of Annastacia Palaszczuk has governed with a slim majority, overcoming the widely despised Liberal National Party (LNP) government of Campbell Newman, who shredded public services, jobs and civil liberties, in 2015. While the ALP has enacted some very minor legislative reforms, the notorious Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment bill, known as the VLAD laws, are still largely in place. These laws give the government effective power to ban any organisation, at any time. The economy is dragging itself along, more or less in recession. And the ALP has openly displayed its arrogance and disdain for people and the environment, not to say the Great Barrier Reef and the possible future of humanity, by strongly backing the Adani coal mine in Central Queensland. This mine will pump out as much carbon as the entire country of New Zealand for the next 60 years – with unlimited ground water, a mining royalties holiday and much more. Palaszczuk’s opportunistic announcement that an ALP government would veto the $1 billion dollar loan from the federal government was a last minute ploy to give the impression that the Adani abomination will not go ahead. In reality, both an ALP and LNP government would barely stand in the way.

Unions have circulated material which points out that the LNP government is proposing $11.6 billion worth of funding cuts – but they are not actually using the word “cuts”. Professor John Quiggin has calculated that this would equate to the elimination of 22 500 jobs from the public service. LNP leader Tim Nicholls claims that he has “learnt his lesson” from the disastrous axing of 14 000 jobs from the public service in 2012, when he was Treasurer. Like all establishment politician promises, such words are hot air. There may also be job cuts with an ALP government, as their budget costings also flagged a hacking into the public service, albeit not as many as would be likely with the LNP in governmental power.

The Greens are hoping that this election will be the first one in Queensland history to elect a Green Member of Parliament, or perhaps several. It is true that the Greens may be the beneficiary of a Labor Party which is giving inexcusable backing to the apocalyptic Adani Carmichael coal mine. The Greens are offering, at least on paper, some benefits that would benefit working people. Such things include the placing of retail, generation and distribution of electricity into public hands, $1 public transport fares, longer leases and a cap on rents for those renting housing, and the retention of public land for schools, public parks and public housing.[1]

The Consumer Rights and No Tolls party are also offering some easing of the cost of living. Although running a handful of candidates, we agree with the abolition of all tolls on roads, and the keeping of power, water and roads publically owned and controlled. The abolition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and free University education are also worth supporting.[2]

The Socialist Alliance is running a candidate (Kamala Emanuel) in the central Brisbane seat of McConnell. For working people, its policies on paper are largely supportable. The three main demands, if achieved, would be a step forward. The halting of the Adani coal mine, the removal of the medical procedure of abortion from the criminal code, and a vast expansion of public housing are positions that progressive minded people can agree on. The policies of taking back public assets already sold, no to privatisation and sell-offs, and job creation through public works programs would be a much needed counter to relentless cuts and outsourcing.[3]

On the right, there is the potential danger of One Nation. Although One Nation did not achieve a substantial vote in the last Western Australian elections, Queensland is unfortunately the home of One Nation, and of Pauline Hanson. Like all far-right and potentially fascist parties, One Nation combines vicious racism with populist and even left-wing sounding positions. Politically aware workers are not fooled though – One Nation, while at the moment led by backward elements, could open the door to even more right-wing attacks on Unions and working people. One Nation also regularly votes with the Liberal Party in the federal parliament, making a mockery of its claim to be for the battlers.

While One Nation appears to tack left by supporting a “people’s bank”, opposing the raising of the retirement age to 70, and opposition to the privatisation of water, gas and electricity, the undercurrent of ultra-nationalist racist bile is clear. For example, One Nation oppose the wearing of the burqa by women of the Islamic faith in public places, government buildings and schools, opposes the teaching and “infiltration” of Islam, and the building of any more Mosques with the bizarre claim that Australia is a “Christian country”. The stock standard blaming of immigration for “overloading” water, sewerage, housing and roads is laughable, but all too real.[4]

Class struggle desperately needed

The fact that the potentially fascist One Nation is poised not only to win a substantial number of seats, but form government in concert with the LNP speaks volumes about the lack of class struggle in Queensland, and Australia generally. The mere existence of the far-right, buffoonish as they might be in the persona of Pauline Hanson, should sound urgent alarms amongst the left and the workers’ movement. There is a desperate need for a genuine class struggle workers’ movement not only to head off the right wing One Nation, but simply to defend themselves. Yet the leadership of the Union movement is arguably as conservative as it ever has been – barely active, or driving workers and Unions back into the ALP and/or the parliamentary system itself. The problems of vanishing penalty rates, high unemployment, casualization of work –  where it exists – are at crisis levels. This flows on to issues such as the blatant rip-off of electricity and water prices. Yet still there is no attempt by the Queensland Council of Unions, or Union leaderships generally, to even begin to organise any kind of workers’ fightback.

These Queensland elections are a part of the show of parliament – one of the most effective ruses the ruling class uses to portray the illusion of democracy. The capitalist system only goes through the system of parliamentary charades due to the fact that it is easier for them to rule if the masses are convinced that they have some form of representation – or at least that they don’t yet know of an alternative. Parliaments, however, are set up to exclude the working class from the exercise of decision making, or political, power. A revolutionary workers’ party may decide to run in the elections run by the capitalist class, but it would do so with the aim of leading the workers beyond a parliament which does not represent them, to a workers’ government, underpinned by a workers’ state.

This internationalist workers party needs to be forged. In its absence, there is little choice on offer. In any case, there are no real solutions to be found for working people from the sham political system imposed upon them, nor from the elections they provide. Much more can be won for working people by positioning the conservative leaderships of the Unions, and building class struggle movements – culminating in a genuine workers’ party. However, there is a danger of even bigger setbacks if the outcome in these elections is an LNP, or an LNP/One Nation coalition government. Indeed, the left should be ready to organise a serious fightback should this outcome occur.

A critical vote

We therefore advise workers to cast a critical vote for non-LNP/One Nation candidates. We advise a critical vote for the Socialist Alliance where they are standing, followed by other nominally progressive candidates such as the Consumer Rights and No Tolls Party, followed by the Greens, then the ALP, then the LNP with One Nation last. We do so with no overall political endorsement of these parties, but simply as a damage limitation exercise for working people.

This critical stance is important, for on many crucial issues, all of these parties stand on the opposite class side of the barricade. For example, on vital international issues, the Greens, the ALP, the LNP and even the Socialist Alliance stand together. In effect, all of these parties stood for the US imperialist wars on Libya and Syria, whatever their attempted justifications. All of them, to a lesser or greater degree, join with the US deep state in its barely believable verbal and military provocations against Russia – which threatens the termination of Europe, if not the world. Russia’s effective prevention of US led regime change in Syria constitutes a large factor in their irrational Russophobia. All of them are deeply hostile to the overturn of capitalist rule in China, Vietnam and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or “North Korea”). Given that there still remains the imminent danger of a US instigated nuclear war against the DPRK, this is no small oversight. All of them either support or fail to oppose the US led provocations in the South China Sea, for fear of being seen to defend Red China. Foreign policy may officially be within the purview of federal politics, but there is no difference in the personnel of these parties at local, state or federal level.

We also acknowledge working people who feel there is no option at all that is an answer, and thus vote informally, or do not bother to turn up at the polling booths altogether. We understand this sentiment, and in part agree that it is not always apathy, but a reasonably considered option amongst options which offer little or nothing. The fact that the informal vote has been increasing in recent years indicates that more and more people are turned off by the whole parliamentary show.

Ultimately, no substantial problems that working people experience can be solved by voting in elections which are set up to ensure their exclusion. The real source of the unemployment, the poverty, the lack of affordable housing, the lack of public transport, the endless cuts to public services and the ongoing climate collapse is the capitalist system of private production for private profit. This private production nevertheless uses social labour, to accumulate all of the untold wealth in this drastically unequal society. What is required is the overthrow of the rule of capital, and the initiation of a socialist order. A prerequisite to begin this task is a workers’ party which fights for a workers’ government. The Workers League seeks to take the first steps on this path, and invites all those who agree to join us.

Workers League

PO Box 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

 

 

 

 

[1] https://greens.org.au/qld/initiatives (24-11-17)

[2] https://www.no-tolls.org/ (24-11-17)

[3] https://socialist-alliance.org/news/vote-1-kamala-emanuel-socialist-alliance-mcconnel (24-11-17)

[4] http://www.onenation.com.au/principles (24-11-17)

Manus Island: Evacuate Now!

Organised Labour Must Lead the Fight to Free the Refugees

01-11-2017 – As we go to press, the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Defence Force is preparing to enter the Manus Island refugee detention centre, where around 600 men remain, fearful for their safety if they are forced out.[1] Earlier this year, the PNG army fired live ammunition into the detention centre, and there have also been machete and knife attacks against the asylum seekers by some aggrieved locals. The Manus Island detention centre is being closed after a ruling from the PNG courts which found that its establishment was unconstitutional. Full responsibility for it lies with the Australian government, which has funded these hell-hole death camps on Nauru and PNG to the tune of billions of dollars.

As of today, reports indicate that electricity generators have been removed from the detention centre, which could mean that toilets and running water would cease to function. There are photos of refugees diverting rain water from building guttering into wheelie bins, so as to ensure they have some water when the cut off takes effect. This truly farcical but all too real medieval like siege is overseen by the current Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who repeatedly claim that these refugees remain the responsibility of the PNG government. Far from it. All of these refugees, who attempted to flee to Australia in fear for their lives, were unceremoniously dumped by the Australian government in what are in reality death camps, funded by private sector contracts authorised by the Australian government. To avoid mass casualties of those who have not committed any crime, the federal government must evacuate Manus Island detainees to Australia immediately.

Refugee rights at an impasse

The diabolical situation facing refugees and asylum seekers in this country is in the main the result of several interlocking factors. One is the almost criminal inaction of most Union officials. Perhaps the core reason for the unimaginable cruelty meted out to refugees and asylum seekers by the Australian government is their political need to divide the working class into an “us” and “them”. In the absence of a strong left-wing political force, this division leads to working people diverting their entirely justifiable dismay at unemployment, poverty, and the high cost of living onto refugees, almost all of whom are from countries much less wealthy than Australia, and almost all of whom are not white. This fuels and fosters extreme racism, despite the official declarations of multicultural Australia.

This racism is poison for the labour movement. The workplace is the only place in capitalist society which is truly integrated. All production depends on cooperation between workers regardless of their nationality, culture, language or religion. The Union movement simply cannot even begin to organise workers to defend themselves from the effects of the dire capitalist recession afflicting Australia, the US and Europe, unless they take action to decisively extinguish all traces of racism. While many groups and institutions in society oppose racism towards refugees from a moral, philosophical, religious or even political standpoint – such as the Greens, liberal NGOs, small businesses, church groups, social-welfare bodies – only the working class has a material interest in overcoming and defeating racist ideology and practice. This is why it is a vital necessity for the Union movement to be the leading force against the appalling abuse of refugees and asylum seekers who have made it to these shores.

Yet the question of the Union movement is the question of the leadership of the Union movement. With a few exceptions, Unions in Australia are led by conservative, well-paid officials who have little interest in risking anything to assist working people. After all, their careers can only continue if they act to restrict the workers movement to the confines of the existing system, which is based on the exploitation of wage labour. Hence, these Union officials actively inculcate working people with ideology almost identical to that of the business class. Specifically, they politically steer workers towards the very institution of the profit system – parliament – which is used to deceive working people that they have some form of “democracy”.

This is by no means done directly. Some Union officials openly back the Australian Labor Party (ALP), and urge workers in that direction. However, the ALP is itself so exposed on the question of refugee rights – it established the mandatory detention of refugees, as well as off-shore detention – that that option is often a no go. So in steps an organisation such as GetUp! – an ALP front if ever there was one. GetUp! was created in 2005, as a result of funding from some Unions. As it poses as simply an independent activist group, and initiates campaigns on popular issues – for refugee rights, against coal mining and so on – many are unaware as to its core political role. However, Liberal Party politicians are certainly aware of the overall role of GetUp! driving campaigns which easily fit into the agenda of the ALP and the Greens. They have pushed for an Australian Electoral Commission inquiry into its funding.[2] The Australian Workers Union (AWU) recently had its offices raided as a politicised action to discredit the ALP, and Opposition leader Bill Shorten specifically. While workers should resolutely condemn and oppose any raids on any Union offices, they should also seriously question why the officials of some Unions hand members money to bodies such as GetUp!

Refugee rights in the service of war

GetUp!, the labour bureaucracy and the ALP have a three way symbiotic relationship – one cannot exist without the other. GetUp! is the acceptable public face of the ALP, a Clayton’s ALP. The labour bureaucracy funds both GetUp! and the ALP, often against the express wishes of the Union members themselves. If GetUp! did not exist, the political crisis for the ALP and the labour bureaucracy would see the ALP slide further and further backwards. Some of this manoeuvring also assists the Greens, and they work together on similar campaigns. With regard to refugee rights, the rare involvement of GetUp! helps to play the role that the labour bureaucracy would themselves play if they were involved – shepherding and steering the refugee rights movement into a lobby group, begging and pleading for changes from the very politicians themselves responsible for the maltreatment of refugees.

As we have mentioned on several occasions previously, the refugee rights movement, such as it is, has a fatal flaw. It does not seek to highlight the reasons why refugees are created in the first place. Impoverished people fleeing the harsh economic conditions in the third world are one aspect. In recent years, however, a much larger proportion are fleeing the US led imperialist wars which have been waged around the world – inevitably with the backing of Canberra. Yet the activist refugee rights movement in this country is largely led by some misguided left parties which have not opposed these wars which have the potential to unleash World War III. These left parties have been some of the most vocal proponents calling for regime change in Libya and Syria – and the US/NATO juggernaut obliged. Refugees fleeing from the Middle East and North Africa were then welcomed by these refugee rights groups, the effect of which was to justify further war against sovereign countries.

It is true that these left parties were joined by others not inclined at all to socialism, but were welcomed as part of a “broad” movement. Unbeknownst to them, the labour bureaucracy via organisations such as GetUp! were ensuring that the refugee rights movement as a whole stayed well within the bounds of acceptable public discourse – nominally “anti-war”, but in practice calling for the downfall of the latest “dictator” the US had decided was the next target. In this respect, the labour bureaucracy ensured that the refugee rights movement perfectly aligned itself within the political spectrum of Australian imperialism. Despite notable exceptions from groups such as Hands Off Syria, there was little opposition to the Australian military’s role in helping the US bomb Syria under the false pretence of “fighting ISIS”.

Needless to say, with the world hurtling towards a World War III scenario, the refugee rights movement needs a clinical break from its previous practice of being manipulated by the politically savvy interests of private capital. For it was not only for the wars on Libya and Syria that the refugee rights movement was mobilised to flag wave. The US Empire is also in the throes of encircling Russia. NATO has installed 31 000 troops in Poland, has spent $3 billion on building up presence in the former Eastern bloc countries, in a “Cold War 2.0”.[3] NATO’s backing of fascists in Ukraine, sponsoring a coup, was also aimed squarely at Russia, along with the war to destroy Syria. When the former PM Tony Abbott openly blamed Russia for the shooting down of flight MH17, without a shred of evidence, the refugee rights movement – as with the liberal intelligentsia – were virtually silent. Can anyone imagine the refugees produced by a war against Russia?

Just as dangerous are the US led provocations against Red China. Furious at China’s socialist economy driving prosperity inside and outside the world’s largest country, the US ruling class knows it must act to contain China soon, or be eclipsed economically, diplomatically and politically. Too large to destroy in a one-on-one, the US deep state targets areas to break off from the People’s Republic, such as Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet and islands in the South China Sea. It also actively funds “NGOs” in the countries bordering China, including Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. It is Myanmar where the latest “humanitarian war” is being prepared, over hypocritical concern for the Rohingyas in the Rakhine state. Again, refugees will be created by the millions if a military conflict with China breaks out.

The other assault on Red China are the continual threats to its socialist neighbour, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or “North Korea”). All that the DPRK has ever stated is that if it is attacked, it will respond. Yet the US Empire, and not only President Trump, whips up such irrational demonisation of the DPRK that millions of working people regrettably do not question the wild allegations. In the last six months there has been the very real threat of nuclear war with the DPRK – a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. Yet, again, we have virtual silence from the refugee rights movement, and those who in the past prided themselves on their anti-war credentials. This is unfortunately not a coincidence. The refugee rights movement, to the mistaken left parties, to the labour bureaucracy, to the ALP, to the Greens, to GetUp! – all of them fall into line, some consciously, some not – behind the aims of Australian imperialism.

For labour action to free the refugees

This is why it is impossible to free the refugees on Manus Island (and Nauru) without a complete break with Australian foreign policy. This has to also mean a political break with those forces who consciously seek to impose its hegemony – parliamentarist parties, the labour bureaucracy, GetUp! etc – as well as with the waylaid left parties pulling up the rear. What is required is a direct challenge by Union members to the ideologically pro-capitalist Union officials, in the course of a struggle for a leadership which recognises no common interest between the employers and workers. This will inevitably require the forming of rank and file Union committees, which may need to be underground. Supporting these efforts must be the most keenly class aware workers, forming the basis of a Marxist vanguard party. Such a party would seek to both drive the urgently needed political action for the refugee rights movement, as part of a struggle to revive Union and class struggle for jobs, decent healthcare and education, public transport and other measures currently being eliminated by the capitalist crisis. It would also seek to mobilise workers in strident opposition to imperialist war, if need be by forming a workers government. EVACUATE MANUS ISLAND!  BRING THE REFUGEES TO THE MAINLAND!

 

WORKERS  LEAGUE

PO Box  66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-01/manus-island-army-to-remove-600-men-from-closed-centre/9106700 (01-11-2017)

[2] http://www.aec.gov.au/Parties_and_Representatives/compliance/AEC_Advice/2010-nov-get-up.htm (01-11-2017)

[3] https://www.rt.com/op-edge/346825-nato-russia-cold-war-stoltenberg/ (01-11-17)

Refugees on Manus Island raise their arms crossed to symbolise their lack of freedom. Image from abc.net.au/news