Repeal the “Espionage” and “Interference” Act! No War On China!
07-07-2018 – Chilling. There are few other words for it. The passage through federal parliament of the “National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2018” re-sets the framework, yet again, of the shredding of elementary democratic rights by the Australian government. Under the false guise of combatting “foreign interference”, the federal government is close to outlawing political opinion, political activity and journalism. The key targets are anyone who is suspected of calling attention to the danger of imperialist war, let alone opposing it. Canberra, in concert with Washington, is preparing for what could be a world war involving nuclear weapons. It is imperative that working people prepare to organise now in an attempt to avoid a global catastrophe.
Working people have been subjected to a bombardment of hysterical anti-China venom from politicians and the subservient corporate media for years. It is reaching fever pitch because the US and Australian ruling classes know their for-profit economies are in dire straits, and are being rapidly out-performed, many times over, by China’s powerhouse economic mountain. The further behind the US, Australia and Japan fall, the more shrill do the cries from these governments sound. While the US, Australia and Japan are mired in a privatised, private-profit seeking dead end, the largely nationalized and planned economy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) strides ahead in leaps and bounds. On almost every indicator, be it GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth, infrastructure development, technological advances, the development of science, you name it – the PRC is way ahead of the capitalist West.
Dire threat to journalism and political expression
The Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill, passed within three days by the Labor and Liberal parties in federal parliament, seriously threatens the very act of journalism. The bill potentially means jail terms of up to 20 years for a journalist reporting a story in the public interest. Even before researching and writing a story, the very act of “receiving” information which could “harm” Australia, could be deemed a criminal act. Actually reporting and letting the public know about a potential breach of international law by the Australian government, could result in 25 years, or life, in prison. The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the Union covering journalists, have warned that journalists could be jailed for doing their job. The MEAA officials, it should be noted, have not lifted a finger to defend Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, who is still detained in London, fearing deportation to the United States. Assange is defending the civil and political rights of all, including the MEAA. But now the “foreign interference” laws could snare even the journalists that the MEAA officials seek to represent, and potentially their entire membership. They must now join with those willing to defend what remains of our rights.
The Australian Labor Party (ALP) linked GetUp!, who have also abandoned Julian Assange, are nonetheless also crying foul, correctly pointing out that legitimate political protest could be targeted under the Espionage/Interference laws. The section of the Bill which refers to “damage to public infrastructure” could mean that those intentionally blocking access to the Adani Coal Mine, in an attempt to prevent incalculable damage to the environment through carbon emissions, may be imprisoned for decades. The Bill also contains a 7 year jail term for planning such a protest action. In addition, the Bill contains Orwellian redefinitions of “treason”, “treachery”, “mutiny” and “sabotage”, while creating new ones such as “foreign interference”. Any group or individual that, for example, organises a rally to “influence” government positions, without revealing supposed coordination with a foreign organisation, could be jailed for 20 years. It is doubtful whether Nazi Germany would have conceived such arbitrary power.
Just who is “interfering” ?
The Espionage and Interference Bill was not given wide mainstream media coverage within Australia. But working people are constantly bombarded with anti-China hysteria, from all sides of the corporate media, from some academics, and politicians themselves. They falsely claim that “China” is attempting to “interfere” with Australia’s political system, and its “national sovereignty”. This is simply breathtaking hypocrisy from Labor and Liberal politicians, with both political parties receiving large and regular donations from Chinese owned businesses. One Chinese businessman, Dr Chau Chak Wing, has hosted former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and former Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan at his luxurious estate north of Guangzhou in China. If China is “interfering”, they are doing so with the express co-operation of Labor and Liberal politicians!
However, there are huge dangers in the reporting of exactly what is “Chinese interference”. For one thing, to directly link Chinese owned businesses, whether based in Australia or China, to the Chinese government, is stretching the bounds of reality. To do so also invokes both racism and anti-communism. It also stands reality on its head. The Australian military is being consistently urged by Washington to provoke China by sailing warships and jet fighters within 12 nautical miles of islands under Chinese sovereignty – so called “Freedom of Navigation” exercises. And the Australian government is obliging, absurdly claiming even the right to overflight. It is estimated that US 5 $trillion in trade sails through the South China Sea annually. The aim of the US and its allies including Canberra, is to choke off this trade route to China in the event of war, starving China of provisions. It has nothing to do with “freedom” of anything. There were no “disputed” islands in the South China Sea, until the US sent its warships in there, and exerted significant pressure on the governments of Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan to claim islands from China. The government of Vietnam should be ashamed at siding with the US, which waged a genocidal war against it, to score points against China in the South China Sea. The “interference” in this case, is carried out by Washington and Canberra, not by Beijing.
Socialism vs Capitalism
For decades, working people have been told the lie that socialism equals poverty, and capitalism equals prosperity. Now that China is definitively putting that canard to rest, and in fact demonstrating that socialism can mean economic, developmental, scientific and cultural advancement, imperialism is close to panic. To prevent capitalism falling further behind, imperialism is willing to risk nuclear war with China – such is its level of desperation. It is yet another sure sign that capitalism is historically outmoded, and needs to be cast aside by working people in favour of socialism.
Yet the imperialists will try the full gamut of deceptive tactics to prevent working people from seeing what is before their eyes – China’s socialism is vastly superior to the collapsing stock market casino capitalism in the US, Europe, Japan and Australia. Imperialism’s vast propaganda machines, for which they are prepared to fund to the tune of billions of dollars, works overtime on China – but in two directions. One the one hand, the corporate media claim that China is a “communist dictatorship” where workers have no rights, and constantly suffer under extreme repression. On the other hand, the corporate media claim that China’s massive economic success, the lifting of hundreds of millions out of poverty, is due to the PRC having restored “capitalism”. According to them, workers have no rights in China, but their wealth is increasing year by year.
Unfortunately, some on the left accept this false precept. In the face of a New Cold War, which is arguably closer to nuclear conflict than at any time during the first Cold War, any faltering by the left on the question of China undermines the very struggles which may soon be upon us. No one is claiming that China today is a classless society with no state and no government – the final aim of socialism. China is only socialist to the extent that it has a predominantly collectivised economy, where the major means of production are state owned, and these are guarded by a workers’ state. To give just one example, the 102 largest State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in China are supervised by the State Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC).These SOEs are valued at around 50 trillion yuan. This is wealth NOT in the hands of private capitalists, but in the hands of the workers’ state. What is more, out of the 40 million employees of the SOEs, around 10 million are members of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), who take part in around 800 000 party committees. In addition, on SOE boards, the chair is invariably the highest ranked party member. To say the least, this is hardly “capitalism” !
What may be understandable confusion about the mode of production existing in China is contributed to by the political leadership of the CPC. The CPC never makes any announcement addressing the workers of the world, heralding China’s socialist system, and urging workers internationally to join them in a struggle to rid the world of capitalism. This has to do with the ultimately national limitations of Maoism, despite the largely positive role it has played within China. A genuinely international socialist leadership, would seek ways to reach out and connect with workers across Asia and internationally. It would seek to work with neighbouring socialist states extensively, up to and including regional economic planning. But the CPC as it is currently constituted does not have this perspective. And for that matter, neither does the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), nor the Workers Party of Korea (WPK).
Halt the war drive through workers’ power
Despite the political limitations of its leadership, working people need to defend China against the gathering war drive spearheaded by Washington and Canberra. Given such semi-fascist measures as the Espionage and Interference Bill, this could be a risky path. But working people will lose a lot more by allowing such unbridled totalitarianism to go unchallenged. If the imperialists launch the war, there will scarcely be opportunities to launch a “peace” movement, calling for calm and rational negotiations between the US Empire and its targets. Working people will need to take measures into their own hands, even just to prevent people being rounded up as “collaborators”, working for the “enemy” and so on. It should be noted that the Espionage and Interference Bill does not just target Red China, although that appears to be the main perverse rationale. Incredibly, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in his introductory speech to the bill, claimed that it was not only China which was engaged in “interference” activities, but also Russia, Iran and North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – DPRK) !!.
Working people need a struggle to repeal the Espionage and Interference Bill, and take immediate action the moment that any journalist or activist is jailed – up to and including general political strikes. Only significant mass working class pressure will have the possibility of forcing the release of those jailed, before or during the outbreak of war. A significant barrier to the type of action required are the invariably conservative and pro-capitalist Union officials, who can only maintain their well-paid careers by seeking to line up workers behind “their own” government. But any government which openly threatens to jail workers for life for questioning their actions at home, let alone opposing their predatory wars, is clearly not “our” government. It is an arm of the banks and the stock exchange, tied through a thousand threads to Wall Street and the Pentagon.
Well-heeled Union officials also seek to line workers up behind the foreign policy of Canberra and Washington, hence their complete silence in the face of prospective nuclear war against Russia, Iran, China and the DPRK. Riding on their coat tails, consciously or unconsciously, are a whole host of left parties and other groups who found themselves on the side of the governments waging the imperialist wars on Libya and Syria. The state of the working class is a question of the leadership of the working class. What is urgently needed is a genuine Leninist vanguard party, which can lead the struggle against vast inequality at home, and the linked threat of a global war launched against the non-imperialist states. The approach of dangerous times means an opportunity for workers to take the reins of power.
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