Philippines: Liberals Cry Foul After Crushing Defeat

Supporters of President Duterte rally in Manila. Image from http://www.channelnewsasia.com

Philippines: Liberals Cry Foul After Crushing Defeat

25-05-2019 – The May 13 midterm elections in the Philippines delivered an unprecedented victory for the overwhelmingly popular President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies. At the time of writing, it is likely that allies of President Duterte will sweep all 12 Senate seats which were up for election[1], which represents a history making effort. Virtually all mid-term elections in the Philippines run against the incumbent government – but not this one. President Duterte, first elected President in 2016, is by now the most popular President in Filipino history.

Elections in the Philippines use a unique mixed-member majoritarian system, where a part of the legislature is elected through proportional representation and another part are elected from local districts. Unusually, candidates for the Senate compete against each other for a spot, even if they are members of the same party. This can lead to a situation where Senators transfer their political loyalties according to political developments. This partially explains how many elected members switched their allegiance to President Duterte’s party PDP-Laban (Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng-Bayan) in 2016, creating the so-called supermajority in the House of Representatives.[2]

Defeated parties claim “fraud”

In Australia, some left parties – in defiance of their usual strident defence of “democracy” – line up with particularly unsavoury political elements in order to oppose President Duterte. The Socialist Alliance (SA), in its newspaper Green Left Weekly, retailed the claims of electoral fraud by the Partido Lakas Ng Masa (Party of the Labouring Masses – PLM). In the wake of their defeat, the PLM called for the dissolution of the Philippine electoral commission COMELEC and its replacement with an “independent” body. Independent from whom? The overwhelmingly popular President !  They bleated that COMELEC should be replaced by a “genuinely independent” body which is accountable to the people, not the President, which includes representatives of “grassroots people’s organisations, not the elite”.[3]

It takes some chutzpah for SA in Australia and the PLM in the Philippines to accuse President Duterte as being part of the “elite”. President Duterte’s commanding popularity amongst Filipino workers and poor masses occurs precisely because he is NOT seen as part of the elite. Certainly he is not a “trapo” (traditional politician), who for generations have been involved in direct or indirect corruption, and have come from wealthy backgrounds. President Duterte is the first President to hail from southern Mindanao, what was a poorer region in comparison to the industrialised northern Luzon region. And he is decidedly not in any way linked by any relations to wealthy Manila families such as the Aquinos. President Duterte reportedly doesn’t wear socks, and doesn’t know how to tie a necktie. He doesn’t appear to covet material wealth, and lives in a modest house. These idiosyncrasies are only just a part of why poor and working class Filipinos see him as one of their own, and back him so strongly.

It is difficult to avoid a conclusion that parties such as the PLM are claiming fraud in the elections not due to fraud occurring, but because they lost. They claim all kinds of voting irregularities to do with the vote counting machines, but the Philippines changed from a manual voting system to an automated voting system in 2007 – more than ten years ago. All of a sudden, after an election in which they rail against the supposed “tyranny” of President Duterte, they suffer a huge electoral defeat – and promptly claim “fraud”. In reality, the vast majority of Filipinos endorse and support their President who has been elected with a huge majority, and do not regard him as a “tyrant” at all.

SA in Australia, and the PLM in the Philippines, despite their claims of advocating “socialism”, line up with the real elite bourgeois opposition to President Duterte. For example, the Otso Diretso electoral ticket openly fanned the flames of chauvinistic anti-communism against Red China. Otso Diretso tenders baseless claims of Chinese “imperialism” in the South China Sea, and ludicrous declarations of a Chinese “invasion” of the Philippines. They claim that President Duterte is a stooge of Beijing – for not being willing to go to war against China !!  During the election campaign Otso Diretso members attempted to sail to the Scarborough Shoal in order to plant a Philippine flag – an act of blind anti-communist ultra-nationalism. They were not able to do so, having not gained permission from the Philippine Coast Guard. Instead they brought their flag-waving bigotry to the coastal town of Masinloc in Zambales.[4]

Fascism?

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) join in with other left parties they usually criticise for reformism, such as SA, in denouncing President Duterte as “fascist” or using “fascistic” measures. In an article about the May 13 elections, the SEP incredibly compared the Duterte Youth to the Hitler Youth. They claim that the Duterte Youth declared in an election statement that they would “finish” those who worked with “rapist, criminal and terrorist comrades”.[5] The Duterte Youth are chasms away from being a fascist youth group who are targeting “communist” youth from a right-wing standpoint. They are certainly nationalist, and backers of President Duterte.[6] However, the armed “communist” groups in the Philippines are Maoists, rather than “communists”. This means they display no solidarity, and in fact engage in bitter enmity, with the Chinese workers’ state. In the context where it is the US state department which is provoking China in the South China Sea, and even attempting to use ISIS to destabilise President Duterte, it is the Maoists and the liberal “socialist” groups which form a right-wing bloc, rather than the Duterte Youth.

Liberals in the Philippines and internationally also use the label of “fascist” to describe President Duterte’s use of the police force in order to combat the drug problem in the Philippines. They use the universal “human rights” card in order to whip up a largely false scare campaign against President Duterte’s war on drugs. But this reeks of hypocrisy, especially when the campaign is backed by such fronts for US imperialism as Human Rights Watch (HRW).[7] HRW is the very same US state department backed organisation which prosecuted Washington and Riyadh’s barbaric war for regime change against Syria over the last 8 years. HRW repeatedly referred to Al Qaeda and ISIS elements as “rebels” fighting a supposedly just cause – when in fact they were death squads carrying out regular atrocities.

President Duterte’s war on drugs takes no prisoners, certainly. But it is a war against the drug dealers and the drug pushers, not those who become addicts as a result. And what the liberal opposition cannot dispute is that despite what seem to be harsh police measures, the majority of Filipinos recognise the problems hard drug prevalence was causing, and back Duterte’s stern measures to deal with the problem. Many Filipinos now recognise that the streets are safer at night, now that the heavy police measures have scared off many of those involved in the drug trade. Some employers are grateful, because some employees were telling them they didn’t want to go home late from work at night, for fear of being accosted by the drug pushers, some of whom were the tricycle drivers themselves.[8]

From any objective analysis, let alone a Marxist one, President Duterte’s administration cannot be described as “fascist”. Fascism means a precipitous environment where a capitalist ruling class has decided to dispense with the normal trappings of “democracy”, and forcibly disbands opposition – most especially trade Unions, socialist and left parties. Nothing of the sort is occurring in the Philippines. Liberals and fake left parties, combining with ruling class opposition to Duterte, are labeling something “fascist” out of desperation. This is because despite their hosannas to “democracy”, they are loathe to admit that in fact it is they who are in a minority, and the majority is behind the President. What is in fact occurring is that the domestic and international critics of President Duterte – such as the PLM in the Philippines, SA and SEP in Australia – oppose the Philippine government from the right.

Sinophobic and Russophobic opposition

Today’s New Cold War includes Sinophobia (fear of China) and Russophobia (fear of Russia). Both are forms of racism and anti-communism, even despite the overthrow of socialism in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) through capitalist counter-revolution in 1991-2. Reformist left parties in Australia, the Philippines and internationally are united with US backed NGOs and mainstream liberals in their bitter hostility to anything which approaches real socialism. Or, for that matter, political independence from Washington – which Moscow demonstrates in spades. This is why their political positions, despite denials, line up with the Pentagon and Wall Street. President Duterte, on the other hand, is immune from the illness of Sinophobia and Russophobia, and like many others, can see the declining economic and political power of the former “sole superpower”.

As a nationalist, Duterte is seeking what he sees as the best way forward for the Philippines. China’s gigantic socialist state backed economy is rising so rapidly that it is offering trade and investment partnerships to neighbouring and regional countries of mutual benefit. The US former hegemon is not in any position to offer anything remotely comparable, so its influence in the Pacific is waning. Duterte recognises this, and positions the Philippines to take advantage of it – and is denounced as a “Chinese agent” by the opposition. Worse than this, the liberal opposition castigate Duterte for taking measures to avoid a war with China! Hence, in the same way in which Obama and Clinton liberals in the US condemn US President Trump for avoiding a war with Russia, the liberal pro-US opposition condemn Duterte for avoiding a war with China. If there is any indicator that liberals (and fake “socialists”) in practice work for the opposite of the very values they claim, this is it.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the new parliament in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Duterte stated: “I am being criticised about the South China Sea. Am I prepared to go to war? I am not. Will we win the war? No. It will just create a massacre. I would lose my soldiers and policemen. If you attack China, its closest missile will hit Manila in seven minutes. Those fools want me to… We can’t do anything about it. That’s how it is. The United States will help???”[9] Not only is President Duterte determined to avoid a war with China (provoked by US imperialism); he is determined to ensure that the Philippines takes advantage of China’s economic largesse.

President Duterte has thus signed the Philippines up to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, or New Silk Road). At the recent Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, President Duterte inked a deal which would see China inject 12.2 billion US dollars into the Philippine economy.[10] Rather than conflict with China in the South China Sea, a deal was struck in which both the Philippines and China will cooperate to explore and utilise resources in the area. One can see how news of this would be received in Washington. In return, Washington politically and materially aids fronts posing as NGOs to in turn mount campaigns against the “tyranny” of President Duterte. Dutifully, reformist left parties follow suit.

If this wasn’t enough to cause consternation in the Oval Office of the White House, President Duterte has also tilted the Philippines towards Russia. Trade ties with Russia have been increased, with the Duterte administration actively enabling the Philippines-Russia Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation (JCTEC).[11] In addition, for the first time in history, the Philippines and Russia have engaged in military cooperation, in areas of international defence and security. Last month, Russian warships docked in Manila for a four-day friendly visit in what was the latest round of military cooperation.[12] This took place under President Duterte’s “friend to all, enemy to no one” approach to international relations. This means that while the Philippines will not ditch the traditional relationship with the US (somewhat fractious at times due to US colonial history in the Philippines); non-traditional allies will be sought and engaged. All of this sounds normal to rational people. Unfortunately, in an era of the decline of US economic and political power, Washington and their liberal allies are scarcely rational.

Defend Filipino sovereignty

There are other areas where the Duterte administration breaks new ground.  President Duterte seeks a Pan-Philippine federalism, where areas such as the Muslim south can take part as equals. To this end, the Bangsamoro region now has its regional parliament. He has sought to integrate Muslim Filipinos into the national dialogue, and win them away from extremism. President Duterte has also emphasised the freedom of religion which is guaranteed by Filipino law. The practical effect of this has somewhat undermined the authority of the Catholic Church in what has historically been a deeply Catholic country. To be able to confront the power and influence of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, without losing overall popularity, is a measure of the depth of support President Duterte commands.

Nevertheless, the aim of socialism is workers’ power in the Philippines, the Asia-Pacific and beyond. To this end, Marxists in the Philippines should remain in a temporary bloc with the Duterte Adminstration, while continuing to recruit to their own banner. This would take account of the popularity of the President, while seeking to forge the vanguard party needed to advance socialism internationally. Marxists internationally need to tread the line between defending Filipino sovereignty and striving for revolution.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

 

[1] https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/3010065/philippine-midterm-elections-unofficial-count-shows-all (25-05-2019)

[2] https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/05/13/1914710/fault-our-system-how-fix-elections-philippines (25-05-2019)

[3] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/philippines-election-dirtiest-decades (25-05-2019)

[4] https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/04/08/19/otso-diretso-bets-barred-from-scarborough-shoal (25-05-2019)

[5] https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/05/15/phil-m15.html (25-05-2019)

[6] https://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/03/06/17/voice-of-change-a-closer-look-at-the-duterte-youth (25-05-2019)

[7] https://www.hrw.org/tag/philippines-war-drugs (25-05-2019)

[8] https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2179753/his-silent-supporters-philippines-president-duterte-man-who-can (26-05-2019)

[9] https://eurasiafuture.com/2019/04/01/duterte-completely-rejects-war-against-china-and-calls-for-further-cooperation/ (26-05-2019)

[10] https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d3d774e79497a4d34457a6333566d54/share_p.html (26-05-2019)

[11] https://www.dti.gov.ph/exports/1071-main-content/moscow-news/11957-philippines-and-russia-follow-through-jctec-and-pv-initiatives (26-05-2019)

[12] http://www.arabnews.com/node/1478236/world (26-05-2019)

 

Palestine: Eurovision Marred by 71 Years of Al Nakba

Palestine: Eurovision Marred by 71 Years of Al Nakba

20-05-2019:  This year, the annual Eurovision song contest coincides with the 71st anniversary of Al Nakba (The Catastrophe), when 750 000 Palestinians were expelled from their lands in 1948 to enable the violent founding of the colonial setter state which became Israel. The awarding of Eurovision to Israel took place after the Israeli entrant Netta Barzilai won the contest in 2018. Yet the suffering of Palestinians living in the occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza continues.

Just a few weeks before the Eurovision song contest took place in Tel Aviv, the Western media dishonestly claimed that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) were carrying out missile strikes on Gaza “in response” to rocket attacks from Hamas, the Islamic Palestinian resistance organisation. In fact, the IDF has relentlessly been pounding Gaza for months without response from Hamas. IDF strikes have reportedly caused the death of 20 Palestinians so far this year, many while taking part in the weekly Friday protests against the suffocating blockade of Gaza.[1] In other words, the IDF repeatedly strikes Gaza, causing fatalities – and the Palestinians continue their protests regardless. When Hamas finally relents, and fires off rounds of rockets into Israel – most of which are shot down by the “Iron Dome” Israeli defence system – the Western media hypocritically paint Palestine as the aggressor. They routinely claim that the Israeli state is only “responding” to the rocket attacks,[2] when in fact it has goaded and provoked Palestine until they can take no more.

BDS calls for a boycott of Eurovision

For some time, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has called for a boycott of this year’s Eurovision song contest purely because it is taking place in Israel. While BDS campaigners are correct to highlight the grinding oppression of Palestinians carried out by the Israeli state, calling for a boycott of Israel with regards to Eurovision begs a few questions. For example, in which other European country should the Eurovision song contest take place? In the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands or Denmark?  Or how about Australia, now that Australia is a competitor in Eurovision? The governments of the UK, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia all took part in the criminal proxy imperialist war on Syria, carrying out air strikes “against” ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria.[3] In reality, they were aiding and abetting the barbaric death squads armed and funded by the US[4] and Israel.[5]

In an instant, it is plain to see that the Israeli state is not the only European state which carries out war crimes against innocent people. Yet many BDS advocates were virtually silent during the entire imperialist war on Syria, even when Israel’s role in it became known – and after Israel’s repeated missile strikes on Syria. As recently as April this year, the IDF reportedly struck the Syrian town of Masyaf in the province of Hama, wounding 6 soldiers.[6] For all of the bluster from BDS advocates, they tend to operate as if Palestine exists in a vortex, unrelated to the Middle East and world politics. No one is louder in their condemnation of “Israel”, and yet no one is more silent than when Israel bombs anyone else apart from Palestinians, e.g. next door neighbor Syria.

With a few exceptions, another glaring incongruity BDS advocates display is their hostility to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Zionist Israeli state regards Iran as a bitter enemy, and most BDS advocates echo this position, no matter how many times they throw up their hands in horror at “Israel”. Iran is also currently being threatened, yet again, by Washington without all out nuclear war. Despite Iran’s assistance to Palestinian resistance groups, many BDS advocates are the first ones to call for “regime change”, i.e. imperialist war by another name, in Iran. They don’t appear to be aware of a contradiction.

Imperialist backing of the Zionist Israeli state

BDS advocates are also largely silent on the real source of the Zionist Israeli state’s lifeline – US imperialism. Whole rallies and demonstrations can take place organised by BDS supporters, and not once is the Pentagon or the US state named. However, without military and financial backing from the US state, the Israeli state would arguably collapse within six months. Yet BDS does not call for a boycott of the US, only “Israel”. Before Marxists can advise workers to take part in any international campaign, it must first demonstrate that it stands in opposition to the interests of US imperialism. Unfortunately, BDS does not pass this first marker. Instead, BDS attempts to work with and alongside imperialist governments, by lobbying them to apply sanctions (the “S” in BDS) on Israel.

In practice, BDS attempts to paint “Israel” as a state which is wrong in a moral sense. However, there are no morals which workers and capitalists share in common, and certainly no morals which oppressed Palestinians share with the US state department. We do not at all deny that the state of Israel came into being through a murderous expulsion and ongoing occupation of the original inhabitants. Yet this is what also occurred for the colonial settler states of Australia, New Zealand and even the United States itself. If they were consistent, BDS advocates would call for a boycott of all colonial settler states.

While we would defend BDS advocates against repression from the right, at the same time we urge them to strive for consistency in a world threatened by US imperialism. We recognise that the suffering of the Palestinians is unbearable. But to defend Palestine, working people around the world must oppose the very real threat that the economic crisis of world capitalism produces – unending imperialist wars launched by Washington and all of its allies. To definitively defend Palestine, BDS advocates must also defend Iran, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Algeria, Sudan, Russia, China and the DPRK against the nefarious ends of the Pentagon. International socialism, through a series of workers’ revolutions in the imperialist centres, is ultimately the only guarantee against world war. Likewise, Palestinian liberation is bound up with the overthrow of capitalism in its region, which necessitates the joint efforts of Israeli and Palestinian workers. Ridding workers of capitalism and imperialist war is a single task, in Palestine no less than in Australia. BDS advocates must decide where they stand.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

E:workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

 

 

[1] https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/israel-continually-strikes-gaza-and-hamas-hasnt-fired-back/ (20-05-2019)

[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-48160098 (20-05-2019)

[3] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20161206-denmarks-decision-to-withdraw-from-airstrikes-on-syria-and-iraq/ (20-05-2019)

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/us-isis-syria-iraq (20-05-2019)

[5] https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-chief-acknowledges-long-claimed-weapons-supply-to-syrian-rebels/ (20-05-2019)

[6] https://www.israelhayom.com/2019/04/14/syria-says-israeli-airstrike-on-military-position-wounds-6/ (20-05-2019)

Liberalism at a Dead End: ALP Loses the “Unlosable” Election

Liberalism at a Dead End: ALP Loses the “Unlosable” Election

19-05-2019 – It’s a cliché to put forward the “Don’t mourn, organise” aphorism after a significant defeat for workers. After the victory of the Coalition (Liberal Party, National Party, Liberal National Party in Queensland – collectively the L/NP) in the 2019 Federal Elections, the working class will certainly need to double down on its organising efforts. But some crucial political lessons will need to be learnt before embarking on much needed organising.

At the time of writing, with around 75% of the vote counted, the L/NP are two seats short of forming a majority government.[1] They will either govern in their own right, or form a minority government with the formal or informal backing of some independents. For the Australian Labor Party (ALP), this was a classic case of losing an unlosable election. Yet again the ALP’s “small target” strategy cost them. That is, the ALP were promising very little, if anything, which was substantially different, let alone more progressive, than the L/NP. The one progressive aspect the ALP were promising was the extremely conditional (and likely false) pledge that they would restore penalty rates which have been taken away from some workers. The ALP was perhaps expecting to limp home into government without doing much at all, because voters would naturally want to get rid of the L/NP. Even within the sphere of bourgeois politics though, unless the majority of voters are offered something substantial by the liberal side, they will stick with the status quo, or even move to the right.

Catastrophe of “Change the Rules”

Working people must be clear. If the ALP had won the Federal Election, the working class would still be subjected to intense attack on all fronts – from low wages, near starvation aged pensions and unemployment assistance, privatisation of health care, cuts to education, worsening public transport and so on. The pace and severity of the attacks may have been slightly lower than under an L/NP government, but that is all. This is because the major parties are the twin parties of Australian capitalism, which is a component part of Wall Street led imperialism. The system of production for private profit is in acute crisis in Australia, Europe, the US and Japan. This is what is driving the relentless austerity, the ongoing danger of US led imperialist wars, not to speak of the imminent danger of potentially irreversible ecological collapse – of which global warming is but one aspect.

For two years, the top officials of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) have been running the “Change the Rules” campaign. This was always code for “Vote Labor”. In fact, at a late stage the careerist officials of the ACTU changed the rules themselves – from “Change the Rules” to “Change the Government to Change the Rules”.[2] It became an explicit “Vote Labor” campaign. But in fact, the politically compromised ACTU officials advised not only a vote for the ALP, but also preferenced the Greens above the ALP in some states for the Senate. In other seats, the ACTU produced how-to-vote cards which preferenced the racist Katter’s Australian Party and the right-wing Democratic Labor Party.[3] After selectively mobilising workers for two years on the vague promise that industrial relations laws could be changed by electing the ALP, the conservative officials of the ACTU, from Sally McManus down, ended up playing preference exchanges with right-wing parties!  And now that the L/NP has been re-elected, the Union movement has been brought back to ground zero.

The fraud of “Vote Climate”

The nightmare of staggering carbon emissions from the Adani mega coal mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland triggered a wide campaign against it throughout the country. Yet the “Stop Adani” campaign was always led by operatives of GetUp! – an NGO which repeatedly denies its links to the Labor Party, yet inevitably assists them.[4] This was why the Stop Adani campaign stopped short of doing what was actually needed to Stop Adani – a mass action effort independent of the parliament, the government and its state. The complete opposite occurred – Stop Adani was directed entirely towards lobbying the ALP, lobbying the parliament, and lobbying the government. That is, the leadership of “Stop Adani” was committed to the political forces of capital which began Adani – and indeed all new coal developments in the country. The overwhelming majority support for halting the Great Barrier Reef destroying Adani mine could have stopped Adani – but for the leadership of Stop Adani.

In any case, an ALP government was hardly going to Stop Adani. Yet an ALP or ALP/Greens government was also the aim of the “Student Strike 4 Climate” (SS4C) actions which preceded the elections, and were geared towards them. Again, however, the student strike for climate was organised by GetUp! and “Baby GetUp!” the AYCC (Australian Youth Climate Coalition).[5] Hence, they organised student strikes – outside L/NP electorate offices!  This could scarcely have been a more blatant vote catching exercise. This is light years away from organsing against the profit system which is the prime culprit of environmental vandalism.

The leaderships of some Unions even boasted about linking with GetUp!, despite it being the face of the liberal elite. The conservative officials of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) hailed its virtual affiliation to GetUp! in its attempt to gain a much needed boost to Newstart (unemployment benefits).[6] To do this, it had to trample on AUWU members who so much as questioned the political compromises required for such an unholy alliance. Ironically, either internal Union democracy, or internal movement democracy, is the very thing which GetUp! and their backers cannot tolerate.

Much more needs to be analysed about this election. But the crucial lesson for workers is that all forms of liberalism – whether in the form of GetUp!, the conservative Union officials, the NGO led “environmental” movement, the ALP and others – offer no way forward. The working class can only advance by making a political break with all the liberal agents of capitalist class rule. Socialism is needed, but the pre-requisite is a Marxist vanguard party composed of the most class-conscious workers. The Workers League seeks to take the first steps on this path, and calls on all who agree to take part.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

 

[1] https://tallyroom.aec.gov.au/HouseDefault-24310.htm (19-05-2019)

[2] https://www.actu.org.au/actu-media/media-releases/2019/change-the-government-change-the-rules-nationwide-door-knock (19-05-2019)

[3] https://www.smh.com.au/federal-election-2019/actu-puts-greens-ahead-of-labor-on-how-to-vote-cards-in-higgins-20190516-p51o2h.html (19-05-2019)

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/oct/23/getup-warned-by-electoral-commission-it-may-be-associated-entity-of-labor (19-05-2019)

[5] https://redfireonline.com/2019/03/13/for-real-climate-action-expropriate-capital/ (19-05-2019)

[6] https://unemployedworkersunion.com/join-get-up-auwus-joint-newstart-campaign/ (19-05-2019)

Federal Elections 2019: No Options for Working People

Ballot Boxes of the type used in Australian Federal Elections. Despite the appearance of “one person one vote” there can be no “democracy” across antagonistic classes. Image from http://www.riteon.org.au

Federal Elections 2019: No Options for Working People  –  For a Workers’ Government!

04-05-2019 – The Australian Federal Elections will take place on May 18. As was the case for previous elections, the cast of candidates are largely uninspiring from a working class point of view. In fact, of all the parties and candidates running, no one is taking a consistent and across-the-board position of defending the interests of working people, domestically and internationally. This goes for the mainstream parliamentary parties as much as for self-described left parties. It is another indicator that the system of private production and private profit, and its attendant political process, is a dead end for the working people of Australia and the region.

The fraud of “Change the Rules”

For two years, the conservative officials heading up the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) have pushed the “Change the Rules” mantra. From the off, this has always been code for “vote Labor”. Yet the very industrial relations laws that the “Change the Rules” campaign ostensibly seeks to change were largely installed by the Labor Party when they last sat on the government benches in Canberra. The Orwellian named “Fair Work Australia” was implemented by the Labor Party, which was essentially “Work Choices Lite”.[1] That is, the Labor Party has hardly bothered to “Change the Rules” from the first days of the John Howard Liberal Party government. They have no intention of doing so if elected this time. Vague promises from the Australian Labor Party (ALP) that they will restore penalty rates are a classical hot air election promise. It is put forward in order to entice workers to vote Labor, but once in government, they will give any old excuse as to why they are unable to carry it out.[2]

The ACTU are now, after 25 years of forcing Enterprise Bargaining on workers, saying that Enterprise Bargaining is not working, and we need to move back to industry wide agreements. Industry wide agreements would be an advance for workers, but the ACTU and their top officials were responsible for Enterprise Bargaining in the first place. The class-collaborationist Union officials also make a show about opposing the widespread casualisation of the workforce – when in practice the ALP as much as the Liberal Party has put this in place. The ALP has no real intention of changing any rules relating to the use of casual and temporary staff for private and public sector workplaces.

Conservative and nationalist Union officials are pushing “Change the Rules”, which, in the direct lead up to the election, has morphed into “Change the Government to Change the Rules”.[3] It’s a replay of the “Your Rights At Work –Worth Fighting For” campaign of 2006, which in the lead up to the Federal Election of 2007 became “Your Rights at Work – Worth Voting For”.[4] That is, vote for the Labor Party, put them in government, and they will change the rules for you. Little could be more false. The Labor Party is the alternate party of Australian capitalism, and the ALP is keenly aware of the difficulties of capital obtaining an adequate rate of return on profitable investment. This is why in all fundamentals the Labor Party is a struck match away from the Liberal Party (Liberal National Party in Queensland). Yet workers are being inveigled, despite the similarity, to just vote ALP and hope for the best. This is a deliberate deception.

Ruling class limits participation

Workers need to be aware that these elections are run for and by the Australian ruling class. As such, they are not “ours”, as much as the government is not filled with “our politicians”. Every attempt is made to prevent participation in the elections by pro-working class and/or small parties and independents. A new law was passed in March which doubled the deposit fee to $2000 just to run in the Lower House.[5]  The incumbent major parties obtain massive public funding for their campaigns, on top of six and seven figure donations from big business. These “donations” to the Liberal and Labor parties run into the millions of dollars, and some come from the largest corporations in the country. The officials of some Unions also divert Union member’s money into donations for the ALP.[6] Money politics may not be on the scale of what happens in the United States of America, but something very similar is happening here. Billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer’s right-wing populist United Australia Party has spent $50 million on electoral advertising.[7] The parliamentary set up is set against working people – but this is its purpose.

It is not only the financial cost which benefits the two major capitalist parties. The very electoral process is designed to do this also. The size of the electorates often number up to 100 000 people. A meeting of this number of people is not possible, and thus cannot convene to keep their elected member accountable. Certainly a whole state – who Senators are elected to “represent” – cannot meet to discuss how their Senators have been performing. Moreover, there is no right to recall a politician once they have been elected. This, on top of the astronomical salaries paid to politicians, and permanent over-the-top superannuation payments once they leave parliament, ensures loyalty to the profit system. It is not so much a system of salaries as a form of “official” corruption.

The right to elect means little without the right to recall – which is why the ruling class does not allow it. The preferential voting system also benefits the major parties. It ensures that preferences which inevitably flow to the major parties inflate its overall count. To cast a valid vote, and to run in the elections, individuals and parties must allocate preferences – which means in practice your votes flow to the major parties which represent big capital against those who labour for a living. Dirty horse-trading occurs between the various political parties for each other’s preferences, and there are even some who charge “consultancy fees” to organise preferences to help minor parties get elected,[8] i.e., who profit from backdoor preference deals. Even if this did not occur, the main effect of the preference system is to advantage the twin parties (arguably one party) which administer the rule of the stock market.

“Official” politics is repellent

There are approximately 60 registered political parties in Australia, both inside and outside the state and federal parliaments.[9] Along with a number of independents, these parties will attempt to attract the votes of the Australian electorate. Marxists, however, recognise the working class as the only class in today’s society which has a material interest in raising the living standards of all on the basis of equality. This is due to the fact that the working class has no material interest in the system of private production for private profit. On the contrary, its interests are bound up with the social ownership and social use through labour, of the means of production – the land, banks, factories, mines and so on. Humanity steps forwards, or falls back, according to the living and working conditions of this class. Yet not one of the parties or independents running in the Australian Federal Election takes elementary and consistent positions, domestically and internationally, which defend the interests of working people.

The major parties – Labor and Liberal, are unquestionably parties of capital. Progressive minded people may suspect that the Australian Greens are not overtly pro-capitalist, but this view is mistaken. The Greens’ focus on parliament prevents them from offering a systemic alternative. Billionaire Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party uses populist rhetoric, such as raising the old age pension by $150 a week, but Mr Palmer also refuses to pay workers he sacked from his nickel refinery in Townsville their entitlements – despite swimming in cash. Katters Australian Party was forced to sack the racist Fraser Anning, who went on to form his own even more racist Conservative National Party. Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party correctly criticises the racism of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, but allies with them on “law and order”.

The bickering and fighting of the parliamentary parties and MPs are understandably a huge turn off for many working people and the downtrodden. They see it as irrelevant to their life outcomes – and to a large extent they are correct. For this is the field of bourgeois politics, i.e. the system which is set up to deceive working people into believing that they live in a (liberal) democracy, which is supposedly a huge achievement for humankind. In reality, the politicians and parliament are a stage on which the corporate magnates dangle willing marionettes. The real decisions about investment, what will be produced and how, are made in corporate boardrooms by CEOs and other managers on obscene salaries. The government’s “public service” is linked to private industry by a thousand threads.

Left parties inconsistent

Self-described left parties running in the Federal Election also do not live up to a basic standard which working people deserve. The Socialist Equality Party (SEP), which publishes the World Socialist Web Site, does highlight some urgent issues which need addressing, such as increasing poverty and unemployment. Yet the SEP are known as strike-breakers for their total opposition to Trade Unions. While it is true that the Unions are almost universally led by conservative pro-capitalist officials, Union members are nothing like that. Unions themselves need to be defended by all workers regardless of the sell-out officials. But the SEP dismiss Unions in toto, which places them on the side of the employers. In a like manner, the SEP dismiss workers’ states (e.g. China, Vietnam, the DPRK) in toto, which places them on the side of the US state department. This is despite the SEP holding nominal positions against the imperialist wars on Libya and Syria.

The Socialist Alliance and the Victorian Socialists are also running candidates, with the Socialist Alliance teaming up with the Socialist Alternative and a number of supporters. Domestically, the Socialist Alliance and the Victorian Socialists put forward positions which align with working class interests – such as the call for more public housing, better public transport, a rise in welfare payments, and the blocking of the environmental catastrophe of the Adani mega coal mine in Central Queensland. However, it is relatively easy to put forward left-wing positions on home soil. The test for the left comes as soon as the international sphere is broached.

Unfortunately, the Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Alternative (the mainstay of the Victorian Socialists) broke irrevocably with working class internationalism by being the loudest advocates of the US led imperialist wars on Libya and Syria. For close to ten years, both of these “left” parties openly called for regime change in Libya and Syria – which was precisely the aim of the US state department, aided by London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Canberra. Thankfully they were defeated in Syria by a combination of Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russian armed forces – with lesser backing from China. These “state department socialists” were only continuing in Syria their hostility to the anti-imperialist and non-imperialist bloc – Russia, China, Iran, the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and so on. More recently, these “left” parties have again demonstrated their fealty to the Pentagon by cheering on US backed regime change efforts in Sudan and Algeria. Needless to say, if a left party calls for free healthcare at home, but shills for imperialist war abroad, their left credentials are null and void.

In Queensland, some critical support could be offered to independent Senate candidate Wayne Wharton, a long-time militant Aboriginal activist. He is advocating a treaty with the Indigenous people, but also supportable positions on Aged Care, the Murray-Darling water crisis, and a livable income for welfare recipients. However the preferential voting system militates against backing progressive independents. This election, Senate voters have to number at least 6 parties above the line, and at least 12 parties below the line. This is a means of forcing preferences (or votes) towards the major parties. In the lower house, preferences are compulsory, meaning that some votes will necessarily flow towards right-wing and fascistic small parties. On principle, no votes or preferences should flow to anti-working class parties. A political break with all of them is a dire necessity.

There are a plethora of drastic political problems which urgently need addressing. Some of these include: unemployment, poverty, unaffordable housing, unaffordable education, failing public transport, and the imminent threat of catastrophic climate change. All parties should be loudly calling for the release of Julian Assange, a whistle-blowing journalist. The increasing surveillance of spy agencies online and elsewhere is a symptom of a system aware that its people are looking for urgent change. Then there is the growing threat of nuclear war against China and Russia, led by Washington but backed by Canberra. Yet none of these issues can be addressed through the “election” process carried out by the corporate elite. This is why the Workers League is calling on workers to fulfill their legal obligation on election day, but to cast a blank ballot in protest against the system which upholds their oppression. What is urgently needed is a workers’ party which fights for a workers’ government. Join us!

WORKERS  LEAGUE
www.redfireonline.com
E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

 

[1] http://directaction.org.au/issue13/fair_work_australia_is_work_choices_lite (04-05-2019)

[2] https://www.smh.com.au/federal-election-2019/bill-shorten-s-penalty-rates-pledge-under-threat-20190417-p51exr.html (04-05-2019)

[3] https://www.actu.org.au/actu-media/media-releases/2019/change-the-government-change-the-rules-nationwide-protests (04-05-2019)

[4] https://www.actu.org.au/actu-media/speeches-and-opinion/greg-combet-your-rights-at-work-worth-voting-for (04-05-2019)

[5] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-09/zali-steggall-helen-haines-independents-australian-politics/10786984 (04-05-2019)

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/ng-interactive/2019/feb/01/political-donations-2017-18-search-all-the-declarations-by-australian-parties (04-05-2019)

[7] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/clive-palmer-says-he-s-spent-50-million-on-election-ads (04-05-2019)

[8] https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/hire-me-and-get-into-parliament-the-preference-whisperer-s-message-20181214-p50mdh.html (05-05-2019)

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_parties_in_Australia (05-05-2019)

Free Julian Assange! Defend Basic Democratic Rights!

Free Julian Assange! Defend Basic Democratic Rights!

03-05-2019 – On April 11, Julian Assange – the founder of Wikileaks – was arrested inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London by British Police, and dragged away to Belmarsh Prison. He awaits likely extradition to the United States of America, where he is likely to face a kangaroo court which could imprison him for life. He has committed no crime whatsoever. On the contrary, as a whistleblowing journalist, he has only revealed crimes carried out by governments the world over, most especially the one headquartered in Washington – which administers US imperialism.

Even according to bourgeois law, which upholds the “rights” of a tiny exploiting capitalist class against the working people who create their obscene private wealth, Julian Assange’s arrest is a blatant violation. For one thing, Julian Assange is not a citizen of the US and has never travelled to the US. Even according to the “law”, the US cannot put on trial, let alone jail and likely torture, someone who has never been a citizen. How the Ecuadorian government can revoke the citizenship, overnight, of someone it has previously granted citizenship, is a mystery. And how the British government can enter the embassy of a foreign country, arrest one of the people inside, drag them out and then extradite them to a country to which they have never visited, is an abomination. The fact that this is happening exposes the high crimes of these governments – and reinforces the fact that Julian Assange is telling the truth.

Julian Assange is an Australian citizen, born and raised in Queensland. The fact that the Australian Federal Government barely lifted a finger to assist him over the past eight years sends a chilling message. If you hold an Australian passport, it may or may not protect you. You will only be offered genuine support and assistance if in need if you remain onside politically. That is, if you raise no questions about the imperialist wars waged around the world by the US Empire – with the assistance of the Australian regime. If you write or publish any information which exposes or otherwise criticises the actions of the US government, or any of its allies, your rights as a citizen could be extinguished.

Basic democratic rights at stake

There can be no more fundamental democratic right than the right to publish information, or write an article. Yet this right is precisely what is potentially abolished with the arrest and likely imprisonment of Julian Assange. US radio host Don Debar has stated that the arrest of Julian Assange has demonstrated that press freedom does not exist in the US or the EU (European Union).[1] US Democratic Party Presidential nominee Tulsi Gabbard tweeted that if we allow our governments to control us through fear, we are no longer free.[2] Speaking of Julian Assange, former British MP George Galloway wrote: “If we allow him to be incarcerated for publishing the truth, then we might as well check in behind those bars ourselves, for we will never be truly free again.”[3] Again and again, Julian Assange and Wikileaks has demonstrated that, in reality, there is no freedom under the rule of the US Empire. Chelsea Manning, another incredibly brave whistleblower, is currently again in prison for refusing to testify against Julian Assange.[4] That is, Ms Manning has volunteered to return to prison, in which solitary confinement may again be used against her, so that more blatantly illegal criminal charges may not be laid against another person. If anything, the values of Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, on their own, condemn the global rule of Wall Street.

Liberals abandon Wikileaks

Make no mistake, there would now be a mass movement to free Julian Assange if the entirety of the liberal political spectrum had not turned against Julian Assange and Wikileaks from around 2011. When Julian Assange was exposing the crimes of the US Empire during the time of the Republican George W Bush administration, he was lauded as an international hero. The moment he began exposing the Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton Democratic administration – for similar war crimes – he was dropped like a sack of spuds by most liberals throughout the Western world. In Australia, almost all ostensibly left parties washed their hands of Wikileaks when it exposed the US imperialist wars on Libya and Syria – which they backed. Their totally irrational Russophobia drove them into a right-wing critique of the Trump administration, one where they virtually demanded a nuclear war against Russia. Julian Assange, for his part, emphasised over and over that he was not a supporter of the Russian government or Donald Trump. Liberals and compromised “socialists”, therefore, bear heavy responsibility for not only the imprisonment of Julian Assange, but the current imperial overreach of Washington and Canberra.

This is the basis for the smear campaign by such liberals and self-proclaimed “socialists” against Julian Assange today. What they are attempting to do by smearing the character of Julian Assange is to excuse themselves for siding with the Pentagon against all of humanity. Australian journalist Caitlin Johnstone has performed an excellent debunking of all of the attempted smears against the character of Julian Assange, which essentially exposes the 29 of them as baseless slander.[5] Ms Johnstone demonstrates how the imprisonment of Julian Assange for the exercising of the most basic liberal democratic value – a supposedly free press – is, for liberals and the fair weather “left”, psychologically confronting.

The dark reality is that the further the capitalist system descends into economic crisis, the less can it allow the trappings of the extremely limited democratic rights previously tolerated. This economic crisis, afflicting the US, Europe and Australia, then drives the reckless imperialist war threats against Russia, China, Iran, the DPRK, Venezuela and so on. It will end only when the workers are able to erect their own state and their own government, as part of an international serious of revolutions across the globe. It is urgent that working people mobilise to free Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.

WORKERS  LEAGUE
www.redfireonline.com
E: workersleague@redfireonline.com
PO  Box  66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://www.presstv.com/DetailFr/2019/04/11/593186/UK-arrest-Assange-press-freedom-expert-view (30-04-2019)

[2] https://defend.wikileaks.org/2019/04/13/press-freedom-human-rights-orgs-condemn-julian-assanges-arrest/ (30-04-2019)

[3] http://fmimalta.com/truth-itself-is-behind-bars-in-julian-assanges-cell-by-george-galloway/ (30-04-2019)

[4] https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/chelsea-manning-sent-to-jail-for-refusing-to-testify-in-wikileaks-case-20190309-p512wl.html (30-04-2019)

[5] https://medium.com/@caityjohnstone/debunking-all-the-assange-smears-a549fd677cac  (30-04-2019)