Invasion Day 2020: For Joint Struggle Against 250 Years of Oppression
26-01-2020: 2020 marks 250 years since the first landing of the British Empire’s emissary, Captain Cook, on to the Australian mainland in 1770. In 1788, the colonial power landed and set about establishing penal colonies by force of arms against the Aboriginal (First Nations) people, who predated them by some 60 000 years. The founding of Australia was thus an invasion and a war of dispossession against the continent’s original inhabitants. The genocide of Australia’s traditional custodians was vast in scope and led to their elimination in Tasmania.
Today, Australian federal and state governments continue a war against First Nations people in a thousand different ways, even at the same time as offering token recognition, such as flying the Aboriginal flag on some official buildings. Yet the chronic disadvantage suffered by First Nations people in education, housing, employment, health care and average life spans cannot be hidden. Indigenous incarceration rates are a crime in themselves. Despite making up only 3% of Australia’s population, First Nations people make up 28% of the nation’s prison population. The winning of elementary justice for First Nations people remains an urgent task.
“Abolish Australia Day” or “Change the Date” ?
In recent years, hundreds of thousands of indigenous and non-indigenous people have rallied on January 26 to mark Invasion Day rather than Australia Day. There had been increasing sentiment, even amongst elite levels of society, that January 26 is not at all an appropriate day to use for a national day – given that it is part of a day of mourning for First Nations people. Progress towards this was made, when radio station Triple J made the decision to move its “Hottest 100” countdown away from January 26 in 2017. Huge parts of Invasion Day rallies at that time held banners and yelled chants demanding “Change the Date”. Momentum was building, and many held hopes that Australia’s national day would be moved to a more inclusive date.
Despite this, some Indigenous political groups abruptly changed course to replace the “Change the Date” demand with the “Abolish Australia Day” demand. Prominent militant groups such as the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR) were behind this. While WAR and other staunch indigenous political groups play a tremendous organisational role in facilitating Invasion Day rallies and associated events, we stand by our claim that the replacement of “Change the Date” with “Abolish Australia Day” was a tactical error which has set back the struggle for indigenous rights. “Abolish Australia Day” may indeed sound more militant, but it has the effect of turning away potentially thousands of non-indigenous people who would otherwise willingly march with First Nations people under the demand “Change the Date”. In fact, this year, there is next to no discussion or debate taking place on whether January 26 is appropriate or not. A significant opportunity has been lost.
It is true that even if the “Change the Date” demand had have been won through mass pressure, it would not end the oppression of Aboriginal people – for this is bound up with the capitalist profit system and the state which protects it. However, the struggle for indigenous rights could then continue from a higher base. If indigenous people and non-indigenous people could band together to win a political victory, why couldn’t further victories be won? In general, non-indigenous people do not have a material interest in backing the “Abolish Australia Day” demand. Many polls taken several years ago revealed that most Australians do not particularly mind which day marks Australia’s national day – as long as there is one. The nihilist “Abolish Australia Day” demand – while perhaps enunciating justifiable rage – grates against many who support indigenous rights and is thus counter-productive.
For joint struggle
The natural allies of indigenous people struggling for justice are the advanced sections of the working class. This is because the oppression of both the indigenous people and the working class (with much crossover) originates from the same source. Australian capitalism (with its international connections) keeps both the working class and indigenous people in a state of severe subjection. It is of course recognised that the oppression dealt out to indigenous people is much harsher and far-reaching than that experienced by the non-indigenous working class. The non-indigenous working class are oppressed as workers. Aboriginal people, in addition, experience oppression for being Aboriginal. Nevertheless, Aboriginal people cannot win their liberation without allying themselves closely with the most left-wing elements of the working class. Conversely, a non-indigenous working class which did not champion the cause of indigenous liberation could not lay claim to political leadership.
Just as the most advanced workers need to be won to the perspective of Marxism, the most advanced and left-wing indigenous fighters need to be won to the struggle for socialism. This is a difficult task, yet there is no other way. And neither can these tasks be separate, nor be won on different time scales. It must be carried out simultaneously in a single struggle. Concretely, this means the forging of a multi-racial Leninist vanguard party which champions Aboriginal liberation as a component part of winning working-class rule.
As vital as the struggle for Aboriginal liberation is, it cannot be won on its own, or disconnected from all other crises facing the Australian and international working class. There is a very real struggle for climate justice right now, as well as important efforts to prevent the US Empire from waging a catastrophic nuclear war across the Middle East, ultimately aimed at Russia and China. Skyrocketing unemployment, poverty and homelessness are but more symptoms of this same malaise. Indigenous and non-indigenous workers alike have a material interest in establishing a workers’ government, where collective ownership and democratic planning will replace the crumbling edifice of capital.
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 https://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/australia/the-last-indigenous-tasmanian.aspx (23-01-2020)