Shut down Don Dale! Release the Aboriginal, Youth and Refugee Detainees!

29-03-2016 – In scenes reminiscent of the notorious Abu Graib prison during the US/UK/AUST imperialist war on Iraq from 2003, the ABC’s 4 Corners program last Monday night broadcast horrific images of Northern Territory “correctional” guards torturing youth detainees at the equally notorious Don Dale Youth Detention Centre. Although one of the detainees shown being shackled and hooded to a chair was white (Dylon Voller), the overwhelming majority of inmates are indigenous. Aboriginal people represent but 3% of the national population, but fill out 28% of the prison population.[1] Pushing the bounds of reality, a staggering 97% of youth detainees in the Northern Territory are of Aboriginal heritage.[2]

The images shown by the 4 Corners report show detainees being tear gassed, beaten, stripped naked, hog tied and hooded, causing untold psychological and physical trauma, in actions which are clearly criminal, according to any definition of the term. Some indigenous leaders are now calling for the Northern Territory government to be sacked or dissolved, saying the gross mistreatment of youth in detention should result in a forfeit of a right to govern.[3] The Federal Government’s response has been to call a Royal Commission, in a well-worn path of attempting to divert mounting anger into long drawn-out and ultimately fruitless channels. The last Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody in 1987, as is widely known, handed down 330 recommendations – virtually all of which have never been implemented. It was a classic whitewash, as will be the latest one. Ultimately, there will be no change when the capitalist state investigates itself – in the same way that police cannot independently investigate police.

Both the Federal Government and the Northern Territory government cannot now claim to be shocked as to the latest events to be revealed. For at least 5 years, the abuse of detainees at Don Dale has been known to all levels of government, regardless of which parliamentary party sat on the benches of government. In fact, repeated incidents of abuse at Don Dale were reported between 2010 and 2012, when it was not a Liberal National Coalition government, but one formed by the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens. All parties, both Federal and Northern Territory governments, the police and the “corrective services” management knew of gross maltreatment of those supposedly in their care, yet did nothing.

The fact that Aboriginal and non-indigenous youth have carried out petty crimes and crimes against property and end up in detention, is ultimately an end result of the vicious cycle of poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment. There literally is little future in a society which offers them no or low-paying jobs, an unaffordable cost of living, disintegrating public services and crumbling public infrastructure. Amongst this dire outlook, the marginalisation of Aboriginal people and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds is yet another damning indictment of a society which subordinates almost all human endeavour to the accumulation of capital into the hands of a numerically insignificant but obscenely wealthy minority.

There are striking parallels between the torture meted out to the detainees at Don Dale and that imposed on innocent human beings seeking asylum and a safe place to live in Australia. Australia has the ignominious distinction to now be known worldwide for clearly illegal and inhumane treatment of refugees who are more often than not fleeing the very wars which Canberra has waged alongside Washington in the Middle East and elsewhere. In both cases, at Don Dale and refugee detention centres either on the mainland or off-shore in Nauru and Manus Island, the unfortunate people are treated as less than human, as something to be denied humanity, dignity and physical and mental health. The further the system of private profit declines, the worse the treatment of its victims.

The repression is creeping into society as a whole. Catch a train or walk down a city centre, and you are likely to cross the path or be accosted by heavily armed police, or public transport guards who have the power to detain, beat and/or prosecute you. It is in public, not just behind the walls of detention centres, that indigenous people, youth, people of colour, Muslims or anyone deemed to be an “other”, can be targeted for state sponsored repression. The increase of repression and the falling rate of profit are directly linked. The ruling classes are aware that their system is on the ropes, and are preparing to prevent a large scale fight back. This is precisely what working people and their supporters need to organise.

Despite the horrors we see almost on a daily basis, there is no need for despair. The crisis presents an opportunity to fight, push through, and win the deep changes for which working people are crying out. Political strategy is crucial. While indigenous people suffer the worst effects of oppression in capitalist Australia, their oppression is linked to the oppression of working people. Thus it is imperative that Indigenous activists and their supporters look towards efforts to win over people as workers and draw them in to political action which engages in a class struggle against the source of both Aboriginal and worker misfortune – the ruling class and its state apparatus.

The main block to mobilising people as workers is the ideologically pro-capitalist Union bureaucracy, which seeks to restrict industrial action to that which is acceptable to the corporate magnates. The battle to replace the conservative careerists at the head of almost all Unions with a leadership committed to the needs of workers and the oppressed is bound up with the struggle to forge a multi-racial revolutionary workers’ party. Such a party would seek to assist all efforts to end indigenous disadvantage with the same vigour as it would defend the interests of working people.

While every effort should be made to end the horror of Don Dale, those struggling for justice would do well to recognise that indigenous oppression is common only to those countries where capital rules. Countries which have established workers’ rule – China, the DPRK, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba – do not and cannot oppress their own indigenous people. Indeed, through the mechanism of their respective workers’ states, often the indigenous people are heading up and leading these countries’ path towards socialism. Release the Aboriginal, youth and refugee detainees!

Workers League
PO Box 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/law/aboriginal-prison-rates (27-07-2016)

[2] http://www.sbs.com.au/news/thefeed/article/2016/07/26/facts-about-indigenous-youth-detention-australia (27-07-2016)

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-26/indigenous-leaders-call-for-nt-government-to-be-sacked/7662150 (27-07-2016)

Black Lives Matter – in the USA, Australia and Libya!

23-07-2016 – The deadly intimidation towards African-Americans residing in the United States of America continues unabated. Police in the US routinely extinguish their lives without fear of being held to account. Alton Sterling and Philando Castille follow Mike Brown and Tamir Rice as only the most well-known US citizens to have been blown away by cops. Latino Americans and a small minority of white Americans are also taken out without cause, but the overwhelming majority are African-Americans, suffering the brunt of a racist society founded on slavery. The website Killed by Police tracks the fatalities committed by cops in the US. It lists 96 fatalities in May this year, followed by 100 in June.[1] That is, close to two hundred in two months – with African-Americans predominating.

The daily discrimination perpetrated against African-Americans in the US takes on a plethora of forms. African-Americans suffer higher levels of unemployment, vast inequalities in financial wealth as opposed to white Americans, higher rates of poverty, lack of access to higher education, disproportionately higher levels of incarceration and much more. Approximately one quarter of African-Americans live below the poverty line in the US, compared to less than 10 per cent of white Americans. African-American males have a 1 in 4 chance of being imprisoned, compared with white American males having a 1 in 23 chance of being imprisoned.[2]

US society is falling apart at the seams, but it is important to trace this latest unravelling to the devastating impact of the “Global” Financial Crisis which began in 2008. The “normal” functioning of capitalism in the US proceeds with extreme racism against African-Americans at the best of times, but when the profit system falls into crisis, working people and the most oppressed are made to pay for it. It is for this reason that there has been a spike in the number and extent of brutal police killings of African-Americans in the last couple of years. Capitalism means the breakdown of society. In the US, this means even more extreme racial oppression domestically, combined with even more US led wars of regime change internationally. The two are interlinked, and actions in response should reflect this reality.

The theme of “Black Lives Matter” is also directly applicable to the Australian context. Here, the Aboriginal people, who had been custodians of this continent for at least 40 000 years before British colonisation, continue to endure racial oppression no less significant than that which occurs in the US. After almost being wiped out in a genocidal war of occupation which lasted for 150 years, the Aboriginal people miraculously survived, with parts of their ancient culture intact. Yet the establishment of Australian capitalism has prevented Aboriginal people from basic participation in society as equals. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that modern Australian society was founded on the dispossession and brutalisation of its indigenous people. To seriously acknowledge this would call into question the very basis of the “Commonwealth of Australia”.

A brief glance at recent figures indicates the depth and extent of Aboriginal disadvantage in Australia. Aboriginal people die ten years earlier than non-indigenous people in Australia, and they are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned. The indigenous infant mortality rate is double that of non-indigenous people. Only 60% of Aboriginal students finish year 12, and only 47.5% of indigenous people in Australia are employed.[3] Aboriginal deaths in custody continue to occur, 25 years after the Federal Government’s Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. In fact, since that commission, a further 330 indigenous people have perished in custody.[4] Essentially there has been no reduction, and no progress on the basic right of Aboriginal people to be treated as others are treated in custody, or in society.

If the US ruling class has no regard for Black Lives domestically, it certainly doesn’t in its prosecution of its wars for Empire. During the US led war of regime change against the former government of Libya in 2011, the US, with the assistance of Saudi Arabia, armed and funded mercenary Islamic fundamentalists in order to overthrow the imperfect but nonetheless anti-imperialist government led by Colonel Gaddafi.[5] The US had in fact never ceased it’s funding of Islamic fundamentalists since it’s arming of the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s. Due to the fact that these mercenaries in Libya had little domestic support, they were unable to overthrow the Gaddafi led government. So in stepped the US and its NATO allies with a lethal bombing campaign which brought about a horrific end to Libya as it was known.

The armed Islamic fundamentalists were referred to by the corporate media as “rebels”, and many liberals were unable to break from this spurious imperialist pretext. Some left parties even lauded them as “revolutionaries” and cheered them on even as their atrocities became known. Many of these atrocities were carried out against Black Africans, who are mainly concentrated in the south of Libya. These Black Africans were seen by the “rebels” as supporters of the Libyan government, and thus were targeted for slaughter.[6] As leading Hands Off Syria academic Jay Tharappel has pointed out, despite the massacres of Black Libyans, the “rebels” were politically backed by some left parties, who fell into line with the US as it went to war. These parties in Australia include the Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative, Solidarity and the Communist Party of Australia. Despite their silence on the extermination of Black Libyans, most of these groups now throw their support behind Black Lives Matter.

The hideous racial oppression of Black people in the US and Australia, and the prosecution of imperialist wars overseas – from Libya to Syria to Ukraine to the potential wars against Russia and China – are thus all linked. Capitalism needs racism to survive, both to divide their domestic working classes against themselves, and to gain at least their passive acquiescence to racist imperialist wars against the Third World, and any country which even hints in the direction of political independence from the US Empire. Canberra plays its own role as an imperialist power in the Asia Pacific, as well as a foot soldier for the largest US wars of conquest. Fighting the oppression of African-Americans in the US, and the Aboriginal people in Australia requires a simultaneous struggle against all facets of imperialism.

In a sense, the police patrolling the streets are the domestic embodiment of imperialism. In essence, police are mercenaries, hired by the ruling class to protect the private property of the ‘captains of industry’. To do this, they must suppress the workers, who create every dollar of capitalist profit through their labour. The harshest repression, however, is meted out to those with black skin, either in the US or Australia. Police officers are virtually licenced to harass, threaten, beat, incarcerate or kill those they see as black, with impunity. To end this requires the overturn of the entire system of capitalist exploitation and violence, through workers’ revolution and the victory of socialism. This requires the formation of a multi-racial workers’ party, which can champion the liberation of black people through leading class struggle. While Black people experience the worst effects of capitalist repression, it is only by allying with the working class that enough social power can be mobilised to undermine, and eventually overthrow, the ultimate source of oppression – private capital.

FOR BLACK LIBERATION THROUGH WORKERS’ REVOLUTION!

Workers League

PO BOX 66   NUNDAH   QLD   4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://killedbypolice.net/ (16-07-16)

[2] http://minorityrights.org/minorities/african-americans/ (16-07-16)

[3] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/closing-the-gap-five-numbers-that-should-shame-australia-20160210-gmqlbl.html (16-07-16)

[4] http://www.amnesty.org.au/indigenous-rights/comments/41572/ (16-07-16)

[5] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/americas-secret-plan-to-arm-libyas-rebels-2234227.html (17-07-16)

[6] https://humanrightsinvestigations.org/2011/07/07/libya-ethnic-cleansing/ (17-7-16)

Change the Name! Change the Date!

26-01-16 – As we surge deeper into the 21st Century, the Australian political establishment has not yet dealt with its 18th Century history – the founding of white Australia by the invading British colonialists and the resulting genocidal war against the Aboriginal people. This war lasted 150 years and formed the basis of “Australia” as we know it today. The exact numbers of Aboriginal people who perished in this war as well as from the deadly impacts of colonisation are not known, but some estimates are as high as one million. January 26, 1788, and the landing of the first colonialists in what is now New South Wales, was essentially the first shot fired in a horrific slaughter which scarcely speaks its name. Yet January 26 is the day which the Australian capitalist class marks as “Australia Day”. Australia is one of the only countries in the world to have its national day marking a hostile invasion. Zionist Israel is another.

It is miraculous that some Aboriginal people survived, and continued to survive to this day. From children stolen by government forces, to being expelled from ancestral lands, to being herded into missions, to being unjustly incarcerated, to deaths in custody, the abuses from Australia’s rulers have continued, almost unabated. The theft and removal of Aboriginal children from their families was government policy for 60 years.[1] Between 1990 and 2008, an average of 14 Aboriginal people died in custody each year.[2] Despite every injustice imaginable being perpetrated against the oldest living culture on earth, the Australian rulers insist that the day which marked the start of all of the injustices be marked, even celebrated, as the national day. This grotesque practice cannot be anymore insulting to the Aboriginal people, and to all those with a shred of humanity. Working people should join with Aboriginal people in placing the simple demand that, at the very least, “Australia Day” must be moved to another day – any of the other 364 days of the year would suffice.

In 2008, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered an “apology” to the stolen generations. At the time it united many indigenous people and their supporters. Now, many have turned against it, as it became obvious that in essence it was lip service with nothing material behind it. In fact, Rudd went on immediately to continue the former Howard government’s military intervention in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, rule out any form of compensation, and refuse to countenance moving Australia’s national day from January 26. In a similar way, the “Recognise” campaign – a move to recognise Aboriginal people within Australia’s national constitution – appears to be another attempt to forever sideline the movement for basic rights to somehow offset the oppression of Australia’s traditional owners. The Recognise campaign has been tasked to Reconciliation Australia – a body with an even handed sounding name, but with sinister backers. Its website proudly announces that its “supporters” include: the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (!), and corporate vandals such as BHP Biliton, Lend Lease, QANTAS, Rio Tinto, Woodside and the Commonwealth Bank.[3] With backers such as these, a who’s who of the capitalist elite, Reconciliation Australia is hardly going to break any establishment norms. With the appalling disparity in life outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous people in this country, be it in health, education or employment, “Constitutional Recognition” will do little but justify continued inaction on an intolerable situation. As renowned Aboriginal rights advocate Chris Graham wrote: “Constitutional Recognition is a poor man’s treaty. It is another national apology, without compensation.”[4]

Ironically, perhaps the only way to properly “recognise” Aboriginal people as the original inhabitants and custodians of the land is with the concluding of a national treaty, or a series of treaties. The act of concluding such treaties places the current Australian government, the modern day representative of the colonial power which established it, in the position of acknowledging that what we now know as Australia could not have been founded without the violent dispossession of the original owners. It is not automatic, but it would establish a precedent which would go far beyond the Mabo and Wik High Court decisions.

The Aboriginal people themselves, despite their often heroic political resistance which is demonstrated around the country, will be hard pressed to win such a demand on their own. The indigenous people must be joined by the organised Australian working class, the body which, if sufficiently organised and politically led, has the power to lend significant weight to all battles against the millionaire class. The Trade Unions have the resources, and the interest, to assist the Aboriginal people win their liberation as part of the struggle in leading workers against the onslaught of capital. On occasion in the past, some Unions have assisted the Aboriginal struggle. For example, it was marching Unionists in August 1996 which came to the aid of Aboriginal fellow demonstrators marching on the Federal Parliament. It was the MUA which primarily came to the defence of Palm Island hero Lex Wotton, who was charged with “riot” for justifiably rising up against yet another black death in custody. Yet these instances have been few and far between, not least due to the conservative and self-serving Union officials which preside over almost all Unions today.

While workers should give scant regard to the constitution of a capitalist state with regard to indigenous peoples (e.g. Australia), it is another story entirely when it comes to the constitution of socialist state. Indeed, socialist states in our region accord equal status and even special support for the maintenance and development of the culture of indigenous peoples, regardless of how small their numbers may be. For example, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam recognises 53 indigenous peoples within Vietnam, and its constitution states that all indigenous peoples (referred to as “ethnicities”) have the right to speak and write in their language, and to promote their culture.[5] The People’s Republic of China unites 55 indigenous peoples outside the majority Han people. Under its constitution, all minority nationalities are entitled to appropriate representation on the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the highest organ of state power in the world’s most populous nation.[6] The recognition and promotion of indigenous peoples and cultures in these cases has only been possible out of the waging of a successful workers’ revolution which has established a socialist republic. A socialist republic – the collective rule of the working class – has no material interest in the suppression of indigenous peoples. In fact, they are needed as equal partners. Not so for Australian capitalism, which has been built and maintained via the continual denial of their prior custodianship of the land. The oppression of the indigenous peoples can thus be finally ended by the overthrow of capitalist rule and the establishment of indigenous/non-indigenous workers’ power.

FOR A SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF AUSTRALIA!

Workers League

PO BOX 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

W: http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.australianstogether.org.au/stories/detail/the-stolen-generations (09-01-22016)

[2] http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/1301.0~2012~Main%20Features~Deaths%20in%20custody~73

[3] https://www.reconciliation.org.au/ (13-01-2016)

[4] http://chrisgrahamatlarge.com/2013/04/01/a-poor-mans-treaty-the-con-in-constitutional-reform/ (13-01-2016)

[5] http://vietnamnews.vn/politics-laws/250222/the-constitution-of-the-socialist-republic-of-viet-nam.html (16-01-2016)

[6] http://www.npc.gov.cn/englishnpc/Constitution/2007-11/15/content_1372965.htm (16-01-2016)