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)

Repeal the “Espionage” and “Interference” Act! No War On China!

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[1], 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] 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) !![9].

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.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO Box 66   NUNDAH  QLD   4012

[1] https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_LEGislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r6022 (06-07-2018)

[2] https://pressfreedom.org.au/espionage-and-foreign-influence-bills-5943e87e8228 (06-07-2018)

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jun/26/espionage-bill-could-make-some-protests-criminal-acts-getup-says (06-07-2018)

[4] http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/06/29/inte-j29.html (06-07-2018)

[5] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-21/china-australia-political-donations/7766654 (06-07-2018)

[6] https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/foreign-minister-julie-bishops-links-to-chinese-political-donors-20160823-gqzauy.html (06-07-2018)

[7] https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/australianz/china-challenged-australian-warships-in-south-china-sea-australian-media (06-07-2018)

[8] https://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2098755/how-communist-party-controls-chinas-state-owned-industrial-titans (08-07-2018)

[9] https://www.malcolmturnbull.com.au/media/speech-introducing-the-national-security-legislation-amendment-espionage-an (08-07-2018)

Protesting the building of the Adani Coal Mine could be a criminal act under the broad sweep of the “foreign interference” laws. Image from http://www.theaimn.com

What’s wrong with protesting the Trump Inauguration?

by Paul Nave

If you think there is something slightly odd about protesting the result of an election, you are not alone. The result of the election may not be what you desired – but whoever heard of protesting because the majority did not vote for what you wanted? Undeterred, some left parties are pressing ahead organising a protest against the inauguration of US President Elect Donald Trump on January 20, 2017. This may well be the biggest strategic blunder in many years.

Firstly, for working people and those who see themselves as progressive politically, it is necessary to understand how Donald Trump won and why. It is difficult not to conclude that Trump won because he offered something different to the same old Obama/Clinton legacy of devastation, abandonment, war, unemployment, the collapse of social services, the hollowing out of entire cities, towns and neighbourhoods, the skyrocketing cost of living and so on. It may well be that Trump will not be able to implement any of his “Make America Great Again” slogan, or will not come through with his airy promise to bring back jobs. But, at least as far as the US electorate was concerned, he promised something. Clinton and the Democrats were barely promising anything. The US people read this to mean that Clinton and the Democrats were going to persist with an intolerable situation. That was enough for the US electorate, or the ones who did vote, to cast a vote for Trump. And who can blame them?

Those left parties who are organising a protest against the Trump inauguration should take note of at least one factor: like it or not, large sections of the US working class support Trump. They may be misguided in doing so, but on the other hand, the other option – Clinton and the Democrats – may well have been worse for them. It is of course a negative that sections of the US working class are moving to the right, and potentially towards the fascist organisations which also support Trump. But to protest against them now, before a die has been cast, will likely push these sections deeper into the arms of the far-right. The aim of the left and working class supporters should be to try to win back that section of Trump supporters which do not regard themselves as Nazis. But this cannot be done by denouncing them for “racism, sexism and homophobia” – even though this certainly exists.
Secondly, it is also difficult not to conclude that the aim of a protest against Donald Trump on or near inauguration day, is to garner support for Clinton and the Democrats, even if the organisers specifically deny this. The demands are not anything like: “Down with Clinton, Trump and the Ruling Class”.  The demands, such that we can tell, are only aimed against Trump. The reason for this is that these left parties want to draw in liberal backers of Clinton, that is, they want them to be part of the actions. Similarly here in Australia, the politics of the proposed actions are such that any liberal can take part without any questions being thrown their way. That is, once again, these protests, even if on the face of it are directed against a President who appears to be the most backward in decades, really boil down to a demand for a slightly more liberal capitalist top official. This is not radical at all, and continues the political malaise which produced something like the Trump phenomenon in the first place.

Thirdly, despite what leftists think of the capitalist electoral system, and particularly its shortcomings as it is practiced in the United States, Donald Trump won the election. Whether he won it on outright votes (which it appears he did not) or on electoral college votes (which it appears he did), according to the electoral system in place, and despite all we know about the usual irregularities (people not appearing on electoral rolls, anyone who has ever had even a minor conviction not being allowed to vote, and much more), Trump and the Republicans won the election. And they won because most Americans who did vote surmised that Clinton and the Democrats were a worse option. And they were not all wrong.

In fact, in sheer terms of war, Clinton represented something almost unimaginable – the real likelihood of World War III. No matter how bellicose some of Trump’s rhetoric towards some states may be, at least he was not willing to launch world war, or at least against Russia. The hysterical screeching of Clinton herself, and her liberal backers, that Trump was an ally of Putin or even a Russian stooge, just do not stack up. Clinton would have ramped up the already hostile manoeuvres against Russia in Eastern Europe, Ukraine, and Syria. In fact, even some US generals were not keen to launch a world war with Russia over Syria. As quirky as it seems, compared to Clinton, Trump was almost an anti-war candidate. Let that sink in for a moment.

Trump’s one progressive position – peace with Russia – may well be contradicted by a seeming strident opposition towards Iran. However, it could also potentially mean an end to US wars of regime change. Trump has made comments stating that the Middle East was better off with both Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi still in power in Iraq and Libya. Many are aware that what Trump says, especially with regard to foreign policy, may not be carried out, or, more than likely, will be stymied by the “deep state”. The US establishment, driven to a state of despair by the faltering state of US capitalism, engages in wars to save itself, and hang the consequences. Even someone with Trump’s politics can see the ultimately self-destructive results of this.

And what of Donald Trump’s racism, sexism and homophobia? No doubt this exists, but were Clinton and the Democrats going to be markedly better?  Racism, sexism and homophobia, amongst other things, are structurally part and parcel of the capitalist system. In the best case scenario, the Democrats would utter words against racism, sexism and homophobia, and a very mild reform perhaps. But they would not be able to end the oppression of African-Americans and others, women and LGBTI people. This requires a socialist revolution, at the least.

These “left” parties, these “socialists” who are agitating to “fight Trump”, swear blind that they do not support Clinton and the Democrats. Such assurances are so much empty rhetoric. Their political practice, including the organising of actions against the Trump inauguration, tells a different story. Moreover, for the last six years, invariably these “left” parties have wholesomely backed Washington’s wars for regime change (at least in Libya and Syria) throughout the Obama/Clinton years. What these “revolutionaries” really stand for is the election of the more liberal candidate in bourgeois elections. And they are not prepared to break from the entire liberal establishment to ensure this. Working people, on the other hand, have learnt through bitter experience, that sometimes, or indeed often, the liberal candidate will cause more harm to them than the conservative. This experience, at least in part, helped produce the Trump victory.

Hence, the way to defeat the right wing is not to attempt to push working people back into supporting liberal candidates and liberal parties – which they know from experience carry out similar, or worse, attacks on their livelihoods. Nor will anyone defeat the right wing by joining these same liberals, organised and unorganised, in protests against the one elected establishment figure which is rejected by the large majority of the US ruling class. Why not work on the contradiction within the US ruling class, to see where it leads?

Rather than joining hands with liberals and protesting conservatives, the way to win working people away from both the liberal and conservative wings of the ruling class is to build politically independent mass campaigns which aim to win real gains for workers. Demands such as: a shorter working week with no loss in pay, fully funded public healthcare, decent and affordable public transport, publicly owned utilities, an expansion of public housing, and the nationalisation of the banks could be just the start. Once working people see a movement which aims to fight and win real gains, and seeks to sign them up,  the appeal of both liberal and conservative parties – and even fascist groupings, will subside away into disuse. The organisation of a working class movement presupposes the formation of a workers’ party.  A workers’ party which fights for a workers government is the beginning of the end of the capitalist nightmare, and the opening of the road to socialism. Amongst other things, this is what is worth a demonstration in the streets.

 

Which strategy for Aboriginal Liberation?

By Paul Nave

 

In the wake of the horrific footage of youth detainees being abused by guards at the Don Dale detention centre, aired by the 4 Corners television program, Aboriginal activists and their supporters took to the streets to protest yet another indicator of the oppression Australia’s indigenous people face on a daily basis. While one of the detainees was white, the overwhelming majority of youth in detention in the Northern Territory and in other states, are Aboriginal. Indigenous and Aboriginal men and women also make up a wholly disproportionate segment of the total prison population, a fact which has not been altered for decades.

Some of the protest actions were led and organised by the Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance (WAR) – a group that formed during the protests against the G20 Summit held in Brisbane in November 2014. We admire the defiance and the militancy of the WAR activists, their commitment to their struggle and their refusal to be co-opted into the mainstream of the Australian political establishment. They are also correct to back the Malcolm X style struggle for black/indigenous people’s dignity, rather than the pacifist liberalism of the ilk of Martin Luther King. However, in our view the political program of WAR is mistaken in that it remains on the path of Aboriginal or cultural/indigenous nationalism. If Aboriginal nationalism becomes the dominant strategy adopted, in our view the struggle for the liberation of Aboriginal people will not occur, and could become co-opted into the capitalist political parliamentary system they rightly reject. Aboriginal oppression is bound up with implantation of Australian capitalism, the operation of which adversely affects Aboriginal people more than others. However, the overcoming of this oppression means linking with all others seeking liberation from oppression – especially the working class.

Aboriginal Nationalism?

WAR declare that their program is that of Aboriginal nationalism. The first issue of Black Nations Rising, their publication states clearly:
Aboriginal nationalism (emphasis in original) is a philosophy….Separatism is integral to the worldview of Aboriginal nationalism. As Aboriginal nationalists, we identify with our respective tribal groups and the pan-Aboriginal nation. We are separate to ‘Australia’ – a colonial state built upon the theft of Aboriginal land and the genocide of Aboriginal people.[1]

Despite our strong political disagreements on other issues, the Spartacist League first noted the existence of Aboriginal nationalism amongst WAR activists, and alerted workers to it. They correctly note:

“One of the key demands of WAR is self-determination for Aboriginal people. For Marxists, self-determination means the right to national independence. The cohering of nations is fundamentally a material process, not an idealist one. What is decisive is contiguous mutual economic exchange continued over a more or less lengthy period of time, which develops into a coherent political economy. It was the development of capitalism which drove the formation of the nation-state in its modern sense. The possibility of the independent development of Indigenous people into a modern nation was severed by the British colonisers, who almost obliterated the Aboriginal people leaving the shattered remnants of different tribes who continue to be viciously oppressed today.”[2]

It is incontrovertible that the Australian colonial capitalist state was built on the theft of Aboriginal land and the genocide of Aboriginal people. This fact is the basis on which the oppression of Aboriginal people remains today. But the claim to an Aboriginal nation is another thing entirely. Marxists recognise the formation of nations as requiring elements such as a common language, territory, economic exchange and a culture. Nations form over time, historically, until all such factors are satisfied. Needless to say, these factors have not been present in the past, or now. WAR claim a pan-Aboriginal nation, but seemingly through a process of resisting the existing capitalist state which accords with the Australian nation.

Non-Aboriginal people of course do not experience the oppression of the indigenous people, and thus must respect the right of Aboriginal people to lead political movements which counter such oppression. However, non-indigenous people who wish to end Aboriginal oppression and join political movements to address this, must have the right to disagree with the political perspective being put forward. Aboriginal people do not necessarily come up with the correct political program to end their oppression in the same way in which workers also do not automatically propose the correct political program to end their oppression. There needs to be friendly and comradely political discussion and debate as to which strategy and tactics to adopt. To disagree with one’s political strategy does not amount to “disrespect” – it’s simply a political disagreement, a part of the struggle.

As socialists we warn against the political programs of Aboriginal or Black or cultural or indigenous nationalism, not because we don’t respect Aboriginal activists, but because we hold the view that the liberation of Aboriginal people is bound up with the struggle against capitalism, and is therefore bound up with the struggle to end the oppression of workers, through the strategic goal of socialist revolution. It should be noted in addition, that the oppression of women will also not be ended except through joining with workers in a common struggle to overthrow the rule of capital. Aboriginal people make up approximately 2% of the Australian population, but even if the proportion was substantially larger, there would still be a need to link up with, and fight alongside, the working class. Without the mobilisation of the working class, the Aboriginal rights movement cannot effectively be protected from capitalist state repression, let alone win complete liberation.
Lack of Union backing

One of the reasons why Aboriginal groups such as WAR adopt stances such as Aboriginal nationalism, is the almost total lack of Union backing for the struggle of Aboriginal people against their oppression by capitalist Australia. While it is true that there are a lot of fine words, and even some material support for Aboriginal actions, in the main the conservative Union bureaucrats sitting atop most Unions refuse to mobilise workers behind the cause to which they give verbal adherence. The rallies called by WAR in response to the exposure of the Don Dale abuses were dotted with a few Union T-shirts, but generally there were no organised Union contingents. Overpaid Union officials are long on the rhetoric of support for Aboriginal rights, and sport the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags on some wares from their Union wardrobes, but very short of organising workers behind this show. For example, in response to the Royal Commission announced by Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as a result of the Don Dale exposé, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary Dave Oliver penned an open letter to PM Turnbull, which welcomed the Royal Commission, only asking for the terms to be expanded.[3] That is, no organising or attempting to activate workers in support of Aboriginal rights, but a letter to the PM! There have been exceptions, but generally speaking, the Union officials leave the Aboriginal rights movement to fight its own battles – an impossible task. This, combined with the glaring failure of liberal “reconciliation” can lead to some groups such as WAR to adopt the view that they are on their own. This feeds the sentiment towards separatism, and the militant sounding but politically compromising Aboriginal nationalism.

 

Careerist Union officials are well schooled in shepherding workers back into support for the Australian political establishment. They seek to integrate Unions and workers closer to the Australian capitalist state, and hence back “official” channels of the capitalist state investigating itself – such as Royal Commissions. It is hardly a secret that governments often launch Royal Commissions as a pressure relief valve, to give the impression that the powers that be are actually accountable. In practice, they draw out the process for years on end, while those suffering and some activists wait interminably for an outcome. Invariably, such inquiries become little more than a whitewash. Recommendations found by the Commission have no power to be enforced, and rarely are. Such was the result of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody, which released its recommendations in 1991. What is vital is that Unions are organised independently of all aspects of the capitalist state – from its politicians to its courts to its parliaments, and its “Royal Commissions”. Workers must be shown that they themselves have power collectively – a power far greater than any parliament or institution of the old world, and one which has the potential to usher in the new world of socialism.

WAR and the left
Since the formation of WAR, there has been tension between it and some left parties when it comes to working together in joint actions. WAR has in the past demanded that the left groups selling newspapers at WAR organised events to donate all of the monetary proceeds to them or whichever cause they are taking action over. Recently, in a post on Facebook, WAR appears to ban the Socialist Alternative and the Socialist Alliance from any future events organised by WAR.[4] This post was then “liked” by some individuals from other left parties.

We are obviously not a part of any discussions that may have taken place between WAR and the two SA groups. We understand that WAR, as organisers and leaders of certain actions, have the right to lead these actions, and run the public events in general. It is of course recognised that in a broader sense, Aboriginal people have the right to lead the struggle against their own oppression, and should be respected as such. However, we do not believe it is reasonable to attempt to prevent left parties from distributing, or selling, their own publications at such public events. To ask for permission from WAR to run a campaign stall at a WAR organised event is understandable. More than this though, WAR cannot expect to control the actions of every single person which attends their public events, especially the members of left groups.

If there has been flagrant disregard for Aboriginal people and Aboriginal leaders at such events by some left parties, they should of course be reproached for it. However, there is a difference between this and an attempt to effectively censor the politics of left groups which are supporting Aboriginal rights actions. To attempt to prevent the distribution of Socialist Alternative’s Red Flag, or Socialist Alliance’s Green Left Weekly at WAR organised events appears to be direct targeting of left groups for their political views. It also does not appear fair given that presumably, WAR’s publication Black Nations Rising is being distributed unhindered. It may not be the intention, but it appears to be an attempt to censor the politics of socialist groups, in favour of the politics of WAR. By all means WAR has the right to put forward and argue for its politics, but as with all political views, it must compete with other perspectives. WAR cannot expect to retain a monopoly on the politics of every individual or group attending actions which they have organised. They must seek to convince others within the Aboriginal community and the non-indigenous but supportive community which demonstrably support their cause.

 

It is possible to respect, and give solidarity to, Aboriginal political groups, while disagreeing with their political outlook. The political outlook of WAR, by the own words, is separatism and indigenous nationalism. Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance can speak for themselves, but generally socialists do not agree that indigenous nationalism will lead to Aboriginal liberation in any meaningful way. In fact, because it turns away from the working class – the only class with the power to win Aboriginal liberation – the politics of Aboriginal nationalism can tend to alternate between a stand-alone militant defiance – which can be relatively easily crushed by the capitalist state apparatus – and liberal lobbying, such as appeals to the very politicians and parliament enabling their oppression. The two approaches are ultimately ineffective, and neither points a way forward. Both are effectively appeals to the powers that be, rather than an attempt to mobilise indigenous people, workers and their supporters in class based struggle against the powers that be.
The Aboriginal people suffer horrific racial oppression under Australian capitalism – this is not in dispute. It is also acknowledged that their struggle against this oppression can never be reactionary. However, it does not necessarily follow that the politics of the Aboriginal activists leading this struggle will always be revolutionary, or always progressive. Backward political positions can be inadvertently practiced, due to a number of societal and political factors, not the least of which is the almost total lack of working class mobilisation in support, due largely to conservative Union officials consciously preventing active workers’ support for indigenous people. Another factor is that some left parties do not challenge the politics of Aboriginal activists where they disagree, out of “respect” and “solidarity”. Such is for example, the program of Aboriginal nationalism. Aboriginal people do not form a nation, as they have not developed over time, a common language, common culture, common territory and common economic exchange. The possibility for this was eliminated by the invading British colonialists, which established an Australian capitalist state which also oppresses, though to a lesser extent, Australian workers.

An Australian nation has been formed, over time, comprised of Aboriginal people, descendants of British colonial rule and a myriad of migrants from numerous other nations. Aboriginal people unfortunately remain the most oppressed group within this nation, a historical wrong which needs urgent address. This however cannot be done without the overthrow of capitalist rule in the Australian nation, and in the Asia-Pacific region.  The Australian nation is also a junior imperialist power, which oppresses the peoples of the Asia-Pacific, and, via partnership with US imperialism, the people of the world. This is one reason why the declaring of, and the fight for, a separatist Aboriginal nation is not progressive, but reactionary. It automatically excludes those who can assist the struggle for the liberation, rather than joining with them to overthrow the rule of capital.

Left parties and individuals which acquiesce to groups such as WAR when advocating political doctrines such as Aboriginal nationalism, are doing so out of a mistaken conception of “respect” and “solidarity”.  The crucial element is to reach out to supporters of indigenous people in their capacity as workers, in order to mobilise industrial strength behind the cause. If this were to occur, it is likely that despairing ideas such as Aboriginal nationalism would not have a material basis on which to arise. However, the main obstacle is the self-serving Union officialdom, which view their own comfortable careers way above any token support for Aboriginal rights. The struggle to replace class-collaborationist Union leaders with a class-struggle leadership is bound up with the struggle to forge a revolutionary workers party, based above all on the theory and practice of Leninism. Such a party would champion the rights of Aboriginal people as part of a struggle to replace the system perpetuating the oppression of Aboriginal people and the domination of working people – that of social production for private profit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://issuu.com/blacknationsrising/docs/black_nations_rising_issue_1__online (31-07-16)

[2] http://www.icl-fi.org/english/asp/226/aboriginal.html (31-07-16)

[3] http://www.actu.org.au/actu-media/media-releases/2016/letter-to-malcolm-turnbull-on-royal-commission-into-nt-youth-detention (03-08-16)

[4] https://www.facebook.com/WARcollective/posts/1071999899562235 (03-08-16)