Myanmar: Rohingya Manipulated for the West’s Drive to War

Myanmar: Rohingya Manipulated for the West’s Drive to War

05-09-2018 – If genuine anti-war activists have learnt anything over the last few decades, it is to be supremely skeptical the moment the US Empire and its corporate media apparatchiks start to chant in unison on the latest “human rights” violation which urgently needs attention. It usually means that a “humanitarian intervention”, read – regime change war, is on the way. So it was in Libya, so it was in Syria, and so may be in Myanmar. Some of the actors are the same, some are different, but the effect is familiar – the West poses as the defender of civilisation against Third World barbarians. The hypocrisy becomes immediately apparent to anti-imperialists, but deludes many who should know better.

One year on from the alleged genocide of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, there has been a round of demonstrations called by some ex-pat Rohingya community groups throughout Australia, which have been backed by liberal political forces and “NGOs” such as Amnesty International. Some misguided left parties have joined the fray. And this time, these actions have the backing of none other than the Donald Trump administration of the US government !  The US government has seen fit to sanction several Myanmar military commanders for allegations of ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assaults and extra-judicial killings.[1] It takes one to know one. The US Empire, with its blood drenched history, is itself an exponent of the crimes of which it accuses others.

What happened in the Rakhine state in August 2017?

A report released several weeks ago in London, titled Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience, claimed that from August 25, 2017, around 24 000 Rohingya were killed, and 18 000 Rohingya women and girls were raped during the forced migration from the Rakhine state into Bangladesh.[2] The report claims, amongst other things, that 43 000 Rohingyas were shot, 36 000 were thrown into fire, and 116 000 were beaten – all at the hands of the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military). The writers of the report were from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, the Philippines and Norway. The absence of anyone from Myanmar immediately raises suspicion. And, given that for the last seven years at least, the West’s war on Syria was replete with incessant claims from the West that the Syrian government was slaughtering its own civilians wholesale, and given that this turned out to be abject lies – we are entitled to smell a rat. Generally, people do not flee from their homes and attempt to enter a neighbouring country without fearing for their lives, and it seems the estimated 700 000 Rohingya who took flight certainly were motivated by fear. But fear of what, and of whom? The West claims, over and over again, that the Rohingya were fleeing from Myanmar’s army. For them, this is a convenient narrative.

In reality, the Rohingya were fleeing from the threatened or actual extreme violence from two sources, neither of which were the armed forces of Myanmar. The first were the ultra-violent and ultra-racist Buddhist “monks”, who were the key protagonists of the “Saffron Revolution” which brought Aung Sung Suu Kyi into government. These “monks” had been whipping up lethal hatred against Rohingya Muslims for years before 2017, which is why there was already Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. The “monks” are the key support base of Aung Sung Suu Kyi, and of her party, the National League for Democracy – which has in turn been almost wholly funded by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and billionaire regime change specialist George Soros.[3]  These openly imperialist forces knowingly do this despite the leading figure of the “monks” being Ashin Wirathu, known as the “Burmese Bin Laden”. Reportedly in response to a question over whether he was the Burmese (Burma is the previous name for the country of Myanmar) Bin Laden, Wirathu said he would not deny it.[4] Fuelling ultra-nationalism, Wirathu has incited and led what are effectively racio-religious purges of Rohingya in Myanmar for years. Yet there are no headlines about Buddhist monks driving Rohingya into the seas.

The second force the Rohingya were also fleeing was the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA. Why would a so-called liberation army containing the name “Rohingya” actually turn their guns and swords against Rohingya people themselves?  For the same reason that ISIS, with Western governmental funding, gruesomely slaughtered other Muslims (and Christians and other “apostates”) in Syria. That is, ARSA does not represent Rohingya people any more than ISIS represents Muslims. ARSA was originally Harakat Al Yaqin (the “Faith” movement), with many of its fighters having been trained in Pakistan by the notorious Lashkar E-Taiba (LET). Some Rohingya have been jihadists running with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Chechnya and the Middle East, and have now been encouraged to return to Myanmar to continue an insurgency with the aim of an Islamic state.[5] It should be stressed that only some Rohingya join terrorist groups such as ARSA, but the precarious state of the Rohingya given their mistreatment at the hands of ultra-nationalists tends to lead to a situation where young Rohingya men might be persuaded to take up arms in response.

The act which precipitated the armed response from the Tatmadaw was a series of pre-dawn armed attacks by ARSA on 30 police stations, which took the lives of some 13 police officers, and seems to have been also used to gather weapons. These pre-emptive murderous assaults took place just two days after United Nations (UN) special representative Kofi Annan issued his report on the Myanmar government’s actions towards the Rohingya.[6] Firstly, it is just too convenient for the proximity of these two actions for it to have been a coincidence. Secondly, if armed attacks by jihadists on police stations sounds familiar, it is because such attacks also took place in Syria, by Western backed terrorists looking to ignite their gruesome insurgency against the Syrian Arab Republic – which was almost universally rejected by Syrians. Just as the Syrian government had little option to respond to an armed attack by terrorists on its infrastructure, the Tatmadaw likewise had no choice but to militarily respond to a terrorist attack on their state. Thus, the Rohingya who fled were fleeing fighting between the terrorist ARSA and the Tatmadaw, NOT the Tatmadaw only, as Western misled refugee rights activists claim.

Humanitarians enlisted for war drive

During the US led war on Syria, imperialism learnt how to skillfully manipulate human sympathy for refugees for its own ends. This has now been replicated in Myanmar in the case of the Rohingya. Most first world refugee rights activists, although motivated by wholesome concerns, unfortunately end up stumping for the very force which creates refugees in the first place. Imperialism with its vast corporate media apparatus can spin the story to fit their aims, but left-leaning activists should have been aware that something was up when tabloid former 60 minutes reporter Ray Martin pops up out of nowhere to fly the flag. In April, Ray Martin visited Myanmar and returned a shallow report on the work of the Fred Hollows Foundation who were assisting Rohingya with eye operations.[7] Working people of course should not oppose aid offered for any refugees, but the propaganda point was clear – Rohingyas are suffering at the hands of the evil Myanmar government, and “we” (read: Washington and Canberra) need to “help”.

Of course, the “help” the US Empire is itching to offer is that of sending in its own troops into Myanmar, so as to eventually have troops on the border with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). If it is not able to do this, armed proxy terrorist forces such as ARSA will do for the time being. The chaos and insurgency of terrorist groups in Myanmar can also only benefit Washington, who is seeking to disrupt the growing trade and investment ties between Myanmar and Red China. Washington is furious at this, as China becomes more and more an ally to more and more countries in Asia. In the first eight months of the current financial year, trade between Myanmar and China totaled 7.42 billion in US dollars. Myanmar’s rice, peas, sesame seeds, rubber and fishery products were exchanged for machinery, plastic raw materials and electronic devices from China.[8]  Indeed, Myanmar is a part of the billion dollar New Silk Road (One Belt One Road) infrastructure development plan the Chinese government seeks to enact in order to fulfil its demand for more raw materials to fuel its booming socialist economy, AND economically aid surrounding developing countries.

While not minimising the issues the Rohingya face in Myanmar, Western liberals are almost universally unaware of the role of US and British imperialism inside the country over many decades. Their active empathy is then manipulated by the different arms of Western capital, to further ends which will in effect make things worse for the very people they aim to assist. For example, the notorious National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US State department entity which claims to be a private entity, is funded by corporations that could hardly be described as “progressive”, including Boeing, the Ford Motor Company, McDonalds, Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs. The NED has literally created putative “news outlets” in Myanmar such as The Irrawaddy, The New Era Journal and the Democratic Voice of Burma radio.[9] These US state backed outlets operating inside Myanmar strongly oppose many infrastructure projects being built with the assistance of China, even if such projects would contribute to the development of Myanmar and the alleviation of pockets of poverty. They then double as “refugee rights activists” when issues such as the situation in the Rakhine state arise. It is no coincidence that China operates a port in Sittwe in the Rakhine state, as a part of the New Silk Road project linking China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Myanmar should not be left in a state of underdevelopment just to spite Red China.

Encirclement and lily pads

While not doubting the genuinely humanistic motives of many Western refugee rights activists, their reform oriented politics makes them vulnerable to playing the role of cat’s paw for the aims of the US Empire. For decades, the US state has aimed to land US troops on the border with Red China. Now, with the socialist state led economy of China leaving the West in its wake, imperialism is desperate to “contain and roll back communism” to use a phrase from the first Cold War. This means military encirclement of China, and the constant attempts to establish areas which can be used as a stepping stone, or lily pad, for US forces. In Myanmar, this means using any means at its disposal to create chaos, ethnic conflict and even full scale war. As in Syria, the US and the UK governments will work with and alongside Al Qaeda linked jihadists aiming for a breakaway “Islamic State” – which, if achieved, would be an ideal location for a US military installation. This is what is behind some calls for an “independent”  Rohingyan ethno-state.

Some Australian left parties have fallen hook, line and sinker for the US/UK orchestrated “Save the Rohingya” psy-op. Socialist Alternative whitewash ARSA’s links to Al Qaeda, by claiming that ARSA is little more than a “poorly armed group of Rohingyas seeking to resist displacement from their land”.[10] In reality, ARSA is well funded and armed from amongst the governments of Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Pakistan. ARSA even reportedly has a leadership council based in Saudi Arabia.[11]

The Socialist Alliance appears blind even to the role of ARSA, and last year called on the Australian government (!) to “bring charges of human rights violations against senior Myanmar military officials…..” (!!)[12] The Australian government, fresh from human rights violations in wars such as those on Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, is hardly a temple of virtue on this front. Moreover, as mentioned previously, the Donald Trump administration in the US has done just this, sanctioning some Tatmadaw personnel over allegations of ethnic cleansing. When the Commander in Chief of US imperialism effectively carries out your demands, it should at least be apparent that your politics is off-beam. Meanwhile, both Solidarity[13] and the Communist Party of Australia[14] join with the US state department in condemning Myanmar for allegations of “ethnic cleansing”. One wonders if they are aware of the company they keep.

If it is genuinely the aim to assist the Rohingya’s integration into Myanmar, working people need to demand the withdrawal of US and UK government interference in its internal affairs. Myanmar must have the sovereign right to engage in trade and investment deals with whomever they choose, including Red China and its New Silk Road. While the politics of the leadership of the PRC falls way short of a struggle for international revolution, China must be defended, along with the working class internationally, against the West’s moves to ignite a predatory war. Our lives may just depend on it.




Map showing the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline, which began operations in early 2017. This mutually beneficial development is what the US rulers lose sleep over. Image from

PO  Box   66    NUNDAH   QLD

[1] (05-09-18)

[2] (05-09-18)

[3] (05-09-18)

[4] (05-09-18)

[5] (08-09-18)

[6] (08-09-18)

[7] (08-09-18)

[8] (08-09-18)

[9] (09-09-18)

[10] (09-09-18)

[11] (09-09-18)

[12] (09-09-18)

[13] (09-09-18)

[14] (09-09-18)


Shut Down the Manus Island and Nauru Hell Holes – Once and For All!

Shut Down the Manus Island and Nauru Hell Holes – Once and For All!

20-07-2018 – Five years ago yesterday, former Australian Labor Party (ALP) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that his government had come to an arrangement with the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG). All refugees and asylum seekers arriving by boat would be transferred to PNG, and would be settled in PNG or another third country, and would never be resettled in Australia ever again. This act of base inhumanity would also be arranged with Nauru.[1] The announcement was a shock for those who briefly thought that some progress was being made against the barbarous treatment of refugees over the previous 15 years. Yet in fact, the previous ALP Prime Minister Julia Gillard had begun the transferring of refugees to Manus Island in PNG, and Nauru, from the end of 2012. At the time the Australian Greens were in a coalition government federally with the ALP. Despite their strong words against offshore processing, the Greens nonetheless remained in the government which carried it out.

The Liberal Party governments of Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have continued the barbarity, with the “Minister for Everything” Peter Dutton now displaying a cold ruthlessness which would make Howard era detention minister Philip Ruddock blush. Time and time again, bodies of the United Nations (UN) have condemned the Australian government for its illegal detention of refugees and asylum seekers – desperate people fleeing war and economic privation in countries ravaged by the imperialist powers themselves. Just last week, the UN working group on arbitrary detention condemned the Australian government for the practice of indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers. This working group is part of the UN Human Rights Council, which in bitter irony, Australia now sits.[2] Some refugees have been detained – without charge – since 2009. Words cannot describe the injustice perpetrated by Australia’s “leaders”, and neither can words describe the depth of the torment inflicted on innocents.

“Unionists” oppose refugee rights

Over 20 years, the refugee rights movement in this country has attempted, largely in vain, to gain Union backing over a critical social justice issue. If Union officials do not lead Unions in strong combat against racism, in whatever form, their ability to defend workers’ rights on any issue is seriously undermined. Yet time and time again, Union officials who may in some ways defend workers’ rights, also come down on the side of capital – whether politically led by the “Labor” or “Liberal” faction of the united party of the ruling class. To the dismay of refugee rights activists, at the Victorian state Australian Labor Party (ALP) conference in May earlier this year, a motion to discuss the closure of off-shore detention centres did not make it onto the agenda. Officials of the Construction Forestry Mining Maritime Energy Union (CFMMEU) joined with officials of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) to form a bloc which closed the conference early. This meant that not only a motion to close off-shore detention centres could not be discussed, but also urgency motions on gender inequality in superannuation, the right to strike, raising the rate of Newstart (unemployment benefits), live exports and the recognition of Palestine.[3] As important as the accompanying issues are, it appears the CFMMEU and AWU officials sought to squash any possibility of half-way humane refugee policy being put to ALP members.

Yet again this incident highlights the futility of workers attempting to achieve any progress through the ALP. In addition, it reveals once more the road block of the Labor Party in the struggle for basic social justice, let alone basic workers’ rights, e.g. the right to strike. ALP leader Bill Shorten has been at pains to emphasise that the Liberal Party government’s current refugee policy –  indefinite detention, off-shore hell holes – will continue if the ALP wins the next federal election. The Greens have been vocal in opposing off-shore detention, but they are not prepared to lead a struggle outside parliament for this, and neither are they willing to help organise workers in their Unions to this end. Their focus on parliament renders them a captive to the Labor and Liberal parties they otherwise rightly criticise.

Pro-refugee or anti-Trump?

In the United States of America (US), there were widespread protests against US President Trump’s practice of separating migrant families of those at the US/Mexico border, and detaining them in wire cages. The national and international outcry soon forced Trump to back down, and sign an executive order that families would now be detained, albeit together.[4] Yet the politics of the much needed actions, from all reports, were more about channeling electoral support back into the Democratic party of former President Obama and the outright war-monger Hilary Clinton. Many liberals leapt into action against Trump for deporting migrants, whereas for years they had not uttered a peep when Obama deported migrants. President Obama was the “deporter-in-Chief”, and there is no questioning his record. How many migrants were ejected from the US under Obama? Try 3.1 million.[5] Two years into his term, Trump pales in comparison.

Of course, Trump could be on track for something similar. Yet the silence of much of the left over Obama’s crimes against migrants mirrors the silence of much of the left over the imperialist wars waged by Obama – with the assistance of Hilary Clinton. Clinton and Obama did not just separate families – they bombed them to death, and otherwise organised the slaughter of them in the most vicious manner possible. In fact, the Obama administration ordered ten times the amount of drone strikes than his Republican predecessor George W Bush.[6] Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan were drone bombed repeatedly. It is a matter of historical record that the US state under Obama also simultaneously armed and funded terror death squads in Libya and Syria, including ISIS.[7]

There is no doubt Trump fuels racism and energises the far-right by deporting migrants and using them as scapegoats. Yet not only did the Obama administration do the same, it launched and maintained deadly imperialist wars in the Middle East and North Africa – causing huge numbers of refugees to flee to Europe, in whichever way they could. Some of them make their way south, and end up seeking refuge in Australia. Yet much of the refugee rights movement in Australia, led by the Refugee Action Coalition or Refugee Action Collective, has in practice mobilized refugee rights supporters behind the imperialist wars waged by Obama and Clinton. This has critically undermined the refugee rights movements’ ability to actually free the refugees. One would have to break with the criminal foreign policy of Australian and US imperialism, in order to have a chance at forcing a political break with the Australian ruling class policy of psychological and physical torture through the plainly illegal detention of refugees.

Rohingyas used to derail the New Silk Road

In recent times, the respective Refugee Action Collectives/Coalitions have been willing captives of the plaintive cries to “Save the Rohingya”. Imperialism is very well versed at manipulating the first world saviour complex, and the plight of the Rohingya is yet another. What appears to be a straight forward case of a third world military junta persecuting a minority is anything but. Washington could very well be planning a “south-east Asian Kosovo”,[8] whereby an international outcry of claimed persecution is used to declare a US backed “independence”. The “independence” is then totally dependent on Washington, or London, which has its claws in its former colony.

Short of an actual military intervention by the US and UK, their aims might also be saved by the creation of violent chaos in Myanmar – which would disrupt a section of the vast infrastructure development project launched by Beijing, the New Silk Road (One Belt, One Road). In the early stages of last year, the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline began operation, which runs from China’s south-western province of Yunnan to the Rakhine state in Myanmar. China’s National Petroleum Corp holds a 50.9% stake, with 49.1% being owned by the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise.[9] Washington is furious with the increased cooperation and trade between Myanmar and Red China, especially considering the millions of dollars it spent funding the National League for Democracy of Aung Sung Suu Kyi, which installed her in a power sharing arrangement with the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military).

Anything which can be done to break Myanmar-China ties is thus carried out by Washington, London, and their international army of NGOs, the “human rights” industrial complex, and, waylaid refugee rights activists. When the so-called Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched armed attacks on Myanmar military and police installations, the Tatmadaw responded – as any national security force would do. Western backed NGOs and some refugee rights campaigners threw up their hands and shrieked in horror, at the alleged actions of the Myanmar military. ARSA claims it must take action to protect the Rohingya community, but ARSA does not represent Rohingyas per se. ARSA is the rebranded name of Harakat Al-Yaqin, which reportedly has a leadership council based in Saudi Arabia, and is funded by Saudi and Pakistani business linked to the Rohingya diaspora.[10] Even the compromised Amnesty International admits that ARSA has carried out massacres of Hindus in the region.[11] Despite ARSA claiming it has no links with Al Qaeda or ISIS, its origins are certainly similar.[12]

For an anti-imperialist refugee rights movement

Some of the Australian government’s actions rival the barbarism of Al Qaeda like execution squads. Take the example of the town of Biloela, which Tamil refugees Priya and Nades had made their home for the last four years.[13] The couple, fleeing the Sri Lankan government’s war against the Tamil minority, have had two daughters born in the central Queensland town. They are now in a Melbourne detention centre, with the father Nades likely to be deported to Sri Lanka, and hit with a $30 000 fee for “removal” – which he has to pay in order to re-enter Australia to see his family again. To forcibly traumatise a family with two daughters under the age of 3, who are seeking a safe place to live, condemns the government carrying out such depravity.

The top leadership of Australia’s Unions also share the responsibility for the ongoing international condemnation of the federal government’s abuse of refugees and asylum seekers. These highly paid Union officials have the power to mobilise workers behind the movement for humane refugee practices, but instead they value their careers and dollars in their own pocket. The foreign policy they imbue in their members unfortunately mirrors that of the left parties prominent in the Refugee Action Collectives/Coalitions who otherwise play a good organisational role in mobilising opposition to refugee and asylum seeker persecution. Namely, the two wings basically agree with the Australian ruling class that China, Russia and Iran are “our” enemies, and we have to band together against them.

Little could be more harmful to both the attempted prevention of imperialist war AND the refugee rights movement. Supposedly “liberal” allies, e.g. conservative Union officials, the Labor Party, the Greens, NGOs, etc., who all say they support refugees, are at the same time at one with the Liberal Party when it comes to imperialist war. This is why steering the refugee rights movement in their political direction, even inadvertently, cannot free the refugees. What is needed is a sharp political break with the essentially pro-war Union officials and parliamentary parties. “Unity” with such elements in practice means splitting the working class, incapacitating the refugee rights movement, and nobbling elementary working class defence. Key to building an anti-imperialist refugee rights movement is the forging of a Marxist vanguard party, which can champion refugee rights as a component part of the struggle for a workers’ republic.



PO  Box  66   NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] (09-07-2018)

[2] (09-07-2018)

[3] (14-07-2018)

[4] (14-07-2018)

[5] (14-07-2018)

[6] (14-07-2018)

[7] (14-07-2018)

[8] (15-07-2018)

[9] (15-07-2018)

[10] (15-07-2018)

[11] (15-07-2018)

[12] (15-07-2018)

[13] (17-07-2018)

Image from Australian Refugee Action Network


Manus Island: Evacuate Now!

Organised Labour Must Lead the Fight to Free the Refugees

01-11-2017 – As we go to press, the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Defence Force is preparing to enter the Manus Island refugee detention centre, where around 600 men remain, fearful for their safety if they are forced out.[1] Earlier this year, the PNG army fired live ammunition into the detention centre, and there have also been machete and knife attacks against the asylum seekers by some aggrieved locals. The Manus Island detention centre is being closed after a ruling from the PNG courts which found that its establishment was unconstitutional. Full responsibility for it lies with the Australian government, which has funded these hell-hole death camps on Nauru and PNG to the tune of billions of dollars.

As of today, reports indicate that electricity generators have been removed from the detention centre, which could mean that toilets and running water would cease to function. There are photos of refugees diverting rain water from building guttering into wheelie bins, so as to ensure they have some water when the cut off takes effect. This truly farcical but all too real medieval like siege is overseen by the current Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who repeatedly claim that these refugees remain the responsibility of the PNG government. Far from it. All of these refugees, who attempted to flee to Australia in fear for their lives, were unceremoniously dumped by the Australian government in what are in reality death camps, funded by private sector contracts authorised by the Australian government. To avoid mass casualties of those who have not committed any crime, the federal government must evacuate Manus Island detainees to Australia immediately.

Refugee rights at an impasse

The diabolical situation facing refugees and asylum seekers in this country is in the main the result of several interlocking factors. One is the almost criminal inaction of most Union officials. Perhaps the core reason for the unimaginable cruelty meted out to refugees and asylum seekers by the Australian government is their political need to divide the working class into an “us” and “them”. In the absence of a strong left-wing political force, this division leads to working people diverting their entirely justifiable dismay at unemployment, poverty, and the high cost of living onto refugees, almost all of whom are from countries much less wealthy than Australia, and almost all of whom are not white. This fuels and fosters extreme racism, despite the official declarations of multicultural Australia.

This racism is poison for the labour movement. The workplace is the only place in capitalist society which is truly integrated. All production depends on cooperation between workers regardless of their nationality, culture, language or religion. The Union movement simply cannot even begin to organise workers to defend themselves from the effects of the dire capitalist recession afflicting Australia, the US and Europe, unless they take action to decisively extinguish all traces of racism. While many groups and institutions in society oppose racism towards refugees from a moral, philosophical, religious or even political standpoint – such as the Greens, liberal NGOs, small businesses, church groups, social-welfare bodies – only the working class has a material interest in overcoming and defeating racist ideology and practice. This is why it is a vital necessity for the Union movement to be the leading force against the appalling abuse of refugees and asylum seekers who have made it to these shores.

Yet the question of the Union movement is the question of the leadership of the Union movement. With a few exceptions, Unions in Australia are led by conservative, well-paid officials who have little interest in risking anything to assist working people. After all, their careers can only continue if they act to restrict the workers movement to the confines of the existing system, which is based on the exploitation of wage labour. Hence, these Union officials actively inculcate working people with ideology almost identical to that of the business class. Specifically, they politically steer workers towards the very institution of the profit system – parliament – which is used to deceive working people that they have some form of “democracy”.

This is by no means done directly. Some Union officials openly back the Australian Labor Party (ALP), and urge workers in that direction. However, the ALP is itself so exposed on the question of refugee rights – it established the mandatory detention of refugees, as well as off-shore detention – that that option is often a no go. So in steps an organisation such as GetUp! – an ALP front if ever there was one. GetUp! was created in 2005, as a result of funding from some Unions. As it poses as simply an independent activist group, and initiates campaigns on popular issues – for refugee rights, against coal mining and so on – many are unaware as to its core political role. However, Liberal Party politicians are certainly aware of the overall role of GetUp! driving campaigns which easily fit into the agenda of the ALP and the Greens. They have pushed for an Australian Electoral Commission inquiry into its funding.[2] The Australian Workers Union (AWU) recently had its offices raided as a politicised action to discredit the ALP, and Opposition leader Bill Shorten specifically. While workers should resolutely condemn and oppose any raids on any Union offices, they should also seriously question why the officials of some Unions hand members money to bodies such as GetUp!

Refugee rights in the service of war

GetUp!, the labour bureaucracy and the ALP have a three way symbiotic relationship – one cannot exist without the other. GetUp! is the acceptable public face of the ALP, a Clayton’s ALP. The labour bureaucracy funds both GetUp! and the ALP, often against the express wishes of the Union members themselves. If GetUp! did not exist, the political crisis for the ALP and the labour bureaucracy would see the ALP slide further and further backwards. Some of this manoeuvring also assists the Greens, and they work together on similar campaigns. With regard to refugee rights, the rare involvement of GetUp! helps to play the role that the labour bureaucracy would themselves play if they were involved – shepherding and steering the refugee rights movement into a lobby group, begging and pleading for changes from the very politicians themselves responsible for the maltreatment of refugees.

As we have mentioned on several occasions previously, the refugee rights movement, such as it is, has a fatal flaw. It does not seek to highlight the reasons why refugees are created in the first place. Impoverished people fleeing the harsh economic conditions in the third world are one aspect. In recent years, however, a much larger proportion are fleeing the US led imperialist wars which have been waged around the world – inevitably with the backing of Canberra. Yet the activist refugee rights movement in this country is largely led by some misguided left parties which have not opposed these wars which have the potential to unleash World War III. These left parties have been some of the most vocal proponents calling for regime change in Libya and Syria – and the US/NATO juggernaut obliged. Refugees fleeing from the Middle East and North Africa were then welcomed by these refugee rights groups, the effect of which was to justify further war against sovereign countries.

It is true that these left parties were joined by others not inclined at all to socialism, but were welcomed as part of a “broad” movement. Unbeknownst to them, the labour bureaucracy via organisations such as GetUp! were ensuring that the refugee rights movement as a whole stayed well within the bounds of acceptable public discourse – nominally “anti-war”, but in practice calling for the downfall of the latest “dictator” the US had decided was the next target. In this respect, the labour bureaucracy ensured that the refugee rights movement perfectly aligned itself within the political spectrum of Australian imperialism. Despite notable exceptions from groups such as Hands Off Syria, there was little opposition to the Australian military’s role in helping the US bomb Syria under the false pretence of “fighting ISIS”.

Needless to say, with the world hurtling towards a World War III scenario, the refugee rights movement needs a clinical break from its previous practice of being manipulated by the politically savvy interests of private capital. For it was not only for the wars on Libya and Syria that the refugee rights movement was mobilised to flag wave. The US Empire is also in the throes of encircling Russia. NATO has installed 31 000 troops in Poland, has spent $3 billion on building up presence in the former Eastern bloc countries, in a “Cold War 2.0”.[3] NATO’s backing of fascists in Ukraine, sponsoring a coup, was also aimed squarely at Russia, along with the war to destroy Syria. When the former PM Tony Abbott openly blamed Russia for the shooting down of flight MH17, without a shred of evidence, the refugee rights movement – as with the liberal intelligentsia – were virtually silent. Can anyone imagine the refugees produced by a war against Russia?

Just as dangerous are the US led provocations against Red China. Furious at China’s socialist economy driving prosperity inside and outside the world’s largest country, the US ruling class knows it must act to contain China soon, or be eclipsed economically, diplomatically and politically. Too large to destroy in a one-on-one, the US deep state targets areas to break off from the People’s Republic, such as Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet and islands in the South China Sea. It also actively funds “NGOs” in the countries bordering China, including Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. It is Myanmar where the latest “humanitarian war” is being prepared, over hypocritical concern for the Rohingyas in the Rakhine state. Again, refugees will be created by the millions if a military conflict with China breaks out.

The other assault on Red China are the continual threats to its socialist neighbour, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or “North Korea”). All that the DPRK has ever stated is that if it is attacked, it will respond. Yet the US Empire, and not only President Trump, whips up such irrational demonisation of the DPRK that millions of working people regrettably do not question the wild allegations. In the last six months there has been the very real threat of nuclear war with the DPRK – a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. Yet, again, we have virtual silence from the refugee rights movement, and those who in the past prided themselves on their anti-war credentials. This is unfortunately not a coincidence. The refugee rights movement, to the mistaken left parties, to the labour bureaucracy, to the ALP, to the Greens, to GetUp! – all of them fall into line, some consciously, some not – behind the aims of Australian imperialism.

For labour action to free the refugees

This is why it is impossible to free the refugees on Manus Island (and Nauru) without a complete break with Australian foreign policy. This has to also mean a political break with those forces who consciously seek to impose its hegemony – parliamentarist parties, the labour bureaucracy, GetUp! etc – as well as with the waylaid left parties pulling up the rear. What is required is a direct challenge by Union members to the ideologically pro-capitalist Union officials, in the course of a struggle for a leadership which recognises no common interest between the employers and workers. This will inevitably require the forming of rank and file Union committees, which may need to be underground. Supporting these efforts must be the most keenly class aware workers, forming the basis of a Marxist vanguard party. Such a party would seek to both drive the urgently needed political action for the refugee rights movement, as part of a struggle to revive Union and class struggle for jobs, decent healthcare and education, public transport and other measures currently being eliminated by the capitalist crisis. It would also seek to mobilise workers in strident opposition to imperialist war, if need be by forming a workers government. EVACUATE MANUS ISLAND!  BRING THE REFUGEES TO THE MAINLAND!



PO Box  66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012


[1] (01-11-2017)

[2] (01-11-2017)

[3] (01-11-17)

Refugees on Manus Island raise their arms crossed to symbolise their lack of freedom. Image from

Shut down Nauru! For an Anti-Empire Refugee Rights Movement!

30-10-2016 – The United Nations (UN) refers to it as abuse. Amnesty International refers to it as torture. Others believe there are no words to describe the inhumanity dealt out to asylum seekers on the Australian run detention centre on the remote island of Nauru. The latest report from the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child highlights the “inhuman and degrading treatment, including physical, psychological and sexual abuse against asylum seeking and refugee children living in the Regional Processing Centres.”[1] The report also notes the concern that visas for journalists travelling to Nauru are now charged a non-refundable fee of approximately $10 000. A more blatant attempt at a cover up could scarcely be imagined.

Amnesty International’s report, titled Island of Despair, is even more damning. Amnesty researches interviewed detainees on Nauru and found a common tale of incredible mental assault, with any number of horrific practices being frequently used to deliberately break men, women and children, causing physical and emotional scars that will barely ever heal. Inside or outside the detention centre, Nauru is simply not safe for refugees and asylum seekers, and this is known to Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield), and the Australian Government. In fact, the report emphasises that it is the Australian state, not the Nauruan state, which is responsible for the detention centres. Amnesty concludes that “The conditions on Nauru – refugees severe mental anguish, the intentional nature of the system, and the fact that the goal of offshore processing is to intimidate or coerce people to achieve a specific outcome – amounts to torture.”[2]

The United Nations and Amnesty International, on these occasions, appear to be offering global humanity a service, in seeking to expose the virtually satanic aims of imperial powers such as the Australian capitalist state. Yet this view would be far too superficial. Institutions ranging from bodies such as the United Nations down to NGOs such as Amnesty International are decisively not opposed to the system which produces vast numbers of refugees – the global imperialist order. Therefore, working people must be on their guard when responding to any call to action by such bodies.

The “humanitarian” wing of the Empire

For example, both the United Nations and Amnesty International, for all of the laudable work exposing the crimes of the Australian government’s nefarious actions on Nauru, have at the same time facilitated  some of the very reasons why refugees have been created in the first place. UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Raad Al Hussein recently chimed in on the Aleppo situation, claiming it was a “slaughterhouse”. Trying to appear even handed, he condemned the firing of mortars by “armed opposition groups” into other parts of Aleppo, while claiming that indiscriminate bombing by the Syrian government and their allies was responsible for the majority of civilian casualties.[3] This is a barely concealed call for the West to hurry up and overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic. The fact that the West has attempted this for at least five years by arming, training and funding world history’s most barbarous mercenaries and sending them into Syria doesn’t rate on their moral spectrum. In a similar vein, in August Amnesty International claimed that 18 000 people have died in Syrian state jails since 2011.[4]  How the Syrian state could organise this, while simultaneously pushing itself to breaking point resisting arguably the worst dirty war waged by the West over the last 100 years, is anyone’s guess.

There are many reasons why millions become refugees, poverty and political persecution among them. But the primary reason in the last period is the wars of regime change which have been waged by the US, with the support of Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel (with the support of Australia) against Libya and Syria. Their proxy war in Syria is now presenting the world with imminent danger, as Russia’s efforts to defend Syria against annihilation have led to fury on the part of a US ruling class used to getting its way. World War is not an unlikely scenario, but the provocateur exemplar is the one and only Empire, led by the US ruling class.

This ruling class, backed by Canberra, London, Paris, Riyadh and Tel Aviv, has learnt how to manipulate basic human emotions such as compassion and solidarity for those in distress. It has artfully used this wicked skill to prosecute its imperialist wars, dragging in many which opposed previous imperialist wars, such as that against Iraq in 2003. Willingly signing up to do the propaganda ground work for the empire are organisations such as the UN, and a host of NGO’s such as Amnesty International, Save the Children, Medicines Sans Frontiers, AVAAZ and others. These organisations wax lyrical about “human rights” and saving refugees, while simultaneously issuing open calls for regime change in Syria – an effort which could very easily spark nuclear war. What we are presented with in fact is a pro-war refugee rights movement. Consciously or unconsciously, on our shores we find the Refugee Action Collective as an active protagonist.

The Imperial Left

To be sure, the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) contains many individuals who are genuinely horrified by the abuse of refugees – humans seeking a safe place to live – and are also bitterly opposed to war. Yet these individuals are led down a garden path into the parlour of the Empire by left parties which dominate RAC. All three, Solidarity (Sol), Socialist Alternative (SAlt) and Socialist Alliance (SAll) have been front and centre in efforts to rally those who support humane treatment of refugees behind the nefarious aims of the Empire, earning them the collective nickname of  the “Imperial Left”. They are backed by a certain constituency which, while justifiably enraged at the mistreatment of innocent people fleeing for their lives, see these as mistaken policies, rather than inherent workings of a profit gouging system based on the exploitation of wage labour.

The latest article on the war on Syria in Green Left Weekly, the newspaper of the Socialist Alliance, fails to oppose Australian involvement in the bombing of Deir ez-Zor, despite the Australian government immediately admitting it was involved. Despite evidence presented by Russia to the contrary, SAll go on to state that Russia was the most likely culprit of the bombing of an aid convoy in country west of Aleppo two days afterwards! [5] Despite backing away in recent years from their more open calls for the overthrow of Syria, the emphasising of Russia’s “crimes” pushes them and their supporters inexorably into the web of the US war machine.

SAlt has no such qualms – it has remained forthright in its calls for regime change in Syria from day one. It is at least honest, despite being on the wrong side. SAlt leader Corey Oakley’s latest article in Socialist Alternative’s paper Red Flag is explicit – in black and white it claims the three main parties to blame are Syria, Iran and Russia.[6] It goes on to urge people not to remain wedded to the “old” anti-imperialist position of “just” opposing the US Empire. This appears to be a clear call for active opposition to be directed at those who resist US plunder, i.e., Syria, Russia, Iran, China, etc.

Solidarity, to give them some credit, at least in words opposes Australian involvement in the war on Syria. Yet they also call for opposition for all “outside intervention” in Syria, seeking to portray their position as anti-war.[7] The clear difference, though, is that Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have either been invited into Syria by the Syrian government, and/or,  are co-ordinating their military operations with the Syrian armed forces. Sol also claims that the Iranian forces are “Shia-jihadist” as opposed to “Sunni-jihadist” – referring to the throat cutting mercenaries they call “rebels”.  If the Iranian forces are waging a “jihad”, it is against the US Empire. And the Iranians above all are aware of just how evil this Empire can be.

Refugee rights in the service of Empire

Is all this relevant to RAC called actions to close down the Nauru detention centre? If prosecuting imperialist wars of regime change, on either Iran or Syria, and closing down Nauru could be separated, this would assist immensely. However, this is not the case. At the RAC organised rally in Brisbane today, a keynote speaker is one Mojgan Shamsalipoor, who allegedly fled Iran and ended up in detention in Brisbane, after being taken from Yeronga High School. Ms Shamsalipoor is of the Baha’i faith, which claims to be persecuted in Iran. The Iranian government, for their part, regard the Baha’i as “Zionist spies”. Is this unfounded? Not when you consider that the Baha’i’s spiritual and actual head, the Universal House of Justice (UHJ) is located in Haifa, Israel. Despite this, the Baha’i are actually banned in Israel, as they are in Iran, and many other countries. Why? They have principles which hardly any country could accept as being promulgated, such as: ending national sovereignty, world government, universal currency, universal language, world tribunal, anti-communism, retention of constitutional monarchy, the abolition of non-Baha’i legal systems, the retention of a class system, the abolition of tariffs and an international police force![8]  With political principles such as these, it is a wonder that any country would allow the Baha’i to operate freely. Even so, in Iran, Baha’i are permitted to practice their religion amongst themselves. Yet why do Baha’i claim they are persecuted in Iran, but not in Israel, when in fact open Baha’i practice is banned in both countries?

Regardless of the circumstances of Ms Shamsalipoor, the imperial left parties, dragging RAC in its wake, pounced on the “Free Mojgan” campaign as a means by which to ramp up imperialist pressure on Iran – which is constantly targeted by the US for regime change, ever since its Islamic Revolution in 1979. It dovetails nicely into their five year agitation for US led regime change in Syria, which, if achieved, will almost certainly morph into a war for regime change on Iran. That is, if a nuclear war against Russia, provoked by US belligerence, does not finish us off first.

Break with the Empire!

It is not only the imperial left who shepherd workers back into the fold of their own oppressors. With a few exceptions, all of the liberal intelligentsia and “civil society” stand behind the Australian ruling class, and by extension, the US Empire, in its drive to war. For working people crucially, so does the Union officialdom. We do not know of one Union official, in any capacity, which has even spoken out against the war on Libya or Syria, or the war preparations by the West and NATO against Russia and China, let alone attempt to organise opposition to war amongst Union members and workers generally. With only a few exceptions, neither have any Union officials attempted to mobilise workers to defend refugees in any serious way. This is one of the Union leadership’s key betrayals – for if workers cannot defeat attempts to divide them, either by nationality or racism or refugee status – workers will not be able to defend themselves against the encroachments of capital.

Refugees on Australia’s borders do not fall from the sky – they are yet another symptom of capitalist class society in extreme crisis. It is intricately linked to the unbearable cost of living for working people, relentless assaults on Union organising in workplaces, the desecration of the natural environment – and most especially the wars for regime change being waged by the US Empire – inevitably backed by Canberra. These wars threaten to break out into an open war by the US Empire (US, Britain, France, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Israel and their allies) against those resisting imperialist domination, which are arguably preventing World War III – Russia, China, Iran, Syria and their allies. Working people have a military side with the anti-imperialist bloc. Politically, working people must push forward their own agenda of ending the basis for capitalist war – class struggle, ultimately leading to the workers replacing the capitalist state with their own socialist state. The conditions will then be created for the rational and humane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and indeed rational treatment of working people themselves. SHUT DOWN NAURU!

Workers League

PO BOX 66   NUNDAH  QLD  4012


[1] (27-10-2016)

[2] (27-10-2016)

[3] (28-10-2016)

[4] (28-10-2016)

[5] (28-11-2016)

[6] (28-10-2016)

[7] (28-11-2016)

[8] (28-10-2016)

Shut down Nauru! No wars of “regime change”! Full citizenship rights for refugees and migrants!

27-08-2016 – The Nauru files, a cache of 2000 reports totalling over 8000 pages, present yet more overwhelming evidence of worsening mental, physical and sexual abuse of refugees on the Australian run detention centre on Nauru. Around half of the files present evidence of serious harm to children. Refugees, who have committed no crime, are being subjected to grossly inhumane conditions which amount to nothing less than torture. The files are replete with stories of guards asking for sexual favours from female asylum seekers, beating children and dehumanising the detainees daily.[1] The files are reportedly grim reading for anyone with a shred of humanity.

The detention centre on Nauru is wholly the responsibility of the Australian government. Nauru is the world’s smallest island state, with a population of around 10 000 people. Although the Nauruan government signed the deal, it is not in a position to bargain equally with Australia, which has the world’s 13th largest economy. If the Nauruan government said no to the Australian government run detention centre, the Australian government could easily withhold much needed trade and basic supplies. The refugee rights movement is correct to point the finger directly at the Australian state.

While the refugee rights movement in this country is to be commended for its relentless activity and commitment, which has given the opportunity for those opposed to inhuman behaviour against innocents to mobilise, it also needs to take stock. The refugee rights movement has won some minor gains, but overall the situation remains dire. The Australian government has repeatedly given every indication that no amount of exposure of its crimes against human beings, no amount of damage to the international reputation of the country, and no domestic or international law will deter it from administering unparalleled brutality against those who are its convenient scapegoats. The Australian government rules for the interest of capitalism internationally. It considers that one of the most important duties it must carry out is to actively prevent workers from binding together against the “market forces” which are denying workers here a decent standard of living. If keeping working people blaming “refugees”, “migrants” and other “others” for their own misfortune means carrying out appalling human rights abuses against asylum seekers, then this is what they will do.

For this reason, if no other, the refugee rights movement will either move forward together with the labour movement, or they will fall back separately. It is in the direct interests of the workers to end the vicious mistreatment of refugees, so they can also fight back against their own mistreatment in the workplace, a direct product of the ongoing capitalist economic crisis. The refugee rights movement therefore needs to strategically orient to the labour movement, and seek to encourage it to enter the field of class struggle. It is noted that this is extremely difficult, as the major block towards mobilising workers in their own interests, as well as for basic humanity, is the ideologically pro-capitalist Union officialdom, which, with a few exceptions, so thoroughly integrates itself into the capitalist state that it virtually functions as an arm of the government. In an effort to overcome this, the refugee rights movement should at the least raise demands and slogans aimed towards workers as workers. There are many ways to formulate such demands, but one could be: Workers Demand – Shut Down Nauru!

Against War

The refugee rights movement as it stands carries out numerous actions in which working people and supporters of humane treatment of asylum seekers can be a part of. Groups such as the Refugee Action Collective are to be applauded for the organisational work they ceaselessly engage in. At the same time, there are severe political limitations which hamper its impact. For one thing, the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) – and the left parties which underpin it, such as Solidarity (SOL), Socialist Alternative (SALT) and Socialist Alliance (SALL) – make little or no attempt to explain one of the major drivers for the refugee exodus from the Middle East and North Africa – the US led wars for regime change in Libya and Syria. This is for very good reason – these left parties, to the last letter, have not opposed these wars, but backed them. This then flows on as the defacto position of RAC. In this, they are joined by the more mainstream Australian Greens, the labour bureaucracy sitting atop the Unions, and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) front groups such as GetUp! and “Love Makes a Way”. Despite their differences, all of these groups and left parties, RAC, the ALP, the Greens and conservative Union officials line up with the foreign policy of Canberra – tied as it is by a thousand threads to that of the US behemoth.

Make no mistake, the US led war for regime change in Syria has been perhaps the most dishonest of dirty wars ever waged in history. Professor Tim Anderson’s book on the subject has the apt title “The Dirty War on Syria”. The US Empire has been unequalled in the savage barbarism it unleashed in the form of “ISIS” and at least 20 other “Islamic” mercenary terrorist groups. It is an open secret that ISIS and all “opposition” groups in Syria was armed, and/or funded with aid from the governments of the US, France, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan, with assistance from Israel.[2] US Special Forces have entered Syria, and recently pictures emerged of British Special Forces on the ground in Syria.[3] The notion that the US and British troops are there to fight “against” ISIS is patently absurd. It is much more likely that they are in the process of securing patches of Syria as “ISIS-free zones” in order to occupy them themselves and thus facilitate the break-up of the Syrian Arab Republic. For years, Western governments have chanted in unison “Assad must go”, while arming the most reprehensible misanthropes in an effort to do just that.

The wholesale slaughter of men, women and children across Syria has necessarily forced some to flee the country, some becoming refugees within Europe, others fleeing further, including to Australia. At a certain point, imperialism itself used the refugee crisis to further its war agenda. Witness the outcry over the pictures showing a Syrian boy of Kurdish background being washed up after drowning trying to cross with his family from Turkey into Greece in early September 2015.[4] At that moment, groups such as GetUp! and RAC took the bait, and took the streets to demand “action” in Syria. Though unstated, the “action” they demanded was an outright imperialist war of conquest. Many genuine people were thus mobilised for a cataclysmic war, under the guise of concern for refugees.

It was soon after this that Russia finally drew the conclusion that if the US was to overthrow Syria, not only the Middle East, but the entire region could descend further into a conflagration which would almost certainly reach their doorstep. Thus on September 30 2015 Russia, at the invitation of the Syrian government, began a military campaign to eliminate ISIS and all mercenary terrorist groups seeking to overthrow the Syrian state.[5] The military campaign has been devastatingly effective in a military and political sense. Militarily, it has finally turned the tables decisively in the interests of the sovereignty of Syria. Politically, it has exposed the US role as the benefactors of ISIS and other terrorist groups, for the US did not want to harm its investments in Syria. Russia has also been joined by Iran, the Lebanese Hezbollah and most recently, China.[6] We should be clear, the intervention of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and China on the side of Syria has dealt a decisive setback to the aims of US imperialism, and thus these actions can only be supported by working people worldwide. This does not necessarily imply, however, political support for the governments involved.

Furthermore, the turning of the war against US imperialism can only improve the drastic situation for refugees, for now some Syrian refugees are already seeking to return to their home. For with the military might of Russia behind it, it is more unlikely that the Syrian government will be dislodged. It should also be noted that in practice the call to welcome Syrian refugees to Australia was deeply reactionary, in that the draining of the Syrian population from Syria can only ease the conditions for an ISIS victory. But this is precisely what RAC, its constituent left parties, and GetUp! et al overtly spruiked. It is a subtle call for the overthrow of the Syrian government – their aim all along. All of these groups, especially SOL, SALT and SALL, bizarrely refer to US armed mercenaries in Syria beheading their way across that country as “revolutionaries” – without ever being able to name a single group or individual. Thus, while refugee rights supporters should not oppose Syrian refugees coming to Australia, neither should we call specifically for it.

It would be remiss of refugee rights supporters to ignore the role of Canberra in the war for regime change in Syria. In fact, the former Liberal government dispatched Australian troops to Syria, along with six fighter jets, and claimed to be bombing ISIS targets. This has to be taken with a large grain of salt. The Australian ruling class is lockstep with Washington, whose aim has always been regime change. It is more likely that any such bombing clears the way for ISIS. However, this facet of the war became moot when Russia entered the war at the request of the Syrians. The Australian jets soon had to turn tail and run, lest they come up against the far superior Russian jet fighters.[7] Australia, however, still maintains its hardware and troops in Iraq and Syria. This does not assist anything except creating more war and thus more refugees. The refugee rights movement and working people here need to loudly demand: Australian Troops: Out of Iraq and Syria!

Link the refugee rights struggle to standards of living

One reason why the Federal Government’s deplorable treatment of refugees does not immediately provoke mass outrage is the deteriorating living standards which the recession prone capitalist economy has been imposing on Australian working people for at least the last 30 years. It is all too easy, in an economic environment where unemployment is rampant, housing virtually unaffordable, and health and education costs, together with basic services such as electricity and water are skyrocketing, to blame an “other” – in this case refugees. To cut against this, the refugee rights movement needs to link the efforts for humane treatment of those seeking asylum to the struggle to maintain decent living standards for working people. This way, workers can see that there is no contradiction between assisting refugees and asylum seekers, and improving living conditions for everyone here. For example, the refugee rights movement could demand that a job, a Union, housing, health, education and welfare services are entitlements of everyone living here, including refugees and asylum seekers. To undercut any concern about a lack of jobs to go around for Australians and refugees, the Union movement should demand and fight for a drastic reduction in the working week with no loss in pay, to share around the available work and allow all to take part in their communities. It should also demand automatic wage indexation to offset inflation. If the Unions could lead a determined struggle for these demands for all workers, angst towards refugees is likely to fade away.

Despite their pro-war stance, to their credit RAC demands permanent visas, instead of the agony of temporary visas, which allow refugees and asylum seekers to be deported at the whim of the government at any time. However, the refugee rights movement should go further and demand full citizenship rights for all refugees and migrants. There is no more basic right than to be acknowledged as a citizen, and thus have the right to access jobs, housing, healthcare, education, pensions, join a Union, apply for jobs in the public service, and so on. The ruling class does not have the right to decide who can be, and who cannot be, a citizen. To our knowledge, throughout history it is only social revolution which has won this simple democratic right. The first time was during the French Revolution of 1789, the second time was during the Paris Commune of 1871, and the third time was during the October Revolution in Russia in 1917. At that time, the new Soviet government made it clear that any working person, regardless of nationality, resident within the area covered by the victorious revolutionary forces would be welcomed. Before our movement reaches such heights, we need to demand full citizenship rights for all those who have made it to these shores.


Unfortunately, the depth of the economic recession has, in the absence of a strong left-wing alternative, produced ultra-right wing political excrescences such as One Nation, Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front. Mistakenly associating ISIS with Islam, these fascistic goons also blame refugees for the failures of “free enterprise”. The environment of war combined with the “war on terror” propaganda has resulted in some street attacks on those identifiable as “Islamic”. In response, we call for integrated workers defence guards, both to defend refugees and those who follow the Islamic faith, in order to secure peaceful communities for working people to live. At the same time, we give no endorsement of any religious views, recognising that these should remain a private matter.

We should be aware that even if we are able to win humane treatment of refugees here, the world’s refugee crisis will not be solved while capitalism rules five-sixths of the world. The global capitalist economic crisis generates ever more reckless imperialist wars, and flirts with world war against Russia and China. The vast inequalities created by “free markets” cause massive poverty as a matter of course, forcing people to flee in search of a better life. And this is to say nothing of the potential incineration of humanity via runaway climate change, which has already caused its own flow of refugees. The only hope for working people here, and not only to solve the refugee crisis, is to fight for a Socialist Republic of Australia, which can then link up with the existing socialist states in the Asia-Pacific, and reach out to the hundreds of millions of workers in Indonesia and Japan. This task requires the formation of a workers’ vanguard party, which is bound up with efforts to win a class struggle leadership of the Trade Unions. Shut Down Nauru!

Workers League

PO Box 66 Nundah QLD 4012


[1] (21-08-16)

[2] (22-08-16)

[3] (22-08-16)

[4] (22-08-16)

[5] (22-08-16)

[6] (22-08-16)

[7] (22-08-16)

Justice for ALL refugees! Labor, Liberal, Greens: No Choice!

18-06-2016 – The ruling of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Supreme Court that the refugee detention centre on Manus Island was illegal[1] has led to a situation where neither the PNG government nor the Australian government is willing to take responsibility for the approximately 850 refugees and asylum seekers trapped there. The Liberal Party Minister Peter Dutton continues to be unmoved, while the Labor Party in response, has outrageously reaffirmed its support for off-shore detention. Make no mistake, the two major parties are the architects and executioners of refugee and asylum seeker abuse in this country, and in the region. They coldly calculate that cruelty towards “others” from overseas, even those seeking a safe place to live, will be a vote winner while many workers in this country are encouraged to look for scapegoats for a lack of jobs, infrastructure, healthcare, education and unaffordable housing. The unspeakable horror dealt out to those either fleeing for their lives or simply seeking a better chance at life exposes the more than Machiavellian moves of these misanthropic spokespersons for abuse. For them, if torture equals votes, they have no issues with it.

Working people and those with even a modicum of human compassion recoil with loathing at such behaviour from so-called political “leaders”. Understandably, some then turn to what appears like the next available political option – the Australian Greens. Surely the Greens must stand for a principled position on the issue, and would take immediate steps to end this if in office – right? Actually, no. The last federal government, from 2010 to 2013 was an ALP-Greens coalition. The ALP governed with the support of the Greens. And it was in 2012 that the ALP-Greens government re-opened the detention centres on Manus Island in PNG and Nauru. Sure, the Greens mouthed some opposition, but their actions were somewhat different. Rather than threatening to, or actually, quitting the government over the issue, the Greens remained on the parliamentary benches and pointed accusing fingers towards the ALP. That is, the suffering of refugees and asylum seekers was nowhere near as important for them as retaining their overpaid parliamentary positions. This fact should indicate how the Greens intend to operate if there is another ALP-Greens coalition government which forms out of the coming Federal Election.

Previously, the Greens have written that, if elected, they would close down the “worst” detention centres.[2] Are there “moderate” detention centres? All detention centres mete out abuse, in a situation where the detention itself is illegal even according to the laws of the ruling class. The fact is that voting for, or even giving preferences to the Greens will not free the refugees. The refugee rights movement must face up to this fact. This is not because the Greens are not nice people. It is because the Greens, no less than Labor and Liberal, defend the capitalist system at all costs – even if they don’t like to mention it. It is the faltering profit system which is causing a breakdown of society – the lack of jobs, affordable housing and public transport, the stripping of basic civil rights, the massacre of the natural environment, and – the debasement of refugees and asylum seekers. These “facts on the ground” will not be altered no matter how many Greens Senators are allocated a parliamentary bench on July 2.

Electoral “change”

It might be objected, but the Greens can only do so much without governmental power. What if we were able to elect a government of Greens, or a government of Greens and other progressive parties and independents – a “government of the left” ? Surely that would be the end of the matter? Unfortunately not. Look at what happened in Greece. There an allegedly “left” party which called itself “radical” – SYRIZA – was elected in January 2015. It took them a few hours to form a governmental coalition with the far-right ANEL (Independent Greeks). The SYRIZA government then went on to impose even more crushing austerity than that they had said they were opposed to before being elected. Working people continue to suffer job cuts, wage cuts and a decimation of pensions and social services. And with regard to refugees and asylum seekers, time and again Greek riot police have been sent in to assault them. In December last year, SYRIZA Immigration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas declared that refugees had to either leave voluntarily, file a claim for asylum within 30 days, or be forcibly repatriated to other countries.[3] In the last couple of months, the SYRIZA government is doing its utmost to implement the European Union (EU)-Turkey deal, where any irregular arrivals in Greece are deported to Turkey. In response, even some generally apolitical NGOs have suspended their operations in protest.

The SYRIZA party was never left-wing, let alone radical, no matter what it called itself. And there is a world of difference between winning governmental power and state power. The SYRIZA fraudsters won governmental power – of a capitalist state. This meant that it would have to implement what the capitalists – either from the EU or domestically – ordered. They ordered more austerity, and refugee repression, and SYRIZA delivered. The only way this could have been avoided would be if SYRIZA was actually a socialist party, which aimed to prepare workers for the taking of state (not governmental) power. But SYRIZA, like the Australian Greens, have no intention of ever breaking with the capitalist system which provides them with electoral office. Hence refugees, asylum seekers – and working people – become entirely expendable.

War and refugees

Working people voting for, or preferencing, the Greens or the ALP not only crosses class lines. It actually enables the very conditions which create refugees. This is most especially apparent with regard to war. The Greens and the ALP have both fully endorsed the US-led proxy wars on Libya and Syria, from 2011 to this day. These wars have been a huge reason why there is a disastrous refugee crisis in Europe, with some of them fleeing to other parts of the world, including Australia. The danger of war is ever-present today, ultimately as a result of the inability of capitalism to restart industrial production. Consequently, we see the US war machine preparing extremely dangerous military provocations, not only in Libya and Syria, but along the border with Russia and along the border with China. If one of these flashpoints breaks into war, refugee numbers will explode. But the ALP and the Greens remain wedded to US imperialism, no less than the Liberal Party. A vote, or preference, for the ALP or the Greens is a vote for refugee producing war.

It is not only the Greens who enact a war agenda, despite some anti-war hot air. Some left parties which heavily influence the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) also, despite their intentions, fall into the pro-war camp. From 2011 until today, Socialist Alternative (SALT), Socialist Alliance (SALL) and Solidarity (SOL) have extended full backing to the appalling imperialist wars on Libya and Syria. In both cases, such groups have been outspoken in pleas for the destruction of the states of those countries, giving a blank cheque to the US Empire to do just that. Today, SALT, SALL and SOL clamour for regime change in Syria, while simultaneously denying that they are supporting the only forces attempting regime change – the US, Saudi, British, French and Turkish armed mercenaries of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra and Ahrar Al-Sham, amongst others. These barbarians, which operate in concert with the Israeli Defence Force,[4] have recently embarked on yet another wave of atrocities in the Syrian cities of Tartus and Jableh, explicitly targeting civilians.[5] This bloodbath, which slaughtered at least 100 Syrians, is part of a reigniting of the war by the US and its allies after being decisively rolled back by the Russian intervention on the side of the Syrian Arab Republic since September 30 last year. Despite these unspeakable acts, SALT, SALL and SOL variously refer to the NATO armed mercenaries in Syria as either “opposition”, “rebels” or “revolutionaries” !?!

The intervention of Canberra on the side of the US into this war has not caused these groups any pause for thought. Despite opposing Australia sending troops to invade Iraq in 2003, SALT, SALL and SOL join with the Greens in only mouthing muted calls, if any, against Australian military involvement in Syria. The Russian intervention, however, soon pushed Australian military hardware out of Syria. Australia, with a token few jet fighters, would not dare take on the might of Russia, and consequently the FA-18s were diverted soon after Russia began striking ISIS targets.[6] Refugee rights supporters, all working people, and all those opposed to war need to loudly demand a complete end to Australia’s involvement in yet another US led war for regime change. Australian troops: Out of Iraq and Syria!

There are many genuine people contained in RAC and other refugee and asylum seeker support groups, who are keen to help in any way they can to end the suffering of innocents. The problem is not one of a lack of people willing to help, but one of political strategy. RAC and the left parties which guide (or mislead) it continue with a political strategy of seeking the “unity” of all those who seek justice for refugees, regardless of political orientation, regardless of class, and therefore regardless of material benefit from the profit system. The ALP, the Greens, and the Union bureaucracy, all have their well remunerated positions guaranteed IF they guard the profit system by keeping social and political movements within certain parameters. The refugee rights movement is no exception – in fact it is a prime example. The ALP, the Greens and conservative Union leaders are very skilled at intervening into social movements in order to steer it in a direction which suits their needs. Refugee rights activists need to be aware of this, and need to be prepared to counter it. In fact, the refugee rights movement needs to be prepared to split from the influence of the parliamentary parties and the Union bureaucracy to give it a fighting chance of succeeding.

This does not mean that the backing of Unions is not necessary – for it is vital. Yet the conservative Union officials are a direct obstacle to the desperately needed mobilisation of workers for refugee rights. It would greatly assist if the refugee rights movement adopted an independent and pro-worker political basis. Rather than organise actions which gather a crowd before which the electoralist Greens or Union bureaucrats are allowed to self-promote themselves, rallies and meetings could be organised with an orientation which is independent of the parliamentary parties and with a pro-worker outlook. A workers’ rally with clear demands about ending the on-shore and off-shore detention of refugees would be a good start. If Greens or Union leaders wanted to speak, they would have to speak to the demands of the action, rather than their own agenda. In other words, the refugee rights movement needs to dictate the political terms to the Greens and the Union leaders, rather than ceding political control to them. This will require a refugee rights movement which is prepared to politically break with the Greens, Union bureaucrats and left groups which tail them – but it is vital if we are to ever end refugee torment in this country.

This political break cannot be fulfilled until working people are convinced that 1) NONE of the current parliamentary parties will or can act to end the suffering of refugees and 2) that political struggle independent of the parliamentary parties – and the elections they run in – must take priority and 3) such a political struggle must also remain independent of the self-serving Union bureaucracy, while never ceasing to demand these officials take serious action. The welfare of refugees AND that of the working class will either go forward together, or will remain isolated from one another, leading to yet another defeat for both. While working people cannot ignore the election process set up by the ruling class, neither should we be diverted into campaigns which only aim at pleading with political machines who know very well for whom they are acting.

The refugee rights struggle, therefore, is not simply one of cruelty versus compassion. Ultimately it is one of capitalism versus socialism. This is not just the case in the future – it is the case now, long before workers are prepared for a revolution. A socialist revolution involves a fundamental split in the social movements between all those who are employed or mislead by the old order, and their hangers-on, and all workers and their supporters who are risking everything to construct a new social order. In a similar way, decent treatment of refugees can only be won by those seeking a new order – workers and their supporters – with or without those who cling to the old world – the Greens, the ALP, Union bureaucrats and their left backers.


Workers League

PO BOX 66   NUNDAH   QLD   4012


[1] (23-05-16)

[2] (23-05-16)

[3] (23-05-16)

[4] (25-05-16)

[5] (25-05-16)

[6] (25-05-16)

Shut down ALL detention centres! Release the refugee prisoners!

29-04-2016 – Two recent events have once again shone the spotlight on the Australian Government’s barbaric system of refugee and asylum seeker incarceration.

Firstly, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea (PNG) ruled last Tuesday that the detention of refugees in their country by the Australian Government is illegal and unconstitutional. The case, initiated some two years ago by elements of the PNG Opposition, maintained that the constitution of PNG had been altered to benefit the government of a foreign country (Australia). The ruling, a stunning victory for elementary justice, is an example of ruling class law temporarily breaking from the control of Canberra, the centre of the region’s imperialist power.

Secondly, a horrific incident of self-immolation took place the very same day on Nauru. A 23 year old Iranian refugee set himself on fire, in protest at inhuman conditions being endured by those detained on Nauru. The incident appeared to coincide with the visit to the island by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees). A spokesperson said that the UNHCR was visiting the island to monitor the “seriously deteriorated mental health” of refugees and asylum seekers.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Executive Director Kenneth Roth told Lateline, “What does it take to self-immolate? It takes complete despair, it takes seeing a life before you which is no life.”[1] These words, while true in themselves, drip with the type of breathtaking hypocrisy which only a spokesperson for imperialism itself can utter. For at least five years Kenneth Roth has been the foremost agitator for the US led war of regime change on Syria. Over and over again, Roth repeatedly used his media platform to denounce the Syrian government for use of chemical weapons and “barrel bombs” against civilians – without providing a shred of evidence. These baseless lies were a crucial part of the attempt to overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic. The other main part was the arming of mercenaries and trucking them into Syria, where they would carry out unspeakable atrocities, including summary executions of innocent civilians. Roth’s role was that of a classical “psy-ops” operation. He loudly demonized the enemy – in this case the popularly supported Syrian government – to justify a genocidal war for regime change. This war, along with NATO’s war on Libya, has created unprecedented numbers of refugees across Europe and North Africa. Inevitably, some of those fleeing end up attempting dangerous journeys with the aim of seeking asylum in Australia. Canberra has played no small role in the US led war on Syria, deploying six Super Hornet fighting jets and up to 1000 troops – most of whom are stationed in neighbouring Iraq. The notion that these troops are fighting ISIS – primarily a US creation – is absurd. The refugee rights movement must demand: Australian Troops: Out of the Middle East!

The partial breakthrough the PNG government has offered the refugee rights movement must be capitalised on, for the sake of those refugees already incarcerated. But while this partial victory has been delivered by a generally conservative government, it would be a mistake to rely on further pleas to the Australian government to deliver justice for refugees. Not the least reason is that the Australian government is the very body which oversees the current detention travesty. Nor can we afford to rely on pleas to alternative governmental parties such as the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Greens. The last time these two parties sat on government benches, the off-shore nightmare was reincarnated by the ALP, and the Greens kept this government in power, albeit with a few verbal grumbles.

We should be clear – the appalling treatment of refugees is ultimately a result of the capitalist system entering a period of sharp decline. It is only the working class which has the unencumbered interest in the termination of the profit system via its overthrow. Therefore the struggle for refugee justice can only be definitively won by utilising the inherent power of the working class, especially through its Unions. It is organised labour which must lead the struggle to free the refugees, for Unions cannot effectively function while racist ideas retain any currency amongst working people.

The main obstacle standing in the way of the mobilisation of Unions is the conservative Union bureaucracy, who is tied by a thousand threads to the capitalist state and its political parties. Despite this, workers can position their officials so that they have little choice but to mobilise their base. Union members, where possible, should approach their officials in numbers.

The refugee rights movement can assist this effort by appealing directly to the interest of workers, rather than amorphous appeals to everyone to show compassion. While basic compassion is a pre-requisite for creating a better world, anyone can claim they are compassionate, irrespective of their class position. For example, human rights and welfare organisations, such as GetUp! and Amnesty International, along with governmental political parties such as the ALP and the Greens, all boast of their compassion, while in practice defending and strengthening the very system which facilitates the hideous abuse of refugees. Thus, in the same way in which the Union movement can only defend workers if it breaks with the capitalist state and its parties, the refugee rights movement can only free the refugees if it politically breaks with all those individuals, organisations and parties who only seek what are relatively minor reforms to the system – such as humane treatment for refugees, as essential as that is. Both in the immediate sense as well as in the long run, such reforms strengthen the system, rather than improve it.

It is worker unrest, or the threat of it, which has the potential to reverse the bi-partisan policies of persecution of refugees, not demonstrations of compassion, however well meaning. Similarly, the ultimate expression of worker unrest – revolution – is the only guarantee of liberation. It is socialism which corresponds to the interests of all working people, including desperate refugees from neighbouring lands. Before reaching such a goal, we must act according to the higher standards of socialist society – beginning with a defence of those fleeing from the operation of the current system of poverty, war and repression.



Workers League

PO BOX 66 NUNDAH   QLD   4012