October 1 – The most fearsome force on the planet is once again slamming missiles into the Middle East. Over the last few weeks the U.S. imperialists have bombed Iraq. Last week, they and their Saudi, Qatari and other lapdogs started bombing inside Syria. That was done without Syrian government consent – a violation of Syria’s sovereignty. Shortly after this attack, the Syrian Foreign Minister asserted that: “We have already stated that we consider any violation of Syria’s sovereignty as aggression.”

Australia’s capitalist rulers could not wait to get involved. The Liberal government– with 100% support from the ALP “opposition” – deployed troops to the Middle East to join the U.S. before any other country. These forces include 200 special forces troops as well as a RAAF group with eight Super Hornet fighter-bombers. Today, Abbott announced that these forces would start operations.

When the U.S. and Australia invaded Iraq last time it was done under the bogus pretext of destroying non-existent nuclear weapons. This time the excuse is to destroy the fundamentalist ISIS (“Islamic State”) group. Except that ISIS was one of the Syrian “Rebel” groups built up and trained by Washington – both directly in covert camps in Jordan and indirectly via its Turkish, Saudi and Qatari allies – for the sake of its proxy war against Syria’s government. Indeed, U.S. support for ISIS was so blatant that prominent U.S. senator, John McCain, not only expressed support to ISIS leaders in a meeting with the Syrian “Rebels” in May last year that was shown on CNN but was even in a photo shoot with none other than ISIS leader – “The Caliph” – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi!

ISIS are indeed cutthroats who subjugate women and murder non-Sunni minorities in the regions that they control. Yet how little this war actually has to do with stopping extreme religious terror is highlighted by the fact that one of the close U.S. allies bombing relatively secular Syria to supposedly stop the “Islamic State” is itself the most savage fundamentalist, “Islamic State” in existence, Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, women are forbidden from driving cars and hundreds of people – many exploited migrant workers – have been publicly beheaded in the last few years including for such “crimes” as adultery. Continue reading

Greetings for the October 1 Anniversary of China’s Great 1949 Revolution

17 August pro-PRC rally in Hong Kong was attended by over 110,000 people.

1 October 2014: Today in Hong Kong, the Western media are playing up the anti-PRC, anti-communist protests. The protests are indeed large but the Western media ignored a huge pro-PRC rally in Hong Kong just weeks ago. The main trade union federation, the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, is pro-PRC. The parliamentary party with the biggest vote in Hong Kong is the pro-PRC, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong. It was formed by pro-communist people and leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions.

Hong Kong was stolen from China by the British in the 1840s as part of the Treaty of Nanking. That followed China’s defeat in the Opium War. The humiliating treaty for China allowed Westerners in China to have “extraterritoriality” meaning that they were not subject to Chinese laws.

Under British rule, Hong Kong people had no democracy whatsoever. They were simply subjects of Britain ruled by the British Governor. This is something the media hide.

In 1967, there was mass workers struggle in Hong Kong. This was led by communist activists and the pro-PRC, Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions. The British colonial authorities responded by arresting hundreds of workers and murdering some 30 to 40 worker and communist activists. Many activists were simply beaten to death after arrest.

However, because of Hong Kong’s economically strategic location and harbour it became a wealthy port/transport hub and a financial and tourist centre. In a similar way to Singapore it creamed off the wealth produced by workers in surrounding regions. Therefore, Hong Kong has a large middle and upper-middle class. It is these layers  who are the backbone of the current, anti-PRC movement. The movement is even wrong by bourgeois-democratic principles. Hong Kong is just a tiny proportion of China – it has just 0.5% of the PRC’s total population. The protesters’ demand is the equivalent of people in Sydney’s wealthy financial district and harbour region demanding that they can completely determine their own area’s policies separate from the whole of Australia’s national laws – thus enabling them to keep for themselves the wealth which they have creamed off (through financial parasitism and payments for transport, retail etc) from the production taking place throughout the whole country.

The anti-PRC movement in Hong Kong is, of course, backed by the Western-funded NGOs. Although many naive, liberal young people have been sucked into the movement, the leaders of it understand that Western-style parliamentary “democracy” in Hong Kong would enable the anti-communist side to leverage capitalist wealth and influence to get their way.

Despite the privileged position of Hong Kong, with its large upper middle class, it is still very much a capitalist class society. There is a large and exploited working class there. There are tens of thousands of people in Hong Kong living in what can only be described as cages –  tiny, semi-underground pens. When I was there in 2010, I noticed that there was a much higher proportion of homeless people there than in the mainland. Also unlike in the mainland PRC, the police in Hong Kong are racist. Whereas in the mainland it is state-owned companies that dominate the economy, in Hong Kong it is powerful capitalist tycoons, often linked with organised crime (or they are simply the triad bosses themselves) that rule. Asia’s richest man is Li Ka-shing, the Hong Kong tycoon who owns Hong Kong’s ports among many other things.

The PRC leaders, as part of their wavering policies, have done the wrong thing by allowing a “one country, two systems” formula where Hong Kong is allowed to maintain a capitalist system. This has allowed pro-capitalist forces great influence and thus enables the current anti-PRC movement to have life. The current policy should be reversed or else pro-capitalist elements in the mainland will also be emboldened by the Hong Kong “pro-democracy” movement.

The policy should be “one country, one system of socialism!” The companies and wealth of Li Ka-shing and the other capitalists in Hong Kong should be ripped from their hands and put into public ownership. The banks, insurance companies and ports in particular must become state-owned. This will not only provide the public resources in Hong Kong to put an end to homelessness and free those living in the cages from their horrible existence but will enable Hong Kong’s wealth derived from its location to be at least partly shared with all of China’s 1.4 billion people. The defeat of the capitalists in Hong Kong would also win the PRC the trust and more active support of Hong Kong’s working class and would undercut the present, anti-communist movement.

Praba, Trotskyist Platform Mailout Organiser



July 3 – Over the last four months, tens of thousands of people have been marching in large rallies protesting against the right wing Abbott regime. The first budget of the Liberal-National government has rightly enraged working class people, students and leftists. In measures that will hurt the working class, retrenched workers and the poor the most, Treasurer Hockey’s budget has slashed funding for public hospitals and will make people pay a $7 fee for each doctor’s visit. The latter measure is likely to be the thin edge of a wedge aimed at slicing up any semblance of universal health care. Resources for Aboriginal services will be slashed, public funding for universities will be cut by 20% and graduates will have to pay their tuition fee debts back when their incomes are lower. People on the Disability Support Pension are to face nerve-wracking “re-assessments” of their eligibility for the pension. Most cruelly, unemployed people under the age of thirty are to be thrown off payments for six months a year. This will surely lead to even more homelessness, poverty and youth suicide.

Sensing public sentiment, opposition parties have come out against several budget measures. Even greedy tycoon Clive Palmer and his conservative party have stated their intention to vote against some measures. ALP leaders have tried to restore their battered credentials with their working class base by denouncing the unfairness of the budget to low and middle income people. But let us not forget that the previous government, for the most part a de facto Labor-Greens coalition, also made life harder for the poor. The former ALP/Greens government cruelly drove 84,000 low income single parents – mainly single mothers – into extreme poverty when they threw them off the parenting payment onto the much lower Newstart Allowance. Furthermore, the last government undermined public housing. In 2010, then housing minister Tanya Plibersek – a supposed “Left” who today is Labor’s main spokesperson at anti-Abbott rallies – worked together with the then state ALP government to plan the sell-off of public housing from NSW’s biggest public housing estate at Claymore. Plibersek’s program, which saw a large number of public dwellings sold off, is now being carried through further by the present state Liberal government. Continue reading

Support the Palestinian Struggle for Self-Determination! Defend Syrian Self-Determination Against NATO’s Proxy Armies!


July 16 –A child, his brother and an elderly woman – murdered by the latest Israeli strike on the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis. The incessant Israeli air strikes over the last eight days have devastated Gaza and many of the Palestinian people who have been killed are children. There must be mass mobilisations of the international working class, leftists and all opponents of racist oppression to demand: Down with the genocidal Israeli onslaught on Gaza! Lift the blockade of Gaza – Open all border crossings! Israeli troops and settlers out of all the Occupied Territories!

Hamas has responded to the siege of Gaza with rocket attacks on Israel: desperate attempts at self-defence by the vastly outgunned people of Gaza. Only one Israeli has been killed since July 8 – a person hit by mortar fire while handing out food to the murdering Israeli troops. In contrast, the Israeli onslaught has already killed 208 Gazans, mostly civilians. This is not war but a one-sided slaughter of the subjugated Palestinian people by the bloodthirsty Israeli rulers. Yet, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the leaders of other imperialist countries including Australia, Middle East “peace envoy” Tony Blair (that despicable former Labour British PM) and the mainstream media have all cynically sought to blame Hamas for the carnage: political support that, alongside the massive U.S. military and economic aid, has enabled the bloodshed and subjugation to continue. Continue reading




22 July – Sinister forces are trying to infect society with a dangerous disease. The disease of fascism. On July 26th in Sydney two extreme white supremacist groups are planning provocations aimed at inciting racist violence. Firstly, at 11am the Freedom Party of Australia plan to picket outside a Woolworths store in Marrickville in opposition to Woolworths putting “Happy Ramadan” signs on some stores as a marketing method. This protest by the fascists has nothing to do with supporting secularism and everything to do with whipping up hatred against Muslims, Arabs, North Africans and South Asians. Thus, the call for the fascist demonstration features inciteful and ridiculous claims that celebrating Ramadan is equivalent to supporting terrorism, paedophilia and world domination by Muslims. Then at 1:30pm, the Australia First Party, led by former Australia Nazi party activist Jim Saleam, plan to hold a forum at their Tempe bunker titled, “Overseas Students Go Home.” This group no doubt hopes to stir up a wave of violent assaults and even murder of Indian and Chinese students like the horrific wave that swept Australia in the 2009-10 period. The two fascist events on July 26th are aimed at recruiting to and organizing for racist violence. They present an immediate danger to Asians, Arabs, Africans, Aboriginal people and other non-white people. These events are also an immediate threat to the interests of the entire working class. The extreme racism that they will pour into society is absolute poison to workers’ unity – the unity without which workers cannot organise to fight for their rights against exploiting bosses. Thankfully, left-wing autonomous-minded activists around the Black Rose library have taken the worthy initiative of calling for a counter-action against the July 26th fascist provocations. They are calling for people to gather at 11am outside the Woolworths at 463 Illawara Rd, Marrickville to stop the disgusting anti-Muslim action by the “Freedom Party.” After that provocation is dealt with, anti-racists may then move on to picket the sinister AFP meeting in Tempe. Continue reading

Fight for Proper Maintenance of Public Housing! Stop the Neglect, Stop the Sell-Offs! The Suffering of a Public Housing Tenant


photo 3

April 30 – How would you feel if the children you are caring for had to live in a house where the leaks are so bad that not only does the kitchen and dining room flood when it rains but the penetrating water causes short circuits that present a potentially fatal electrical hazard to occupants? Unfortunately, this is just a part of what one tenant and the children she cares for had to go through as a result of the wilful neglect of her landlord. However, her landlord is not just any landlord. Her landlord happens to be the government as she is a public housing tenant.

The tenant, sixty year-old Virginia Hickey, wants her story told as she knows that many others living in public housing are going through similar experiences. Ms Hickey (known affectionately as “Aunty Bowie”) has lived in her house in Douglas Street in the inner city Sydney suburb of Waterloo for many years. She is the primary carer for two of her grandchildren and, additionally, two younger grandchildren, one with a serious diabetic condition, stay with her on weekends.

The family’s ordeal actually began several years ago. Maintenance on the home was so neglected by the housing authorities that the whole place was falling apart: the stove was not working, the taps were faulty and everything from the roof to the walls to the flooring were in a terrible condition. Eventually, after pressing the authorities for years they seemingly acquiesced to her requests. In March 2010, Spotless, the company which has the contract with the Department of Housing for the maintenance of her home, finally organised for the renovation to begin. Yet, this so-called “renovation” was done in a half-baked, reckless and arrogant manner. Thus, when Spotless asked Ms Hickey and the children to vacate the premises during the renovation, they did not provide any alternate accommodation. Instead, the Hickeys had to find accommodation for themselves. Virginia Hickey was initially told that the renovation would take six weeks. Instead, it took 11 months! They were forced to live away from their home for eleven months! You might think that after this 11 months that at least the quality of the renovation would be of a high standard. However, the very opposite was the case. Half the roofing had not been fixed, a door was loose and the toilet and the shower were still not repaired. Furthermore, Spotless performed the maintenance in such a reckless manner that they contaminated most of the furniture and goods in the home. Thus, the family’s furniture and beds and much of their clothes, shoes and personal items were marked as “contaminated” and were subsequently taken away to be dumped. Virginia Hickey was only offered an insulting amount of compensation for the loss of the family’s goods which she, understandably, rejected. Continue reading


March 20 – Thousands of people have protested in recent weeks against the Abbott regime’s brutal war on refugees. The latest atrocity to spark protest was a rampage against refugees by guards at Australia’s Manus Island detention centre in PNG. On February 17, these guards unleashed murderous violence. Backed up by PNG police – who like other state institutions in Papua New Guinea are largely subservient to Australian imperialism – they attacked the detainees with sticks and machetes, murdering 24 year-old Kurdish asylum seeker, Reza Berati, and injuring 77 other refugees.

The recent large pro-refugee rights rallies have brought out a wide variety of people. Many are youth passionately opposed to racism. Some are small-l liberals who see the cruelty against refugees as a blot on the copybook of an otherwise fair society. Yet the despicable treatment of refugees is actually typical of the record of capitalist Australia – from genocidal terror against this country’s first peoples to the anti-Chinese pogroms of the late 1800s and right through to the 2005 white supremacist riot at Cronulla Beach. Indeed, just three days before the Manus Island rampage, supporters of slain Aboriginal youth TJ Hickey marked ten years of the cover up of his murder by racist police in Redfern. The previous week, one of the four police officers who were surrounding an Aboriginal woman, Sheila Oakley, in her own home south of Brisbane, barbarically fired a taser straight into her eye and blinded it.

The Coalition’s war on refugees is naked. Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott rant hardline refugee bashing speeches. ALP politicians have made some criticisms of Morrison’s lies about the Manus events. But, in case anyone thought that the ALP was considering shifting its own racist policy, ALP immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, made his party’s stance all too clear:

“We cannot afford for the Manus Island detention facility to fall over.”
“It is the cornerstone of Australia’s strategy in terms of reducing the flow of boats from Indonesia.”
– ABC News Online, 19 February

Indeed, it was the Keating ALP government that first introduced mandatory detention in 1992. And let’s not forget that the Rudd government Version 2.0 introduced the extreme policy of sending all refugee arrivals to the Manus hellhole. The ALP leaders have as much of the blood of Reza Berati on their hands as does the right wing Coalition!

There are some within Labor ranks that do oppose aspects of the war on refugees. However, the ALP leadership fully embraces anti-refugee racism because that flows naturally from their support for the capitalist order – a system of exploitation that necessarily compels the ruling class to promote racism in order to divide and divert the working class people that they exploit and thus prevent the exploited masses from rising up against them. Today, as the ultra-rich bosses intensify their attacks on workers’ unions and savagely slash jobs – from WesTrac to Holden to Qantas – they and their hounds in government are intensifying the scapegoating of refugees and migrants. That’s why if the working class is going to be able to focus its own against the powerful capitalist enemy then it must actively challenge racist scapegoating of refugees. Mobilise trade union power to demand: Close all the detention centres! Residency with full citizenship rights for all refugees and migrants imprisoned in Manus Island, Christmas Island, Villawood and everywhere else!

Importantly, at recent pro-refugee actions there has been a presence from some unions including the MUA, Teachers Federation and ASU. This now needs to be urgently converted from the presence of a small number of officials to the actual mass mobilisation of union ranks – thereby laying the basis for actual industrial action. Because striking workers can bring industrial production to a standstill, the working class has the power to defeat all the schemes of the racist, rich ruling class. But how can mass union support be achieved? It is not simply a matter of lobbying union officials. To be able to win significant union support, we must convince the most active layers of the unions that defending refugee rights is an important part of bolstering the union’s very ability to resist the greedy bosses. That means pro-refugee demonstrations need to feature slogans in their rally leaflets that clearly point out how defending refugees is crucial for strengthening workers’ unity across racial lines and achieving the kind of solidarity that can lead to the defeat of the powerful capitalist bosses. The refugee rights movement must bring together the fight for refugee rights with the struggle for workers emancipation into one, unbeatable whole. Continue reading



It’s one of the most horrific crimes imaginable: a police vehicle ramming the back wheel of a 17-year-old boy’s bicycle and sending him flying through the air to be impaled on a spiked metal fence. Ten years ago, this is exactly what happened to an Aboriginal boy called TJ Hickey after racist cops in another police vehicle chased him through the streets of Redfern. Then, violating the standard emergency procedure of sawing off the fence so that the stake could be carefully removed in hospital, police barbarically ripped TJ from the fence and threw him to the ground. Even as TJ lay bleeding, police proceeded to search him rather than immediately call for an ambulance! The next day, TJ died of his gruesome injuries.

TJ’s killing has been followed by ten years of cover up by the police, courts and various governments. In the meantime, the rate at which black people die at the hands of state authorities continues unabated. In one case in January 2012, Kwementyaye Briscoe died in Alice Springs after being taken into supposed “protective custody” for merely being drunk. Even NT coroner, Greg Cavanagh, admitted that police flung Briscoe onto a desk, left him bleeding on the ground, dragged him along the floor to his cell and failed to give him any medical treatment even though they knew he was by then in a comatose state. Their heinous actions caused Kwementyaye to die. Since 1980 over 500 Aboriginal people have died in custody.

Without any doubt, Aboriginal people cop the worst police brutality in Australia. However, the racist authorities also target working class youth of African, Asian, Islander and Middle Eastern origin. Last June, 17 year-old Sudanese youth, Einpwi Amom was tasered by police even when he was handcuffed and surrounded by six cops. Einpwi’s alleged “crime” was that he had sworn at officers. When Einpwi tried to run away from them, he hit his head on the stairs of Blacktown station. He lost consciousness for two minutes only to wake finding cops brutalising – and then tasering – him. Fortunately, a friend managed to capture footage of the attack on her phone. Yet such cop brutality is all too common in working class suburbs. Even low-income white people – such as public housing tenants – can face police harassment. Indeed, the simplest Marxist analysis shows that the main role of the police, courts, army, Royal Commissions, prisons and other state organs in a capitalist country is to enforce the rule of the rich, big business owners over the working class that they exploit. Although cops sometimes do catch real criminals, whenever the exploited masses stand up for their rights the police’s main function becomes all too clear. Thus, in August 2012, mounted police in Melbourne violently attacked the picket lines of building workers who were struggling against the attempt of greedy tycoon Daniel Grollo’s firm, Grocon, to undercut workplace safety and drive out the CFMEU union.

The racism of the police force comes directly from their role as the bully boys for the ruling class in Australia. The all important unity of the working class is constantly threatened by the bosses’ divide and rule tactics in which whipping up racism plays the lead role. And the ruling class seeks to divert onto Aboriginal people and non-white “ethnic” communities the masses’ frustration about the constantly declining state of social services and their day to day basics of existence. But the ruling class’ oppression of Aboriginal people has an added dimension – it is aimed at perpetuating and justifying the conquest of the first peoples of this land. Indeed, the “culture” of the police and legal system in this country is inherited from one of their major founding functions – to drive Aboriginal people from their land, to carry out murderous “expeditions” against Aboriginal people who resisted and to at various times attempt outright genocide.

Yet, despite this vicious capitalist state determination to bury the truth about TJ’s murder, his family has courageously continued to demand justice. Upon every anniversary of the police crime against TJ, they and their anti-racist supporters have marched in protest. This year’s 10th Anniversary March will rally at 10:30am, February 14 at the corner of George and Phillips Streets in Waterloo. Trotskyist Platform urges all our friends to join this march and to do so understanding that no justice will be granted by any benevolent act of the racist, capitalist authorities. It will have to be won by united action of all those targeted by the state that murdered TJ – Aboriginal people, militant trade unionists, ethnic minorities and the poor.


Those running the campaign for TJ have sincerely been through every legal process in the book in their quest for justice. First, they had to bear listening to the findings of a police inquiry into TJ’s death that was, as expected, a total cover up. Then the coronial inquiry was yet another whitewash. Eyewitnesses who saw TJ’s bike being rammed were prevented from testifying and the bike itself was held by the police and not presented to the coroner. Then, last April, TJ’s mother, Gail Hickey, and the Indigenous Social Justice Association met NSW Attorney General, Greg Smith. Smith made vague promises but ten months later nothing – of course – has happened. The state institutions have continued to cover up TJ’s murder whether NSW has been administered by the ALP regime that was in power when TJ was killed or by the current conservative coalition. Federal governments have impeded justice – and will continue to do so – whether it is the Liberal/Nationals or the ALP or even the ALP/Greens who are in power. With the authorities slamming one door after another, some involved in the campaign have become demoralised and fear that justice can never be won. Instead, they think that the best that can be achieved are token gestures such as an apology from the NSW parliament. Yet what the denial of justice for TJ really proves is that justice certainly cannot be won through the current presiding strategy of the campaign. The hope that in some corner of the system there will be someone willing to stand up for justice has been dashed every step of the way. All the whitewashes demonstrate this. Rather than appealing to state institutions, justice for victims of police brutality can only be won by mobilising in opposition to this state. A united opposition of all those who are ultimately in the gun sights of the racist, bosses’ state. A campaign that is so uncompromising that the authorities out of fear are forced to concede justice.

Many Aboriginal people do understand that the state authorities are their enemy. This was seen in the heroic February 2004 struggle of hundreds of mainly Aboriginal youth in Redfern. In response to TJ’s murder, they held back heavily armed cops in a nine hour pitched battle that resonated with and inspired oppressed people all over the world. This Redfern struggle, along with the November 2004 resistance on Palm Island (that saw up to 15% of the island rise up to burn down the police station and courthouse in response to the whitewash of the police murder of Mulrunji Doomadgee) will one day take its place alongside the heroic deeds of Pemulwuy, Yagan, Windradyne, Jandamarra and many others who led Aboriginal resistance to the colonial invaders. The heroes of Redfern and Palm Island demonstrate the courage needed to really oppose the racist, rich people’s state. But to triumph today, Aboriginal resistance must also have behind it the support of “ethnic” communities (who themselves face racism), anti-racist activists and most crucially the industrial power of the organised workers movement. Once big business owners who run the country see their profits being hurt by trade union industrial action against racist police terror then they will be forced to rein in their marauding thugs in blue.

How the idea of working class action in defence of Aboriginal people can be made a reality was seen in the campaign in defence of Palm Island resistance hero Lex Wotton. The Sydney-based campaign simply demanded that the enemy drop all charges against Lex. It made no appeals to any state institution whatsoever to be a vehicle for justice. Instead, the movement openly appealed to the common class interests that workers have in defending Lex and in opposing state oppression of Aboriginal people. Thus the calls for the rally in the lead up to Lex’s trial emphasised that:

The subjugation of Aboriginal people is an extreme form of the repression that the authorities are also unleashing against trade unionists who stand up for workers’ rights. The ABCC construction industry police are spying on and intimidating CFMEU construction union members and continue to initiate jail-carrying charges against individual union activists.

Thus the movement was able to win the support of the Sydney Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). This culminated in a stop work action by all Sydney port workers on 7 November 2008, the day Lex was being sentenced by a Townsville Court. Although it was not powerful enough to stop Lex being jailed, the burgeoning movement and the MUA stop work compelled the authorities to give Lex a notably lighter sentence than the ten years plus sentence that they had been planning.

Today, with the Abbott regime openly threatening repression against unions, especially the CFMEU, there is much potential to show workers the common interest that they have with others targeted by the bosses’ state – like Aboriginal people. A strategy like the one that the campaign for Lex’s freedom was waged on is what we need for the campaign for TJ. However, success will not simply depend upon what the campaign itself does. To ensure that the MUA stop work in defence of Lex is the norm rather than the exception for the union movement, we must struggle to replace the pro-ALP ideology and leadership that currently dominates our unions with a Marxist program of struggle based on opposition to this racist, capitalist state. As that struggle develops then not only will we be able to more powerfully fight for justice for TJ, Mulrunji, Eddie Murray and Brazilian student Roberto Laudisio, to sadly name but a few of the victims of racist state terror in Australia. We will eventually be able to sweep away the entire capitalist state so that not only horrific racist state crimes – like the murder of TJ – but also the incessant exploitation of long suffering workers will be but things of the past. Justice for TJ!

PDF Version of Article: TJ10thAnniversaryRally1_for_colour_print




8 January 2014 – Billionaire Kerry Stokes has been “busy” cruising around in his luxury yacht. He is riding high. But the same can’t be said for the workers whose toil made him his fortune.  Last month, workers at one of Stokes’ Seven Group subsidiaries, heavy machinery supplier WesTrac, were told that 630 of them would be retrenched.  These workers are among tens of thousands who are being laid off across the country.  Last September, Telstra announced that it was axing 1,100 workers. And this is after its owners made an obscene $3.9 billion profit last year. Although the media like to focus on jobs lost through off-shoring, these recent Telstra cuts – like most job slashing in Australia – has little to do with that. Most of the Telstra jobs axed in this latest round are those of line maintenance technicians – hardly roles that can be off-shored. Telstra’s latest profit grab is about cutting jobs by driving remaining workers harder and by reducing service quality to the public.

What has especially highlighted the jobs crisis was General Motors’ announcement last month that it will axe 2900 jobs and end manufacturing in Australia in 2017. This follows Ford’s announcement that it will slash 1,200 jobs and stop manufacturing here. The combined effect of the closures on parts manufacturers means that over 50,000 workers in all could lose their jobs in the automotive sector. This will not only be devastating for workers but shows the basic irrationality of capitalism in that skills built up over many decades will now be lost. And the trend of workers being ripped away from permanent jobs in unionised workplaces and dumped into insecure, casual jobs – where workers have little chance of learning skills and enjoy minimal rights – will be all the more deepened. As usual, the car bosses have justified the layoffs by crying poor. This is a scam! The $153 million loss that GM made last year in its Australian Holden operations – after paying for fat management salaries – is dwarfed by the $4.9 billion profit that it made worldwide.  Thus GM’s owners, who include billionaire Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway which holds a $1.4 billion portion, would only lose 3% of their profits if they kept the jobs of the soon to be axed Holden workers.

Enough is enough! It is high time for the working class and its allies to act. We cannot allow the likes of Kerry Stokes’, whose Seven Group made a huge $486 million profit last year, to get away with his firm axing jobs at its WesTrac subsidiary just so that he can suck even higher profits to buy even more extravagant mansions. We need to say to the capitalist owners: we are simply not going to allow you to slash jobs. We are going to force you to keep employing more people than you think would be ideal for maximising your profits and you will have to wear this. And if that means you are going to have to sell one of your luxury yachts and delay buying your private jet – then tough!  And if having a larger workforce means that you will be pushed to lower your prices in order to sell the extra production that a larger workforce could bring then all the better for it!

However, the corporate bosses-loving Abbott regime sure isn’t going to help us stop company owners from slashing jobs! Indeed, many in his ministry seemed to be partly happy about the crumbling of the car industry – since they know that workers in this sector are a bastion of trade unionism and once upon a time even had a reputation for class struggle militancy. Yet whether it is the ALP, the Greens or the Palmer United Party, none of the opposition parties also ever talk of measures to make it illegal for the corporate bosses to cut jobs. Thus, while the ALP leaders would actually like to be able to appease their working class support base by campaigning to save the jobs of GM and other workers, their subservience to the capitalist “order” and its principle that business owners have the “right” to do whatever it takes to maximise their profits means that they are completely incapable of preventing the job cuts. All the ALP could propose over the crisis facing Holden workers is to offer more handouts to GM – an idea they soon dropped. For the over $2 billion that governments handed over to the Holden bosses over the last 12 years did not stop them from axing their workers’ jobs. In the end, what handouts to companies actually do is to divide workers as workers in other sectors, whose taxes in good part fund government handouts, are made to feel resentful that they are propping up workers in a particular sector when their own jobs are also on the line. Indeed, any handout to GM effectively means that workers are, in good part through their taxes, handing over tens of millions of dollars to the likes of the billionaire Warren Buffett. One is reminded of the obscene spectacle that took place in November 2008 when the heads of GM, Ford and Chrysler flew into Washington to beg the U.S. government for a bailout, all arriving in their luxurious private jets!

If the Capitalists Can’t Provide Jobs for Workers Then the Economy Should Be Taken Out of Their Hands

Despite the nature of all the current parliamentary parties, the working class is far from powerless to stop job cuts. Strong union industrial action could force companies planning job cuts to retain their workers. For such action could compel business owners to realise that industrial action could cost them far more than the profits they will save by having a smaller workforce. The potential to stop the job cuts at Telstra and WesTrac is especially strong as not only could workers’ strikes shut down their hugely profitable operations in Australia but many of the workers in these firms are union members.  Moreover, solidarity action by workers at other parts of Stokes’ Seven Group – including Channel 7, equipment hire company Coates Hire and lighting supplier AllightSykes – could really bulldoze his moves to bury jobs at his WesTrac subsidiary.

The situation is slightly different at Holden given GM plans to shut down its manufacturing in Australia. Yet, if Holden workers were to occupy GM plants at Elizabeth (in Adelaide) and Port Melbourne insisting that they will not allow GM to sell the billions of dollars in equipment there then these workers would find thousands of workers at supplier companies and hundreds of thousands of other sympathetic workers supporting their battle to save their jobs.  However, to override GM’s job slashing also requires workers at GM’s profitable operations in places like South Korea and the U.S. to take solidarity action with Holden workers here. Workers at GM’s South Korean subsidiaries have already waged militant struggles and although U.S. GM workers have not taken such action for years, U.S. GM plants are still among the most unionised sites in the U.S.A.  In 1998, the knock-on effect from a 54 day strike by over 9,000 workers at GM’s Flint component plant in Michigan ended up shutting down nearly 30 GM assembly plants and 100 components plants across the U.S. and ended up costing GM bosses nearly $3 billion.

However, if we are going to have the struggle that we need, there needs to be a radical change in our unions. Reflecting the politics of their ALP mates in parliament, most current union leaders accept the notion that for workers’ jobs to be safe, company profits must be maximised. Yet it is precisely in the drive to maximise profits that bosses are slashing jobs. The dominance of this ideology that workers’ welfare depends on capitalist business success has allowed the bosses to gut workers’ rights, casualise large chunks of the workforce and weaken our unions without our side putting up the resistance that could have smashed these attacks. Furthermore, the union tops’ approach makes the workers movement vulnerable to bosses’ threats that unless workers accept reduced conditions, profits will suffer and the bosses will be “forced” to cut jobs. This is precisely the threat that Toyota is making as they callously feed off workers fears following the Holden layoffs.

Workers at unionised workplaces will be the spearhead in the fight to defend jobs and a powerful struggle waged by these workers could spur on the building of unions at currently non-unionised sites. However, in the struggle against job losses, we need to unite union workers with workers at currently non-unionised sites as well as with unemployed workers and with working class youth worried about their future job prospects. To build such united struggle, we should launch a campaign of industrial action and rallies to demand laws that restrict the “right” of profitable businesses to slash jobs. In waging a struggle for such demands we should have no illusions that the pro-capitalist governments will in any way be on our side. Instead, we should see our fight as being aimed at forcing concessions from the enemy – just like in the past our struggles have won laws granting certain minimum leave entitlements and maximum working hours. Among the demands that such a movement could fight for are:

That no enterprise can retrench workers’ jobs if it or its parent company is currently making a profit.

That no firm can slash jobs if its total profit over the previous four years exceeds the total wages of all the potentially axed workers.

An end to and a reversal of all the draconian public sector job cuts which Liberal and ALP state governments have implemented in recent years and which Abbot’s Liberal/National Coalition want to deepen at the Federal level.

Fighting for such demands will help start to mobilise action around the truth that fighting to save workers’ jobs means forcing the bosses to wear lower profits. As a class-struggle movement for jobs develops, our demands should not stop with this. We must emphasise the demand for full employment at the capitalist bosses’ expense – through reducing the working week with no loss in workers’ wages to the level needed to spread the available work around among all those who want to work.

As we fight for such demands, the capitalists will howl that this will drive them out of business – just as they do every time workers call for a pay rise. To this we must respond: if you cannot operate enterprises in a way that provides jobs for workers then you should not own these enterprises. They need to be ripped from your hands and brought into public ownership so that production can be planned to provide jobs for all and to utilise all available labour to serve society. However, not only are all current parliamentary parties thoroughly hostile to this idea of confiscating the factories, banks, transport systems and mines from the capitalists, any party that in the future attempted to do so would face fierce resistance from the judiciary, police, army and top echelons of the bureaucracy. For the current state apparatus has unbreakable, generations-old connections to the rich capitalist elite. That is why for our struggles to triumph, they must culminate in the working class leading all of the oppressed in a revolutionary movement to sweep away the current capitalist state and to build a new workers state that will implement a socialist system – a system based on people’s common ownership of the economy.

Turning the Slogan The Workers United Will Never Be Defeated Into a Reality

Key to unlocking the necessary fight back is to expose any illusions that local workers’ jobs can be protected through collaborative schemes with the bosses. Today, manufacturing union heads run a “Make it Here Or Jobs Disappear” campaign that appeals for government support for manufacturing firms and protectionist laws to favour local firms over overseas producers. Yet, the experience with Holden proves how little handouts to companies actually guarantee jobs. Protectionist measures don’t save jobs either for just as one country can take measures to protect its own firms, other countries can do the same. In the end all that protectionist appeals do is to set workers in different nations against each other while their greedy bosses – happy that workers are divided and looking out for the interest of their “own” firms rather than uniting against the bosses internationally – are left laughing all the way to the bank.

Yet, despite the failure of protectionist appeals to save jobs, most union leaders continue to make such calls because they fear the alternative: a strategy based on hard-fought industrial action. About the only time that most union leaders are taking any stand against job losses is if these layoffs are the result of off-shoring. The capitalist exploiters indeed do seek out lower paid labour they can find overseas just as they seek to replace workers here with lower-paid youth. However, our response to off-shoring should not be to counterpose the interests of local workers to their overseas comrades. That only serves to undercut the global workers’ unity that we so badly need if we are to defeat job slashing by multi-national corporate giants like Rio Tinto, Ford and GM, all of which have operations in many countries. Instead, we should say: we are happy if our working class comrades overseas get new jobs but there should be absolutely no job cuts locally. Furthermore, when a firm sets up a new operation in any country, we will fight for those workers to get the same conditions as the best paid workers at any of the firm’s global operations. Yet, instead of such an approach, Laborite union leaders promote divisive slogans like “Stop Aussie Jobs Going Overseas!” Similarly, instead of uniting the struggle of local workers with 457-Visa workers in the fight to defend the conditions of all workers, the current line of most union leaders is to make the divisive call to “Keep Out Guest Workers.”

We can see how campaigns that pit local workers against their overseas counterparts play out when we look at the results of the July 2012 “Local Workers First” rally in Perth. The trigger for the rally were moves by greedy billionaire Gina Rinehart and the likes of Rio Tinto to bring in overseas labour for their projects. Yet, when this same Rio Tinto announced last November that it was axing 1,100 jobs – including those of many Aboriginal workers – at its Gove alumina refinery in the NT, union leaders failed to organise any serious opposition. They could mobilise nearly 10,000 people to march for the blatantly divisive demand that Australian workers’ jobs be put ahead of those of overseas workers yet when capitalists are actually slashing Australian workers’ jobs in a move that had nothing to do with bringing in overseas workers, the union officials concerned didn’t want to organise any resistance at all. By channelling local workers concerns about their jobs into opposition to overseas workers, pro-ALP bureaucrats have diverted workers from the struggle that is actually needed – the one against the job-slashing exploiters.

Furthermore, consider what the July 2012 Perth rally means for potential efforts to save jobs in the automotive sector. Among the guest workers being rebuffed by the “Local Workers First” campaign are Korean workers. Yet, workers in South Korea’s GM plants are key to any struggle to stop job losses at Holden, not only because South Korea is where GM’s profits could seriously be hurt by solidarity strikes with Holden workers but because currently South Korean workers are much more willing to take action against their bosses than Australian workers are. Last month, rail workers in South Korea courageously faced down violent police attacks in a weeks long anti-privatisation struggle that triggered massive solidarity rallies by other workers. Yet, how in hell are Korean workers going to be convinced to risk their jobs to support their Australian sisters and brothers at Holden when they see Australian workers marching to put Australian workers ahead of overseas workers?

The influence of Laborite nationalism is so insidious that even many left wing groups like Socialist Alternative (Socialist Alternative, 3 July 2012) and the Communist Party of Australia (The Guardian, 11 July 2012) hailed the July 2012 “Local Workers First” rally. To be sure, these groups sought to distance themselves from the most jingoistic aspects of the rally. Yet, no matter in how cleansed a form they present it, as the rally’s main banner slogan “WA Kids Miss Out When Miners Use Overseas Workers” made all too clear, this is a poisonous campaign that pits local workers against their overseas comrades. It is a complete violation of the main call of The Communist Manifesto, which all nominally Marxist groups claim to stand on, “Workers of All Countries Unite.” It is not that there are no healthy feelings of solidarity toward overseas workers amongst sections of the Australian working class. After all, on January 2, officials of the MUA, CFMEU and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union held a rally outside the South Korean Consulate in solidarity with Korean rail workers. Yet what is needed is not only a show of solidarity but Australian workers truly standing as one with their overseas comrades. As The Communist Manifesto stresses:

The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality ….

That means just as at an individual workplace one group of workers should not ask the boss to favour them at the expense of other workers, workers in one country should not ask capitalists to favour them at the expense of their overseas comrades.

Trotskyist Platform works to contribute to the building of union leadership that will be based on The Communist Manifesto’s principles. We do, of course, understand that capitalists hire guest workers in order to drive down wages. Yet, we maintain that this should be entirely met by union demands for guest workers to be given the same wages as the best paid local workers, to be given citizenship rights and to be fully unionised and not at all by divisive demands to “keep out guest workers.” If you understand that the only way to protect jobs is by struggle against job-slashing bosses then you will do everything to build workers unity – without which struggles are doomed to failure. That is why our unions must also oppose racist scapegoating of Aboriginal people, refugees and “ethnic” communities which is used by the exploiting class to divert workers’ anger away from the true source of their problems – the corporate bigwigs. Kerry Stokes epitomises how the capitalists use such methods. Although Stokes likes to present himself as an enlightened person – all the better to promote his Asian business interests – the Channel 7 station that he owns churns out a stream of hostile stereotyping against the likes of refugees. How better for Kerry Stokes to divert workers at his WesTrac subsidiary from the fact that it is his greed that is the sole cause of the job cuts there!

The class struggle leadership of the unions that needs to be built must be linked to a revolutionary party that will organise the workers struggle in all political arenas. Such a party would draw around the class struggle all those downtrodden by capitalism – from Aboriginal people suffering terrible racism, to “ethnic” youth, to working class youth facing joblessness and to low-income women and single mothers facing hostile stigmatisation and enforced poverty. We badly need such a struggle against capitalism. For capitalism has proven that it cannot guarantee workers’ livelihoods and periodically falls into crises that bring untold suffering – like the Great Depression of the 1930s and the recent Great Recession that has ravaged the masses in Europe, America and the rest of the capitalist world. If workers here did not suffer the same unemployment level during this recent crisis it is only because the Australian economy was saved by surging exports to socialistic China’s booming state-owned steel and energy producers.  Yet China’s ruling Communist Party is moving that country to focus more on services and high-end manufacturing – that is, to an economy that will need smaller increases in imports of Australian iron ore and liquefied gas. This means that when the inevitable, next capitalist crisis hits or if this one lingers for much longer, even socialistic China will not be able save the Australian economy. Unless we reject the capitalists’ “right” to sack workers whenever their profits demand it, as part of beginning to challenge their whole system, we will end up here with the catastrophic situation that our working class sisters and brothers in Greece and Spain face right now – where three out of every five young workers is unemployed.