Category Archives: Anti-Capitalism

Free a Pro-North Korea Political Prisoner in Australia – Free Chan Han Choi!

Defend Socialistic North Korea!


Free a Pro-North Korea Political Prisoner in Australia!

14 March 2018: Like in other capitalist countries, the government and mainstream media in Australia make wild claims about supposedly gruesome “prison camps” in North Korea (the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea – the DPRK).  Yet, there is little evidence for this. The main supposed “evidence” are the stories of a few of the defectors from North to South Korea. Yet only a small percentage of the defectors make such claims. Moreover, even though these defectors represent that tiny proportion of North Korean citizens who think that life would be better in the capitalist world – if only because North Korea’s people have been so squeezed by severe UN sanctions – hundreds upon hundreds of these defectors actually end up going back to North Korea because they find life in the capitalist South so harsh and unfriendly! And that is very telling. Because for a defector to return they have to undergo great risk to sneak past a brutal South Korean regime that actually jails any person who is caught trying to return to North Korea. The few defectors who do make claims about “human rights” atrocities are those eager for the celebrity status and the resulting fortune that their tales of “suffering” can bring them in a South Korean society ruled by an ultra-rich capitalist class eager to demonise the socialistic DPRK. Moreover, many such high profile defectors have famously slipped up by accidentally contradicting their own earlier accounts; thus proving that their tales are indeed inglorious works of fiction (see for instance:

Yet, while most of the claims against North Korea are bogus, there is something that is patently true: and that is that there is right now a supporter of North Korea who is a political prisoner in Australia. This pro-DPRK person who is being jailed by the Australian regime is 59 year-old, Chan Han Choi. He is an outspoken sympathiser of the DPRK. Chan Han Choi is a working class Australian who rents a dwelling in Sydney and worked as a hospital cleaner until his arrest by the Australian Federal Police last December. Neighbours describe the now imprisoned man as “polite”, “nice” and “softly spoken.”

However, Chan Han Choi faces decades in jail after Australian police arrested him on charges of attempting to raise money for the DPRK – in violation of UN sanctions – by trying to broker the sale of North Korean coal to private buyers in Vietnam and Indonesia. They also claim that he discussed the sale of North Korean technology and expertise to overseas buyers, which they allege could have been used for missile componentry and guidance. Thus, they claim that he violated Australia’s hypocritical weapons of mass destruction act. Australian Police admit that he did not actually sell anything, just supposedly planned to. We have no way of knowing whether the claims are based on fact. But given the racist, anti-working class and pro-capitalist bias of Australia’s legal system we wouldn’t be surprised if Chan Han Choi is simply being persecuted for what, basically, amount to thought crimes. Yet, even if the claims against him turn out to be partially or fully true, he is no criminal from the standpoint of the Australian – and, thus, international – working class. Quite the opposite! In that case, Chan Han Choi was simply trying to help people being ground down and potentially starved by some of the most severe sanctions ever imposed on any country. These sanctions imposed at the behest of the U.S., Japanese, Australian, South Korean and other capitalist regimes ban 90% of all North Korean exports – including her main exports coal, textiles and iron ore and other minerals. They also ban all North Koreans from working abroad, freeze out the DPRK’s financial entities and limit North Korean people’s import of crude oil and refined petroleum products. Similar UN sanctions imposed on Iraq in a thirteen year period from 1990 are estimated to have caused the death of up to two million Iraqis (!!) due to increased rates of malnutrition, lack of medical supplies and diseases from lack of clean water. The U.S., British, Australian and other imperialist countries that pushed these sanctions actually killed even more people from the sanctions than they did from their subsequent brutal invasion of Iraq. Even the UN’s own agency, UNICEF, estimated that the first eight years of the sanctions alone had caused such an increase in infant and child deaths in Iraq that it led to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five ( If what the Australian regime allege Chan Han Choi did turns out to be true, he was laudably trying to save the children of North Korea, their mothers and the other people of the country from meeting a similar fate.

However, what Chan Han Choi allegedly tried to do was not only a selfless act of humanitarianism. If he, indeed, did try to enable the North Korean people to sell items to raise money he was, importantly, standing by a workers state. The DPRK is a socialistic state based on public ownership. The system of collective ownership of the means of production in North Korea means that the DPRK is, even when faced with the most extreme sanctions, able to provide jobs for all its workers as well as genuinely free education, free health care and almost free housing to all its people. To be sure, the workers state in North Korea is bureaucratically deformed – mainly as a result of intense imperialist pressure and isolation in a capitalist-dominated world. Nevertheless, the socialistic state that was formed from the overthrow of capitalist and landlord rule in the northern part of Korea at the end of World War II is a huge advance from capitalism. It represents a historic gain for the world’s working class in their struggle against the capitalist exploiters; just like a workers victory in a big strike does – but in a much bigger way. Working class people of the world must, therefore, defend to the hilt this conquest. In standing by the DPRK workers state, in whatever way that he did, Chan Han Choi should be considered a hero to the toiling classes of not only Korea but to the working class and all downtrodden of Australia and, indeed, the whole world.

For the very reason that he has heroically stood by working class interests, the Australian capitalist regime is imprisoning Chan Han Choi in especially harsh conditions. He has not been granted bail since his arrest some three months ago. Even though he has not been convicted of any crime and is still in the early stage of court proceedings, the Australian regime has outrageously detained him in a maximum security jail. Moreover, they have classified him as an Extreme High Risk – Restricted (EHR-R) prisoner which is the harshest, highest security classification that can be given to any prisoner. The EHR-R category was sold to the public as a measure reserved for those considered to be an extreme risk to others and “a threat to order and security within jails” (–ehrr/2008/10/17/1223750306676.html). It was said to be reserved for crime bosses and suspected terrorists. Yet, Chan Han Choi not only has no violent history but is not even accused of conducting or planning any violent act.

EHR-R prisoners receive the lowest stipend to buy food and are not allowed to receive money gifts from friend and family outside prison. They are allowed less phone calls than other prisoners and these phone calls and any postal mail must be in English. All EHR-R prisoners have their phone calls listened to and mail opened, read and copied. The inhumane system is designed to make it very hard if not impossible for friends and family to visit as prospective visitors must first go through a weeks long security check and then wait to have their visit approved by the prison warden. Those that make it through to a visit are locked in a sheet metal-lined box without adequate ventilation. Chan Han Choi’s detention in the most gruesome conditions possible in an Australian prison camp are clearly an attempt to break his spirit and isolate him.

17 December 2017, Sydney: Australian Federal Police arrest North Korea supporter Chan Han Choi. As part of the Australian ruling elite’s secrecy over this repression, media reports of his arrest have whited out the face of both Chan Han Choi and the arresting cops.
Australian Working Class: Stand by the DPRK Workers State! Oppose the Sanctions!

Precisely because the maintenance of the workers state in North Korea is in the interests of the Australian and whole world’s working class, the U.S., Australian, South Korean and other capitalist ruling classes are hell bent on destroying the DPRK. They see the existence of socialistic rule anywhere as a threat to their capitalist rule at home. And they are right! The existence of workers states – in however a tenuous and distorted form – necessarily sends a message to the working classes still subjugated under capitalism that another alternative is possible; that capitalism is not inevitable. And this terrifies the imperialist ruling classes of the U.S., Australia and Japan. Furthermore, they have a particular fixation on targeting the DPRK because over six decades ago during the 1950-53 Korean War, the North Korean masses did the unthinkable. Incredibly, they faced down and beat off a combined attack from the most powerful imperialist countries in the world: including the U.S., Britain, Australia, France and even the apartheid South African regime of that time. Ever since then, the U.S. and its allies have had a particular obsession with crushing the DPRK alongside their usual hostility to all workers states. That is what the extreme sanctions that they have imposed on the DPRK are all about. They want to weaken the DPRK workers state and starve its people into submission.

In order to deter public opposition to their threatening campaign against the DPRK, the U.S. and Australian regimes – and the big business or government-owned Western media – have been portraying the DPRK as a dangerous “threat” to peace. They even make out out that the DPRK is hell-bent on attacking Western countries with a nuclear first strike. This is a ridiculous assertion. The DPRK has made itself very clear that its nuclear weapons program is purely for self-defence. If one believes the notion that a country’s mere acquisition of nuclear weapons makes it a grave threat, what does that say for the U.S. which has nearly 7,000 nuclear warheads … as opposed to the DPRK which has less than ten and those not yet fully operational. What is more, the U.S. regime, with the support of Australian imperialism, is the only government to have ever actually unleashed nuclear weapons on human beings. We should never forget their horrific war crimes in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. In contrast, although Western media have themselves stated that North Korea has long had enough conventional missiles to quickly destroy Seoul as well as other cities in South Korea and Japan, she has never even started to make such an attack. This despite all the provocations she has faced. Indeed, the DPRK has actually never attacked a foreign country. The only war she has ever been involved in is the 1950-53 Korean War when her people with the backing of hundreds of thousands of Chinese communist volunteers defended the socialistic state against the imperialist godfathers and the capitalist regime that rules the south of the country.

Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that it is not North Korea that twice attacked Iraq, that totally destroyed Libya and that devastated Serbia in the 1999 war on Yugoslavia. It is not North Korea that is committing an ongoing series of war crimes by murdering tens of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan (and more recently Syria and northern Iraq) through air strikes which the bombers knew would kill many civilians. No: all these crimes were the foul handiwork of the U.S. rulers and always with the direct or indirect assistance of their Australian, British and other junior imperialist partners. It is these capitalist powers that are the real threat to the world’s peoples and not at all the DPRK. What the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program does “threaten” to do is to make the North Korean people less intimidated by the menacing military “exercises” that the U.S., Australian and South Korean capitalist regimes regularly stage on her doorstep. Most importantly, North Korea’s highly effective weapons program “threatens” to make it harder for the capitalist powers to launch a new Korean War against her. That is why the Western capitalist powers are so obsessed with stopping the DPRK acquiring a nuclear missile capability.

In targeting the DPRK, the imperialist powers have in their mind an even bigger target. That target is the DPRK’s neighbour and ally, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC): the world’s largest socialistic country. Although decades of pro-market measures by China’s government has dangerously allowed capitalists to gain a foothold in China, these capitalists do not hold state power there. China remains a workers state whose key economic sectors are dominated by socialistic state-owned enterprises. It is this that has enabled the PRC to spectacularly lift hundreds of millions of its people out of the terrible poverty of its capitalist days. However, the greedy ruling classes of the capitalist powers know that the presence of such a socialistic power as China is a threat to their “right” to bully and exploit most of the world. That is why they are working feverishly to contain China’s rise and foster capitalist restoration there. The assertion that China’s development is “challenging Australia’s interests” that’s contained in the Australian regime’s foreign policy White Paper unveiled in November and the increasingly frequent government and media scare campaigns alleging that China is “aggressively influencing” Australian affairs show the efforts that the capitalist rulers are going to in order to mobilise the population behind their anti-PRC campaign; just as they manufacture the bogey of a “North Korean nuclear threat” to deceive the masses into accepting their war drive against the DPRK.

A key method that the Western capitalist rulers use to tighten the military, diplomatic and economic screws on the PRC is to menace its socialistic neighbour, the DPRK. That is why the PRC government’s policy of seeking to meet the imperialist powers half-way over the DPRK is harmful to socialistic rule in China itself. The PRC should recall the internationalist spirit of its heroic support to the DPRK during the Korean War. She must immediately end participation in all sanctions against the DPRK and, instead, strongly stand by her socialistic neighbour – including by defending the DPRK’s development of a nuclear deterrence.

Should the imperialists powers succeed in using some combination of military power, intimidation and extreme sanctions to bring down the socialistic order in North Korea they would be able to greatly embolden the forces of capitalist counterrevolution in China as well. And if the, currently fragile, workers state in China were to be smashed by capitalist counterrevolution it would be a terrible disaster for the working class and downtrodden of the world – on a par with the 1991-92 destruction of socialistic rule in the former USSR. Capitalist restoration in China would lead to hundreds of millions of Chinese people being plunged back into poverty while the country would be turned into one huge sweatshop for exploitation by not only local Chinese capitalists but by Western and Japanese ones – just like in the pre-1949 capitalist-feudal China. This would then be used as a giant wedge to drive down the wages and conditions of workers around the globe – including in Australia. Meanwhile, triumphant capitalist rulers from the U.S. to Mexico to Britain, Germany, Egypt, India, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia would be emboldened to attack the rights of workers and the oppressed in their own countries, just as they did after the overturn of socialistic rule in the USSR. That is why it is doubly important for the working class and all the downtrodden of Australia and the entire world to stand by socialistic rule in China and North Korea and to also defend the other workers states in Cuba, Vietnam and Laos. By standing by the DPRK in whatever way that he did, Chan Han Choi has taken the side of the international working class in this crucial battle. For this stance he is being persecuted by the Australian regime. The working class and downtrodden of Australia and the world must stand by him. We must demand: Free Chan Han Choi! Drop all the charges now!

Chan Han Choi should be considered a working class hero. However, we do not advocate that other working class people politically aware enough to understand the need to defend socialistic states like the DPRK do what he is alleged to have done. The reason is that the chances of getting caught are too high. Australia is a police state where the authorities engage in massive spying on the population for the sake of enforcing the interests of the big end of town. As the 2013 unveiling of classified documents provided by former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, Edward Snowden, proved, the Australian spy agency, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), is part of a sinister global surveillance apparatus involving the American NSA, the UK’s GCHQ and Canada’s CSEC. These Five Eyes partner agencies are harvesting email contact lists, searching email content and tracking and mapping the location of cell phones of millions of everyday internet users as well as secretly accessing Yahoo and Google data centres to collect information from hundreds of millions of account holders. The Sydney Morning Herald of 29 August 2013 also reported that:

The nation’s electronic espionage agency, the Australian Signals Directorate, is in a partnership with British, American and Singaporean intelligence agencies to tap undersea fibre optic telecommunications cables that link Asia, the Middle East and Europe and carry much of Australia’s international phone and internet traffic.

Meanwhile the powers granted to the ASD, ASIO, the police and other repressive police and spy agencies are being ever increased. Therefore, covert activities to support working class interests and workers states are not the best strategy. What we need to do is to openly appeal to the interests that the Australian working class and downtrodden have in defending socialistic states in order to mobilise these layers in solidarity with the workers states as part of the fight for the workers’ own liberation.

Why a Working Class Immigrant from South Korea Living in Australia Would Want to Stand By the DPRK

When the Federal Police (AFP) announced the arrest of Chan Han Choi, the Australian media got itself all excited and jumped on the story. They made this headline news and pointed to it as “evidence” of the “North Korean security threat.” Yet, before long they realised that this story could punch a hole in their narrative about North Korea. They have spun the lie that everyone in South Korea is fearful and hostile to the North and that North Koreans themselves are desperate to escape to capitalist South Korea. Yet here is a man who grew up and worked in South Korea – and what’s more then lived in “democratic” Australia – and then allegedly took a huge risk to support North Korea in a way that, the cops admitted, sought no personal gain. On ABC current affairs programs, reporters and anti-DPRK “Korea experts” twisted themselves in knots trying to “address” this question. One expert admitted that there are people in South Korea who do support North Korea. Of course, they didn’t go into why. So let us fill in the blanks here. The reality of South Korea is that working class people there face a harsh life in that cut-throat, dog-eat-dog capitalist society. A very high proportion of workers in South Korea work as casuals with no job security whatsoever and minimal rights. Yet even with a large number of part-time workers, South Koreans endure one of the highest average working hours in the world. The brave trade unionists involved in organising to fight for workers’ rights face brutal repression. Currently, at least nine leading South Korean trade union activists are languishing in jail. Among those are the leader of the country’s biggest oppositional trade union federation, the KCTU. KCTU head Han Sang-gyun is currently serving a three year jail sentence for … organising a series of street marches that blocked traffic! Far from being the “democracy” portrayed by the mainstream Australian media, South Korea is a brutal capitalist dictatorship. Just over three years ago, the South Korean regime banned the left-leaning Unified Progressive Party (UPP) and stripped its MPs of their parliamentary seats for not being hardline enough against North Korea. This party had been the third biggest party in parliament with a vote share slightly larger than that which the Greens receive in Australia. With the aid of such repression, the South Korean regime is able to impose cruel living conditions on the working class. For example, there is no universal old-age pension in South Korea and there are large numbers of homeless people forced to sleep in train stations every night (see: Little wonder that the country has the fourth highest suicide rate in the entire world.

Given this harsh reality of life for working class people in capitalist South Korea, it is no surprise that there are people there sympathetic to the DPRK. Indeed, in the mid-1960s, the Western imperialists were terrified about how much sympathy there was for the DPRK in South Korea. Since, at that time, North Korea had better levels of health care, education and working conditions than the South, the U.S. was so fearful for the stability of their Cold War frontline state that they started pouring massive subsidies into South Korea. It is this aid which underpinned South Korea’s supposed “economic miracle.” Nevertheless, there continued to be a large degree of sympathy for North Korea amongst the South Korean masses up until the 1991-92 destruction of the USSR that left the DPRK isolated and led to a large drop in living standards there. Even today, the most politically aware working class people in the South remain sympathetic to the DPRK at some level. North Korea is seen by some in the South as the real, independent Korea whereas South Korea is viewed as a lackey of U.S. imperialism, founded by former collaborators with the much hated previous Japanese colonial occupiers of the whole Korean peninsula.

If the lavishly paid journalists in the mainstream media were struggling to explain why a person who had grown up in South Korea would risk his freedom to support North Korea, they were completely unable to deal with the fact that this person who had allegedly harmed Australian “national security” interests for the sake of North Korea was also someone who had lived here for almost three decades. After all, they could not pass him off as someone brainwashed by religious zealots – as they could with ISIS supporters – as sympathy for the DPRK is not based on religion. Yet, if one looks at the reality faced by working class people in Australia, especially those from Asian and other non-white ethnicities, then why someone like Chan Han Choi would want to stand by a socialistic state opposed by the Australian ruling class is not really such a mystery after all. Even as the profits of corporations go through the roof and the likes of Andrew Forrest, James Packer, Gina Rinehart, the Lowy family and all their ilk amass ever more billions, the income of most workers are not keeping up with price increases and many workers face the reality of casualisation and having almost no job security. Meanwhile, especially with governments slashing public housing, landlords are charging exorbitant rents which means that low-income workers living in urban areas are being squeezed tight. As a cleaner, Chan Han Choi would face both low pay and poor job security. In the suburb where he rents a house, the average rent for a two bedroom house is $510 per week – that’s more than 80% of the after-tax minimum wage! Who can then blame a low-income worker renting in Sydney for being sympathetic to a state like the DPRK. In North Korea, even though sanctions and threatening military encirclement severely constrict the economy and hence people’s wages, at least rent is almost free and workers don’t have to face the indignity of being bullied by greedy capitalist bosses and high-handed landlords and their agents.

Furthermore, like other Asian-descent residents of Australia, Chan Han Choi would likely have experienced the racist hostility that this capitalist society engenders. It is Aboriginal people who have always suffered the brunt of White Australia racism. In a society which churns through the unfortunate targets of racism, one after the other, almost according to the changing whims of fashion, it is Muslims who are currently the number two victim. Over the long term, however, it is Asians who have been second only to Aboriginal people in being subject to racist oppression in Australia. Asian-origin residents – especially the majority who are not wealthy enough to shield themselves somewhat from the brunt of racist hostility – face threats or even real acts of violence from rednecks on the streets, abuse on public transport, bullying of their children at school and discrimination in employment. Chan Han Choi had a lot of good reasons not to have loyalty to the Australian ruling class and the socio-political order that they have created. Indeed, so do, ultimately, all working class people in this country!

Political Prisoners and Persecution in Australia

Chan Han Choi is certainly not the first person in Australia jailed for standing by the interests of the working class and oppressed. In 2004, Victorian secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Craig Johnston was jailed for nine months for leading a completely justifiable, militant protest of dozens of union activists through the offices of two companies that were involved in the union-busting sacking of 29 workers. In the same year, several Aboriginal people and their supporters were jailed for periods ranging from a few months to up to two years for their involvement in a brave resistance struggle in Redfern that responded to the racist police murder of 17 year-old Aboriginal youth, TJ Hickey, and subsequent continued police intimidation of the Redfern black community. Then nine months after the Redfern resistance struggle, several Aboriginal people on Palm Island, off the coast of Queensland, were persecuted for their participation in a hundreds-strong uprising on the island that responded to the bashing to death of 36 year-old Aboriginal man, Mulrunji Doomadgee, by a racist cop. Several of the arrested community members were jailed including the leader of the struggle, Lex Wotton, who spent in total three years in jail. Meanwhile, the murdering policeman, Chris Hurley, got off completely free! The authorities had intended to jail Lex Wotton and the other Palm Island and Redfern Aboriginal resistance heroes for considerably longer but a spirited on the streets campaign in support of the persecuted people – culminating in a stop-work action by Maritime Union of Australia-organised waterfront workers in Sydney in support of Lex on the day of his sentencing hearing – made the ruling class and their courts realise they could not get away with even more severely, unjust sentences.

Two peace activists are also amongst the people who have been political prisoners in Australia in recent years. David Burgess and Will Saunders were each jailed for nine months of weekend detention for simply painting the words “No War” on the Opera House in March 2003, in protest at the then impending U.S. and Australian invasion of Iraq. That brutal invasion murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people and was sold on the now notorious lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. However, unlike the jailed peace activists, those who ordered and implemented the blood-soaked invasion and perpetrated the “weapons of mass destruction” hoax were never brought to justice.

Aside from jailing some of the people who have taken firm stands for the interests of the oppressed, the Australian regime carries out daily repression against many others participating in pro-working class and leftist struggles. Over the last few years, they have persecuted in the courts well over a hundred trade unionists from the CFMEU construction workers union as well as other unions. Many of these union officials and activists have received hefty fines and other punishments for the “crime” of standing up to greedy bosses or leading industrial action. Two participants in last year’s ten thousand-strong, Invasion Day protest against the Australian regime’s brutal oppression of Aboriginal people have also been fined and given criminal records. Outrageously, they were convicted for rightly attempting to protect the crowd against a dangerous and unprovoked police charge into the rally which ended up with the marauding police barging over a woman so forcefully that she was knocked into a coma and sustained a level of permanent brain damage. Of course, no police were charged or disciplined over their riotous behaviour. Meanwhile, in a few months time, four pro-working class activists will be on trial after heavy-handed riot police arrested them following their involvement in a spirited, eighty-strong union/community/leftist protest occupation of public housing dwellings in the inner city suburb of Millers Point. The struggle rightly demanded that these homes, from where the NSW state government had driven off the working class tenants, be again made available to those on public housing waiting lists or the homeless rather than be sold off to wealthy developers and speculators as the government plans. Police have also arrested dozens of activists during protests against the Australian government’s brutal treatment of refugees. In December, five activists from the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance were fined a combined $20,000 for hanging banners on top of the Opera House that read “Australia: World Leaders in Cruelty #BringThemHere” and “Evacuate Manus”.

The fact is that the Australian state is far from a “democracy” where every person has an equal say in shaping its direction. Instead, it is ultra-rich business owners who through their ownership of the media and their greatly disproportionate ability to fund political parties, pay for political advertising, finance NGOs and use financial and career inducements to sway politicians and bureaucrats alike who monopolise the “democratic process” and the agenda and outcomes of elections. Moreover, the state machine which Australian parliaments administer is itself tied by thousands of threads to the capitalist elite. This racist, rich peoples’ state was originally founded to murderously uphold the dispossession of this country’s first peoples and to subjugate the poor. Ever since, whenever this state machine attacks the resistance of the masses to their own oppression – like when police attack union picket lines, courts ban workers’ strikes (as they did when they banned the Sydney rail workers strike that was to take place on January 29), the justice system persecutes union activists and the riot cops attack worker, anti-racist and leftist struggles – the institutions of this repressive machine and its enforcement personnel become ever more hardened in their role as enforcers of the current, anti-egalitarian social order. The imprisonment of political prisoner Chan Han Choi in inhumane conditions is simply a particularly cruel example of this capitalist state in action. It is notable that just two months before Chan Han Choi was arrested, the very same agency that arrested him, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), was busy intimidating the union movement. The AFP conducted heavy-handed raids on the Sydney and Melbourne offices of the Australian Workers Union over trumped up allegations about union donations to political campaigns more than twelve years ago.

This capitalist nature of the Australian state conditions its “human rights” practices. Today, due to the rampantly racist nature of Australia’s justice system and continuing discrimination against Aboriginal people in every aspect of their lives, Aboriginal people are the most imprisoned people in the entire world. Meanwhile, the Australian regime locks up innocent refugees and migrants branded “illegal” in hell-hole prison camps in Nauru, Manus, Christmas Island, Villawood and elsewhere. Let’s never forget too the horrific crimes of the Australian capitalist regime in the PNG-controlled island of Bougainville. When the people of Bougainville rose up in 1989 against the arrogant destruction of their land and the refusal to pay any decent compensation by Australian owned mining giant CRA (which later merged with a British company to form Rio Tinto), the then ALP-led Australian government directed its puppet PNG government to brutally put down the resistance. They provided arms, intelligence and helicopter pilots flying as “mercenaries” to aid the war. Then they helped to enforce a cruel years-long blockade of the island. As a result, in all, some 15,000 to 20,000 people on the island were killed as a result of either gunfire or the lack of medicines and food caused by the blockade. Later, the Australian government and Australian-owned corporations Woodside Petroleum and BHP so savagely plundered the oil wealth of East Timor that the people of that resource-rich country have the highest rate of child stunting in the entire world! Figures from the United Nations Children Fund, WHO and World Bank show that 57.7 % of all children under five in East Timor have stunted growth due to malnourishment (see page 120 of Global Nutrition Report 2016, )! All this due to the greed of the Australian regime and the corporate bigwigs that this regime serves.

Those Claims About “Atrocious Human Rights” in North Korea

So what of the capitalist powers’ propaganda about “atrocious human rights” in the DPRK. Other than for dubious claims from certain defectors, the main “evidence” that capitalist politicians and media present for their assertions are restrictions placed on those who visit North Korea. Visitors do face some additional restrictions in the DPRK. For example, while North Koreans freely use mobile phones, visitors must leave their mobiles in lockers at the airport before picking them up on their way out. There is a level of paranoia in the DPRK about Western visitors. However, this is a paranoia borne out of reality. The North Koreans know that the capitalist powers really are out to destroy their socialistic system and will use any means possible to do so – including by sending in agents disguised as tourists or journalists to stir up trouble. For today, the DPRK is the most embattled country in the world. Not only do her people face the most grinding sanctions imposed on any country, they also face constant threat from the most fearsome military power in the world – the United States. The U.S. has close to 30,000 troops ready to attack the DPRK across the border in South Korea. Moreover, the hard right-wing, racist U.S. president, Donald Trump, has openly threatened to “totally destroy North Korea.” The people of North Korea know that this is no idle threat. During the Korean War, the U.S., Australian and other capitalist armies actually did all but “totally destroy North Korea” (but still failed to defeat her) as they dropped millions of litres of napalm to repeatedly burn Pyongyang and other North Korean cities to the ground. Long after the war, some U.S. war criminals boasted of their deeds:

Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,’ Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed `everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.’”

The Washington Post, 24 March 2015

It is with this background that we should look at the case of Otto Warmbier, an American who was imprisoned in North Korea and died a few days after his release. Warmbier’s tragic death has been used by Trump and the Western establishment as an excuse to escalate their war drive against the DPRK. The son of a wealthy company owner, Otto Warmbier, was a university student who had the self-declared aim of becoming an investment banker. While on vacation in North Korea, he was sentenced to jail after he snuck into a staff-only area of his hotel and attempted to steal a pro-socialist poster declaring: “Arm ourselves with strong socialism.” Security footage released by North Korea shows him ripping down the poster but then abandoning it because it was too large to carry off. He later confessed to the deed saying that a member of a Methodist Church in Ohio had made a large bet with him to take down a North Korean political poster and bring it back to the U.S. as a trophy. Warmbier added that the Z-Society – a shadowy, secret society in the university traditionally based on elite, upper class students – had encouraged him in this act. The Western media screamed at the severity of the sentence given to Warmbier. The sentence was on the harsh side. However, if one knows the mass murder that the imperialists committed during the Korean War, then one can understand how North Korean people would view Warmbier’s act with the same anger that Jewish people, Roma people, LGBTI people and leftists would view a German person taking down a sign at a memorial to victims of the Nazi holocaust or an Aboriginal person would look at a white Australian who defaced a site commemorating a racist massacre of Aboriginal people.

A month into Warmbier’s sentence, he suffered brain damage that according to North Korea was caused by an adverse reaction to medication given to treat an infection. The DPRK later released him on humanitarian grounds and he returned to the U.S. in an unconscious state. American doctors assessed that his brain damage had been caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by cardiac arrest. However, even the viciously anti-DPRK Western media reported that his American physicians found no evidence of physical abuse or torture and that scans of Warmbier’s neck and head were normal outside of the brain injury. Indeed, when Otto’s grieving parents falsely claimed that his body showed signs of torture, the American coroner who had investigated the matter denied that there were any signs of torture, even adding that Warmbier had been “well nourished” and that, “We believe that for somebody who had been bedridden for more than a year, that his body was in excellent condition, that his skin was in excellent condition” ( Warmbier’s death was indeed tragic: for although his deed in North Korea was that of an arrogant, American rich kid he did not deserve to die for that. Yet, the most likely root cause of his death was the extremely severe sanctions imposed on the DPRK. These make life and medical care more rudimentary in North Korea than they otherwise would be; and since, as in every other country in the world, conditions for prisoners are not as good as for other residents, this makes life for prisoners poorer as well and, thus, increases the probability of prisoners getting serious infections while reducing the range and quality of available medication. In a way, what Chan Han Choi was allegedly attempting to do – easing the effects of sanctions on North Korea – would have helped people like Warmbier as well.

In the very worst case – and there is absolutely no evidence for this at all – it is possible that North Korea may not have provided an adequate quality of medical assistance to Warmbier in the early part of his incarceration (yet that North Korea was able to hand to the U.S. sets of MRI brain scans of Warmbier shows that North Korean doctors certainly did make valiant efforts to treat him later). However, even if one assumes that this worst possible variant occurred, the DPRK authorities’ treatment of Warmbier was not anywhere as brutal as the way Western Australian police treated 22 year-old Aboriginal woman, Julieka Dhu. Ms Dhu died in police custody in August 2014 just days after being imprisoned, so outrageously, for the late payment of fines! Unlike Warmbier, who the American coroner admitted showed no evidence of having been physically hurt in custody, Julieka Dhu was definitely physically harmed by police. In one case, video footage shows a police officer yank a very ill Ms Dhu violently by the arm and then cruelly leave her to flop down and smash her head on the concrete cell floor. The cop does not even then check to see if Ms Dhu had been further injured. And while DPRK authorities at least attempted to treat Warmbier’s medical condition, Julieka Dhu was cruelly denied treatment on multiple occasions – even when she cried out in pain from the severe infection that she was suffering. Yet the way the Australian media have handled the two cases could not be more different. They reported on Ms Dhu’s case as a tragic occurrence and in a small number of reports as a case of police neglect and discrimination. However, never did the mainstream media – and certainly never did any ruling class politicians – use the case to highlight the barbarity of the Australian regime. In contrast, the tycoon and government-owned Australian media railed that Warmbier’s death shows the “terrorist and brutal nature of the North Korean regime.” For Warmbier was a white American, yuppy rich man who died following imprisonment in a socialistic country. Whereas Julieka Dhu was a low income, Aboriginal woman killed by the criminal neglect and racist brutality of Australia’s capitalist authorities.

The truth is that Julieka Dhu’s case is hardly an exception in Australia. Police and prison guards here have outright murdered Aboriginal people both in and out of state custody. Eddie Murray, John Pat, Lloyd Boney, David Gundy, Daniel Yock, Colleen Richman, TJ Hickey, Mulrunji Doomadgee and David Dungay are the names of just a small proportion of the Aboriginal people who have been bashed, rammed, hung, suffocated, lethally injected or shot to death by Australian state authorities in recent years. Indeed, so many Aboriginal people have been killed in state custody that relative to the total current Indigenous population, approximately one out of every 1,200 Indigenous people have died in Australian prison camps or police cells since 1980. For the U.S. and Australian regimes to make accusations about North Korea based on the death of Otto Warmbier or based on highly contentious accounts from a handful of detectors is not only deliberately misleading, it is also the height of hypocrisy. Indeed, in U.S. prison camps the number of people dying in custody numbers from some 4,000 to 6,000 every year! This is in part because the U.S. regime is so biased against blacks, Hispanics and the poor of all races that the U.S. is by far the world’s biggest jailer. Indeed, the U.S. regime imprisons it population so much that the total number of people that it incarcerates, 2.4 million (!!), is more than three-quarters of the entire population of free-living residents in North Korea’s capital city, Pyongyang. Put another way, imagine if the overwhelming majority of the population of North Korea’s biggest city was locked up in jails – well that is what is happening … not at all in North Korea but in the United States of America!

There are a few people that the DPRK state does indeed deal ruthlessly with. These are mostly those that try to subvert its socialistic system and open the road to capitalist restoration. In this way, the DPRK workers state is acting just like staunch trade unionists on strike do when they take firm action against filthy scabs trying to cross a picket line; it is resolutely acting to defend the collective interests of the working class. In a sense, the DPRK can be thought of as one huge, more than 70 years-long strike against capitalism by its masses. It is a yet unfinished struggle because two-thirds of Korea still languishes under capitalist rule and because the workers conquest in the northern part of Korea is so threatened by imperialist powers. And just as the more up against it a workers strike is, the more harshly they must deal with strike-breaking scabs, so also the more embattled a workers state like the DPRK is, the more firmly they must deal with counterrevolutionary enemies.

Although the DPRK acts strongly against pro-capitalist threats to the workers state, it is very gentle in its treatment of the working class masses. Thus, while many Australian workers lucky enough to have a job spend a large proportion of their time worried about being bullied by their boss or about being the next one to be retrenched, the DPRK offers its masses a relaxed work life and a guaranteed right to full-time, secure employment. Indeed, this guaranteed employment, the tenderness of the DPRK state towards its masses and the society’s laid back work culture combine to mean that the North Korean state actually sometimes struggles to spur adequate productivity from its workforce!

There is, however, a more serious defect in the DPRK workers state. As well as rightly coming down hard against those trying to undermine socialistic rule, the state also represses genuinely pro-socialist elements who raise dissenting views to government leaders on various issues. It is possible – although not certain – that North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, was executed because he led a rival faction of the DPRK government (by contrast the claim made by Western Australian governments and media that the DPRK leader had his half-brother Kim Jong-nam assassinated at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport is far from proven and the killing is more likely to have been the work of Western or South Korean intelligence agencies desperate to further isolate the DPRK by poisoning her relations with Malaysia – the one capitalist Asian country that had friendly, diplomatic ties with North Korea). Suppression of alternate views from those loyal to the workers state is actually harmful to socialistic rule in North Korea – as it prevents the free discussion of ideas necessary to work out the most effective course for the embattled workers state to navigate. This lack of workers democracy reflects the fact that although the DPRK has an egalitarian system based on socialistic public ownership, there is a somewhat privileged bureaucratic layer who believe they know what is best for the country and who fear their, fairly petty, privileges being questioned by the masses. However, as long as the DPRK faces such intense threats from the capitalist powers, it will be hard for her to be re-directed onto the road of socialist democracy that the workers state needs to follow. For as long as such acute threats remain, much of her masses will be resigned to accepting the administration of a know-it-all, slightly privileged bureaucracy because they fear that any political turmoil could open the way for a far, far greater evil: capitalist restoration and the return of domination by imperialist powers. Moreover, just as any half-heartedness and weakness (even serious ones) in Australian union leaders – and even any corruption on their part – does not change the main point that trade unions are workers organisations that must be uncompromisingly defended from the capitalist bosses and their state, so too the lack of socialist democracy in North Korea does not change the fundamental fact that the DPRK is a socialistic state based on public ownership that must be unconditionally defended against capitalist military and political threats.

The U.S., South Korean and Australian governments and media have made much of the execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle and the far from proven claim that he had his half-brother assassinated in Malaysia. However, we need to put any problems in North Korea in perspective. In the U.S. or Australia one does not need to be a factional rival to a political leader to be killed by the authorities. One only needs to be the wrong skin colour or a person living in poverty … and accused of being intoxicated or of infringing a traffic law! In 2016 alone, U.S. police killed 1093 people on the streets of America! ( Then there are the horrific crimes of the U.S. and Australian regimes abroad. Together in the anti-communist Korean and Vietnam Wars they slaughtered more than five million people, killed hundreds of thousands more in their two wars against Iraq, their invasion of Afghanistan and their more recent indiscriminate bombing campaigns in Syria and northern Iraq. Then there are the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia – conducted with the support of joint U.S-Australia spy bases in Australia – which have killed thousands of civilians. The fact is that other than from the standpoint of the capitalist big end of town whom these racist, rich peoples’ states serve and that of a broader upper-middle class layer who are comfortable under the current social order, it is the U.S. and Australian regimes who are the most atrocious violators of the human rights of the world’s peoples. Compared with these regimes, the North Korean rulers come off as saints!

Australia’s Capitalist Rulers and
Their Obsession with Attacking the DPRK

It is not surprising that there is a pro-DPRK political prisoner jailed in an Australian prison camp. When it comes to attacking the DPRK, the Australian capitalist ruling class is not merely following the U.S. out of loyalty to the superpower that protects its own plunder in the South Pacific. Rather, the same motives that drive Washington’s hostility to the DPRK drive Canberra’s own enmity to North Korea. Thus, just as the U.S. ruling class is bitter that it was not able to crush a small, socialistic country during the 1950-53 Korean War, so too are Australia’s rulers. They had unleashed a massive force of 17,000 troops into the Korean War – nearly nine times what they later sent to participate in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Moreover, as an imperialist ruling class that considers the Asia-Pacific region as its “backyard,” where it should have the “right” to super-exploit darker-skinned workers and loot natural resources at will, Australia’s capitalists know that the existence of workers states in four Asian countries – China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos – is a big problem for them. For the mere existence of these truly independent, workers states in countries formerly subjugated by colonial powers sends a powerful message to the toiling masses in the Asian-Pacific countries still grinding under neo-colonial domination. It sends a message to the masses of Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand, PNG and East Timor that by taking the road of anti-capitalist revolution you too can free yourself from imperialist subjugation.

This is why Australia’s right-wing government was so annoyed by the presence of North Korean athletes, cheerleaders and artistic performers during the recent Winter Olympics in South Korea. They feared that this would damage their regime’s efforts to falsely portray North Korea as a cold, cruelly oppressed society. Meanwhile, Australian warships and the Australian military continue to take part in threatening war games on the DPRK’s borders.

The Australian ruling class is also up to its neck in the imperialist propaganda war drive against the DPRK. Former Australian high court judge, Michael Kirby, was chosen to head the UN’s “Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights” in the DPRK. This 2013-2014 inquiry was meant to produce a report condemning the DPRK in order to justify further imperialist aggression against her. And Kirby duly delivered! He produced a thoroughly deceitful report based on “accounts” from gold-digging defectors and Western-backed NGOs. Kirby in the past had tried to cultivate the image of a small-l liberal. However, as a high court judge he was a top-level judicial enforcer of the racist, capitalist order. He has also been outspoken in defending the current social order in Australia. Thus, he is a raving monarchist who insists on maintaining the Crown in the Australian constitution and was one of the principal founders of Australia’s main pro-monarchy campaign group, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy. Indeed, he is such a reactionary that none other than the hard right-wing, former prime minister, Tony Abbott, is not only an open admirer of Kirby but considers him a mentor (see this fawning article praising Kirby from Abbott: ).

As part of fighting for its own interests, the working class and oppressed of this country must stand against the all-sided campaign of the rich ruling class to destroy the DPRK workers state. Let us stand together to say: Down with the monarchist Kirby and his lying human rights propaganda against the DPRK – Down with the monarchy! U.S. and Australian troops get out of South Korea and surrounding waters! End all the war games threatening the DPRK! Close the joint U.S./Australia military and spy bases in Darwin, Pine Gap and Geraldton that are used to prepare imperialist military attacks against the DPRK and China! End all the sanctions against the DPRK! In the same way that we must always support a strike of fellow workers against capitalist bosses, we must unconditionally defend the DPRK workers state against all the military, economic and political threats that she faces. In whatever way that he did, Chan Han Choi bravely tried to do this. For this he is being cruelly persecuted. We must stand by him and demand that he be freed immediately.

Free The Refugees & Bring Them Here Now!

Above: 3 November 2017 – Delegates to an Australian Services Union delegates conference in WA proudly show their support for the embattled Manus refugees. The growing number of statements of solidarity for refugees from sections of the union movement needs to be turned into protest industrial action. [Photo credit: WA from Unionists for Refugees – WA Facebook page]

Turn Our Union Movement’s Stated Solidarity with Manus Refugees Into Industrial Action That Can Force the Australian Government to: Free The Refugees & Bring Them Here Now!

Enough is enough. End their suffering. Evacuate these men now.
These men are people like us. They deserve to be working people. They are engineers, journalists, artists and former United Nations workers. They are fathers, brothers, uncles and sons.
We have taken their dreams of a better life, and replaced them with an unrelenting nightmare.

ACTU Statement, 10 November 2017

18 November 2017: Refugees on Manus Island are in a desperate struggle. After Australian governments and their henchmen in PNG imprisoned them for years in the island’s hellhole detention camp, Australian and PNG authorities now want them to move to yet another prison in a location where they will be even more unsafe. The refugees have good reason to be fearful. Just seven months ago, navy personnel living on the island attacked them with rocks and knives. The navy staff reportedly even unleashed gunfire against the centre.

So it is completely understandable that some four hundred of the refugees have refused to re-locate. They don’t want to be attacked or even killed. They don’t want another prison! They just want to be free to live like human beings should. The refugees are courageously resisting even after police cut food, water and electricity to the camp. Five days ago, the Australian-puppet PNG authorities once again entered the camp to destroy the water wells and bins that they had used to collect water to drink. These human beings are being starved and forced to live in filthy conditions. They are being tortured!

The Liberal and ALP politicians’ racist savagery against refugees and their fear-mongering against Muslims is emboldening extreme race-hate groups within Australia. A week ago, one such outfit threateningly ambushed Labor senator, Sam Dastyari. The bigots branded Iranian-born Dastyari a “monkey” and a “terrorist” as he sat down for a quiet pub meal. If this is what happens to a well-connected mainstream politician because he doesn’t happen to be white enough for the racist white supremacists, consider the threats that other people of colour face – whether from conscious fascists or from garden variety rednecks. Just two weeks ago, three Chinese high school students were bashed at a bus stop in South Canberra. This was part of a series of racist attacks in the area on the Chinese community.

The fact is that in the capitalist world, fascism is on the rise. Not only did a hard right racist become U.S. president and not only have far-right parties made big electoral gains in Austria, France and Germany but in all these countries as well as in the likes of Sweden, Greece, Ukraine and Russia fascist thugs are terrorising migrants. Far right forces are being emboldened because the more that capitalist rulers prevent working class people from having secure jobs and the more that they slash social services the more they have to scapegoat minority communities for the suffering caused by their own capitalist system of exploitation. Meanwhile the economic insecurity that this so-called system creates is pushing the most backward sections of the middle class into seeking salvation in extreme nationalism. If we do not resist, there is a danger that large parts of the world could end up being ravaged by the horror of Hitler-style fascism. The viciousness of the Australian regime’s treatment of refugees and the concomitant escalation in racist terror on the streets should both serve as warning signs!

Refugees imprisoned on Manus Island bravely protest for freedom and safety and condemn the condemn cruelty of Australian government.

Many people have, indeed, been fighting against the Liberal government’s abuse of Manus refugees. People have held spirited protests and there have been brief occupations of immigration department offices. Some activists have staged audacious media stunts like climbing a crane to hoist the banner “SOS: Evacuate Manus Now!” over Flemington racecourse on Melbourne Cup day. Last Friday, hundreds of us rightly gave a good serve to participants at a Sydney fundraiser for Tony Abbott which also acted as a speaking appointment for the much hated immigration minister, Peter Dutton.

However, what the refugee rights movement is up against was seen by the response of the ruling class to Friday’s protest. Firstly, police aggressively manhandled protesters. Even after we marched off far from the site of the right-wing fundraiser, riot police continued to assault demonstrators. They arrested four protesters – one of whom was charged. Today, another activist was charged, this time over the incident when Abbott’s sister and fellow Liberal party hack, Christine Forster, ran into spirited opposition when she entered Friday’s fundraiser. Meanwhile, mainstream media hysterically condemned the protests and greatly hyped up the trouble that the whingeing sook, Forster, ran into. And it was not just the conservative Murdoch media that was on the charge here. The “liberal” Fairfax media and the ABC joined in too. And the condemnation of our protests from politicians was not restricted to Abbott and his hard line mate, Dutton. Opposition frontbencher, Anthony Albanese, a member of Labor’s so-called “Left” faction, accused us of “intimidation.” This highlights the fact that this is a bi-partisan war on refugees. Indeed, behind the cruel torture of refugees stands the overwhelming majority of the capitalist ruling class as well as their henchmen – from their physical enforcers in the police force to the judges and magistrates providing legal cover for their crimes to their media propagandists and their political servants on both sides of parliament.

Against this overwhelming physical, political, judicial, media and financial power that the bosses wield we need our own power. Actually, we already have it! For our power lies in the organised workers movement and its ability to unleash industrial action to hurt the profits of the rich capitalist businessmen for whose interests the whole state machine has been set up over many years. It is possible to mobilise the working class in defence of refugees because it is in the very interests of the working class to oppose racism since such racism is poison to the workers unity essential to building any campaign for workers rights. Importantly, five days ago, the Australian Council of Trade Unions released a statement calling on “the Australian Government to immediately evacuate people seeking asylum on Manus Island, to end the appalling humanitarian crisis.” This statement now needs to be backed up by industrial action. The workers movement and all its allies must fight to demand that all the Manus and, indeed, Nauru-based refugees be brought here to Australia with the full rights of citizens. Freedom for all people imprisoned in Australia’s hell-hole detention centres from Manus to Nauru to Villawood to Christmas Island! Full rights of citizenship for all refugees, migrants, guest workers and students! Drop the charges against all pro-refugee protesters!

31 October 2017: On the day Manus Island refugees were set to be thrown into a yet more unsafe prison, Manus Island residents organised by the Manus Alliance Against Human Rights Abuse demand freedom for the refugees and their resettlement in Australia.

PNG and Australian Imperialism

The persecution of Manus refugees highlights just how much PNG is under the control of the Australian ruling class. For decades, PNG was an Australian colony. Australia’s rulers treated the PNG masses with the same racist arrogance that they continue to subject Aboriginal people to. After PNG gained independence in 1975, Australian-owned companies continued to loot her mineral wealth without paying much royalty to local people. Today, up to 500 people in the PNG capital are sleeping rough after two Australian-owned developers threw out 2,000 people living in the waterfront Paga Hill shantytown with no resettlement. With the PNG people so badly impoverished by Australian imperialist exploitation, some PNG locals have become resentful of those who, like refugees, are mistakenly seen as competing for scarce goods.

In a classic neo-colonial arrangement, Australian judges, bureaucrats and “advisers” have continued to impregnate PNG’s state organs after the so-called “independence” of PNG was officially declared in 1975. Thus, PNG’s Supreme Court – the same court that last week knocked back an application to restore basic services to the Manus camp – has not one but three Australian judges on its panel! As for the PNG police force, it is advised – i.e. directed – by a contingent of over 70 Australian Federal Police officers stationed directly in PNG. Through a combination of the pressure of these Australian bureaucrats and police officers, through bribery of PNG officials by Australian businessmen and through the economic threats of all-powerful Australian corporations, the capitalist elites living in places like Point Piper, Mosman, Toorak, Vaucluse and Hunters Hill are able to ensure that the PNG state machine serves their interests. In June last year, PNG police opened fire on students protesting against the corrupt, Australian-backed prime minister, Peter O’Neill. Reports indicate that at least four students were shot dead. Earlier from 1989, the PNG military, acting in the interests of Australian-owned miner CRA (which later merged with British RTZ to form Rio Tinto), brutally attacked a brave rebellion by people on the island of Bougainville. The Bougainville people rose up against CRA’s refusal to grant proper compensation – and its arrogant destruction of the surrounding land – from its hugely profitable Panguna copper mine. But, backed up by Australian arms, military advisers and Australian pilots strafing the Bougainville people from helicopter gunships, the PNG military and its Australian godfathers killed over 15,000 Bougainville people through either gunfire or the starvation and lack of medicine that resulted from the blockade that they imposed on the island’s people. Today these same forces are doing a mini-version of that blockade against the Manus refugees – and if they are not stopped the same tragic consequences will ensue!

Meanwhile, Australian governments have pressured PNG authorities to not only privatise PNG public services but even its land held by kinship groups too. This has, obviously, led to greater inequality and a replacement of the local people’s pre-colonial, community-minded outlook with the ruthless rivalries of unrestrained dog eat dog capitalism. Nevertheless, contrary to the Australian media’s attempt to brand all the Manus people as violent attackers of refugees – even as the media, itself, unsympathetically reports on the refugees’ plight – some on the island have been bravely defying the police and trying to pass food through to the refugees in the camp. Furthermore, over three hundred people on the island, organised by Manus Alliance Against Human Rights Abuse, have signed a petition asking for all the asylum seekers to be returned to Australia. Moreover, although in remote and navy-dominated Manus many people do imbibe the Australian government’s hostility to refugees, in urban parts of PNG – especially in the capital with its working class concentration – there have been many instances of brave resistance against the Australian-dictated social order. In 2001, PNG students along with others held mass protests and occupations against privatisation of state assets. Bearing slogans against the Australian government, the IMF and the World Bank that had dictated the privatisation program, they eventually forced the PNG government to back down. This heroic struggle came at great cost – PNG police shot dead four of the anti-privatisation protesters in June 2001.

PNG, June 2001, Left: Students and others courageously protest against the Australian government, IMF and World Bank for dictating a privatisation agenda on PNG. Acting in the interests of their Australian neo-colonial masters, the PNG police responded with fierce repression (Right), shooting dead four protesters. Today, in preventing food, water and medicine getting to the Manus refugees, the PNG police are once again proving to be the henchmen of the brutal Australian imperialist ruling class.

Typical Racist Brutality of the Australian Regime

The horror of what Australia’s rulers are doing to the Manus refugees has driven new layers of well-meaning people into the refugee rights movement. Some of them and others involved in the campaign for a long time have held slogans about the Manus issue like, “This is Un-Australian.” Such sentiments are encouraged by the speeches of Greens politicians at refugee rights rallies who often state that “Australia’s treatment of refugees puts a stain on our proud human rights record.” However, the truth is that the Australian government’s persecution of refugees is all too typical of the “human rights record” of this ruling class. Indeed, the way they are grinding down refugees at the Manus camp right now actually draws attention to the way they have subjected Aboriginal children in the NT and other Australian youth detention centres to unsanitary conditions as well as torture. The death last Christmas Eve of 27 year-old Manus refugee from Sudan, Faysal Ishak Ahmed, after authorities denied him proper medical treatment for his heart and breathing problems has eerie similarities to the August 2014 death of imprisoned 22 year-old Aboriginal woman, Julieka Dhu, who died of a severe bacterial infection after racist WA police murderously refused her medical treatment. And the way that Manus guards and cops bashed to death Kurdish asylum seeker, Reza Berati, in 2014, recalls the brutal bashing to death in Palm Island ten years earlier of the Aboriginal man, Mulrunji Doomadgee, by a racist Queensland cop. Indeed, capitalist rule in this country was founded on the genocidal dispossession of Aboriginal people. Nevertheless, Aboriginal people continue to resist racist state violence, famously during the Redfern resistance actions and Palm Island uprising, both in 2004. The latter brought to prominence the great Aboriginal hero from Palm Island, Lex Wotton. But the killings in and out of state custody of John Pat, Eddie Murray, TJ Hickey, Julieka Dhu, Wayne “Fella” Morrison, David Dungay, Tane Chatfield and hundreds of other people show that Aboriginal people continue to be murdered by racist Australian police and prison guards to this very day.

So the cruel mandatory detention of refugees does not come out of the blue. Indeed, it is an extension of the Australian White Australia Policy that lasted officially up to the mid-1970s. That policy effectively barred most non-white people from entering the country. Even the impunity that detention centre guards have for extreme acts of brutality against refugees is rooted in Australia’s past and present. We only have to note that not a single Australian prison guard or cop has ever been convicted over the death of an Aboriginal person in custody. Or to point to the way that the racist redneck who chased down and ran over 14 year-old Aboriginal youth, Elijah Doughty, in Kalgoorlie was only given a very light sentence for his deadly actions. Meanwhile, the spin of the Australian authorities and media over their atrocities on Manus is all too typical as well. It is like the way they black out the voice of Aboriginal people speaking out against murders of their family and friends in custody or the way they tried to cover up the racist character of the wave of violent attacks on Indian students in Australia in 2009.

The fact is that the filthy rich businessmen who run this country – and their henchmen in the state machine – will do whatever it takes to strengthen their rule and boost their profits. Today, as homelessness is on the rise, Australian governments drive more people into poverty by selling off low-rent public housing. They are also persecuting trade union activists in the construction industry. Indeed, their cruel repression of refugees is an indication of what they will seek to impose on the exploited working class should we mount a serious challenge to their rule. This is no joke, comrades.

Identifying the cruel oppression of refugees as one of the aspects of a profoundly unjust social order opens the door to a united front with Aboriginal people fighting against savage oppression, trade unions struggling against anti-union laws and cuts to working conditions, low income people suffering through the dire shortage of low-rent accommodation as well as ever more stringent restrictions on access to social welfare and the many communities in Australia who bear the full brunt of Islamophobia and other variants of the white supremacist, racist agenda.

The Burning Question:
What Strategy to Free the Refugees?

Over the last 25 years many people have sincerely put great effort into the struggle for refugee rights. But at this critical moment we must consider: is the movement basing itself on a strategy and program that can actually win? Well, certainly, the hard work of thousands of activists over the years has not gone to waste. As a result of all the protests for refugee rights many, many more people are aware of the issue and have become sympathetic to the plight of refugees. However, the movement has not been able to make Australian governments retreat from any of their cruel policies. When one considers how many hundreds of thousands if not millions of people in this country are sympathetic to the plight of refugees then one has to conclude that the strategy the refugee rights movement has pursued up till now has been a wrong one.

So what strategy has the movement been based on? It is true that people from diverse political backgrounds participating in the actions have different ideas about how best to achieve freedom for refugees. However, the prevailing strategy, which reflects the politics of the socialist group, Solidarity, that has control of the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) is one that’s based on the idea of change through parliament. So, the movement, even while criticising the ALP’s refugee policies, campaigns for the ALP and Greens to be elected to parliament and seeks to pressure the ALP to reverse its anti-refugee policy. Thus, the formation of a future ALP government with a pro-refugee policy or an ALP-Greens coalition is put forward as a means to free the refugees.

The problem with this strategy, however, is that it has not worked. Indeed, it was the Rudd Labor government which in July 2013 brought in the current “PNG solution.” Labor’s Rudd made John Howard’s racist refugee policy even more xenophobic by declaring that, “From now on, any asylum seeker who arrives in Australia by boat will have no chance of being settled in Australia as refugees.” And let’s not forget it was the Keating ALP government that in 1992 introduced the policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers in the first place.

Unlike the ALP, the Greens have spoken out – sometimes strongly – against the Turnbull government’s brutal war on refugees. However, in 2010 they jumped into a de facto coalition with the Gillard ALP government without demanding even the slightest commitment from that government to ease its war on refugees. During the period of the Greens-ALP alliance government from August 2010 to February 2013, not only did the Greens prop up a government that was maintaining mandatory detention of refugees but that government also significantly intensified its anti-refugee policy. In August 2012, the Gillard government announced that it would resume the detention of refugees in Manus and Nauru that had been paused during the first Rudd government. Even though the Greens opposed the move, they still remained part of the de facto coalition government! That’s hardly a serious commitment to refugee rights!

The reason that all pro-capitalist parties are complicit in the oppression of refugees is that the vast majority of the capitalist bigwigs – whom all these current parliamentary parties ultimately serve – are committed to the war on refugees. To be sure, some in the capitalist class do worry that the brutality of their anti-refugee policies will damage the Australian state’s reputation in the world and thus impede their ability to use the claim of standing for “human rights” to justify their predatory imperialist interventions abroad. However, a bigger section of the corporate tycoons calculate that they need the diversionary and divisive effect of a harsh policy against refugees. And from their ruthlessly greedy point of view they are probably right! Without their governments making the masses think that refugees and migrants are some kind of threat to their wellbeing, how else are they going to make working class people wear the fact that workers’ real wages aren’t rising and workers’ penalty rates are being cut while the capitalists’ own fat profits are ballooning ever higher? How else are the big shareholders and executives of the NAB bank going to stop their own workforce from revolting at the fact that they are throwing 6,000 of these workers out of their jobs even after making a spectacular $5.3 billion annual profit?

Given that the Greens do claim to stand for refugee rights it is not wrong per se for RAC to invite them to speak at their rallies. Nor, given that the pro-capitalist ALP does have a working class base (unlike the openly pro-boss Liberals), is it unacceptable to have speakers from Labor for Refugees in order to encourage pro-refugee individuals within the ALP to take a more outspoken stand. However, what is harmful is for the Solidarity group leadership of RAC to then promote future ALP or ALP-Greens “lesser evil” governments as a means of salvation for refugees.

The left-social democratic Solidarity group’s parliamentarist strategy was especially evident during the federal elections last year when they openly handed out election material for the Greens and called to put the ALP second after the Greens. When pushing these parliamentary illusions, Solidarity are acting to dampen support for the truly militant actions that are needed to win refugee rights even while young Solidarity members, themselves, passionately promote and participate in staunch pro-refugee actions.

Of course, if the refugee rights movement could be re-directed into one that could start to threaten and harm the ruling class’ interests – in particular, their profits – then a section of the capitalist class would be forced to consider backing down. Their more “left” and small-l liberal representatives would then start seriously working towards an overhaul of refugee policy. But this would not be change driven by these pro-capitalist parliamentary parties themselves but, rather, a case of the resistance of the masses forcing a section of the capitalists and the parties that serve them to retreat. That is a huge difference!

What a Working Class Orientation Really Means

To be able to threaten the interests of the ruling class means unleashing the industrial muscle of the union movement. Encouragingly, contingents of unionists from the Nurses and Midwives Association, the MUA, NTEU, Teachers Federation and other unions have taken part in pro-refugee actions. RAC does make efforts to lobby unions to participate in the movement. And the Solidarity group does state that a working class orientation is needed. However, a working class orientation requires more than just motivating unions to support the refugee rights campaign. It means setting the line of the movement itself to a pro-working class direction. In particular, it means making open appeals to workers’ interests, not just in statements given out especially to unionists, but in the actual, official callouts for the entire action itself. That means, for example, featuring as headline slogans in the main action call outs, calls similar to, “Workers: Let’s Build the Unity We Need to Stand Up to the Greedy Bosses – Oppose Racism by Standing with Refugees!” Openly appealing to workers’ class interests in the action callouts is what could win broader layers of unionists to see the refugee struggle as their struggle. It is what will help more conscious union activists who are already involved in the movement to mobilise their co-workers to join in as well.

This could, of course, put off some liberal refugee rights supporters who may be anti-union or unwilling to align with an openly pro-working class movement – people like liberal small business bosses, mid-level managers and managerial level public service bureaucrats who may support the Greens. It is this prospect of a break with such small-l liberals that, no doubt, makes Solidarity – and the other groups prominent in directing RAC like Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance – baulk from setting the refugee rights movement on an openly pro-working class direction. But this choice must be made. One cannot effectively appeal to both the rival classes in this society. If one truly believes in a pro-working class orientation – and it is clear that it will take the mobilisation of the working class and its allies to repulse the war on refugees – one has to be prepared to break with pro-capitalist elements. We should add that given that there have been many militant pro-refugee actions over the last two weeks and given the depth of the media/politician witch hunt over the Christine Forster “incident,” those left social democratic groups who have been so careful not to scare off small-l liberal elements may find these types quietly retreating from the movement anyhow or otherwise distancing themselves from militant protests.

Of course, whether the workers movement can be mobilised in defence of refugees depends on not only the direction of the refugee rights movement but on the internal politics of the union movement itself. Currently, the anti-refugee ALP politically dominates the union movement. That’s why challenging this influence of the ALP is key to mobilising the workers movement in defence of refugees.

We need to purge from the union movement not only loyalty to the ALP but something that runs even deeper – support for Labor’s outlook. Unfortunately, most workers currently back the ALP’s economic nationalist agenda. ALP slogans like “Employ Australians First,” by setting up local citizens as job market rivals of foreigners, inevitably creates resentment towards guest workers, refugees and international students. Indeed, protectionism runs so deep that much of the Far Left acquiesces to it even while trying to present it in a “clean” way devoid of open racism. The Socialist Alliance group, Socialist Alternative and the Communist Party of Australia all backed Australia’s largest demonstration to keep out foreign workers: the July 2012 “Local Workers First” rally in Perth. Here we must, however, give credit where credit is due to the Solidarity group. Although, overall, of all the far-left groups, Solidarity panders most to the ALP and Greens, they do take a strong stand against economic nationalism.

Trotskyist Platform is on a campaign to oppose all forms of economic nationalism. We understand that as long as this nationalism remains dominant in the union movement, efforts to mobilise the working class masses in defence of refugees will be greatly undermined. We seek to prove to workers how economic nationalism in all its forms undermines the unity and focus we need to fight for workers rights.

We can only defeat economic nationalist slogans if we provide an alternative program for secure jobs for all workers. Such a program is one of militant class struggle to prevent capitalist bosses from retrenching workers and forcing them to increase hiring at the expense of their fat profits. When the greedy capitalists scream that this will cause their economy to collapse, the workers movement must respond: if you big business owners cannot run the economy in a way that guarantees secure jobs for all workers then we working class people will take the economy out of your hands and place it in our own strong, able and collective hands. A true revolution that brings the working class into economic and state power is, ultimately, what we need. It will ensure secure jobs for all, truly free medical care, education and public housing and, by removing the rule of the exploiting class, it will liquidate the main driver of racist policies. Like the workers state created by the Russian Revolution 100 years ago declared, in its very first constitution, a workers state today would grant asylum to all refugees and give the rights of citizenship to all working class people residing on its soil. Crucially, the overturn of capitalist rule would save us from the real threat that we face, today, of a future triumph of the fascist, hard right form of capitalism.

Yet we do need to do far more than simply proclaim the need for socialist revolution. There are many struggles that we need to engage in right now. A workers revolution can only be built by first uniting the working class and training it to trust only in its own power when that mighty proletarian power is itself united with the power of all other oppressed groups.

History has entrusted our class – the working class – to bring justice to society. We need to mobilise the workers movement in defence of refugees, against racist state terror and as a force that can shut down far-right racist terror groups right in their tracks. The working class must unite across ethnic and national lines in a struggle against racism precisely because we need to train the working class to be the champion of all of the oppressed. So let’s be guided by this perspective during our participation in the campaign for the Manus refugees. Let’s oppose illusions in salvation through the ALP and Greens within the refugee rights movement! Let’s fight to ensure that refugee rights actions are built on openly pro-working class slogans! Let’s struggle to root out economic nationalism in all its forms from our unions! We must intensify the agitation to mobilise working class action in defence of the Manus refugees!

NSW Government Resorts to Gestapo-like Tactics, Smashing Windows to Evict a Public Housing Tenant at 6:20am – The Fight Against Privatisation Continues

NSW Government resorts to Gestapo-like Tactics, Smashing Windows to Evict a Public Housing Tenant but the Powerful Union-led Struggle Against Social Cleansing” in Sydney City is Far from Over

Continue the Fight to Prevent the Sell-Off of Public Housing in Millers Point & Sirius

Stop the Privatisation of Public Housing throughout Australia


On 10 May 2017 around ten to fifteen sheriffs, police and high-level bureaucrats raided a terrace house at 32 High Street, Millers Point. They invaded the inner Sydney home through the back entrance and then crashed their way into the dwelling after smashing through a window. So, what was the target that required such huge “enforcement” resources? Was it a raid on one of the many filthy, rich business owners who illegally dodge tax, bribe government officials or otherwise break their own system’s rules? Not a chance! This raid was perpetrated in order to evict a hard-working, working-class, public housing tenant from his residence so that the dwelling could be sold off to some, clearly, very rich person.

At the time of the 6:20am raid, the tenant, electrician Peter Muller, had already left for his 5am shift at work. However, the Gestapo-style raid saw authorities threaten with arrest several of his supporters who had courageously stayed in the dwelling to protect him. The invading authorities threw out Peter’s supporters, ransacked the place and impounded Peter’s property. They changed the locks and bolted up windows so zealously that, to this date, they have been able to enforce this eviction.

For over three years, the NSW Liberal state government has been putting massive pressure on public housing tenants in the Millers Point, Rocks and Dawes Point area to leave their community so that their homes could be sold off to wealthy buyers – often developers or property speculators. Among those recently forced to move is an Aboriginal sovereign woman who had waited decades to get public housing in the area and is now being booted off the land that her people belong to. Meanwhile, a large number of those people forced to leave are now distraught – and even suicidal – at having to split up from a close knit, working class community. As Peter Muller aptly put it to his supporters when speaking of the NSW government: “I feel that there’s something going wrong that you can actually socially cleanse an entire class of working people just to sell it for cash to their developer mates.” And so that no one gets diverted by the false bogey about foreign investors being to blame, it is important to stress that all the buyers of sold-off public housing are rich local Australians as foreigners are banned from purchasing existing homes in Australia.

Public housing in the area originally housed maritime workers who worked in the nearby docks. Many of the tenants who are being forced out are descendants of these workers. Over 110 years ago, public housing in the area was fought for and won in a determined struggle by unions for decent, affordable housing close to their work opportunities. Although, since the 1960s, state authorities have tried to drive out working class tenants from the area, action by the Builders Labourers Federation trade union and other unions in the 1970s thwarted their plans. However, the big end of town have continued to be relentless in their drive to socially “cleanse” the city of working class people.

Nevertheless, when Peter Muller was given a notice to be evicted, the hard core of remaining tenants in the area said: enough is enough. They said they will tolerate no more evictions. These remaining public housing tenants in the area – as well as ex-tenants who have already been forced out – and their many supporters drew a line in the sand by resisting the eviction at 32 High Street. With their enthusiastic backing, Peter Muller, a proud Electrical Trades Union (ETU) member and activist in support of public housing, refused to leave his Millers Point residence after being ordered to leave his home. On May 9, on the day the sheriff was to evict him, a powerful action by up to 100 trade unionists, current and former Millers Point tenants and other supporters of public housing blocked the sheriff from evicting Peter. Trade union contingents from the Maritime Union of Australia, CFMEU construction workers union and ETU provided crucial social power and collectivist working class organisation to the action. Participants in the mobilisation openly performed arms-linked, picket line drills to practice resisting the expected incursion by the sheriff. In the face of this mass action, the sheriff first postponed his eviction “appointment” and then cancelled it.

By resisting his own eviction, Peter Muller with the remaining public housing tenants in the area and their many supporters were landing a blow for the struggle to reverse the social “cleansing” of working class people from the city. Together, we were also advancing the wider fight to stop the privatisation of public housing that is taking place throughout Australia. That is why among those participating in that day’s mobilisation were public housing tenants from several other areas including a contingent from Waterloo and individuals from Surry Hills to as far away as Villawood. In response to the May 9 mobilisation, the ruling class authorities and their media attempted to discredit and isolate the struggle by, disgustingly, attacking Peter Muller personally. Both a statement released by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) and a government spokesman claimed that Peter was not eligible for public housing because he was working and had some land in country NSW. The sole purpose of this deliberately misleading government spin is to mask the issue at stake: that public housing meant for working class people was being sold off to wealthy developers, speculators and landlords. Furthermore, as Barney Gardner, the leader of the area’s public housing group pointed out, the part share in a property that Peter has is “just a block of dirt in the bush” with no electricity or running water. Peter could not live there because it is hundreds of kilometres from his work in Sydney. The only dwelling there is a tin shed. They want Peter to live in a rough shed hundreds and hundreds of kilometres from his workplace! As for the fact that Peter is now working, when public housing tenants find work that pushes them above the threshold for initial entry into the waiting list, they are normally allowed to remain in their dwelling but then pay a higher rent. Indeed, a significant proportion of public housing tenants relocated into other public housing dwellings are people in this category. After all, a major part of the stated aim of public housing is precisely to give low-income people the stability and security of affordable housing that would make it easier for them to obtain a job that could lift their incomes – not to punish those low-wealth people lucky enough to find work. In this case, however, because the state authorities are so determined to drive out public housing tenants from Millers Point, they have used Peter’s employment as a pretext to kick him out of public housing … and into homelessness! What makes this all the more despicable is that Peter’s job working as an electrician through a labour hire firm does not give him a steady or regular flow of work at all. He is, thus, a low- income worker whose livelihood is precarious and uncertain. And now he has been made homeless as well!

For the state government and top bureaucrats to question Peter Muller’s eligibility for public housing is the very height of cynicism. After all, they are not booting him out of his home to give it to another public housing tenant. They are doing it so they can sell the house to a rich developer or speculator or landlord! Yet, by masking their true agenda and by portraying the struggle against the 32 High St eviction as one counterposed to the interests of those on public housing waiting lists, the NSW authorities felt they could get away with the following morning’s Gestapo-style raid.

The deceit and aggression that the NSW government and state authorities unleashed against Peter Muller and his supporters is what they have also used, in different forms, to drive out many other public housing tenants in the area. However, with the remaining ten to fifteen dwellings where public housing tenants remain, NSW authorities will not be able to muddy the waters by deviously claiming a technicality to justify evicting tenants as they did with Peter. The remaining tenants are pensioners – mostly single women in their 60s, 70s, 80s and in one case 90s. The authorities have accepted that they are all fully eligible public housing tenants and have “offered” them “alternate” public housing accommodation outside the area. However, these tenants are reluctant to move because they don’t want to see the end of the friendly, working class community that they have been part of building and don’t want to be forced out of the area – which many of them have lived in for decades – just for the sake of the rich. Furthermore, several of the people have serious illnesses and used to rely on support networks in the area to provide them with care and companionship. Most of all, they are reluctant to move into public housing dwellings that could have been given to people on the waiting list when they could, instead, remain in their own public housing residences rather than seeing these houses sold off to rich developers and speculators.

Yet the remaining public housing tenants have been put under intense pressure. In some cases, bullying bureaucrats have been deliberately rude and overbearing towards elderly tenants. In the Sirius Building, where two brave elderly single women remain, the authorities have placed security guards in the building to ramp up the pressure on them. Although the stated rationale for this measure is to protect the tenants, the guards are really there to restrict solidarity visits and actions in support of the tenants and to further isolate them. Thus, the guards have stopped and questioned friends of the tenants when they walked into the building with the tenant. In at least one case, they even demanded to inspect what one tenant brought home from a shopping trip! As one of the tenants put it, she feels like she is being imprisoned. Meanwhile, the housing bureaucrats continue to use their favourite trick: refusing or delaying repairs in order to make life so miserable for the tenants that they acquiesce to leaving. Recently after a fault caused hot water to be cut off in the Sirius Building, the authorities waited 13 days to fix the simple problem. In fact, the authorities here have shown the same contempt for public housing tenants and the same reluctance to listen to their concerns as the governments, councils and Grenfell Tower management did leading up to the unspeakable tragedy of London’s horrific Grenfell Tower fire.

Under immense pressure, some of the remaining elderly tenants in the area, aware of their own age and physical illnesses – and facing severe loneliness with most of their neighbours having already been pushed out – have very reluctantly accepted being relocated. The bureaucrats are putting pressure upon many of these tenants to wear being “relocated” to places quite far from their current locations. The government has never honoured the promise that they made, when they first announced that they were considering the complete sell-off of public housing in the area in late 2012, that “residents would be moved within the city.” ( 20121025-288bh.html) Many of these tenants are also battling to ensure that the new places that they are relocated to are suitable. But even here the cruelty of the authorities does not stop. They have in several cases dismissed the health needs of often physically fragile tenants – like the need for dwellings without many stairs in their entrances – when pushing them to accept particular relocations. Meanwhile, the tribunals hearing disputes between the tenants and the authorities have, like the rest of the courts in Australia, proven themselves to be rich people’s courts that are hostile to the needs of working class tenants.

Even as the number of remaining public housing tenants in the Millers Point, Rocks and Dawes Point area dwindles, the struggle to stop the sell off of public housing there is far, far from over. For many of the vacated dwellings have still not been sold off and still less been occupied. This means there is still time – albeit not very much – to intensify the struggle and, thereby, stop and, indeed, reverse the sell-offs. Crucially, more and more trade unionists, leftists and other supporters of public housing are becoming energised around the campaign. They have seen, too, how powerful the blockade was that kept the sheriff at bay on the first day of the struggle at 32 High St. The core group of people that were involved in that struggle are now more determined than ever. If key lessons from the defeat of that battle are drawn, the coming struggles can be much more effective.

Sell-off of Millers Point and Sirius Is Part of the Ruling Class Agenda to Privatise Public Housing

The NSW state government is lying through their teeth when they say that they are selling off public housing in the inner city to fund public housing elsewhere. We know this because they are actually selling off public housing across the state – left, right and centre! Even if the government’s claims were actually true, which they are definitely not, the whole rationale behind their sell-off agenda is anti-working class. Why should public housing have to be self-financed? Why should any new provision of public housing have to come from the sell- off of public housing elsewhere? Like public hospitals, public schools, childcare, TAFE and universities, public housing is a necessity for working class people and for all of society that ought to be provided as a right. Consider how bogus a government would sound if it claimed that in order to build badly needed new public hospitals in Western Sydney it said it had to sell off to private operators the crucial public hospitals in inner city Sydney – like RPA and St Vincents!

The moves towards “self-financing” of public housing are, indeed, part of the ruling class drive to make basic services – including healthcare and education – increasingly “user pays.” Jacking up TAFE and university fees is part of this agenda. According to the “values” of the capitalist rulers, all the services that working class people need ought to be “user pays” but all the budget items that they, the capitalists, need to keep themselves in power should come out of general revenue from taxes. Thus, none of the pro-capitalist political parties call for the massive government outlays for the organs of anti-working class repression – the police, courts, prisons and military – to be self-financed. Meanwhile, the huge and ever- increasing budget which the ruling class gives to ASIO to spy on us is certainly not “self-financed” by the spies themselves. And neither is their ABCC body which was created to attack our unions in the construction industry.

The spin that the Liberal state government is weaving for Millers Point and Sirius Building tenants – that the government needs to forcibly relocate them from their homes to finance public housing elsewhere – they are also spinning to public housing tenants elsewhere when they sell-off their homes too! For example, this is what they have been telling public housing residents in the Bulli-Woonona-Bellambi area north of Wollongong. Yet no one has seen the additional public housing dwellings because they simply don’t exist! The fact is that from Minto to Claymore to Bonyrigg to Glebe to the Illawara, Millers Point and Waterloo, state and federal governments of all stripes have overseen the slashing of public housing stock. Even a Senate inquiry admitted that from 2006 to 2013, even as the population grew, governments cut the number of public housing dwellings in Australia by 13,000. It is notable that this erosion in public housing has occurred during a period that spans the Howard Liberal government, two Rudd ALP governments, a Gillard-led ALP/Greens de-facto coalition government and the present conservative government. All the current parliamentary parties have been guilty of undermining public housing.

NSW governments have been among the worst in terms of selling off public housing. Official government figures show that in the twelve years up until June 2015 (the latest period that figures have been published for), state governments in NSW have slashed the amount of public housing by 12% (Shelter NSW, NSW housing: a factsheet, updated November 2016, nsw_shelternsw5a.pdf). This is even as the state’s population has grown by 15% in the same period. In other words, in a 12 year period, NSW governments – both the previous ALP government up to March 2011 and the Liberal-National coalition since then – have slashed the number of public housing dwellings per resident by almost a quarter. No wonder homelessness is on the rise!

It is important to note that this government slashing of the amount of public housing in NSW has continued even after the conservative regime first mooted the complete privatisation of public housing in Millers Point in 2012 and even after they began the forced relocations and sell-offs in 2014. In other words, their claim that this is all about financing additional public housing construction elsewhere is just one big fat lie. Indeed, if anything, the reduction in public housing across Sydney seems to be accelerating. A report in the The Sydney Morning Herald (24 April 2016), titled, “The great public housing fire sale continues despite worsening affordability crisis” reveals that in the first three and a half months of last year alone, over $54 million in public housing was sold off to private buyers even if one excludes the sell-offs in Millers Point and Glebe! And this sell-off is not just in the inner city. The main areas that they are selling off public housing in – in addition, of course, to the Millers Point, Rocks and Dawes Point area – include Parramatta, Hurstville, Greenacre, Panania, Campsie, Fairfield, Wentworthville, Lalor Park and Canley Vale.

Recently, especially with study after study showing that not only is housing too expensive for the masses but that rents in Australia are thoroughly unaffordable, governments have been under pressure to show that they are addressing this housing crisis. Thus, they have started to claim that they are committed to “social housing.” However, here they play a neat trick with words. Social housing refers not only to public housing but also to privately-run, “community housing.” In the latter, both nominally not-for-profit as well as profit-seeking groups administer low-rent housing. However, because these private outfits running “community housing” are meant to either break even or make a profit, they discriminate against the most hard-up tents (since such tenants would pay the lowest rents or would be most in danger of defaulting on payments). For the same reason “community housing” operators are even stingier on repairing premises than public housing bureaucrats and even more ruthlessly evict tenants. Thus, while “community housing” may offer a better deal for tenants than renting in the rest of the private market, it is still a big step backwards for tenants compared to public housing. What governments have been doing, while claiming that they are committed to maintaining a level of “social housing”, is to convert public housing into “community housing.” This is a large stride towards the full privatisation of public housing and is a big step backwards for tenants and all working class people. It is worth noting that the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation that managed London’s destroyed Grenfell Tower and which so callously ignored tenants’ pleas to fix manifest fire and other safety hazards is also a private organisation managing social housing – complete with highly paid managers and consultants. Although, in that case, the housing remained publicly owned, the use of this private “non-profit”, “arms-length management organisation” was designed to both shield the government from criticism for under-funding maintenance and to be a step towards turning the housing into so-called “community housing.” There is little doubt that the move towards turning public housing into “community housing” in London contributed to the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire that killed over 80 tenants.

In January 2016, the NSW Liberal government announced that it would transfer 35% of public housing stock to privately-run “community housing” operators over 10 years. The previous year, in their reply to the NSW government’s budget, the ALP state opposition went even further and called for all public housing to be transferred into privately-run, “community housing”! Running the same agenda, the small amount of extra money that the Turnbull federal government has provided for “affordable housing” in its recent budget will not go into increasing public housing supply. Instead, it will be a handout to “community housing” operators in the form of lower interest loans. What is more, the housing thus provided will largely be out of reach of people on the public housing waiting list. For these “community housing” operators will be able to charge up to 80% of the average rent in the area that a house is in. That means that the workers – including rail, tram and bus drivers, ambulance workers, nurses, cleaners, maintenance workers, electricians, water and sewerage workers, taxi drivers, delivery drivers, office assistants and IT support staff – workers who all keep the Sydney CBD going will be largely priced out of living anywhere near their place of work if they want to access such so-called, “community housing”. Even a family living in working class Auburn and relying on a single full-time worker on the minimum wage would have


to pay over half of their after tax income on rent to live in a two bedroom unit if they were able to access one of these new, supposedly “affordable”, “community housing” dwellings.

The sell-off of public housing is part of the broader privatisation of basic services that has been pursued by Liberal, ALP and Greens federal and state governments alike. The result of these privatisations is that resources that could be used to maintain and expand public services are being transferred into the pockets of rich, private businessmen. Take the case of Sydney’s Desalination Plant. Just two years after it first went into service in 2010, the state government sold off the plant through a 50 year lease to a consortium half-owned by Hastings Funds Management. Hastings is 100% owned by Westpac Bank and manages funds for wealthy big-time local investors. It has been involved in many privatisations throughout this country from airports to electricity to the Port of Newcastle. The government’s privatisation deal is so generous to Hastings and their consortium partner that the government pays them well over half a million dollars per day even when the plant is, actually, shutdown! And it so happens that from a few weeks after the rich private investors took over the plant, the desalination plant has, indeed, been shut (because Sydney’s dam levels were high enough to make the plant unnecessary to operate). By the time the 50 year lease is over, the Westpac-owned Fund and their partner will be handed over $10 billion from out of public coffers even if the plant does not see another single day of operation! (see nsw-desalination-plant-deal-costing-customers-$10-billion/4985168). That’s well over four times what the private buyers paid for the lease! After giving away such “charity” to filthy rich private businessmen, the government then has the hide to say that it has no money left for new public housing – unless, of course, they sell off existing public housing stock.

Now, in the latest chapter in its privatisation binge, the NSW Liberal government is seeking to privatise bus services in Sydney’s Inner West and inner South-West. This will result in the cutting of bus drivers’ jobs and conditions, the axing of unprofitable bus routes and the bypassing of maintenance and safety checks. However, bus drivers are fighting back. On May 18, bus drivers unleashed a powerful, 24 hour snap strike in defiance of a ruling by the Industrial Relations Commission. The drivers, members of the Rail, Tram and Bus union, have followed this up with fare free days. No to privatisation of Sydney buses – No to privatisation of public housing!

As the Huge Banner That Hung Over the 32 High St Action Stated: “Massively Increase Public Housing Now”

The struggle to stop the privatisation of public housing in the Millers Point, Rocks and Dawes Point area is an important part of the fight against the privatisation of public assets and against the sell-off of public housing throughout this country. We actually need a massive increase in public housing. We need it to end homelessness and to house the hundreds of thousands of people on Australian public housing waiting lists. We also need it to house the many more low-paid workers who need low-rent housing but either cannot meet the ridiculously strict waiting list entry criteria or don’t bother to get on the list because waiting times are so outlandishly long. Furthermore, we also need public housing to help the many working class people who rent privately and face unaffordable rents because the shortage of affordable accommodation caused by the dearth of public housing means that private landlords are able to get away with jacking up rents. A substantial increase in public housing will finally pressure landlords in the private market to reduce rents since they will then know that their tenants will have somewhere else to go.

However, the propagandists for the capitalist ruling class say that public housing is outdated. They claim that it is not relevant in today’s world. Yet that argument has a fatal flaw. For in the world’s most populous country, China, the government is actually massively increasing the amount of public housing. This is not only through constructing new public housing. They have also been nationalising existing private housing – the very opposite of what has been happening here. Indeed, so committed has the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) been to public housing that they have provided over 45 million additional public housing dwellings in just the last eight years! As a result, an urban Chinese resident is now some six times more likely to have access to public housing than an urban Australian resident!

One obvious reason why the PRC has been able to so spectacularly increase the provision of public housing for its people is that there is a government commitment there to provide affordable housing to working class people. However, that is not the only reason. The other major factor is that although the ruling bureaucrats in China have since the 1980s allowed a harmful level of private sector capitalists to intrude into their economy, it is still socialistic state-owned enterprises that dominate the economy in the PRC. Thus, a large part of the PRC’s public housing is built by state-owned developers – like the giant China State Construction Engineering Corporation – and is financed by the state-owned banks that thoroughly dominate the PRC’s finance sector. In contrast, here in Australia, many of the resources for public housing ends up in the pockets of private contractors who are hired to perform various stages of the construction and most of the maintenance of public housing. Public funds designated for public housing in Australia produce relatively modest outcomes since so much of every dollar nominally assigned for its construction and maintenance ends up going down the drain into the profitable pockets of wealthy private businessmen.

Just as the expansion of public housing in the PRC is part of the continued dominance of public ownership in China’s economy and part of a concerted state-led drive to lift everyone there out of poverty by 2020, the sell-off of public housing in Australia is part of the ruling class’ ongoing privatisation push and part of their drive to reduce access to services for low- income people. Thus, when we stand up for public housing here, we will also be contributing to a broader struggle to defend the public services that working class people need the most.

Lessons of the Struggle to Keep 32 High St Open for Public Housing

In order to strengthen the upcoming struggles we must learn the hard earned lessons of the fight to stop the forced eviction at 32 High St, Millers Point. Chief among these is to understand the role of the state enforcement organs. After the first day’s success in deterring the sheriff ’s planned eviction of the tenant, the Millers Point community received legal advice that the original eviction notice had been cancelled and that it would take some time before a new eviction order could be processed. Thus, many tenants and supporters felt confident that there would not be a new attempt at eviction for at least a couple of days. This confidence was, in part, generated by our strong victory on the first day but also by an expectation that the state authorities would follow their own bureaucratic procedures and rules. Of course, no one totally ruled out a surprise raid overnight which is why some people stayed in the dwelling and were given the necessary phone tree contacts. However, the belief that a raid was unlikely meant that considerably less forces were mobilised to defend the house overnight than was possible.

Next time, the movement must ensure that there are enough forces to protect the public housing dwelling being targeted for eviction 24/7 regardless of any legal procedures which the authorities may formally be required to follow. The state enforcement institutions often do not follow their own laws and procedures because they are not here to defend the law. They are here to protect the interests of the rich ruling class. This has been the case since the colonial conquest of Australia when the armed personnel of the invading power brutally suppressed Aboriginal peoples’ resistance to the conquest of their lands occupied by the wealthy amongst the colonialists. Since then, these enforcement organs have attacked the picket lines of striking workers, broken strikes, attacked pro-worker and leftist demonstrations, evicted tenants, harassed the homeless, enforced the racist oppression of Aboriginal people and unleashed attacks on scapegoated “ethnic” communities. It is true that police do sometimes catch a rapist or murderer. However, their political function is to enforce the rule of the capitalist, big business owners over the masses. Every time there is a clash between the propertied, exploiting class and the working class masses, the state machine becomes perfected and more entrenched in this purpose and the armed personnel themselves become more conscious of their role. That is why the police and sheriffs are not at all workers in the way that electricians, nurses, construction workers, wharfies and IT workers, for example, are. They are, instead, the hired enforcers of the big end of town. Enforcers who, every time they do a job on the masses, become more and more hardened in their commitment to serve those at the top of this unequal society. With every dirty deed done they become more apt at “justifying” this role to themselves with patronising notions that those doing it the hardest are lazy or otherwise “deserve” their plight and that those resisting the dominance of the ruling class are people causing trouble just for the sake of it. Thus the likes of police, sheriffs, prison guards and prosecutors should have no place in our union movement. Even when they are polite to us that is only so long as we do not resist the unfair status quo in society. It is also, often, just to give us a false sense of security. Many a striking worker has experienced police coming to a picket and joining workers at the BBQ or even kicking a footy around with picketers but the very next day coming back in force with batons unleashed to try and smash the picket and get scabs through.

The laws and regulations that the authorities impose are there to suppress us. Even when there are certain regulations which we have fought for and won to somewhat constrain their powers, they will violate these rules – to the extent we let them get away with it – if that helps them carry out their role of enforcing the interests of the big end of town. We must plan our strategies based on this core understanding.

Another lesson from the 32 High St struggle concerns the role of the media. Over the last several years, the mainstream Australian media has vilified and mocked public housing tenants. However, given the widespread support for public housing in inner-city Sydney, the media occasionally had to give more sympathetic coverage to the plight of Millers Point tenants. Yet, when the struggle against the sell-off of public housing in Millers Point, the Rocks and Dawes Point was taken to a higher, more powerful level through the blockade at 32 High St, the mainstream media again turned more hostile. Channel 7, owned by high- living billionaire Kerry Stokes as well as the government-owned ABC were, in particular, the most shameless in promoting the NSW government and state bureaucrat slanders against the evicted tenant. The mainstream media are happy to occasionally run a sympathetic piece when working class people are simply victims but once we fight back we see the media’s true colours. Their coverage will reflect the class interests of those that own or control them – that is, ultra-wealthy businessmen in the case of Channel 7 or, in the case of the ABC, the rich people’s state that serves the capitalists. We should not expect any support from the mainstream media and, most importantly, we must not tailor our struggles just to try and win support from this media. If, as an exception, the media do happen to give non-hostile coverage to one of our struggles then well and good. But we should do what is best to make our struggles as powerful as possible rather than what will be most acceptable to these hired mouthpieces of billionaire tycoons and capitalist governments.

Even more importantly, what the struggle to stop the eviction at 32 High Street confirmed yet again is that no reliance should be placed on pro-capitalist politicians – even when they claim to be on working class people’s side on a particular issue. Over the last few years, several of these politicians have stated support for the Millers Point and Sirius public housing communities. A few of these politicians have spoken out loudly and passionately against the NSW Coalition government’s sell-off plan for the Millers Point, Rocks and Dawes Point area. Some have even spoken at rallies protesting against the sell-off of public housing in the area including Labor federal deputy opposition leader, Tanya Plibersek, Labor NSW shadow minister for social housing, Tania Mihailuk, state MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich (an independent), several Greens politicians, “independent” Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and even arch-right wing reactionary Christian Democrat, Fred Nile. However, when Peter Muller was facing eviction and protesters blockaded 32 High Street to try and stop it, most of these politicians refused to take any public stand in support of the action – either verbally or in action. A partial exception was Greens state upper house member, David Shoebridge, who, to his credit, showed up to support the blockade on the first morning. Although some Greens leaders had privately promised that they would bring big numbers to support the blockade, Shoebridge was the lone Greens representative that participated. However, after saying at the blockade “we’re not going anywhere,” Shoebridge then failed to follow through: after the media slandered the tenant and then after the sheriffs and cops were able to enforce the eviction, he did not make any public stand or statement in support of the tenant or the struggle to stop the eviction.

The problem is that the various ALP, Greens and “progressive independent” politicians are as committed to upholding the existing economic-political system as the Liberals. Granted that, unlike the openly anti-working class conservatives, these “progressive” politicians would prefer it if there were some reforms to make life easier for the masses. However, because they acquiesce to the current social “order” and, hence, are committed to accepting its power structures, they are so fixated on not scaring away, or even annoying, the big capitalists that every time working class people engage in an intransigent struggle that can actually make a difference – like a blockade to prevent the eviction of a public housing tenant – their first instinct is to run a mile. Furthermore, with the partial exception of the Greens, these “progressive” politicians do not have any broader commitment to public housing themselves. To be sure, they are against the complete sell-off of public housing in the inner- city because they accept that working class people should be allowed to make up a proportion of city residents. Furthermore, they know that the campaign to save public housing in the Millers Point, Rocks and Dawes Point area is popular and, thus, there are votes in it for them! However, overall they have no commitment to decisively increasing the amount of public housing. Far from it! As we have noted above, the ALP while in government federally by itself – and when in government in a de-facto coalition with the Greens – oversaw the slashing of the amount of public housing. Today, they join the Liberals in hiding behind rhetoric about a commitment to “social housing,” while calling for public housing to be converted into “community” housing which, as we have described above, is a big and sorry step towards full privatisation.

It is worth noting that the large banner that hung over the 32 High St blockade, stating “Massively Increase Public Housing Now,” was actually first used in a protest against Tanya Plibersek when she was the federal housing minister in the first Rudd government. One of our comrades made that banner for that November 2009 protest that Trotskyist Platform called outside Tanya Plibersek’s office because of the then ALP federal government’s woefully inadequate outlay of resources for public housing. That rally turned out to be the first on the streets action for public housing in NSW in the resurgence of activism around defence of public housing that has taken place over the last seven and a half years and which must be, now, desperately intensified. As a representative of the CFMEU construction workers union, delivering a message of solidarity to that 2009 rally from the union’s then NSW president, stated: “since the mid-1970s, successive Governments have failed to adequately deliver sufficient public housing for those in our society who need such shelter.” Indeed,

then housing minister Tanya Plibersek later joined with the then ALP NSW government to orchestrate the sell-off of large amounts of public housing in Claymore near Campbelltown and in Glebe. This added to similar schemes already being implemented by the then ALP state government to reduce the proportion of public housing in Minto and Bonyrigg. In Claymore, the Plibersek-NSW ALP government joint plan involved the privatisation of a quarter of the public housing in what had been the biggest public housing estate in NSW (see Plibersek’s own press release here: nswhousingprojects_7june2010/) – a disastrous outcome for working class people that was deepened even further by subsequent conservative NSW governments.

The fact is that when it was in government in NSW, the ALP actually sold off more public housing than the arrogant Liberals later have. Thus, in the last eight years of the former ALP government up to 2011, they slashed the public housing stock in NSW by 11%. When population growth is taken into account, this represents a cut in the amount of public housing coverage by close to one in five. Indeed, it was that previous ALP state government that actually began the sale of public housing in Millers Point. In two lots, they sold off 36 vacant homes ( community-20121025-288bh.html) in the late noughties while holding back on the repair and maintenance of the existing homes. This paved the way for the conservatives to come in with their sledge hammer approach and sell off the houses from under the very feet of public housing tenants.

In the case of Tanya Plibersek there is also a particular conflict of interest that, additionally, holds her back from following through on her claimed support for public housing in the area. Her husband, Michael Coutts-Trotter is one of the chief bureaucrats overseeing the sell-off of public housing in the Millers Point, Rocks and Dawes Point area. He is the head of the Department of Family and Community Services. When the government announced its decision to sell off the public housing in the area, Coutts-Trotter stood right alongside Community Services minister, Pru Goward, in pushing the lies and spin justifying the sale, stating that:

“There is massive demand for residential housing in this area; it [the sell- off] is going to free up a very large amount of money for reinvestment in social housing.”

The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 March 2014, http://www. ties-to-be-sold-off-20140319-351fs.html

Even more significant here than any personal conflict of interest for Plibersek is the more fundamental conflict between the ALP’s stated purpose to improve the lives of working class people and the reality that its strategy to achieve this, through administering the capitalist state, necessarily – whether the particular individual involved is taking part in administering this state as a high-level bureaucrat or as a government minister – means enforcing the interests of the capitalist exploiters against the interests of working class people.

That is why the struggle for public housing – just like all campaigns for the rights of working class people – must not rely at all on pro-capitalist politicians but, instead, rely entirely on the power and unity of working class people, our trade unions and other downtrodden sections of the community. Most crucially, we must ensure that the direction of the movement is not in the least modified to ensure acceptance by any mainstream politicians that state support for the campaign. Given that those pro-establishment politicians claiming to support the Millers Point struggle are not more broadly for public housing, they have been pulling the campaign towards narrowly focusing on the particularities of the Millers Point/Rocks/ Dawes Point area rather than emphasising that the campaign is part of the overall fight to defend public housing everywhere. Any step in this direction weakens the ability of the campaign to inspire broader support from public housing tenants elsewhere, from those on the public housing waiting list and from other opponents of privatisation. Furthermore, any narrowing of the focus to just the Millers Point/Rocks/Dawes Point area can end up being manipulated by the NSW Liberal government to spin its devious narrative about the issue. As we saw all too clearly with the struggle to stop the eviction at 32 High St, the state government is trying to sell people the utterly despicable and cynical lie that they are selling off public housing in Millers Point for the good of public housing elsewhere and that those tenants resisting are selfish people protecting their own interests at the expense of tenants elsewhere. This underscores why it is vital that the movement disregards the sensibilities of any pro-capitalist politicians pledging support and ever more forthrightly make front and centre of the campaign the idea that its struggle to stop the sell-off of public housing in the CBD area is part of a broader fight to oppose the slashing of public housing everywhere and is, in fact, part and parcel of the struggle to win a massive increase in public housing in Australia. It is a struggle on the side of all public housing tenants, a struggle on the side of all those on the public housing waiting lists, a struggle for the many more working class people who need public housing but aren’t on the waiting list and a fight that stands by the interests of the many working class people who rent privately and face unaffordable rents. More broadly, we must ever more directly locate this campaign as part of the struggle against the ruling class’ attacks on all public services and a struggle against their attacks on our trade unions. Any undermining of public housing is an attack on our unions because like other measures which target the poor and unemployed they make the prospect of life after losing one’s job so unbearably miserable that it can intimidate some workers – fearful of being sacked by the boss or being identified as one of the staunch unionists who are invariably at the top of the bosses’ list to be axed in the event of retrenchments – from participating in the union fight for rights at work.

There’s Still Time Left to Stop and Reverse the Public Housing Sell-Off

It is true that the government has managed to drive out most of the public housing tenants from the Millers Point, Rocks and Dawes Point area. However, a few tenants remain. Most significantly, many of the public housing dwellings have still not been sold off and still less have been occupied. While vacated houses remain unoccupied there remains the chance to build mass action – buttressed by the power of our trade unions – to reclaim these dwellings for public use. These unoccupied houses should be used to shelter the homeless and those on the public housing waiting list and not sold off to greedy developers and wealthy speculators!

Furthermore, there has been an event internationally that should give this struggle new hope. This is connected to the fact that part of what is driving the NSW government’s obsessive campaign against Millers Point public housing is not only its overall push to slash public housing but, additionally, its subservience to the interests of billionaire James Packer whose Crown Group is building a high rollers casino and six-star hotel in the very nearby Barangaroo. For Packer and his government servants, having working class people in the area is an “eyesore” for the wealthy clientele who they hope will frequent the luxury resort that Packer expects to make billions from. Meanwhile, the NSW government is determined to clear out working class tenants in order to help its rich developer mates make a fortune from turning Millers Point into luxury accommodation for resort executives and patrons. However, although Packer can get whatever he wants in capitalist Australia he found that things are not the same in China. On June 26, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) jailed 16 of his wealthy executives after they all pleaded guilty to charges of illegally luring Chinese high rollers to use Packer’s casinos in Australia and elsewhere. One of Crown corporation’s highest flying executives, Melbourne-based boss of VIP operations Jason O’Connor received a 10 month sentence. The PRC, understandably, wants to stop money flows to casino accounts being used to subvert its strict control on money movements by the rich. Under the PRC’s socialistic system it is public ownership that dominates, not the interests of rich private sector bigwigs. The effect of the PRC’s crackdown is that it has shown Packer and his henchmen that they will not be able to get away with illegally luring casino clients from China. Without customers from the world’s most populous country, Packer’s Barangaroo casino may now be unviable and media are reporting that Crown is reconsidering the entire project. If the resort project is indeed killed off then that would not only potentially allow the scenic Barangaroo area to be used for what it should be – for public recreational space or badly needed public housing – but would also remove part of the fuel powering the government’s turbo-charged drive to kick out public housing tenants from Millers Point. Furthermore, even if the China arrests do not in themselves kill Crown’s casino project, we should use the blow that the Peoples Republic of China has landed against Packer and his henchmen to encourage our own struggle here. For these blows have shown that Packer and his fellow billionaires are not invincible. What we must do is unite working class people to fight back against the tyranny of the tycoons and stand up to the governments and state institutions that serve the marauding tycoons’ interests.

The struggle for public housing is a key battleground in the overall struggle of working class people against the all-sided offensive that the capitalist rulers are waging against their rights. For three and a half decades, Australia’s filthy rich corporate bosses and the governments that serve them have waged a war on working class people’s rights: they have sold off public housing, cut off payments to low-income single mothers, made TAFE and university more expensive, underfunded public schools and public hospitals, attacked our unions, casualised the workforce, sacked workers whenever that helps them make even more profits and made life for those not fortunate enough to have a job even more miserable. It is time for us and our unions to fight back! The Millers Point, Rocks and Dawes Point tenants resisting the sell-off of public housing have opened up a new front in our fightback. Let’s mobilise behind this struggle with ever greater vigour. The way we trade unionists, public housing tenants and other supporters of working class interests were able to repulse the sheriff who was set to evict the 32 High St tenant on the first day of that battle shows the power that we have. By learning the lessons of the subsequent defeat of that 32 High St battle – most importantly that the state institutions were created to serve the exclusive interests of the big end of town which means we cannot trust them to abide by their own rules and procedures – by learning important lessons like this we can win future victories. The way that the public housing tenants and ex-tenants of Millers Point, the Rocks and Dawes Point have so resiliently resisted in the face of incessant pressure should inspire us to give it our best shot. The future rests in our strong, working class hands.

Issue 19

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  1. As Capitalist Rulers Beat on the Unions and Poor: Opposing Racism & “Aussie First” Economic Nationalism Key to Defending Working Class People’s Rights
  2. Tens of Thousands Protest in Australia on the Day of Land Theft & Genocide Rally Attacked by Ruthless Police
  3. A Hard Right, Racist Bigot Enters the White House Capitalist “Democracy” is a Sham Unleash Industrial Action to Demand Jobs for All Only Workers United with All of the Oppressed Can Bring about Real Change
  4. Expand the Union Action in Defence of Public Housing in Sirius: Fight for a Massive Increase in Public Housing throughout the Country! Still a Chance to Prevent the Destruction of Public Housing in Millers Point and The Rocks
  5. Trotskyist Platform May Day (International Workers Day Statement We Need Militant Class Struggle to Win Secure Jobs for All Workers
  6. Workplace Safety Now Better in China Than in Australia Australian Rulers Union Busting Drive against the CFMEU Union
    Threatens Construction Workers Lives
  7. Good News: China’s Arrest of Crown Executives Endangers Packer’s Barangaroo Project James Packer’s Crown Versus Millers Point Public Housing
  8. Free All the Victims of Australia’s Racist Torture! Jail the Cops and Prison Guards Who Killed David Dungay, Ms Dhu, Rebecca Maher, Wayne Morrison, TJ Hickey, Mulrunji & the Many Other Victims of the Racist, Rich People’s State!
  9. Long Live China’s 1949 Anticapitalist Revolution! Protect the Great Benefits for Workers & the Rural Masses Won through the Revolution: Stop Imperialist Funding for Those NGOs that Seek to Overthrow Socialistic Rule in China
  10. Defend the Dominance of Socialistic, State-Ownership in China’s Economy! China: Pro-Worker and Pro-Private Sector Forces Lock Horns
  11. Racist Atrocities in Kalgoorlie
  12. Force Profitable Companies to Increase Hiring – Make Them Wear the Resulting Lower Profits Stop Billionaire Bosses from Retrenching Workers! No to Slave Wage Internships and Work for the Dole! For Fully Paid, Permanent Jobs for All!

Stop Billionaire Bosses from Retrenching Workers!

Force Profitable Companies to Increase Hiring –
Make Them Wear the Resulting Lower Profits

No to Slave Wage Internships and Work for the Dole!
For Fully Paid, Permanent Jobs for All!

Above: Marseille, France, 31 March 2016. Workers at a strike rally to oppose the French “Socialist Party” government’s planned labour reforms. The reforms will make it easier for bosses to sack workers and allows for capitalists to make workers do long overtime hours at the standard pay rate. Whoever administers capitalist states, no matter how “left-wing” they claim to be, will necessarily act against the interests of working class people.

2 July 2016 – Today, on federal Election Day, the Liberals, ALP, Greens and others were frantically seeking your vote. They were in furious competition with each other. Yet all these parties uphold the same capitalist order. There are some differences between the parties. The ALP’s base is mostly the working class and small-l liberal intellectuals while the Liberal party is dominated by actual capitalist bigwigs and upper middle-class yuppies. However, the ALP sells out its working class base by advocating a program to basically keep the current, terribly unfair, status quo. The Liberals, for their part, seek to make the rich even richer by gouging even more from the poor. One key issue that highlights the truth that none of these parliamentary parties deserve any support from working class people is the fact that all the parliamentary parties uphold the “right” of greedy bosses to retrench workers at will. Even when big business owners are making huge profits they do not hesitate to lay off workers if that can allow them to make still bigger profits. Yet all the current parliamentary parties protect the big end of town by variously shifting the blame for unemployment onto refugees, guest workers, overseas producers or all of the above.

Despite this, many leftists actually spent today campaigning for either Greens or ALP candidates. In other words they backed either the small-l liberal or social democratic party vying to run racist Australian capitalism. Even the Socialist Alternative group, who between elections makes valid attacks on the ALP and Greens, ended up advocating a vote for these parties even while admitting that they provide no road forward for the masses and stressing that it is a socialist alternative that needs to be built. To give such support to the Greens or to the ALP when it is running on a platform of largely maintaining the status quo – no matter how much such support is accompanied by talk of “building a socialist alternative” – can only breed defeatism amongst the masses. For it is telling working class people that they must support one of the pro-capitalist agendas. This is, after all, also what the capitalist media and politicians themselves – and indeed the education system too – tells the masses: that they must “choose” to accept one of the alternate visions of capitalist rule on offer.  Furthermore, by giving electoral support to one of the pro-capitalist parties – no matter how critically – the Left groups that do this are pushing the people that they influence to accept that the agenda of these parties is worth at least some level of support. However, for the class struggle to take off – and class struggle is the only effective means to defend the interests of the exploited and oppressed – the masses need to understand exactly the opposite. For the masses to choose the road of class struggle they need to be convinced that no pro-capitalist program – even if it is not as openly reactionary as that of the Liberals – is worthy of any support and, instead, the working class must rely entirely on its own power united with all other oppressed groups.

At the same time that most other Left groups were going about advocating support for the ALP or the Greens – and in some cases spending today literally handing out election material for these parties – the Sydney Branch of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) and ourselves in Trotskyist Platform (TP) were busy doing something very different. The AUWU and TP held an election day rally in the multiracial, working class Sydney suburb of Auburn calling to “Stop Billionaire Bosses From Retrenching Workers!” and to “Force Profitable Companies to Increase Hiring – Make Them Wear the Resulting Lower Profits.” The action also demanded, “No to Slave Wage Internships and Work For the Dole – For Fully Paid, Permanent Jobs For All.”

The thrust of the rally was summarised in the conclusion of the callout for the action:

… we don’t have to accept the `choice’ that this election offers. Let’s get united and build actions on the streets and in our workplaces. That is how working class people and our allies won whatever rights that we have today. What better way to start to get organised to resist the new government that will be installed to run the bosses system than by rallying to fight for the right of permanent, fully paid jobs for all workers on Election Day itself.

Among those addressing the rally was a representative of the Sydney Branch of the AUWU, Samuel Russell. He spoke powerfully about the irrationality of unemployment under the capitalist system noting that while there are so many people willing to work without jobs there also so many jobs that need to be done that are not being done: including maintenance and building of infrastructure, caring for people who need care, etc. He also strongly criticised all the current parliamentary parties – the Liberals, ALP and Greens – for their attacks on the unemployed. Russell stressed that the fruit of workers’ labour and what working class people actually need are tantalizingly and visibly within reach if only we can get organised to reach out for this juicy, low hanging fruit and fight for it.

Also addressing the demonstration were representatives of Trotskyist Platform (TP): rally M.C. Samuel Kim, TP chairwoman Sarah Fitzenmeyer and editor of The Spark (the journal of TP) Yuri Gromov. Below are their speeches, which have been edited for publication.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee: The two people bidding to head the government administering Australian capitalism. The only choice for working class people is to reject all the would-be administrators of this incredibly unfair system and to instead unite with all the oppressed in militant class struggle.

Rally M.C., Samuel Kim, introductory speech:

Let me initiate this rally with some news about how workers have been unfairly sacked due to greed. For example, one latest round of sackings was from the ANZ bank. The ANZ Bank is the 8th largest corporation in Australia by revenue. They announced a profit of 7.2 billion dollars for last year. But despite being one of the richest and most profitable companies in Australia, six weeks ago, the ANZ bank announced that they would be cutting 200 jobs of people working in back office operations. No, these jobs are NOT being off-shored but they are simply being cut to boost profits for bank bosses and billionaire shareholders. In addition, in the last 16 months, ANZ has slashed nearly one and a half thousand jobs.

It seems the wealthy bank owners just keep wanting even more money at the expense of ordinary workers. You see, the terrible axing of workers’ jobs amounts to a small 2% increase in profit. Yet still, the company bigwigs for the sake of 2% higher profits is prepared to make one and a half thousand of its employees suffer poverty and unemployment. Indeed, in the last year, the four big banks, of which all four are in the top ten most profitable companies in Australia, have together shed over 4,200 jobs – that’s after they made a combined profit in just half a year of nearly 15 billion dollars!

It is not just the banks that are guilty. All big business owners are guilty. Mining magnate Clive Palmer was found to have siphoned off 20 million dollars of his Queensland Nickel company for his political campaigning and then said he had no money to pay 800 retrenched workers their due entitlements. 74 million dollars is how much he owes workers. This figure is almost nothing compared to his current fortune of nearly $600 million. Clive should be forced to run the company at a loss when it’s made a profit over all these years and Clive should pay workers from his own bank account, brimming over with the wealth which was created by the very workers he took so much from.

But what Clive Palmer has done is just the tip of the iceberg. Everywhere around this country, business owners have ripped so much money from their workers and then sacked these workers. They often perform these mass sackings when one division of the firm makes a slight loss. Although, in many cases, their overall company is still making massive profits they want to make even more so they slash the workforce and make those remaining work faster.

We need to stop these billionaire bosses from retrenching workers. We call for a resistance of the working class to stop job losses. After all, the magnificent riches that capitalists have acquired have all been created by workers. So even when corporations are running at a loss for a while, they should be forced to retain their staff and the shortfall be paid out of the personal wealth of the business owners.

However, all the parties and so-called independents sitting in parliament, without exception, uphold the supposed “right” of business to sack their workers whenever they want to maximise their profits. At today’s elections, all these parties are vying for your vote by promising to be the ones that can deliver jobs. Yet, these parties ignore the main cause of unemployment and that is the capitalist rich and the bosses’ drive for profit while these rich people ignore the public and community.

It is not just their refusal to stop billionaires slashing jobs. Parliamentary parties are responsible for laws that restrict workplace industrial action. In other words these parties are restricting the very method that has the most power to compel business owners to retain jobs. We all know that the Liberals want to bring yet more severe laws against struggle by construction workers by reintroducing the ABCC. However, in 2012, it was the Labor-Greens de facto coalition government that brought in the Fair Work Building and Construction authority under which 108 construction worker officials are today before the courts.

As they make it harder for workers to speak out to improve their conditions at work, the current Liberal and Labor parliamentarians seek to, in various ways, shift the blame on to others or distract us from real concerns. The Liberals and ALP have blamed refugees, these powerless refugees. It was the ALP’s Keating in the 90s that introduced mandatory detention, literally imprisonment of children, and Labor’s Kevin Rudd a few years ago introduced blanket offshore detention for every single refugee arriving by sea. The Greens also join with the ALP in blaming 457 Visa guest workers or imported goods for local workers not getting jobs. Blaming foreign workers and ignoring billionaire bosses, we say, do not save jobs at all. Not one bit! Instead, these slogans serves to distract the masses from the real cause of unemployment: the greed of the wealthy business owners and the crumbling character of their capitalist system. Furthermore, the nationalist slogans of Labor, the Greens and the Liberals whip up dangerous growth in far right fascist forces and potential hate crimes. Instead of irrationally blaming powerless foreigners and ignoring what rich billionaires are doing, we should be uniting with these potentially radical, underpaid workers and we should blame the billionaires.

The current parliamentary parties that administer this system seek to blame the unemployed and poor for their own plight. Their policies are based on the savage idea that the unemployed need to be pressured through draconian measures to seek work. The Liberal government is currently rolling out compulsory “income management” where unemployed people are being allowed to only freely use 20% of their welfare income. This follows on from the racist policy of the Howard government which was then continued by Labor and the Labor-Greens government to forcibly “income manage” welfare payments to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. In probably the cruellest measure against unemployed and poor people, the former Labor and Greens government slashed payments to low income single parents. This has driven tens of thousands of single mothers and their children into further terrible poverty.

So this is the nature of the parliamentary, capitalist beast. Whatever party or independent is in government, they are part of this system that hurts the working class. They allow greedy bosses to cut jobs at will, make it harder for workers to take industrial action to resist such cuts and, when workers become unemployed, we get blamed for it and are hit with punitive measures. We should not be voting for any of these parties or independents at today’s elections. The only way we can fight to defend workers’ rights and jobs is through united mass struggle especially workplace strike action and mass struggle on the streets. To help build such struggle is why we are demonstrating here today. We are fighting for the right to have jobs for all workers through action that forces company owners to retain jobs and increase hiring at the expense of their profits.

If the capitalist bosses oppose our demands and whip up lies against us, we should say: If capitalist bigwigs are not capable of running the economy in a way that guarantees fully paid, secure jobs for all workers, then the economy should not be in their hands. It should be ripped out of their hands and placed into the collective hands of the people who actually generate the wealth of society: the working class people.

Top Left, April 2015: Workers retrenched from Fortescue Metals Group’s (FMG) Cloudbreak mine in the Pilbara gather their luggage at Perth Airport. Evident are the green, clear plastic bags that the workers were insultingly made to immediately pack their belongings into and clear out when the company axed their jobs. The company cried poor as its excuse for sacking the workers but in that financial year still made a profit of $435 million! However, its greedy owner, the filthy rich slime bag Andrew Forrest, wanted even more profit. So he cruelly got rid of hundreds of the workers who made him his fortune and made the remaining workers toil longer hours for the same pay. Only months after sacking hundreds of his workers, Forrest bought a $21 million mansion (Top Right) in the Perth seaside suburb of Cottesloe just metres away from another mansion that he owns. Lower Right: Forrest also owns a $53 million private jet!

Sarah Fitzenmeyer (Trotskyist Platform chairwoman): 

In Australia nearly three-quarters of a million people are officially unemployed. Hundreds of thousands more people are actually unemployed.

Additionally, over a million people are forced to work less hours than they want to.

35% of the workforce are either casual or on short term contract with virtually no job security.

Capitalist businesses spit out workers whenever their filthy profits might take a fall.  The dole is a pathetic slap in the face to workers who have toiled for the profits of others – it is hardly enough to survive on let alone pay a mortgage.

Under capitalism this country will go nowhere forwards… it is a society that I don’t want my children growing up into… it is a society that doesn’t care about anything except the making of money for the few who make up the ruling class. A society based upon the profit motive for the very few doesn’t sound like a system that creates equality for all.

Most oppressed groups suffer most from unemployment and casualization of work. Due to discrimination, women have higher unemployment and a greater proportion of women work as casuals. Aboriginal people have a much higher rate of unemployment due to intense racist discrimination. People with Asian, African or Muslim names often don’t get to the interview stage of job applications when their prospective employers read their names on their CVs.

Those of us who are lucky enough to have a permanent job can be thrown out of work if our boss decides that cutting our job is what is needed to maximise profit. Furthermore, the threat of unemployment is used to undermine workers’ demands for better wages and conditions.

Therefore, the struggle for jobs and the struggle against this brutal class system is in the interests of the entire working class and especially for women, Aboriginal people and other coloured people who are hardest hit by unemployment and discrimination.

All the current parliamentary parties from the openly pro-boss Liberals, Palmer United, Family First and Nick Xenophon group to the ALP and Greens uphold the bosses’ “right” to retrench workers whenever that helps them boost profits.

Furthermore, all these parties have brought in laws to criminalise militant industrial action – the working class’ main weapon to fight back against the job slashing bosses. Everyone knows about the Coalition’s drive to introduce ever more stricter, anti-strike laws. Yet, in the time of the previous Labor-Greens government, authorities were also carrying out legal action against trade unions left, right and centre.

The backing of bosses who slash jobs combined with the criminalising of workers’ resistance is part of all the current parliamentary parties backing of the capitalist system in general. A system which means brutal racist oppression of Aboriginal people, predatory wars against the peoples of the ex-colonial countries, cruel incarceration of refugees …and the list of oppressive travesties goes on.

At today’s election we should not be backing any of the parties that back this exploitative and racist system. That means no vote either directly or by preferences to any of the current parliamentary parties.

They won’t and they can’t ever give us what the masses of this country so desperately need.

It is the capitalists who run this country while parliamentarians are simply the administrators of this capitalist system in its current form. No elected politician in Australia’s bourgeois parliament can or will start to massively redistribute the sickening amount of wealth that the very few have, let alone start to redress the systematic oppression of Aboriginal people.  I am furious that I bring up children in a country that has so many gaping infected wounds that must be addressed.  It angers me that the oldest living culture on earth still suffers the worst systematic oppression…  and once you open up your eyes and actually see how capitalism works you know that these wounds certainly won’t be healed under a capitalist state. For it is the capitalists like Gina Reinhardt and Andrew Forrest whom the capitalist state serves and it is they who steal and get fat from Australia’s many natural resources.

Elections do not represent the will of the people. Elections are shaped heavily by a media that is capitalist-owned. The richer you are the more ads you can pay for and the more lies you can spread.

In any case whoever wins elections only administers a state – that is a police force, courts, bureaucracy and army – that has been built up to serve the interests of the big business owners. Thus, no matter who wins elections, it is the interests of the capitalists who will be served. In France, the Socialist Party came to office promising redistribution of wealth. Now it has brought in John Howard style, anti-worker laws that greatly increased the work week, provoking angry strikes and demonstrations by workers. In Greece, the even more left-talking Syriza party was elected to office but now institutes a capitalist austerity program more severe than the conservatives.

Government elections in capitalist countries serve to breed illusions in the working class and oppressed that change can come through parliament. This demobilises them and diverts them from the only path that can help us defend our rights – the path of class struggle. It is only through mass struggle including, importantly, industrial action that workers and the downtrodden have won all the rights that we have today. Even when progressive measures have been introduced in parliament, the state merely certifies what was already won through struggle in the streets or the workplace. At other times capitalist parliaments have granted reforms when the ruling class was scared into trying to pacify radicalising masses with a crumb or two or when they have been weakened by defeats in the international arena and sought to shore up their rule.

I am both enlightened and at the same time burdened by my knowledge that here in Australia we live under a capitalist “democracy.”  Once you understand how this capitalist system works, you are compelled to expose its brutal mechanisms in order to prepare the future workers’ uprising that will fundamentally destroy this capitalist state and create a society that is based upon equality and not upon the profit motive. A workers state would ensure that every person mattered, that every person had a part to play in the creation of a society…  A massive redistribution of wealth would lead to a society where no one ever needed to go without.   Everyone would play a valuable part in building a society that cared about how we were going to start to right the wrongs of over 200 years of white colonisation.

Once you understand how the capitalist system works, why everything bad that is happening in this country makes sense.  And once you see the blatant exploitation of workers’ labour you can only believe in one thing and that thing is a revolution.  A revolution that is possible with the united might of the working class, Aboriginal people and anyone who hopes that one day a better society can exist.

No matter who wins the election today, it certainly won’t help advance towards the revolution that is needed to make this country right.  Only the might of a united working class alongside the first peoples of this land will ever bring about the revolution that is so desperately needed.

Today, it is class struggle that we need to stop the capitalist bosses when they try to sack workers. We should also demand a reduction in the full-time work week with no loss in pay in order to spread the available work around. What all these demands are doing is fighting to force the bosses to maintain a larger workforce than they want to and thus forcing them to wear the resulting lower profits.

As an example of how gains are won through class struggle: two years ago at the Ausreo manufacturing site in Western Sydney workers, members of the AMWU manufacturing workers union, picketed the site for 10 weeks after the bullying bosses locked out the workers and refused to negotiate a pay rise. However, the workers remained defiant on the picket line and, thus, forced the company to grant them a real wage increase.

To make this the norm rather than the exception we need a political struggle within the workers movement to root out one of the key things holding back militant workers’ struggle – We must get rid of the illusion that salvation may come through elections and the parliament. To contribute to this struggle is what today’s demonstration aims to do.

The other key barrier to workers struggle is economic nationalism within our union movement. Consider this: nine days ago leaders of two of the biggest unions – the AMWU and the Australian Workers Union – held a rally for jobs. However, in total contrast to today’s rally for jobs the slogans were not to demand that the bosses be forced to increase hiring and be forced to wear the resulting lower profits. Instead, demands were made to help the bosses make more profits: through calling for infrastructure projects to use only steel and other products made by Australian corporations. But such protectionism does not save jobs. For just as demands are made here that local corporations be favoured, demands will then also be made abroad that local corporations there are favoured ahead of Australian ones. In the end all that happens is that workers are divided across national lines and the bosses are laughing all the way to the bank – because divided workers are less able to resist the bosses who exploit them. So we say down with divisive economic nationalism. Let’s truly respect the slogan that is often chanted – the workers united will never be defeated – by rejecting all demands that call for favouring one lot of workers over another.  Let the workers of the world unite.

So, sisters and brothers, we actually do need a party of the exploited and oppressed. But not one like the ALP which seeks to win elections to run the bosses’ state. What we need, instead, is a party that places its trust entirely in the class struggle. It fights to break illusions that change can from within the parliament through the capitalist state organs. Such a party fights to build the strongest unity of workers across national, racial and gender lines in the struggle to win jobs and improved pay and conditions for all workers everywhere. It does this, in part, by mobilising the working class to support antiracist struggles, the struggles of people oppressed by Australian imperialism abroad and the cause of women’s liberation. When the capitalists scream that moves to force them to maintain a larger workforce will cause an economic collapse, this revolutionary workers’ party will explain to workers that this only proves the need for the working class to seize the means of production from the capitalists and create, by any means necessary, a workers state.

In a workers state, every person will have the right to work in secure, fully paid jobs. The talents of humans will no longer be wasted and every person will have their most basic human rights satisfied – the right to a decent means of existence and the right to contribute to society through their labour and creativity. All the current parliamentary parties in practice spit on that right. Don’t campaign or vote for any of them. Let’s instead organise mass struggles to resist the anti-working class program of whichever party is elected today to administer the racist, rich people’s system.

A society where every person is respected and every person is as valuable as their neighbour is possible.  A better society based on so much more than making money for the few.  The capitalist system is so putrid in so many ways we must all do all that we can to fight for a fundamentally different society.  Once you understand how capitalism works you can also understand how it can be destroyed.  The united working class alongside Aboriginal people and all others that are oppressed can bring this rotten system to its knees and kill it, hailing in a society that I want to bring up my kids in.

The Western Sydney suburb of Auburn. In heavily multi-racial, working class areas like Fairfield, Auburn and Villawood a sizeable proportion of the population deliberately cast informal votes in elections because those individuals understand that none of the current parliamentary parties serve their interests.

Rally M.C., Samuel Kim, mid-rally remarks: 

I would just like to add that in my parent’s country, South Korea, 1.5 years ago they actually banned a party with relative size similar to the Greens, called the Unified Progressive Party… they had about 10-15% of the vote and stood as the 3rd largest party. They stated this party was too radical and tried to start a revolution/insurrection. In reality, the party was unfortunately, not revolutionary. However, it was very critical of billionaires and of the pro-billionaire president. This banning of a leftist party comes from a so-called “democratic society”. I’ll assure you, if any political party in capitalist Australia in parliament was too critical of the rich, they would deregister or ban the party and horribly spread lies to defend billionaires just like in capitalist South Korea.

Before I hand over to our next speaker, I want to give yet another example of a corporate boss sacking workers. Last year, the company owned by the slimy Australian billionaire, Andrew Forrest, slashed hundreds of jobs. The company owned by this supposed philanthropist is the iron ore mining company, Fortescue Metals Group. In many cases when the workers were sacked, they were herded into a recreation room and made to immediately pack their belongings into clear plastic bags. The company wanted to get rid of the workers as soon as possible. The remaining workers now have to work longer hours for the same pay. Andrew Forrest cried poor, citing a drop in iron ore prices. However, the company earlier this year announced a still massive profit of over 400 million dollars! Meanwhile, Andrew Forrest still has a personal fortune of 3.3 billion dollars! And this despicably greedy billionaire cries poor when throwing onto the scrapheap the very workers whose toil made him his fortune!

One reason why we are holding this rally in Auburn is that there is a high percentage of people here who vote informal. In the nearest polling booth in the church in East Auburn, 20% cast an informal vote. This is people who turned up to avoid a fine and then voted informal. Now right-wingers, small-l liberals and social democrats patronisingly say there’s a language barrier or that there is a low level of education here… But, actually, people have a healthy scepticism towards all the mainstream parties as, time after time, people have been sold lies and empty promises. The informal vote has been markedly increasing. In the election 18 years ago, the informal vote for the seat of Blaxland was just over 5%. But at the last elections it was nearly 14%. In this working class area, because of discrimination against women workers by bosses, female workforce participation is one of the lowest in the country and many face racist discrimination in employment – so people rightly feel disenfranchised. In contrast, in wealthier seats like North Sydney, the informal vote is nearly three times less – you see, the upper class knows that the system serves them and that they have a stake in it.

To the good working class people of Auburn, we say well done to those who are savvy enough to understand that the system does not serve you and that you have no stake in choosing which gang will administer this capitalist system.

Let us ignore those pretentious, pseudo-enlightened snobs who sneer and patronise you.

It is good that some slaves do not elect their own master. So we call for us slaves to arise. We call for mass action – including and especially militant working class industrial action. We don’t have the media, we don’t have the money, the parliamentary machine does not serve us, we only have our bodies to utilise in our resistance against the bosses. Our power comes through mass action, through the fact that it is the toil of our working class that makes the ruling class its profits and, most crucially, our power comes through our unity across racial, national and gender lines. That is what today is all about! It is about the fight for the right to secure fully paid jobs for all workers won through our own struggle united with all the downtrodden.

Karl Marx outlined the program for united workers struggle leading to the overturn of capitalism and the creation of a communist society based on collective ownership of the means of production. In such a society not only would jobs for all be guaranteed but each would give to society according to their ability and would receive back according to their needs.

Yuri Gromov (editor of Trotskyist Platform journal, The Spark):

IBM – whose workers over many decades have played no small part in helping create our modern digital world – IBM last year made a massive profit of 13 billion dollars – a billion more than the year before. So why – after utilising all the sweat and labour – all of the abilities and effort of its workforce to generate such enormous profits and, what’s more, after being awarded a renewed, nearly half a billion dollar contract by the Department of Human Services, why then has IBM a few months ago started slashing hundreds of jobs in Australia? After helping create such massive profits, you’d think that the least a big company like IBM could give its workers would be a guaranteed job. But, instead, they throw their workers onto the scrapheap of redundancy, out onto the demeaning dole lines at Centrelink where some of the 2000 former IBM workers already sacked over the last three years in Australia must already have endured the experience of being treated like bludgers by brash young bureaucrats just because – no thanks to IBM – they now rely upon a paltry dole payment that’s nearly impossible to actually live on. These job cuts are not about offshoring – IBM, true to form, is also slashing tens of thousands of jobs internationally. IBM’s biggest shareholder is America’s Berkshire Hathaway which is owned by Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest people with a net worth of 66 billion US dollars! Buffett is a small-l liberal who supports Obama and claims to be concerned about the poor. He would probably fund the Greens if he lived here. However, as IBM’s record demonstrates, he is also a greedy corporate thug whose small-l liberal concerns for human rights amount to so much trite waffle because workers for Warren Buffet, just as for every other capitalist, amount to mere figures on the company ledger, labour costs to write off and quickly forget about.

Australian billionaires are just as bad or worse like, for instance, that smug, absolutely appalling racist Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest of Fortescue Metals FMG, one of whose laid off workers in the Pilbara was last year quoted in WA Today saying, ““They [FMG] seriously don’t give a f__k about the people that have made the company successful.”

But smaller bosses are no better. In February, the Australian-owned Lion Group announced that it was making 39 workers at its Launceston brewery in Tasmania redundant. Yet a week later it announced a rise in its underlying profit to almost $700 million. So whether foreign owned or locally owned, whether huge or small, whether owned by right-wingers or small-l liberals,  all the capitalist bosses have no hesitation in slashing jobs and throwing dozens or hundreds or thousands or even tens and hundreds of thousands of working people into a life of uncertainty: uncertainty about how they are going to support themselves and their families, uncertainty about how they will pay their bills and where their next meal will come from, uncertainty about how they will pay their mortgage or rent and the bleak possibility of joining the 100,000 people who are homeless on the cold winter streets of Australia today. All this misery is the lot of so many sacked workers – not through any fault of their own but simply because they are human collateral damage in the ruling class’ reckless pursuit of ever bigger profits.

This is the normal, everyday kind of rule that our parliamentary democracy holds fast to. This is what all the millions of Australians have been effectively coming out to vote in support of today. Today, the dice is rolled once again to decide which party will continue to enforce the right of the rich to hold the lives of working class people balanced precariously on a tightrope, a tightrope called personal profit under which yawns the desolate abyss of unemployment. In Australia’s kind of democracy the dice is loaded so that the rich are always going to win whichever party in the end forms government. All the current parliamentary parties uphold a capitalist constitution that places the nominal rights of a few to private property and private profit so far above the right of thousands and ultimately millions of workers to a living wage. In fact, all the parties make a virtue out of punishing the unemployed. Just two weeks ago, the ALP – in whom so many working class people so tragically place their precious trust – announced a policy where people on social security benefits who have defaulted on paying the fines which the Coalition government imposed on job seekers who fail to turn up to all those pointless job agency interviews and activities – the ALP has had the bright idea that they’ll help out these unemployed people pay off their fines by slashing their benefits accordingly. Yet another punitive measure against the poor and unemployed dressed up as “income management.”

Do these people who are so desperate for your vote really have no shame: they uphold the bosses’ supposed “right” to slash jobs while punishing the victims of this very job slashing. No, we should not be giving our vote to any of these parties at today’s elections.

In the polling booth at multiracial, working class Villawood East, over 26% of people at the last federal election did, in fact, only turn up to vote to avoid being fined and then cast an informal vote. When you take into account those who simply risked a fine to not show up at all, that was well over one in three people in this part of western Sydney who refused to vote for any candidate. This effect has actually nearly doubled since the 2004 elections. So, we say, well done to a growing number of those working class people in areas like Villawood, Fairfield and here in Auburn who are clever enough to understand that they should not be supporting any of the current lot. However, it is important that this healthy distrust of the system does not lead to despondency.

It is time to test the strength, to rattle the shackles that bind the working class to the will of their capitalist masters. It is time to flex the physical and intellectual muscles of the Australian working class on the street, in the workplace and on the picket line struggles for rights at work. This struggle will hold no illusions at all in the goodwill of either the Liberal Party or the ALP.  For they are simply the right and left wing props of the capitalist order, a pair of tired old second hand car salesmen who’ve set up their seedy dealerships on opposite corners of the street of capital so they can lure innocent passer-by’s into buying their dubious democratic bombs. But buyers beware: you can be sure that your vote will count for nothing, even if you place your mistaken trust in relative newcomers to this democratic hustle like the Greens who notoriously sold refugees down the river in a deal with the ALP in 2010 and have been quick to flag this same policy as a non-core promise ready to be negotiated out this time around too. None of these parties will guarantee jobs for all.

So let us fight for the right to work, for the right of our children to a high quality free education, for our families’ right to the best free health care available, for the right of the homeless to a safe and secure roof over their heads, the rights of the so long embattled and yet still so proud and powerful Aboriginal people, the rights of our LGBTI communities and not least of all the rights of the ordinary men, women and children so cruelly imprisoned in the Nazi hellhole immigration detention centres of Christmas Island, Nauru and Manus Island. Once so many other sections of society have united around us the fight to stop job slashing by the bosses will be so much more powerful.

Don’t Get Conned into Voting for Any of the Anti-Working Class Parliamentary Parties 
They All Uphold the “Right” of the Greedy Bosses to Retrench Workers at Will  
Let’s Get Organised to Stand Up to the Bosses and Win the Right to Secure Jobs for All
Force Profitable Companies to Increase Hiring and Let Them Cop the Resulting Lower Profits
No to Slave Wage Internships and Work for the Dole 
For Fully Paid, Permanent Jobs for All

It is time to show once again that – unlike the Liberals or the ALP or the rest of them – working class men and women in this country are nobody’s lackeys. It is time for the organized working class to flex its industrial muscle. It is time for workers to trust in our own collective power. Only then will all the other oppressed layers of society see that it is working class women and men who are ready to lead the masses away from a cruel and unfair system towards a society where everyone’s needs are met and everyone’s abilities are valued.  A society that can realise the principle of: from each according to their ability to each according to their need.

This famous formula dating back to the 1870s from the pen of the great German philosopher Karl Marx – the founder of the modern communist movement – still remains the best way to describe the communist future that my comrades and I struggle in our own modest way to help bring about. If a bunch of people found themselves alone and thrust together on this green and blue planet and determined that they would try to pull together for the sake of their mutual survival then surely they wouldn’t find any better advice than to follow this creed: from each according to their ability to each according to their need.

Marx wished that these words and the idea they encapsulate which is almost childlike in its innocent simplicity would be inscribed on the banner of the working women and men of the world. A banner to be unfurled as they rose to their historical calling and wrenched the reins of industry and government into their strong and able working hands and away from the greedy paws of the ruling capitalists.

Rally M.C., Samuel Kim, concluding remarks:

In closing let me summarise our message to both people at this rally and the good working class people of multiracial Auburn passing by.

The insecure, temporary jobs that more and more workers are forced into are not good enough. Unemployment is not good. No to Work for the Dole! No to low-waged internships!

The reason there is unemployment is because of the capitalist system and because of the greed of the big business owners whom this system serves. These bosses do not hesitate to slash jobs if that is what it takes to maximise profits. This is what Clive Palmer, Andrew Forrest, Warren Buffett, the owners of the big banks, BHP, Rio Tinto and countless other exploiters have been doing over the last 18 months. All those who blame 457 Visa guest workers, refugees, migrants or international workers for causing unemployment are not only whipping up poisonous nationalism but are acting to get the real people responsible for unemployment – these capitalist exploiters – off the hook.

All the current parliamentary parties and independents do exactly this when in office. They seek to blame others for unemployment or they ignore the real contributors to unemployment in capitalism because they uphold the capitalist system. They all uphold the right of the corporate bosses to sack workers whenever they need to increase their profits. Meanwhile, whether it is the right-wing Liberals in government, the ALP or the ALP and Greens in coalition, all these parties have overseen measures punishing the unemployed and the poor for their own plight.

That is part of why we should not be voting for any of these parties at today’s elections. Many people in multiracial, working class Auburn and neighbouring suburbs already understand this. That is why the informal vote is very high here. However, we need to be more than disenchanted with the current system – we need to fight against it. And we have the power! Our power is not through elections. Working class people have never won anything significant through the ballot box. Our power is our unity in mass struggle – through industrial action at the workplace and mass action on the streets. That is how we won every right that we still have today – from annual leave and sick leave to workplace safety regulations and greater access to education, these were the concessions capitalists threw to us when they got a little bit scared. Today, we badly need to unleash this power to stop the greedy bosses slashing jobs. We need to force profitable companies to increase hiring and make them wear lower profits.

We are here to fight for the right to secure fully paid jobs. Permanent jobs and that no one should be sacked.

Today is a small but important step in building a movement to fight for this perspective. If we can unleash such a movement against job slashing backed by the unions then when the capitalist bosses complain that they cannot hire more workers without inducing an economic collapse we will say to them: Since you cannot guarantee a livelihood to all workers without causing economic collapse, we are going to rip the economy out of your hands and place it into our collective hands in a system based on working class rule.

China: Pro-Worker and Pro-Private Sector Forces Lock Horns

Defend the Dominance of Socialistic, State-Ownership in China’s Economy!

Above, a common site in China: youth wearing the communist hammer and sickle emblem. Mass support for communism in China has thus far constrained capitalist restorationist tendencies within sections of the ruling bureaucracy. Photo: Trotskyist Platform

2 December 2016 – Last week, Fidel Castro passed away at age 90. Fidel led the 1959 Revolution that would end up overthrowing capitalism in Cuba and bringing terrific improvements to the lives of the Cuban masses. In response to his death, Chinese president, Xi Jinping lauded Fidel’s achievements. Here are some excerpts of Xi Jinping’s message of condolences to Raul Castro, first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba:

Fidel Castro, founder of the Communist Party of Cuba and Cuba’s socialist cause, is a great leader of the Cuban people. He has devoted all his life to Cuban people’s great cause of struggling for national liberation, safeguarding state sovereignty and building socialism.

He has made immortal historic contributions to the Cuban people and to the world socialism development.

The Cuban and Latin American people lost an excellent son, and the Chinese people lost a close comrade and sincere friend. His glorious image and great achievements will go down in history.

I believe that under the strong leadership of Comrade Raul Castro, the Communist Party of Cuba, the Cuban government and its people will carry on the unfinished lifework of Comrade Fidel Castro, turn sorrow into strength and keep making new achievements in the cause of socialist construction.

Xinhua, 26 November 2016

President Xi’s fulsome praise for Fidel and Cuba’s socialistic path reflects the fact that China itself is under socialistic rule. While Cuba’s revolution came in 1959 and was the first – and to date – only decisively anti-capitalist revolution in the Western Hemisphere, China’s anti-capitalist revolution came ten years earlier. It brought the long suffering toiling masses to power in the world’s most populous country and freed China from over a hundred years of humiliating, colonial servitude at the hands of Western and Japanese imperial overlords.

However, the Australian media did their best to hide the substance of the Chinese president’s letter of condolence over the death of Fidel. They reported very briefly that Xi had sent his condolences but made sure they did not report on Xi’s praise for Cuba’s socialist system. Why? Because to do so would highlight the continued socialistic character of the Peoples Republic of China. The mainstream Western media don’t want to do this. In fact, they sometimes even try to make you believe that China has simply “gone capitalist.” To admit otherwise poses a very inconvenient fact for the capitalist media: the fact that the country with the world’s fastest growing economy that has managed to lift hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty – i.e. China – has done so while based on a socialistic system. To admit this blows sky high out of the water the main anti-communist argument that people in the capitalist world are taught from the time they go to school and start watching documentaries: socialism may sound like a fair system but it just does not work in practice.

Top, Harlem, U.S.A, 1960: Fidel Castro meets American black revolutionary leader Malcolm X. Fidel led the 1959 Revolution that would end up overthrowing capitalism in Cuba and bring terrific improvements to the lives of the Cuban masses. When he visited New York for a UN meeting the year after the revolution, he was ostracised by the American establishment. However, in an act of solidarity with the oppressed black peoples of the U.S., Castro then chose to stay at a hotel in the black neighbourhood of Harlem reinforcing his hero status with supporters of black liberation and anti-imperialism. When Castro passed away in November 2016, Red China’s leader Xi Jinping hailed Castro’s “immortal historic contributions to the Cuban people and to the world socialism development.” However, Xi did not attend the funeral for Castro, only sending his vice president Li Yuanchao, seen at the Bottom laying a wreath for Castro at the Jose Marti Memorial in Havana, Cuba. Xi’s choice not to attend Castro’s memorial was no doubt an attempt to placate the far-right, U.S. president elect Donald Trump. Fat good that did the Peoples Republic of China! Trump and Co. wasted no time in attacking China. They even broke with decades of diplomatic protocol by provocatively giving legitimacy to the renegade, capitalist Chinese province of Taiwan. The policy of severely downgrading solidarity with the international struggle for socialism in the name of “peaceful co-existence” with imperialism that is practiced by China’s leaders – as was also practiced by the post-1924 leaders of the former Soviet Union and largely by Castro too after the initial period following the Cuban revolution – harms not only the global socialist struggle but socialistic rule in China itself.

Of course, the capitalist media do very often contradict their own, sometimes used, “gone capitalist” narrative about China. They, indeed, start talking about “communist China” whenever they manage to find an area that they can attack the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) over and exaggerate a problem – like pollution – or when they misrepresent events to accuse the PRC of “human rights violations.” The lying capitalists, actually, know very well that the PRC is not a capitalist entity but a socialistic state. That is why the capitalist-owned media look for any opportunity possible to demonise China, why the U.S. and Australian regimes support anti-PRC NGOs and dissidents within China and why investment from PRC state-owned companies are especially scrutinised by Australian government authorities. Most notably, it is why the Australian military is openly being built up to join the U.S.-led crusade against China even though the PRC is this country’s biggest export market and the main reason the Australian economy has not yet fallen into a new, deep recession.

Just like the Cuban Revolution, the 1949 Chinese Revolution led to tremendous improvements for the masses in life expectancy, literacy, health care and the position of women. Socialistic rule has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of the dire poverty of its pre-1949 days with a speed and depth that is completely unprecedented in human history. However, like in, Cuba these accomplishments are not guaranteed because socialistic rule itself remains fragile in China. It is fragile because at the moment the richest and most powerful countries in the world are under capitalist rule. As the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92 showed, even a socialistic state that is a superpower can be destroyed by sustained capitalist military, economic and political pressure.

Furthermore, the ability of the Chinese workers state to withstand external capitalist pressure is weakened by its own bureaucratic deformations – by the fact that the administration of socialistic rule is restricted to a narrow, somewhat privileged bureaucratic layer rather than being run by democratic mass organisations of working class people. This structural deformity arose from the nature of the Chinese Revolution itself. This great revolution was made largely by tens of millions of tenant farmers led by idealistic students, teachers and other intellectuals. Awakened and led by Mao’s Communist Party of China, the tenant famers fought with immense heroism to make the revolution.  However, tenant farmers, while brutally exploited by the landlords, were still infused with the individualistic strivings that one day they would produce enough to free themselves from landlord domination and make a good income from selling their produce on the market – perhaps even becoming landlords themselves. Therefore, unlike wage workers who are united by their collective labour at the workplace and thus – when under revolutionary political guidance – could self-organise through democratically elected workers councils, the individual tenant farmers could only be fully united from above. This requirement and the practicalities of waging a long, guerrilla war meant that the victorious revolutionary forces and the ensuing workers state that they created had a bureaucratic – rather than a workers’ democratic structure.

In the late 1970s, the Chinese leadership, unable to use the driving and motivating influence of workers’ democracy to push forward production, turned to market reforms to further stimulate economic activity. These reforms would come to include the creation of a capitalist, private sector. In the complicated transition from capitalism to genuine socialism it can be useful to allow a limited private sector. This is especially the case given that before the 1949 Revolution, China was an extremely poor and backward country where the capitalism that existed was intermingled with elements of feudalism. However, the introduction of a private sector and market reforms to China necessarily brought with it greater inequality, increased corruption, some degree of unemployment and a reduction in solidarity between people. Moreover, the new class of, at first small, capitalists created by the reforms used their influence and wealth to lobby for greater and greater openings for the private sector. This influence was amplified because many of these new capitalists had family or other personal ties to the administrative/party bureaucracy. Today, the degree of private sector operation in China is much in excess of what is needed or desirable for the Chinese workers state. To be sure, the private sector bosses do not control the key sectors of the economy which remain under socialistic state ownership and they do not hold state power. However, the danger that the capitalists that do exist in China could organise a capitalist counterrevolution is a very real one. We only have to look at what happened in the former USSR. It was there that market reforms in the mid-1980s, dubbed perestroika (restructuring), created a class of petty capitalists and speculators. Then Soviet leader Gorbachev did not initially intend these reforms to actually lead to a capitalist takeover and at first that is not what perestroika meant. However, the layer of capitalists that Gorbachev’s perestroika created, with backing from a section of the middle-class professionals and student intellectuals – who expected that they would be amongst those who would strike it rich if capitalism was restored – became a powerful lobby force for further perestroika. They shoved Gorbachev and Co. further and further to the right. Each new set of perestroika reforms that Gorbachev implemented strengthened the economic weight and political influence of the new capitalists and whetted the appetite of pro-capitalist students and professionals. Eventually, with the crucial backing of Western imperialism, the new capitalists and their middle class allies were strong enough to grab back state power in the ex-USSR. The forces that made this counterrevolution were actually small in number. Most Soviet workers and collective farmers were not sympathetic to the counterrevolutionary course and many were downright suspicious of the pro-capitalists. However, in the absence of decisive levels of actual struggle to defend the Soviet workers state, the counterrevolutionaries triumphed.

Today, in China, the capitalists do not yet feel strong enough to openly call for capitalist restoration. They leave that to a rather small layer of Western-funded dissidents and NGOs. Indeed some of China’s capitalists even, rather disingenuously, sing the praises of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC). They hope that this will save them from having their businesses shutdown – as has happened to many of their capitalist compatriots. But what these Chinese capitalists do a lot of is to use their wealth and political influence – through bodies like the private sector All China Federation of Industry and Commerce – to push for ever greater openings for the capitalist economic sector. They are assisted in this lobbying by a whole swathe of academics, economists, lawyers and journalists sympathetic to capitalism or at least to a greater role for the capitalist sector. This lobbying is indeed powerful especially when one considers that the relative weight of China’s capitalist class is far in excess of that of the capitalists in the former USSR at the time of the counterrevolution there. Fortunately, however, the resistance of the Chinese working class and staunch subjective communists to pro-capitalist measures – like privatisation – is also far greater than existed in the last period of the USSR. However, it is far from guaranteed that the political consciousness of the working class will always be sufficient to ensure that their resistance can hold back capitalist restorationist forces. The struggle in China between insurgent pro-capitalist forces and those resisting them is a finely balanced battle.

Moscow, August 1991: Western-backed capitalist counterrevolutionaries led by Boris Yeltsin make their grab for power in the former USSR. The social layers driving the counterrevolution were the small-scale capitalists and speculators bred by then Soviet leader Gorbachev’s pro-market, perestroika reforms as well as the pro-capitalist students and professionals whose appetites for making it big time in a future “free market” society were whetted by pro-market reforms. In today’s China, capitalists are bigger than they were in the USSR at the time of counterrevolution there. This shows the danger that socialistic rule in China is under today.

See-Sawing Contest

In the mid and late 2000s, the insurgent pro-capitalist forces in China were pushed back to some extent. China’s political climate in that period was shaped by increased activity of leftist tendencies within the CPC, the manifest weakness of capitalism worldwide as seen in the Great Recession and – most crucially – militant workers struggles for improved wages and conditions and against the few attempts made at privatisation during this period. The period from 2008 to 2011 in particular was the most left-wing period in China in over three decades. This period saw the nationalisation/confiscation of not only many formerly privately owned coal mines but nationalisations across a range of sectors from steel to milk processing to solar cell manufacturing.

However, from about 2012 the political climate in China swung back to the right – at least on economic issues. China’s capitalist class and the host of economists, academics, lawyers and even CPC politicians loyal to them re-asserted themselves. This was reflected in some of the agenda of China’s new number two leader (ranking below president Xi), premier Li Keqiang. Li implemented special measures and tax incentives to help new private businesses. He also pushed for allowing private enterprises access to several areas like oil/gas, infrastructure construction, health care etc which had previously been restricted almost exclusively to publicly owned enterprises. Although the strength of pro-socialist forces is such that no CPC leader openly calls for privatisation of any of China’s major state-owned enterprises, the CPC leadership – including both premier Li and president Xi – have pushed for the sell-off of minority stakes in state-owned enterprises to private investors.

Developments over recent years in China have, of course, not all been in one direction. President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has genuinely reduced corruption even though there is a suspicion that it has also been used against Xi’s political rivals – including those from the left of the CPC. Importantly, the anti-corruption campaign has protected the assets of state-owned enterprises from being squandered by corrupt state enterprise managers handing contracts to bribe-paying, private business bosses. In a small number of cases, the CPC’s drive against corruption and privilege in government officials has spilled over into healthy moves against opulence in the broader Chinese society. In early 2014, authorities in major Chinese cities ordered the closure of high-end clubs and expensive restaurants in public parks, scenic spots and cultural sites because these venues could not be accessible and affordable to the masses. Those high-end clubs and restaurants that were not closed were ordered to lower their prices and change their menus to turn them into places affordable by the masses. Meanwhile, formerly members-only clubs that were allowed to stay open were ordered to turn into open access venues. Alongside the anti-corruption, anti-opulence campaign, the ruling Communist Party of China has toughened its membership rules to ensure that all party members believe in the party’s stated ideology. On the one hand, this drive for ideological consistency has been, in part, used to silence leftist critics of pro-market reforms within the party. Nevertheless, it has also had positive effects. It has weeded out some ambitious professionals with little solid sympathy for communism who joined the party for merely career reasons and it has deterred capitalist businessmen from joining the party purely to enhance their connections with government. The most important positive developments in PRC politics in recent years is the continuation – and in some cases the deepening – of some of the progressive policies of the previous Hu Jintao government. This includes the moves back to universal public health care, a massive campaign to build and renovate affordable public housing, an increase in social security and pension payments and the enforcement of the drive to improve workplace safety. Most crucially, the new Xi Jinping government has re-committed to the previous Chinese government’s drive to bring every single resident in China above the national poverty line by 2020; and has moved to achieve this goal with renewed vigour.

Furthermore, many of the right-wing economic measures proposed have not been implemented much. Nevertheless, there has been a change in the political discourse from a few years ago. The suspicion of private business bosses that was sometimes seen from CPC officials and Chinese media during the Hu Jintao period, itself a reflection of healthy hostility to capitalists amongst the Chinese working class, is now more and more replaced with praise of their “innovative” capacities and their “entrepreneurship.” Sensing the mood, in March on live TV, China’s then finance minister, Lou Jiwei, ranted against the PRC’s 2008 labour law for being too pro-worker saying that it was contributing to unreasonable wage rises and making it too hard for bosses to sack workers. Although the strongly pro-worker law was not amended, Lou Jiwei’s attack on it represented a clear drive by the most pro-market wing of the Chinese bureaucracy to curb wage rises and slash employment regulations imposed on bosses.

Rightist elements of the CPC leadership – and the academic/economist circles backing them – are also using moves to cut over-capacity in China’s steel and coal sectors as a way to weaken the influence of socialistic state enterprises – state-owned enterprises being dominant in these sectors. Additionally, they are trying to use these cuts as a way to change the culture of PRC state enterprises. They want to prod these socialistic enterprises to retreat from their previous reluctance to lay-off workers and push them into operating more according to “market principles” (i.e. solely according to the profit motive). There is, indeed, over-capacity in China’s steel and coal sectors – the latter because China is moving intensively away from coal and onto renewable energy sources like hydro, wind and solar. However, not only should these cuts to overall capacity be done in a way that guarantees equivalent paying jobs for all workers moved out of these sectors but it should be done by forcibly closing the, often, poor safety and high polluting private enterprises that are part of these sectors. That would not only ensure that the tens of millions of workers remaining in these sectors have the best possible working conditions but would also make a huge boost to workplace safety in the dangerous coal sector in particular. Yet, thus far, the cuts to overcapacity seem to be roughly in proportion to the relative weights of socialistic and private enterprises in these sectors.

However, these recent pro-market measures have met with mass resistance. In March, thousands upon thousands of coal mine workers employed by state-owned Longmay Group marched through the northeastern Chinese city of Shuangyashan to protest against wage arrears resulting from the provincial government holding back support to the struggling company in order to push it into slashing the size of its workforce. A large number of similar workers’ protests and strikes have taken place throughout China in state enterprises facing similar predicaments. Meanwhile, Chinese people used social media to bitterly attack then finance minister Lou Jiwei’s criticism of China’s pro-worker labour laws. A comment made by Weibo (China’s popular social media platform) user, Se Kong Se Kong, typified the reaction to the ex-finance minister’s tirade:

Have him investigated ….

He’s no good if he’s speaking on behalf of the capitalists!

Financial Times, 10 March 2016.

All this protest and defiance from Chinese workers and leftists has had an impact. For instance, two weeks ago, rightist Lou Jiwei, was unceremoniously dumped as China’s finance minister two years before his term was due to end (he has since been given a much lower-ranking post). This was, no doubt, at least partially related to his anti-working class comments attacking China’s Labour Law and to the spirited mass opposition to his tirade. It was also reportedly connected to his pro-“free market” opposition to large state investment in infrastructure and fixed assets by local governments. Meanwhile, the huge Shuangyashan city protest by Longmay Group workers led the Heilongjiang provincial government to back down within hours of the workers’ action. The provincial government and its Governor, Lu Hao, apologised to the workers and arranged to fund the struggling state-owned company so that it could pay the workers the wages owed to them. More broadly, the PRC government has responded to workers’ concerns by stepping up efforts to ensure that workers laid off from steel and coal enterprises will be re-hired in state infrastructure projects, state-owned farms and state forestry projects immediately after – or in some cases even before – losing their previous jobs. Meanwhile, some state-owned firms cutting capacity in the steel and coal sectors have started up operations – even loss making ones – in often very different industries in order to avoid laying off workers. State owned coal companies in China’s main coal producing province, Shanxi, have set up pharmacies, solar power stations, restaurants, supermarkets and vegetable and fruit planting to move their workers into. One state-owned coal company, Qianhe Coal Industry, that had to cut its capacity, started organising its workers into production of food products – including tofu and potato noodles – in order to pacify its workforce. It is now even going to move its operations entirely from coal producing to the food products industry – even though its new area of operation is not currently profitable (Quartz, 31 March 2016).

Such moves by state-owned enterprises are significant as they undercut the agenda of rightists within the CPC and Chinese and Western “experts” who all hoped that downsizing in China’s state-owned coal and steel enterprises would help wean China’s state-owned enterprises away from their devotion to preserving workers’ jobs and push them onto the profit first path. For his part, premier Li has been forced into a partial back down in two key areas by the workers protest and leftist agitation. Firstly, Li and the rightist advisors and economists influencing him, were pushing for more unprofitable state-owned enterprises – dubbed “zombie industries” – to be forced into bankruptcy and, thus, into retrenching their workers. Although this plan is partially still going ahead, last month the PRC government announced a scheme whereby those holding the debts of enterprises would be able to swap them for equity. In other words, the mainly state-owned banks owed money by indebted companies will end up taking stakes in these companies allowing the companies to wipe out their debts and continue operation. The companies that will mainly benefit are state-owned enterprises as struggling private companies usually simply shut down and retrench all their workers when in financial trouble rather than maintaining major unpayable debts for long periods. For those private companies that are indebted the scheme will facilitate them to be effectively part-nationalised, since state-owned banks will end up owning significant equity stakes in them. Secondly, Li has, in practice, been forced to retreat from his promise to refrain from using large-scale state investment to stimulate the economy. The angry protests by state enterprise employees threatened with unemployment forced premier Li to boost state spending on infrastructure and development projects in order to create jobs for displaced former coal and steel sector workers to be moved into. For example, three months ago, the Chinese government announced an over $A300 billion plan to fund 130 projects in the north-eastern region of China – the part of the country with a disproportionately large concentration of enterprises in the steel and coal sectors.

The PRC government’s return to emphasis on state investment is driven not only by the imperative to respond to workers’ concerns but also, in part, by pure economic reality. The fact is that with the world capitalist economy – and thus demand for Chinese exports – in the doldrums and with profit-driven, Chinese private sector bosses less willing to make productive investments in the real economy because their ability to make profits has been curtailed by rising workers’ wages in China and the 2008 pro-worker Labour Law, the PRC government needs state-owned enterprises to drive growth. To put it simply: capitalism doesn’t work but socialism does and thus the PRC government, regardless of the political leanings of some of its key personnel, must once again rely on the socialistic state sector to shore up the economy. That is why despite all the special tax concessions and other incentives given to private enterprises, Chinese private investment in fixed assets grew by less than 3% in the first ten months of this year while investment by the state sector surged by over 20%.

A similar story can be seen if we look at the issue of administrative measures imposed on the housing market. During the period of Hu Jintao’s presidency from 2002 to 2012, Chinese governments imposed a series of measures to reduce housing speculation in key areas in order to make house prices more affordable to the masses and to ensure that housing construction was geared towards the needs of low and middle income earners. These measures included requirements for developers to meet certain minimum proportions of smaller housing, restrictions on the number of houses that people could own and regulations that made banks charge higher interest rates – and require higher down payments – for those buying second homes as opposed to those buying first ones. As part of these measures many major Chinese cities banned people from owning more than two homes. However, private sector housing developers and pro-“free market” economists, journalists and other “experts” complained bitterly that the measures were “distorting the market” and undermining the “healthy development of housing supply.” These voices obtained a bigger hearing from Chinese leaders in the post-Hu period and as a result in the 2013 to 2015 period some of the administrative restrictions on speculation were relaxed. However, that led to a rebound in speculation and opulent purchases of multiple house by the wealthy. Though this squeezed many lower-income people out of the private housing market, fortunately China has massively built public rental housing to enable lower income people to still get stable accommodation. In the last few months, however, the Chinese government has again returned to anti-market, administrative measures to curtail housing speculation and restrict the wealthy from buying up multiple houses.

The clearest sign that the political winds blowing to the Right in China are starting to recede was seen last month at a high profile meeting of government leaders and state enterprise heads about the direction of state-owned enterprises. The main theme of the meeting was president Xi Jinping’s insistence that it is imperative to: “unswervingly uphold the party’s leadership in state-owned enterprises, and fully play the role of party organs in leadership and political affairs (South China Morning Post, 12 October 2016). Xi insisted that any “weakening, fading, blurring or marginalisation” of party leadership in state firms would not be tolerated.” The meeting vowed to turn around the situation whereby the party’s presence in state-owned enterprises had started to gradually fade into the background over recent decades as these public sector companies became influenced by Western corporations. At the conference, which was notably held when pro-private sector prime minister Li Keqiang was away on an overseas trip, Xi also insisted that China’s state-owned enterprises are an important material and political basis for socialism and called to make these public enterprises stronger, bigger and better (Xinhua, 11 October 2016). This was a clear statement in defence of state-owned enterprises from China’s top leader and a slap in the face to others within and around the CPC trying to weaken them. Furthermore, by insisting on strengthening Communist Party control of state-owned enterprises Xi also contradicted statements by some Chinese leaders – including, to some extent, his own previous statements – calling to turn these state-owned enterprises into more profit-driven corporations. Thus, Xi’s speech at the conference ordered that state-owned enterprises should become important forces to implement decisions of the CPC Central Committee as well as to enhance overall national power, economic and social development and people’s wellbeing. This means that, at least according to the speech, the PRC state-enterprises would re-commit to maximising employment and protecting working conditions as a goal in itself, rebuffing the drive by some within the PRC bureaucracy to push the public sector enterprises into slashing their workforces. Notably, the Xinhua article on the state-owned enterprise work conference reported that Xi stressed the importance of protecting state owned enterprise workers’ rights to know, participate, express and supervise within the enterprises. He added that important matters concerning the immediate interests of workers must be submitted to workers’ congresses for deliberation and the system to ensure workers’ representation as the directors and supervisors of state-owned enterprises should also be improved.

An important positive consequence of this PRC government drive to increase Communist Party control of state-owned enterprises is that it will undercut their own plan to allow private investors to take minority stakes in state-owned enterprises. After all, if Communists are to be running these enterprises and if they are not going to subordinated to the profit motive but also be directed to meet national and social goals – like maximising employment, improving workplace safety, developing poorer parts of the country and spearheading the development of new industries– then what money-grubbing, capitalist investor in their right mind would want to put their money into them! This is especially the case when one considers that the rate of profit return on PRC state-owned enterprises is already only around half that of capitalist enterprises. These public sector enterprises – despite the often monopoly position they hold in Chinese markets – are simply not geared to the blind drive for profits and that is a good thing! Consequently, premier Li Keqiang’s “mixed ownership reform” – to bring private investment into state-owned enterprises – has often not led to the intended consequences. The most touted example of a “mixed-ownership reform” in recent years was Chinese state-owned oil refining giant Sinopec’s decision to sell-off a 30% stake in its distribution and marketing business to “private” investors. However, in the end it was other state-owned companies that bought up nearly two-thirds of this stake. A similar story occurred when China’s main oil producer, state-owned Petrochina, decided to sell-off half of its Central Asian pipelines. The announcement caused considerable excitement amongst Chinese capitalists and pro-“free market” economists and amongst Western “experts” and business journals. Yet, in the end, the entire stake simply went to another PRC state-owned company!

Profile of China’s Pro-Capitalist Advocates

Like the Western-funded NGOs seeking to undermine socialistic rule in China, locally emerged pro-capitalist voices in China shroud their agenda with calls for “democracy.” Billionaire venture capitalist Wang Gongquan (Left) is among China’s best known “pro-democracy” dissidents. He wants a Western-style (i.e. bourgeois) “democracy” so that the wealthy will be able to use their financial resources and connections to dominate the political agenda. A fan of Wang is Chinese property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang (Right), himself a very prominent “pro-democracy” advocate who opposes the Communist Party censoring publications that call for Western-style “democracy.” Ren is also an ardent critic of the PRC government’s administrative measures that restrict the rich from dominating the housing market. Showing his contempt for the poor, Ren once said that commercial residential housing is meant to be for the rich not the poor.

Smash the Political Influence of the Capitalist Class!

Despite what appears to be the first signs of a possible tilt back to the left in China in recent months, as long as there is a capitalist class in the PRC able to wield some political influence then the danger of capitalist counterrevolution is acute. Especially when capitalists within China have family, personal and cultural ties to the ethnic Chinese capitalists who rule Taiwan and Singapore, enjoy economic dominance in Hong Kong and Macao and also form a component of the capitalist ruling classes in places like Malaysia and the Philippines. Moreover, the U.S., British, Japanese, Australian and other imperialist ruling classes are working feverishly to undermine socialistic rule in China.

The response of China’s ruling bureaucracy to the threat of counterrevolution is not to organise for a struggle to outright smash the capitalist threat. Instead, they seek a balance – a truce – between, on the one hand, socialistic rule in China and, on the other, the out of power capitalists within China and the capitalist classes that rule most of the rest of the world. However, such a strategy is in the long run untenable. Socialism and capitalism cannot, ultimately, co-exist. We should remember that from the mid-1920s onwards – when the leadership of the former Soviet workers state started to move away from the truly revolutionary internationalist perspective that guided the 1917 socialist revolution – the USSR’s leaders tried a variant of the policy currently pursued by Beijing. And look what happened there!

The force that has a clear interest in waging a struggle against the capitalists to the end is the Chinese working class. Time and again, as China’s capitalists looked to be set to gain the economic weight, momentum and popular acceptance necessary to make an open bid for power, struggles of the Chinese working class and agitation by leftist elements within the CPC have intervened to push the capitalists back. Today, these forces must resist any sell-offs of minority stakes in state-owned enterprises to private investors. They must breathe life into the workers’ congresses in these enterprises and use them as a force to defend working conditions for workers and to ensure that the state-owned enterprises stay committed to overall social goals and maximising employment rather than to the blind drive to maximise profit. The Chinese working class and leftists must also defend the 2008 Labour Law against any attempt to weaken its pro-worker provisions and must, instead, fight for the strengthening of these laws. They should build workers’ committees – drawing into them staunchly pro-communist officials, police and Peoples Liberation Army soldiers – to investigate enterprises and ensure strict enforcement of the Labour Law’s pro-worker provisions. Such committees would fight for a policy whereby any private business that violates the Labour Law or any safety regulation is immediately confiscated by the PRC state and turned into a publicly owned enterprise. All these struggles should be part of a fight to smash the political influence of the capitalists and restrict the private sector to the level that is actually needed in the transition stage to socialism. Of course, the capitalists, their allies within the upper middle class and their imperialist backers would furiously oppose such a struggle. In the resulting decisive clash between the politically conscious working class and pro-capitalist forces the tightrope balancing act played by the current ruling bureaucracy would be shaken out of existence. The different elements of the bureaucracy would be flung onto two opposing sides. Those types, like pro-capitalist ex-finance minister, Lou Jiwei, who are closest to the capitalists would fall squarely on the capitalist their side. On the other hand, more subjectively communist elements and those closest to the masses would end up on the side of the working class (as would, inevitably, some careerist elements who see the inevitability of a workers’ victory). Thus, a workers struggle to smash the capitalists’ political influence and curb their economic power would not only fortify the PRC workers state but would also lead to the political administration of the PRC passing from the wavering hands of the bureaucracy and on to the control of the councils of workers and their allies that had just organised the defeat of the insurgent capitalists. The genuine communists who would guide such a struggle by the pro-socialist working class would understand that such a victory cannot be truly secure while the capitalists hold state power in nearly all the most powerful countries in the world. That is why they would link the struggle to defeat the insurgent capitalists within China to a perspective of solidarity with the workers and oppressed all around the globe in their struggles against their capitalist rulers.

The biggest impediment to such an outcome is that, currently, the international factors weighing on the class contest in China are almost entirely on the side of the insurgent capitalists. We workers and leftists in the imperialist countries need to change this and change this fast! The workers movement here should oppose political attacks on the PRC workers state from Australia’s capitalist regime (including those made under the pretext of “human rights”) and must oppose the anti-PRC Chinese exile organisations. We must build solidarity actions with progressive actions by the PRC workers state such as the implementation of pro-worker labour laws and the massive increase of public housing. The Australian working class and its allies must also stand against the U.S./Australian capitalist rulers’ military build up against China and must oppose their anti-PRC provocations in the South China Sea as the capitalist powers want all this military pressure to add to the all-round political squeeze that they are subjecting the PRC workers state to.

The incoming Trump regime in the U.S. has promised a still more aggressive posture towards China as well as a massive military build up. Today, as a blatant provocation against Red China, president-elect Trump broke with diplomatic protocol and held a phone call with the president of Taiwan, the part of China that the defeated capitalists seized when they were booted out of power by the 1949 anti-capitalist revolution. This is the first known contact between a U.S. president or president-elect and a leader of the rogue province of Taiwan since the United States broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan 37 years ago. The U.S. backs and massively arms Taiwan but adopted the diplomatic position of not recognising Taiwan as a way to way to maintain diplomatic and, hence, trade relations with the PRC while simultaneously undertaking its anti-PRC machinations. Trump’s phone call with the Taiwanese leader and their discussion about how to boost Taiwan’s military strength – inevitably against the PRC – is a signal that U.S. imperialism is going to unleash a more openly confrontational policy against socialistic China. Genuine communists living in the U.S. and its imperialist allies like Australia have got our work cut out. Let’s get to it!

James Packer’s Crown Versus Millers Point Public Housing

Good News:  China’s Arrest of Crown Executives Endangers Packer’s Barangaroo Project

Above Left, Australia, 2016: Police harass a homeless Aboriginal family in Sydney’s Belmore Park. In Australia, the legal system targets the working class and people on the lowest income. Aboriginal people are hit with severe racist, anti-working class repression with many Aboriginal people being killed in state custody. By contrast, in socialistic China, where the overall rate of imprisonment is much lower than Australia, the system is toughest on rich capitalists and corrupt government officials. Above Right: Xu Ming, one of many billionaires jailed in China. In December 2015, this capitalist exploiter, who was once one of China’s richest people, died in state custody at age 44. James Packer is used to Australia’s system where his exorbitant wealth and economic power buys great political influence. However, his assumption that things would be the same in the Peoples Republic of China have started to bring him a rude shock.

18 November 2016 – Greedy billionaire, James Packer, has been riding high. He was expecting to make an absolute fortune from his Crown Resorts casino and luxury hotel complex which will be built in the Sydney CBD’s, Barangaroo site. However, he was brought back down to earth a bit last month when authorities of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) detained 18 of his wealthy executives. Among the high-flying Crown executives that the PRC has arrested are at least three Australian ones including Crown’s boss of VIP operations, Jason O’Connor. Those arrested are alleged to have been involved in organising the very activities that Packer’s high rollers’ casino will in good part depend on: luring high rollers from China to gamble at his casinos and other wealthier Chinese to hold their money in overseas casino accounts. Luring Chinese people to do this is illegal under PRC law. Packer and his executives knew all this. But they were so greedy that they could not help themselves and thought they would get away with it anyway. After all, in capitalist Australia, Packer and his ilk always get away with whatever they want! However, China is a very different story. In socialistic China, the “right” of business tycoons and other rich individuals to ride roughshod over everyone else and make a mockery of state laws is severely “repressed.” The PRC, understandably, does not want wealthy individuals depositing money in overseas casino accounts as that could be used to circumvent its strict capital controls which restrict the “rights” of the rich to freely move money about internationally. China also does not want corrupt businessmen and officials to use overseas casinos to launder dirty money or avoid taxes.

If Crown’s efforts to lure Chinese high rollers and wealthy individuals are severely curtailed, it could spell doom for Packer’s Barangaroo complex. Although the proportion of high rollers in China is tiny, China has such a huge population (60 times that of Australia) that these high rollers are, numerically, a big number. Furthermore, since gambling is outright banned in mainland China and PRC authorities have been cracking down on wealthy mainlanders travelling to Macao to gamble, Chinese high rollers now need to travel abroad to gamble. Similarly, other wealthy Chinese individuals need to deal with casinos located overseas in order to secretly move or launder money. That is why Packer was counting on luring Chinese high rollers to Barangaroo as a main income source for his casino.

One of the many positive aspects of the China arrests for working class people in Australia is that it could help the struggle to save public housing in Sydney’s Millers Point area which is right adjacent to the waterside Barangaroo site. Several of the Millers Point tenants who have been staunchest in resisting the NSW government’s drive to sell off public housing in the area are convinced that part of what is driving the government’s moves is Packer’s, very nearby, casino/hotel project. Their suspicions sound more than plausible. Certainly, it is beyond question that mainstream politicians of all stripes and states are servile to Packer. As the The Saturday Paper (12 April 2014) put it when describing the way that Packer received official backing for his Barangaroo plan:

State and federal laws and regulations have flexed or melted away in the project’s path. Ordinary rules don’t seem to apply to James Packer.

Thus, after the cabinet of corrupt then premier Barry O’Farrell openly announced its backing of the Packer plan, it appointed to head the “independent” detailed assessment of the project, David Murray, an ex-banker and a Liberal party supporter who has such close ties to Packer that he attended Packer’s first wedding! This “assessment” ended up being even more farcical than expected. The “independent” panel chose to seek their commercial advice about Crown’s proposal from Deloitte which has had a financial relationship with Crown. Meanwhile, it was uncovered that even before the “independent” panel had made its “assessment,” the NSW Premier’s department prepared it with statements to help it defend the Crown proposal from any negative media questioning! After bowing to a notably low tax rate for the planned casino, the state government then further facilitated Packer’s interests by ramming through a 2013 amendment to the Casino Control Act specifically to support Packer’s Barangaroo project. This special change to the Act had the support of not just the governing conservative Coalition but also the ALP and the Shooters Party. Even Fred Nile, supposedly a vehement opponent of gambling, campaigned strongly in favour of it. These amendments to the Act are so slavish to Packer that they ensure that Crown must be paid compensation if any future regulatory changes – like tax increases – hurt its profits. The Act even stipulates that the Independent Licensing and Gaming Authority (ILGA) cannot make any changes’s to a Barangaroo casino license without approval from Packer’s Crown! Not that the ILGA is prepared to stand up to Packer anyway. When, the following year, this “independent” authority conducted its probity check on Crown’s suitability to hold a casino license, the ILGA took only three months to pass Crown which, in the own words of the ILGA chief Micheil Brodie, “probably rates as one of the fastest assessments of a casino applicant in history”. Meanwhile, not only has Packer’s complex been infamously excluded from Sydney’s controversial lockout laws, it was granted a special exemption from workplace health and safety laws restricting smoking in indoor workplaces. As Australian Institute of Architects NSW president, Shaun Carter, put it after Crown’s casino/luxury hotel complex was granted final planning approval this June:

In Sydney you can end up in the Land and Environment Court over a dormer window. But at Barangaroo, you can double your size and replace a public park with a casino with no trouble at all.

The Reality of Capitalist “Democracies”

James Packer’s massive, $105 million luxury yacht and his $66 million private jet. Like other capitalist tycoons, Packer uses his immense wealth and economic power to gain political influence. Packer is great mates with former prime minister Tony Abbott [Above Right], current prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and most other top politicians.

 In this capitalist society money buys influence. Filthy rich tycoons are able to swing political and bureaucratic decision making through giving hefty donations to political parties, through buying expensive newspaper advertisements (such as the full page ones that Packer’s Crown made promoting its Barangaroo plans) and by having membership in business lobby groups. It is well known that some of the ultra-rich also openly buy out politicians and government officials through open bribery or through purchasing them other favours – like liaisons with high-priced prostitutes. More common, however, are the softer – and yet more insidious – forms of buying influence that almost all capitalist bigwigs engage in.  These include inviting politicians and bureaucrats to corporate boxes to watch the cricket or inviting them to exclusive parties and cruises on their luxury yachts. The ultra-rich capitalists also buy political influence through more subtle means – for example, through funding the arts. On 12 November 2013, the very eve of the day that the NSW parliament voted on amendments to facilitate his Barangaroo project, Packer ostentatiously announced a $60 million donation to various Sydney arts, theatre, opera and orchestra institutions by both his Crown Group and himself personally. This was intended to put pressure on any politicians who may have been considering voting down the amendment with the prospect of gaining the opprobrium of the arts community. Meanwhile, any politicians concerned that open support for Packer’s unpopular Baranagroo project could damage their image would now be re-assured that Packer’s donation would make him be seen by the public in better light. Furthermore, although $60 million is barely pocket money for a person who has a $5 billion fortune (“earned” by his and famous late father and grandfather’s ripping off of the labour of workers), it represents a lot of money to underfunded arts institutions. Imagine a talented young artist asking to get funding from a head of one these Packer-donated institutions for a project satirising the Banagaroo complex. It’s a sure bet that they won’t get very far!

We cannot, of course, forget the lobbyists – a big factor in modern-day capitalist “democracies.” It is only the super-rich who can afford to hire skilled lobbyists. Packer, for example, employed former ALP heavies Mark Arbib and Karl Bitar to use their connections to ensure that the ALP backed the casino. In general, business bosses like to employ former – and, if they can get away with it, even current – politicians and high-level bureaucrats to be on their boards in order to use the connections of these individuals to gain them extra influence in the machinery of state. Thus, amongst the board of directors of Packer’s Crown is former Minister of Communications in the Howard government, Helen Coonan. For his part, Crown CEO Rowen Craigie was a General Manager for Gaming at the Victorian TAB and held senior economic policy positions in Treasury and the Department of Industry in Victoria. Another Crown director, former Qantas boss, Geoff Dixon, was head of the Australian government’s main tourism authority, Tourism Australia, from 2009-2015: that is, throughout the crucial period when Packer was seeking government backing for his Barangaroo project. Big-time capitalists use a similar method to help ensure media support. Thus, the executive deputy chairman of Crown, John Alexander, is a director of Seven West Media – the owner of Channel 7 and its offshoots as well as Yahoo7. He is also a former editor in chief of both The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review. Even more effective in ensuring media support is simple, direct ownership. Packer, himself, directly owns a $28 million stake in the entity that owns Channel 10. So, don’t expect this broadcaster to run any hard-hitting documentaries against Crown’s Barangaroo project anytime soon! Very helpful, too, for capitalist billionaires are the “mates” connections that they develop with media moguls and media high-fliers. James Packer is very close friends with influential, right-wing 2GB shock-jock, Alan Jones, with the 45% owner of Macquarie Media Limited (which owns both 2GB and 2UE) John Singleton and with Lachlan Murdoch, a director of News Corporation (owner of The Australian and The Daily Telegraph newspapers, a host of regional and interstate papers and 50% of Foxtel) who is, of course, the son of its chairman and controlling shareholder, Rupert Murdoch. Then there are the myriad of connections arising from Packer and his father’s former ownership of Channel 9.

Such “mates” connections also cement ties between capitalist bigwigs and the politicians that administer their state. James Packer, for instance, is such close friends with former Liberal prime minister, John Howard, and ex-treasurer, Peter Costello, that they both, once again, attended his first wedding. Packer also played golf with Stephen Conroy when the latter was Communications Minister in the last ALP federal government. Packer is good mates too with Bob Katter and former Victorian premier, Jeff Kennett. Meanwhile, recent ex-Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, had worked for Packer’s PBL company from 1997-2001. What gives individual big capitalists political clout is not only their personal wealth and connections but their control of large chunks of the economy. Capitalist politicians and high-level bureaucrats are always on the lookout for lucrative positions in the private sector to move into once their careers in government or the public service are over. Thus, big business owners can lure these politicians and bureaucrats into doing their bidding precisely because these schmucks hope that this would open up a future career for them hired either directly as executives of or as consultants for their corporations (the way that former Labor powerbrokers Graham Richardson, Karl Bitar and Mark Arbib and prominent Liberal socialite, Ann Peacock, did in getting positions in Packer companies) or by other companies looking to establish links with these corporations. Even less cynical government politicians who actually believe (wrongly!) that they are to some degree representing the people are pulled into the orbit of those with considerable weight in the economy. For in an economic system dominated by private “enterprise,” they are reliant on these firms for providing jobs and for paying taxes into state coffers. The threat of big corporate bosses to withdraw from a major project can be enough to pull government politicians into line.

For those politicians and bureaucrats that still refuse to bow down to a big capitalist’s interests, the latter have nastier means at their disposal. Just as tycoons can build up a loyal politician’s or bureaucrat’s career, the way that the Pratt family industrial capitalists – who are currently second on Australia’s rich list – were the benefactors ensuring ALP Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s rise (the late Richard Pratt used to let Shorten use his extravagant mansion for fundraising events when Shorten first campaigned for a parliamentary seat and even made his private jet available for Shorten’s use), they can also leverage their wealth to topple the careers of those who are not loyal enough. Look, for instance, at what happened to former ALP prime minister Kevin Rudd in mid-2010. Now, Rudd was an ardent supporter of the capitalist order and, thus, hardly one to make a strong stand against capitalist bigwigs. However, in 2010 he was planning to implement a Resources Super Profits Tax that would have mildly increased the amounts of tax that big mining bosses pay. That was too much for mining tycoons like Gina Rinehart, Andrew Forrest and Clive Palmer who are not prepared to share even a fraction of their fortunes with anyone. They – and other mining capitalists – went on a massive advertising campaign against the tax that saw them spend $22 million in just six weeks. Meanwhile, their friends in the Murdoch and other media outlets backed the campaign against the new tax. All this contributed to a steep fall in popularity for Rudd and enabled his internal ALP rivals to replace him as prime minister. Dancing completely to the tune of Australia’s mining billionaires, the new Gillard government then immediately watered down the tax to such a great degree that it hardly collected any money at all! Of course, the mining tycoons’ opposition to the Resource Super Profits Tax was not the only reason that Rudd was toppled. Rudd is an arrogant individual and was not liked much by his fellow ALP politicians. However, the decisive factor in his demise then was the slump in his opinion poll numbers caused by the massive advertising and media campaign against the Resources Super Profits Tax – a campaign conducted at the behest of the filthy rich mining bosses. The Packers, too, are well aware of the power that they have to bring down politicians or top-level public servants who, even in the slightest, get in their way. And they’re quite prepared to use it! In 1993 when James Packer and his late father, Kerry, first put in a bid for a Sydney casino, James Packer famously rang a Minister in the then NSW Liberal government and said: “the old man told me to ring… this is the message: If we don’t win the casino, you guys are f_cked”.

The truth is that in capitalist “democracies” the much vaunted principle of “one person, one vote” is a farce. For it is the small number of ultra-rich capitalists who have the wealth, control of the economy and connections to influence decision making and shape mainstream public opinion. James Packer with his $5 billion fortune seems to have more influence than at least half of the 5 million or so registered voters in NSW combined. So $5 billion is equal to at least 2.5 million votes.  On average that means: two billion dollars = one million votes. Now that’s much more like the true equation describing capitalist “democracy.”

To be sure, the capitalist state does not serve one particular bourgeois capitalist. Rather, in the words of the Communist Manifesto:  “the executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” However, the relative weight of a handful of tycoons in Australia is so great that the state almost always backs their particular interests.

Save Millers Point Public Housing!
Defend China’s Crackdown on Packer’s Greedy Executives!

Sydney, 19 March 2016: Opponents of the sell-off of public housing in the inner-city Millers Point area, including members of the MUA, CFMEU and ETU trade unions, march in protest. China’s arrest of 18 wealthy executives of James Packer’s Crown empire, including three Australian high-fliers, could undermine Packer’s Barangaroo Casino plan – thus aiding the campaign to save public housing in the Millers Point and Rocks area.

So Packer certainly had more than enough influence to instigate a sell-off of public housing in Millers Point if he wanted to. Would he want to? Yes would be a very good bet on the right answer to that question. Clearing out Miller’s Point public housing would allow the area to be turned into luxury dwellings that can be used by his casino patrons looking for longer-stay, nearby accommodation outside the hotel and for his executives overseeing the casino/hotel complex. All that would help with Packer’s project. Furthermore, even if a re-developed Millers Point site ends up not being directly used, in its majority, by patrons and executives of Crown’s Barangaroo complex, the planned complex is nevertheless driving wealthy speculators to try and grab hold of this land. Such speculators have no doubt been lobbying the government for the sell-off of public housing in the area too. The boost in property prices driven by Packer’s Barangaroo project also gives the NSW government itself more incentive to sell-off the Millers Point public housing as it means they can get higher prices at auctions than they otherwise would.

However, if the Peoples Republic of China follows through with its crackdown on Crown’s efforts to lure high rollers and other wealthy Chinese to deposit money in Crown casinos then the whole game would change. Packer’s Barangaroo project could be pushed into deep water. And if part of the economic forces that are driving the government’s sell-off of Millers Point public housing are stopped then the government will be more prepared to back down if faced with significant opposition from our side. That is why it is in the interest of the fight for public housing that we stand by the PRC’s crackdown. Furthermore, although we do not favour bans on gambling in Australia, it can only be a good thing more generally if Packer’s Barangaroo project goes splat. The whole philosophy behind the project is offensive to us egalitarians: that is, that scenic, beautiful-looking public space could be turned into a members only, high-rollers casino that only the very wealthy can afford to join and a six-star hotel that only the rich can afford to stay in.

Whether the PRC follows through and prosecutes the rich Crown executives is still a live bet. You can certainly bet that James Packer would be using his economic and political muscle to push the Australian government into pressuring the PRC state as relentlessly as possible.  However, the determination of PRC authorities to crack down on Crown’s activities was shown when the suspects were first detained. They were detained in meticulously planned and coordinated overnight raids in several cities. PRC authorities also carefully waited for a time when Crown’s Australian-based VIP international boss, Jason O’Connor, was on a trip to China to launch the raids. Under China’s legal system, suspects are first detained and questioned and then only after lengthy investigation formally arrested if police believe that there is strong evidence of wrong-doing. The fact that the three Australian crown executives were formally arrested today – five weeks after being initially detained – show that Chinese authorities believe that there is clear evidence that they have committed illegal acts.

In standing by the PRC’s crackdown on Packer’s seemingly illegal actions in China, we should be ready for a barrage of condemnation of the crackdown from the big business-owned Australian media and ruling class politicians. That’s what happened the last time the PRC prosecuted corruption from a major Australia-owned multinational. In 2009, China arrested several high-flying executives from part-Australian owned, mining giant Rio Tinto for corrupt activities. Some of these corrupt activities involved making bribes to get PRC state-owned steel companies to pay higher prices for Rio’s iron ore than they would otherwise have paid. Especially as the trial of the Rio Tinto executives took place, then Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, National Party heavy and now deputy PM Barnaby Joyce and the mainstream media hysterically denounced the PRC’s legal procedures. It did little good. The PRC ended up handing the senior Rio executives lengthy jail sentences – including ten years for Australian Stern Hu. Rio Tinto like BHP, Packer’s Crown, Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue may be above the law here. However, in Red China, where enterprises under socialistic state ownership play the dominant role in the economy rather than corporations owned by tycoons, the state does not in general kowtow to the demands of capitalist bigwigs.

One of the things that the Australian mainstream media and politicians may throw out to defend Packer’s arrested henchmen is the claim that the arrests are arbitrary and over the top. However, it has now emerged that PRC authorities actually issued a stern warning to Crown last year that it was engaging in illegal activities. Australian Crown bosses then responded by trying to fly under the radar of PRC authorities by making short business trips to China instead of spending long stays there. They also started formally marketing their casinos to Chinese people as trips to “resorts” rather than casinos as a way to try and deceive PRC authorities.

Another bit of propaganda that Australian media and politicians may assert in support of Packer is the notion that Crown and Australians have been unfairly singled out by Chinese authorities. However, the PRC has already targeted other overseas casino operators. Last year, thirteen executives of two South Korean casino operators, Paradise and Grand Korea, were jailed for similar crimes to what the arrested Crown executives are apparently alleged to be involved in. Meanwhile, in a massive raid a few months ago, police in the south east Chinese province of Guangdong arrested almost 800 local people for economic crimes including “organizing illegal gambling activities overseas.” Furthermore, in the actual Crown arrests, alongside the three Australian nationals, one Malaysian national and 14 local Chinese nationals were also arrested. Furthermore, eight other Chinese people not working for Crown, some of them likely high rollers, were also detained in the October raids.

If the Australian mainstream media try to give the impression that only overseas businesses and their employees have been targeted in China that too can be easily re-butted. These Crown arrests are, in fact, part of a massive anti-corruption campaign that has been running in China for over two years. Although in some cases there is suspicion that Chinese president Xi Jinping has used the campaign to undermine factional rivals within the Communist Party of China, the campaign has truly clamped down on corruption. Hundreds of high-ranking politicians and businessmen have been prosecuted. Furthermore, perhaps the best aspect of the anti-corruption campaign is that it has to some, albeit small, degree also drifted into a campaign against the opulence of the rich. Thus, in early 2014, Communist Party of China authorities in major Chinese cities ordered the closure of high-end clubs and expensive restaurants near public parks, scenic spots and cultural sites because these venues could not be accessible and affordable to the masses.  It is worth noting here that Sydney’s Barangaroo area is definitely such a scenic spot. In other words, if PRC law were applied here, there would be no Crown Barangroo project (even without the casino)!  By the way, in the PRC’s anti-opulence drive, those formerly high-end clubs and restaurants located near public spots that were allowed to stay open were ordered to lower their prices and change their menus to turn them into places affordable to the masses. So, if the PRC law were applied here, Packer at best would see his Barangaroo project being turned into a centre with free entry nightclubs serving cheap drinks, affordable buffet restaurants for the masses enjoying the waterside parks and a three-star hotel providing clean and cheap accommodation for working class tourists from Australia, China and other Asian and overseas countries looking for an affordable place to stay in the heart of the city.

Perhaps the most likely argument that the Australian ruling class and its media will use to oppose any PRC prosecution of Packer’s henchmen is to claim that the PRC’s legal system is “cruel” and “harsh.” However, actually, Australia’s rate of imprisonment is nearly 30% higher than China’s. What is true is that the PRC does jail business tycoons at a much higher rate than Australia. So the difference between Australia’s current legal system and the PRC’s is a matter of who is targeted by the state. In Australia, the state jails disproportionately target Aboriginal people, people from Middle Eastern and Asian derived ethnic communities and the poor. In contrast, in the PRC workers state – despite suffering from plenty of bureaucratic deformations and the distortions caused by capitalist intrusion – it is wealthy private sector businessmen and the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats who are bribed by them who are disproportionately jailed. Australia’s capitalist ruling class, of course, finds such a system “harsh” and “cruel.” However, from the point of view of the working classes of both China and Australia such a system is exactly what is needed. We should defend it! And we should defend the crackdown on Packer’s and his executives’ illegal activities in China. Let’s weaken the economic forces driving the push out of public housing tenants from Millers Point! Stop the social cleansing of working class people from Sydney CBD! It is rail workers, bus drivers, ferry drivers and their ground staff, cleaners, warehouse workers, chefs, liquor and hospitality workers, construction workers, maintenance workers, fire brigade employees, ambulance staff, sales assistants, IT support staff and other workers who together make the Sydney CBD run. Yet the overwhelming majority of these workers cannot afford to live in the area. Let’s turn this around! Let’s turn the public space that was seized for Packer’s Barangaroo project into a big public housing block for working class people! Let’s fight for a massive increase in public housing throughout Australia! Fittingly, that is exactly what the PRC is doing – having provided around 40 million new public housing dwellings over the last six years.

China’s crackdown on Crown is not only good for the Millers Point public housing struggle, it is also more broadly in the interests of the working class. James Packer is such a powerful – and in Australia seemingly untouchable – capitalist that many here are resigned to him getting his way on everything. The fact that his executives could be called to account in the Peoples Republic of China should be used to give Australian workers confidence that the filthy rich bosses of this and other corporate giants are not invincible. Every fighter against oppression and every Australian trade union activist worth their salt ought to be seizing on this setback for Packer’s Crown to challenge, right here, the greedy exploitation by all the billionaires and the corporations that they own: including the likes of Crown, BHP, Rio Tinto, Visy, Seven West, Westfarmers, Woolworths and the banks. They should be saying to their proud and strong working class base: China is cracking down on corporate greed and corruption – we need to start to do that here too!

Opposing Racism & “Aussie First” Economic Nationalism

Above: June 2016, in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine, workers at the Bitzer refrigeration firm are on the picket line and on the verge of victory. After a hard fought nine week strike workers won a pay rise, the guarantee of permanency for casuals after six months’ service and control over what hours they work. The Australian working class is very multiracial. Unity of workers across racial and ethnic lines is key to victory in the class struggle.  

As Capitalist Rulers Beat on the Unions and Poor:

Opposing Racism & “Aussie First” Economic Nationalism Key to Defending Working Class People’s Rights

29 January 2017: Thousands upon thousands of the most economically deprived people in Australia have been driven to despair over the last few months. Many are on the verge of suicide. These people have been sent debt letters by Centrelink telling them that they owe large amounts of money. Many of the letters were erroneously sent. The Liberal-National Turnbull government’s scheme to recover supposed “excess” payments to social security recipients through a computer program matching Centrelink with tax data is full of flaws. The system seems to be wilfully designed to incorrectly flag several types of valid welfare payments as “overpayments.” However, it is not just the errors in the program that are the problem. The whole purpose of the program is the problem: to gouge ever more from the most impoverished people in the country to allow, in part, the right-wing government to implement large tax cuts for rich business owners.

This hated “debt recovery” scheme is symbolic of what the government led by the supposedly “moderate” Liberal, Malcolm Turnbull, has been doing to working class people.  In November, the Turnbull government, with support in the Senate from the fascistic One Nation party, the Nick Xenophon team and right-wing “independents” like Derryn Hinch, put through legislation to resurrect the Howard-era Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). The ABCC is a set of rules and government bodies targeting unions in the construction industry. Its resurrection is yet another sign that the capitalist rulers are ramping up for a full-scale attack on the CFMEU construction workers union. They want to attack one of the most militant unions in the country as a way of pulling the teeth out of the entire union movement.

The Turnbull government has been emboldened by its win in last July’s election. However, even though the Coalition are more openly anti-working class in its agenda than the ALP, even an ALP victory last July would have been no good for the masses. Thus although the ALP opposed the ABCC, it had brought in the previous set of anti-union laws targeting the CFMEU – a regime under which over a hundred union officials were facing legal persecution last year. It is true that the ALP has joined with the Greens to oppose the Turnbull government’s plan for a massive cut in company tax. Yet in September, it was the ALP’s support that enabled the Coalition to get through its Omnibus Bill of budget cuts that hurt working class people the most while the following month the ALP voted up tax cuts that were exclusively given to the richest one-third of taxpayers. The Omnibus Bill measures that financed the tax cuts for the rich include the slashing of the Energy Supplement for new welfare recipients, high interest charges that will further grind down welfare recipients with a debt, delays to the receipt of the Carers Allowance for many new carers and a more severe repayment through taxation schedule for ex-students with a tuition fee debt. Meanwhile, although the ALP has demanded that the Coalition suspend its Centrelink “debt recovery” scheme, the ALP took to the elections its own scheme to punish welfare recipients with a debt. Under the Labor proposal, welfare recipients who had outstanding fines from government agencies would have their fines automatically deducted from their payments in yet another compulsory “income management” scheme subjugating the poor.

The fact is that the determination to rip ever more from the pockets of the masses comes not just from the ideological nature of the current parliamentary parties but from their adherence to a capitalist order which requires increasing exploitation of workers as a condition for its very existence. This is especially so because the world capitalist economy is in a fragile state right now. The Australian economy is somewhat held up from a major collapse by exports to China’s booming economy. Yet China’s continued economic successes – not withstanding the regular but always unrealised predictions made by wishful mainstream Western “experts” that her economy is about to implode – come from the fact that the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) is not under capitalist rule. Although the PRC’s leadership has allowed a dangerous level of capitalist intrusion into her economy, China’s economy remains held together by a powerful backbone of socialistic state-owned enterprises. However, let’s look at the condition of the major capitalist economies of the world. Big European economies like those of France, Italy, Germany and Austria have barely recovered from the worst of the 2008-9 Great Recession. The U.S. recovery is a fragile house of cards based on cheap credit and the capitalist Japanese economy continues its long term drift in the doldrums. Meanwhile, large non-Western, capitalist countries like Russia and Brazil are still mired in recession. It is in this context that the Coalition election slogan of “jobs and growth” has turned out to be a load of crock. If the unemployment rate has remained steady in Australia rather than ballooning up since the election it is only because so many people who want to work full-time are being forced to accept part-time work. Since the election, over 33,000 full-time jobs have been lost. As for “growth” the latest figures show that the economy actually shrank in the three months since the elections. With the economy in such a state, the capitalist rulers propose the only “solution” that they always advocate for any problem: increase the rate of exploitation of workers.

Brisbane, April 2016: Construction workers march against the reintroduction of the ABCC anti-union authority. The capitalist exploiting class is attacking the militant CFMEU construction workers union as a way of weakening the entire union movement.

With both the Coalition and the ALP not even promising much good for the masses and with both stating their intention to implement budget cuts that would hurt the poor, the post-election period was always going to be a challenging one for the masses. Under the system of capitalist “democracy” elections serve to “legitimise” capitalist governments by giving the impression that they have a “mandate” because they and their agenda have been “chosen by the people.” Therefore, in an immediate post-election period, governments claiming the authority of a “mandate” are often able to implement severe attacks against the masses. But that is only if working class people believe the hoax that election victories are a “mandate”! It is the duty of those within the workers movement who understand that elections in capitalist countries are not fair reflections of the will of the masses to explain this to others. They must expose how capitalist elections are overwhelmingly shaped by the reality that it is the ultra-rich capitalists who own the mass media and book publishing houses and uniquely have the wealth to fund political parties, employ lobbyists and full-time staffers to shape public opinion, buy political advertising, hire forum venues and establish sympathetic NGO’s to subtly promote views coinciding with their interests. In other words, it is the capitalist tycoons who are able to, disproportionately to their numbers, shape “public opinion” and election results. The reality of democracy in capitalist countries is not one person one vote but, in reality, something more like one million dollars buys one million votes. Furthermore, no matter which party wins the elections, they will be administering a state machine – including at its core the police, courts, military and bureaucracy  – that has been built up to enforce the interests of the capitalist class and is tied to this ruling class by a thousand threads. If those vanguard layers of the workers movement who understand this are able to patiently and humbly explain this to the broader masses and in the process win others to also play a vanguard role in spreading such ideas then the working class will be in a much better position to resist the attacks it is facing today.

Today’s onslaught on working class people’s rights is of such severity that there really should be a working class fightback right now. So let’s clear the confusion that is blocking that fightback by destroying the illusion that capitalist elections give a government a “legitimate” “mandate”! Let’s fight to unleash working class industrial power! Let’s unleash mass action uniting the working class with all the other downtrodden – including brutally oppressed Aboriginal people, people from other embattled coloured ethnic communities, the unemployed and low-income single mothers. Fight to defeat the ABCC and all other anti-strike and anti-union laws! Smash all attacks on welfare and all punitive measures against the unemployed! Let’s put the blame where it should be for unemployment: on the capitalist bosses. Let’s stop billionaire bosses retrenching workers! Force capitalist bosses to increase hiring at the expense of their fat profits! Oppose the moves to make education and health care increasingly “user pays.” For free public education at all levels from pre-school to TAFE and university! Let’s also fight for completely free public medical and dental care. Against the bi-partisan sell-offs of public housing we need to demand a massive increase in public housing. There needs to be a struggle to oppose racist state terror against Aboriginal people and the stealing of Aboriginal people’s children. We also need to demand asylum for refugees and full rights of citizens for everyone residing here or currently locked up in the Manus Island and Nauru camps. Let’s demand the closure of all the onshore and offshore detention centres!

It Is the Capitalist System That Is at the Root of the Problem & Not the “Two-Party System”

Reflecting widespread disenchantment with the status quo of insecure jobs, decaying social services and unaffordable housing, voters punished the Liberals and ALP at last July’s elections. Instead, they gave their vote to independents and smaller parties. Some on the Left have hailed this as a positive development as it undercuts the “major parties” and the “two-party system.” It may indeed show a weakening of the “two-party system” but that in itself is not a step forward. As the support of many of the Senate cross-benchers to the ABCC showed, all the elected independents and minor party parliamentarians are pro-capitalist and anti-working class. The fact is that having more than two pro-capitalist parties in parliament does not make life any better for the masses. Indeed, in many European countries there have long been three, four or even more significant parties in parliament but that has not stopped these parliaments from legislating for capitalist austerity, imperialist wars abroad and racist attacks on non-white minorities and refugees. You see the problem is not the two party system as such – it is the capitalist system whether capitalist interests are represented by one or two or three or four or five or any number of major parties.

That the masses are unhappy with the current rulers is inevitable under capitalism. The task of conscious partisans of the exploited and oppressed is to ensure that this anger is directed in the correct direction. The election results signalled that, unfortunately, this is not what is happening right now. One of the most notable aspects of the July election results is the growth in support for Pauline Hanson’s extreme racist One Nation party which now has several seats in the Senate. Like Donald Trump, Hanson’s claims to be “anti-establishment” are completely bogus. A former smaller-scale capitalist business owner who exploited workers, a better description of Hanson and her One Nation Party is that they are ultra-establishment. Hanson supports anti-union laws and disgustingly brands those doing it hard as “welfare bludgers.” Indeed, not only does One Nation support Treasurer Scott Morrison’s legislation making young jobseekers wait four weeks before getting the dole but its leader Pauline Hanson has called for the waiting period – i.e. the starving period – to be made even longer. Meanwhile, One Nation’s defining feature – racist scapegoating of Aboriginal people and non-white “ethnic” communities – serves the capitalist establishment by getting the masses to turn on themselves and divert their attention away from struggling against their exploiters: the greedy capitalists.

Sinister: White supremacist terrorist Michael Holt pleaded guilty to several firearm offences after having been found to have a huge stash of weapons in three properties. The Nazi talked openly to friends of his plans to open fire on crowded public places – his most recent plot being to shoot up Westfield at Tuggerah in the NSW Central Coast. The growth of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, racist attacks on Aboriginal people, refugees and the rights of the Muslim community by Liberal and ALP governments alike and economic nationalism that is rife throughout the political spectrum are energising the growth of fascist terrorists.

It is notable how much airtime and sympathetic – or at least “understanding” – coverage the mainstream media have been giving to Pauline Hanson even compared to when she first entered parliament two decades ago. It is also noteworthy how many more other politicians have been going out of their way to show their respect for her and her disgusting racist rants. This reflects the further rightward shift of the ruling class. They see an increasing need for the division caused by fascistic forces to help protect their rule. Hanson’s One Nation party allows the mainstream of the capitalist ruling class to ensure that society is flooded with extreme racist views while not themselves taking responsibility for spreading this hatred – lest that upset trade ties with Asia or Australia’s bogus image of being a “human rights defender” (that they use to justify predatory imperialist interventions abroad).

Hanson spews venomous bigotry against Aboriginal people. In her book released soon after she first entered parliament, Hanson made outrageous claims that Aboriginal women ate their babies, claiming that she wanted to “demonstrate the savagery of Aboriginal society.” Although she shifts her main target depending on which type of racism is most in vogue, her agenda is to spread hatred against all people of colour. When she first entered parliament she ranted that, “Australia was in danger of being swamped by Asians.” Now she makes similar claims about Muslims while continuing to stand by her attacks on Asian communities.  The first time round, when Hanson made her drive against Asians, Asian people were often spat on and abused at train stations and threatened and bashed on the streets. Today, One Nation’s bigotry is again inciting racist terror on the streets. Its electoral gains and the ascent of far-right bigot Donald Trump has emboldened violent racists. Various violent fascist groups in Australia like the Party for Freedom, True Blue Crew, and Australian Settlers Rebellion have been falling over themselves to declare support for One Nation and have been congregating at One Nation public events. There have been at least two white supremacist murders in the period since One Nation made its comeback into federal parliament: the murder of 14-year-old Aboriginal youth, Elijah Doughty, in Kalgoorlie and the murder of Indian-origin bus driver, Manmeet Alisher in Brisbane. How many more racist murders there have been and the much larger number of racist bashings is unknown.

Working-Class Based Opposition to One Nation’s Racist Agenda versus “Take Down Capitalism” Instead

n response to One Nation’s resurgence, people of colour activists and other anti-racists have rightly protested outside some One Nation events and media appearances. However, a leftist Facebook site calling itself the “Communists of Australia” posted a statement that poured cold water on the idea of protesting against One Nation. This 15 September 2016 posting read:

Australian far-right politician Pauline Hanson is back in the parliament after 20 years. The message is the same racist message as before. Capitalism throws up these fascists from time to time. Some will respond by attacking the figurehead. That is OK if they want to do it. But the best way to defeat fascists is to take down capitalism itself. Target the boss instead of the stooge.

We will respond to this assertion not necessarily because of the weight of the group making it but because this stance represents a viewpoint held by a section of the nominally “Marxist-Leninist” left. In itself, the statement that, “the best way to defeat fascists is to take down capitalism itself,” is of course incontestable. However, the struggle against capitalism will not be advanced by merely proclaiming its necessity, although that must certainly be done as well. The revolution against capitalism will mainly be built by conscious pro-socialists supporting struggles waged against the various injustices and oppressions caused by this system and fighting to direct these struggles onto an anti-capitalist strategy.  It follows that in addition to participating in workers’ struggles for economic gains and in struggles against government racist measures, we must also join with those protesting against the extreme racism of One Nation while fighting to turn this anti-racist resistance into a pro-working class, anti-racist resistance. This is different to the perspective of not only the “Communists of Australia” but in a different way also to that of most of the left social democratic groups – like Socialist Alternative. These latter groups – to their credit – are heavily involved in building anti-racist rallies against One Nation and have raised slogans at such actions that correctly link One Nation’s rise to the racist policies of the major parties (even though they tend to soft-pedal on criticism of the ALP’s racist policies). However, the slogans that these groups build the anti-One Nation rallies on and the slogans that they raise at the events shy away from linking the anti-racist struggle to the class-struggle of the working class. They choose such a strategy because they hope that this will allow small-l liberals and middle-class antiracists, who may not be pro-working class, to be more comfortable about attending the actions. However, a huge price of making the events as amenable as possible for such elements is that it holds back the movement from becoming a force that opposes the capitalist ruling class – the class whose attacks on jobs and social services fuels support for One Nation and whose racist policies legitimise such fascistic outfits. In other words, the strategy of the reformist left groups, while helping to attract well-meaning, anti-racist university students to rallies, retards the movement from turning to the direction that can actually lead it towards its goal. Moreover, it makes it harder to attract the powerful workers movement into joining these struggles. In contrast, Trotskyist Platform (TP) has been participating in anti-Far Right actions with slogans that not only oppose the government’s/ALP’s racist attacks on Aboriginal people, refugees and Muslims – which other Left groups also do to some extent – but with slogans that directly appeal to the interests that the workers movement has in strengthening its unity through combating racism. Our slogans also seek to connect healthy hatred of One Nation’s racism with opposition to the mainstream, “Aussie first” economic nationalism that helps legitimise the extreme racists. We call for class struggle opposition to the bosses’ job-slashing and casualisation that is the cause of the unemployment and insecurity that is helping fuel fascism’s rise.

Sydney, 18 July 2016: Trotskyist Platform signs at a 200-strong protest against Pauline Hanson’s appearance on the ABC Q & A program. We oppose any attempt to channel understandable fear of the Far-Right into support for the ALP and The Greens. Instead, Trotskyist Platform calls for workers’ action to swat down the fascists swarming around Hanson’s One Nation, for determined resistance against the bi-partisan racist war on refugees and Aboriginal people and for a class struggle fight for jobs for all in sharp opposition to nationalist calls for “Jobs for Aussies Workers First.”

Even though the reformist left groups that are currently leading the anti-One Nation protests shy away from an openly pro-working class strategy, this is no excuse for the so-called “Communists of Australia” to downplay the need to participate in anti-One Nation actions. To reject intervention in this way means to turn one’s back on the possibility that a movement burning with hatred at far-right racism can – or at least its most pro-working class elements can – be steered onto an anti-capitalist strategy. Worst of all it means turning one’s back on the desperate concerns of people from the various coloured “ethnic” communities – the people who are suffering the direct brunt of the redneck violence and abuse that One Nation’s racist hate speech fuels – and refusing to walk them onto a path that connects their passion to fight against far-right racists to an all-sided struggle against the capitalist system that breeds racism.

It is simply wrong to reject struggles against fascist and fascistic forces on the supposed grounds that it diverts from a direct struggle against capitalism. Workers from various embattled “ethnic” communities form an important part of the working class – the class that is central to the fight against capitalism. Many work in the most exploited jobs and, thus, have the most to gain from anti-capitalist class struggle. Some are even today amongst the most militant trade unionists. Yet the vilification that they cop from the likes of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the violence being incited – and sometimes directly carried out – by outright fascist groups intimidates coloured workers and thus undermines their ability to participate in the struggles of the workers movement. Opposing the far-right racists is thus an important part of the struggle to unleash the full combative potential of “ethnic” workers and, therefore, of the workers movement as a whole. It is, thus, incorrect to suggest that struggles against far-right forces somehow takes away from the necessary struggle against capitalism. In fact, the very opposite is true provided that struggles against the Far-Right are waged on a pro-working class agenda that refuses to be diverted into the dead end of “lesser evil” support for liberal or social democratic-led capitalism.

That is why, in contrast to the likes of the “Communists of Australia,” we communists in TP stand for spirited, working class centred, anti-racist protests outside One Nation events. Let’s demoralise One Nation supporters and discourage new ones from joining by showing them how much resistance they will face. Most importantly, we fight for actions uniting trade union contingents with Aboriginal people, coloured “ethnic” communities and other anti-racists to drive off the streets the outright fascist groups that have been congregating at One Nation events.  When the workers movement mobilises in this way to stop violent fascist forces, it not only enhances their unity but also strengthens their trust in their own power, develops their fighting organisation and experience and increases their willingness and ability to unleash their might in direct physical action. In other words, acting to crush fascist outfits – who are still overall unpopular – helps prepare the working class for the future, more difficult task of overturning capitalist state power. This is partly why Lenin’s Bolsheviks, who would go on to lead the 1917 socialist revolution in Russia, devoted so much effort to mobilising to crush the violent far-right groups that existed in Russia in their time – like the notorious Black Hundreds. By downplaying the importance of similar tasks today, the avowedly “Marxist-Leninist” Communists of Australia group are actually turning their back on an important aspect of real Marxist-Leninism.

The biggest reason why it is wrong to claim that struggles against far right racists are counterposed to a direct struggle against capitalism is that workers unity is absolutely essential to any struggle against capitalism and such unity cannot be built without fiercely counteracting the dividing effect of racism – whether it be the extreme racism of the Far Right or the patronising racism of the mainstream of the ruling class. In white supremacist Australia, racism and economic nationalism are, indeed, the biggest factors tearing apart workers’ unity. Indeed, the racism and economic nationalism engendered by capitalist society can be so strong that even some avowed socialists recoil from directly standing up to it. Those leftists who say that there is no need to attack One Nation, with the excuse that the dominant capitalist bosses should be attacked instead, are misusing Marxist theory to rationalise a reluctance to challenge extreme racist ideas. This is an opportunist capitulation to backward racist notions amongst their co-workers, acquaintances and those considered potential allies of their parties.

Migrants’ Trade Union in South Korea established in 2007. During their struggle to register the union and to resist bosses, five senior officials were deported by the right-wing capitalist government. However, following support by other unions, in 2015 the South Korean courts backed down and accepted that even “illegal workers” had the right to join a union. Unions in Australia must fight to bring 457 Visa workers and “illegal immigrants” into our unions and must struggle to win for them the full rights of citizens so that these workers can much better fight for their rights.

Protectionism Hurts the Struggle to Save Workers’ Jobs

The germination of openly racist forces in Australia has been bred in a noxious political climate created by the major parties’ – and the mainstream media’s – attacks on refugees, Aboriginal people and various different coloured “ethnic” communities. In particular, the mainstream of the ruling class has infused society with anti-Muslim hysteria through the repression and coded racist messages associated with its “War on Radical Islamic Terrorism.” Direct Australian imperialist intervention in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq further intensifies the chauvinist climate at home. Meanwhile, the Australian fascistic groups sprouting into the open have been pollinated by their rapidly breeding counterparts in other parts of the capitalist world. Most significant has been the ascendancy of racist, ultra-protectionist Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. There has also been the Brexit vote in Britain – in which racist hostility to immigrants and protectionism were the main factors – and the growing influence of extreme right-wing parties throughout Europe from France, Netherlands and Austria to Hungary, Ukraine and Russia. With the current social democratic leaderships of the workers’ movements refusing to mobilise a militant class struggle fight for workers’ jobs, far-right forces have been able to promote restrictions on immigration and extreme nationalism as an “answer” to unemployment and deteriorating social services. Since economic insecurity remains rife in a capitalist world that is still caught in the vortex of the late noughties Great Recession, many in the middle class and some backward workers have bought into such illusory “solutions.” What has arguably most legitimised the Hard Right and their agenda is that social democratic politicians – including supposedly “anti-establishment” ones like America’s Bernie Sanders and British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn – have been standing on similar economic nationalist platforms as the Far Right. Bernie Sanders has even on several occasions praised Donald Trump for his opposition to trade deals from a protectionist standpoint – even promising to work with Trump if he seriously implements such an agenda.

In the wake of this growing influence of national-chauvinist ideologies and the increasing weight of fascistic forces in all the capitalist powers it has hardly been just One Nation and its satellites that have been spewing racist filth and extreme protectionism. Barely a week after Trump’s election win, immigration minister Peter Dutton criticised former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who was from Dutton’s own Liberal Party, for allowing in some migrant groups in the 1970s. Dutton blamed their descendants for social problems. This was part of a cosy interview he did with extreme racist media commentator Andrew Bolt who attacked “allowing in” people from Middle Eastern and African nations or cultural groups. Later, Dutton singled out Lebanese Muslims as a community that he believes should have been excluded. Lebanese Muslim Association president Samier Dandan responded aptly:

Let us not beat around the bush here, what Mr Dutton said was racist, what he implied was racist, and the lack of outrage in Parliament reflects on the racism underscoring much of how we talk about minorities in Australia.

This statement reflects widespread outrage at Dutton’s stance within Lebanese and other migrant communities. Yet Turnbull stood by his openly racist minister.

The Labor Opposition did criticise Dutton’s comments – albeit very mildly. However, the ALP itself has been spreading poisonous nationalism. In November, Bill Shorten ranted that temporary overseas workers are “taking the jobs” of Australians. He made this xenophobic claim as part of announcing Labor’s plan to place more restrictions on guest workers entering on the 457 Visa program. Shorten’s comments came within a week of Trump’s election win. He was aping Trump’s “America First” protectionism. Claiming that Australia must learn from Trump’s victory, Shorten raved that, “we make no apology for saying Labor’s approach to the Australian economy is buy Australian, build Australian, employ Australians.” Although Shorten would deny it, by claiming that foreign workers were “taking the jobs” of Australians, Shorten is inciting racist hostility to migrants. After all, the primary cause of racist attitudes are ignorant notions that other races present a threat to the majority ethnic group’s economic security. Arch-racist Pauline Hanson knows this, which is why she was quick to hail the ALP leader’s comments. Indeed, the ALP’s renewed protectionist push reflects not only a buy into the Trump approach and, of course, its own lifelong embrace of economic nationalism but an attempt to appeal to supporters of the newly resurgent minor parties. The distinguishing feature of the newly elected  – or re-elected – minor parties and independents is rabid protectionism. This is the case whether it be One Nation, Jacqui Lambie or the group led by multi-millionaire, property investor Nick Xenophon.

Apart from fuelling racism, claims that foreign guest workers are “taking the jobs” of Australians are simply not true. The number of 457 Visa workers in Australia is just 94,890. This makes up a tiny 0.8% of the workforce! Furthermore, even if this number were all stopped from entering it would not increase employment for Australians. Other countries would likely respond by placing restrictions on Australian expatriates working overseas. These Australian citizens would then be forced to come back here and try to engage in, supposedly, “taking the jobs” of Australians already residing here. Indeed, the number of Australian citizens working in Britain alone approaches the entire total number of 457 Visa workers in Australia. When you add the 65,000 Australians working on temporary work visas in the U.S. (out of a total Australian population of 200,000 there) and the tens of thousands of Australians resident on temporary work visas in each of the UAE, Hong Kong, Thailand and China and tens of thousands more in other parts of Asia and the world, one can see that the number of Australians working abroad as guest workers far exceeds the number of 457 Visa workers in Australia. In other words, mutual restrictions on temporary workers in Australia and other countries would lead – if one accepts the warped logic of the ALP, One Nation and Co. – to a net taking away of the jobs of Australian workers.

Odisha, India, 2 September 2016: Indian trade unionists overturn a scab mini-bus as part of enforcing a nation-wide general strike against government opposition to their wage demands and planned anti-worker changes to labour laws. Protectionism harms the building of unity between Australian workers and their working class sisters and brothers overseas.

Yet, regardless of the relative amounts of 457 Visa workers in Australia and Australians working as guest workers abroad, the whole notion that temporary workers or immigrants are “taking the jobs” of Australians is false to the core. A 457 Visa worker employed here not only works but spends money and pays taxes: both of which create jobs. In the end, the entry of guest workers just like immigration in general is employment neutral – it neither leads to more or less unemployment. The actual – and indeed sole – cause of unemployment is the relentless drive for profits of capitalist business owners. This means that capitalist bosses often would rather employ less workers and produce less than put the resources into training additional workers. Depending on market conditions, corporate bigwigs may find it more profitable to cut production and jobs because that enables them to increase prices since they have a lower number of goods or services to sell.  Then there is, of course, the unceasing campaign of bosses to boost profits by cutting jobs and pressuring those left behind to work dangerously faster. All this means that greedy business owners will slash jobs even when they are making filthy high profits – if that can help them make even larger profits. Meanwhile, companies that have ripped hundreds of millions in profits out of the toil of their workers do not hesitate to throw these workers onto the scrapheap if they make a slight loss for even one year. Over the last couple of years, fabulously wealthy Australian-owned mining giants and big banks have slashed thousands upon thousands of jobs in search of even more billions of dollars in profits. So have the greedy owners of profitable IT giants, breweries and hundreds of other businesses.

Under the capitalist system, there is always a certain – rather high – level of unemployment below which unemployment will not drop. This is because as more workers are hired and unemployment falls bosses are less able to make workers accept lower wages and less able to make their standard threat (which may be spoken or unspoken) to bully workers: “if you don’t like the [miserable] conditions that I am giving you there are plenty more without a job that I can hire.” This reduced ability to keep wages low and conditions poor when unemployment falls makes capitalist bosses recoil from hiring any more workers. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the number of immigrants or the number of guest workers. Even if there is zero immigration, no guest workers and a very low population there will always be this certain unemployment rate under the capitalist economic system. The only way that this level of unemployment can be reduced is if class struggle by the organised working class is powerful enough to force capitalists to maintain a larger workforce than that which enables them to make the greatest profits.

This base level of unemployment within capitalism occurs at the best of times – even when capitalist economies are at the highest booms that they can reach. As capitalist economies move out of this high point in their economic cycle, unemployment rises. And when the capitalist system is wracked by its periodic crises of over-production or other states of chaos, rich business owners throw their workers out of their jobs like there is no tomorrow. Unemployment rises rapidly and again this has nothing to do with the number of guest workers or immigrants. Thus, the highest unemployment rate Australia has ever had was in the height of the Great Depression in 1932 when the official unemployment rate was around 30%. This was a time when the population was barely more than a quarter of what it is now, when there were no guest workers and when the racist White Australia Policy still existed. Similarly, consider the most severe unemployment in Australia in the last few decades. This occurred in 1993, during the early 1990s recession, when official unemployment was nearly twice the rate that it is now. Yet not only was this three years before the 457 Visa program was even introduced, it was at the end of a five year period of falling immigration levels.  In that period of extremely high unemployment, the net migration into Australia was only 34,000 per year – which is about five time less than it is currently. In summary, when immigration was five times less than it is today and no guest workers were arriving, unemployment was twice as high.  This once again confirms that the entry of immigrants and guest workers has nothing to do with creating unemployment and if anything one could argue the opposite.

Although Marxists do not advise the capitalist rulers on how many or how few guest workers should be brought to work in this country, we do resolutely oppose all attempts to turn guest workers into scapegoats for unemployment and oppose all the other divisive rhetoric – and associated laws – that counterpose the interests of local workers to those of guest or foreign workers. We do so because any attempt to set up local workers as rivals of guest workers diverts workers from fighting to stop the real cause of unemployment – the capitalist bosses and their decaying system. It also divides local workers from their important allies – guest and international workers. This, in turn, weakens the ability of the working class to struggle against the capitalist exploiters and demand jobs for all. Such class struggle, which in the end would culminate in the replacement of capitalist rule with working class rule, is the only effective way to defend workers’ jobs. Put simply, calls to put “Australian workers first” in hiring actually harms the fight to protect the jobs of local workers – and, of course, the jobs of international workers too.

This does not mean that local workers’ fears are not real that bosses will try and make 457 Visa workers a lower paid workforce and use their extra exploitation of these workers to drive down the conditions of all workers. After all, this is part of the reason why big business owners are in favour of the 457 Visa program and why the capitalists’ open representatives in the Liberal Party favour the scheme. Yet the response of the workers movement to this should not be to make demands calling for local workers to be favoured against guest workers but rather to fight to improve the working conditions of guest workers themselves. In other words, the workers movement must use the same approach to guest workers as the approach that it ought to use towards specially vulnerable groups amongst local workers: like casual workers, apprentices, youth workers and workers on probation. Especially severe exploitation of all these latter sections of our class can also be used to drive down the conditions of all workers – but that does not mean we should call for kicking these workers out of their jobs. Rather, we should fight to uplift their conditions, legal rights and job security – in particular, by fighting for permanency for all these workers and for their wages and conditions to be brought up to that of the rest of the working class. Similarly, in order to prevent greedy Aussie bosses super-exploiting vulnerable 457 Visa workers, local workers should demand that guest workers be given additional protections such as a requirement that they be paid at the highest pay rate going for those doing their type of work in Australia. Most importantly, the Australian workers movement must demand that all 457 Visa workers be given the rights of citizenship. This will stop bosses threatening guest workers by pointing to the current reality where they will be booted out of the country if they lose their job. By fighting in this way to defend the rights of guest workers, local workers will not only undercut attempts by the bosses to undermine general working conditions but will be able to attract guest workers into our unions and unite with them in struggles to demand improved working conditions and more jobs for all workers. Our guest worker sisters and brothers can in this way bring much to the trade union movement here. Many of these workers have experience in intense class struggles abroad. Furthermore, because they often suffer intense racist discrimination here, many guest workers may well have less sympathy for the capitalist order than local workers do. Therefore, when freed from the threat of deportation and when uplifted by the hand of solidarity by local workers, guest workers could become a militant component of the trade union movement in this country. They would become a key part of a united working class fight to win fully paid, secure jobs for all workers through stopping capitalist bosses from retrenching workers and forcing profitable companies to increase hiring at the expense of their own profits.

Class struggle can save workers’ jobs. Sacked Carlton & United Breweries maintenance workers picket Melbourne’s Abbotsford brewery. Even though their struggle was endangered by Laborite union leaders’ refusal to mobilise a full shutdown of the brewery, the sacked workers eventually won back their jobs after a seven-month-long struggle.

Workers of All Countries Unite!

It is not only the fascistic One Nation, the right-wing Coalition and the social democratic ALP that have been pushing “Australia First” nationalism. So too in a big way have the middle class, “progressive” Greens. Soon after Bill Shorten launched his “Australia First” push in November, the Greens campaigned for new legal measures restricting 457 Visa workers and the use of imported steel on construction sites. The Greens lower house member, Adam Bandt, openly proclaimed the measures as an attempt to compete on protectionism with not only the Nick Xenophon Team but with One Nation. Bandt stated, “We’ll see whether Pauline Hanson is serious about looking after local jobs or whether she just talks protectionist in Queensland to win votes then backs the elites when she’s in Canberra” (The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 November 2016).

Yet, even after promoting such rabid economic nationalism, the Greens still manage to attack the ALP for inciting racism with their attacks on 457 Visa workers:

For years, the Greens have been urging we protect our sovereignty without racist rhetoric. Now Labor has embraced the Greens’ policies but with Pauline Hanson’s rhetoric.

Do Bill Shorten and Labor genuinely want to help create jobs for locals by fixing our migration and employment laws or is this just dog-whistling in a post-Trump attempt to chase the One Nation vote?

There is, indeed, no doubt that the ALP is churning out Pauline Hanson-like racist rhetoric and dog whistling. However, the irony is that by promoting “Aussie First” migration and employment policies, the Greens – like the ALP – are only pouring fuel into the engine of fascistic units like One Nation who are, after all, always the most consistent nationalists. The Greens economic nationalist policies are fuelling One Nation’s rise no matter how clean and liberal the rhetoric that they present these policies with.

As harmful as the Greens’ hard line protectionism is, this poisonous ideology spreads deepest into the workers movement when it is being poured by those within it; that is, by the ALP parliamentary and union leaders. Economic nationalism pushed by our union leaders in particular does the most harm as they have more authority amongst workers than ALP parliamentary politicians. But not only are most Laborite union officials pushing protectionism – they are doing so with increasing vigour. The more that these officials – unwilling to defy anti-strike laws – recoil from a class struggle fight against bosses slashing jobs, the more that they promote “Australian workers first” policies as an illusory “solution” to joblessness. The Laborite, current union leaders slogans include not only calls to keep out guest workers but demands to favour Australian companies over overseas producers. Yet just like calls to favour local workers in hiring, calls to favour locally made products are an illusory strategy to “save Australian jobs.” For any restrictions Australia places on overseas produced items would be met by countries abroad placing similar restrictions on Australian-made products. In the end all that such demands do is to divide workers of different nations by setting them against their sisters and brothers abroad. Meanwhile, the capitalist bosses in all the different countries are left laughing all the way to the bank – laughing because their own workforces, instead of fighting against these bosses who exploit them, are set against their actual allies, workers overseas.

Even the most left-wing union leaderships in Australia are strongly pro-protectionist. Take the Sydney branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). To the credit of the members and leaders of this union, the MUA Sydney Branch amongst all unions in NSW have done the most to support anti-racist causes like Aboriginal rights and refugee rights.  However, the union has also long used the divisive nationalist slogan, “Australian crew on Australian ships” as part of a campaign to stop overseas workers working on ships on Australian coastal routes. This campaign was put into overdrive when workers on the MV Portland were disgustingly sacked on January 13 last year. After the workers who worked on this Alcoa alumina cargo ship had found out the ship was to be taken to Singapore where they were to be replaced by overseas seafarers on much lower pay, the local crew refused to sail the ship to Singapore and took industrial action by docking the ship in the far south-west Victorian port of Portland. The greedy Alcoa bosses eventually organised dozens of security guards to raid the ship at 1am at night and heavy the workers off the ship. This sacking of the MV Portland workers by Alcoa and their use of physical thuggery to break industrial action was indeed despicable. It was despicable because all smashing of industrial action and all sackings of workers, especially by a multi-billion dollar behemoth like Alcoa, is despicable, no matter what the reason! The sackings deserved to be opposed by industrial action. However, instead of focussing solely on the sacking of workers by Alcoa, the MUA leaders chose to focus on the issue of Australian workers being replaced by overseas workers. They ran a campaign called “sacked for being an Australian” complete with rallies, media publicity and canvassing of politicians. The campaign addressed not only the events around the MV Portland but the broader issue of overseas crew working on Australian coastal routes. It won the support of  the ACTU and Bill Shorten and other politicians. At a rally outside Malcolm Turnbull’s office, union officials wore “Sacked for Being An Aussie” t-shirts, questioned the competency of overseas seafarers and the validity of their Australian visas and spoke favourably about how the campaign against foreign crew on Australian coastal routes had even won the support of right-wing radio shock jocks from 2GB and the like. Yet the only reason that those staunchly anti-union shock jocks were supporting the movement was because it appealed to Australian nationalism and stoked hostility to overseas workers from the “Third World.” Those anti-working class, multi-millionaire shock jocks love workers being divided. The fact is that the “Sacked for Being An Aussie” slogan is something that a far right political party could come up with!

A far most honest t-shirt expressing the plight of the MV Portland workers would say something like, “Sacked for being a more decently paid worker by a greedy company seeking to make more profit.” Unions should of course oppose all sackings of workers – including when bosses seek to cut wage costs by hiring new workers on lower pay. Where workers are being replaced by overseas workers on lower pay our unions should not make the issue about local workers being replaced by overseas ones. That is not the point. It is about workers being sacked because of greedy capitalists trying to drive down wages … full stop! Our unions should simply demand that sacked workers get their jobs back and, instead of shouting divisive slogans against the hiring of overseas crew, should demand that all workers on Australian routes be paid – the much higher – local wage rates. However, the MUA leadership has chosen, instead, to appeal to xenophobic Australian nationalism and hopes to win support from broader elements – like “independent” politicians and right-wing media commentators – on this basis. In doing so they are in the long run shooting the union in the foot. For the very Australian nationalism that they are churning up today will tomorrow be hurled back against the union – including by the very same right wing shock jocks who today claim to back the union campaign – when the union launches any major strike to defend workers’ interests. These shock jocks and other Australian nationalists will scream that the union is “harming Australia’s national interests” and “putting at risk Australian jobs and Australian industry.” Furthermore, by turning the issue into an Australian workers versus overseas workers issue, our union leaders are undermining the potential for international solidarity action in support of the sacked workers. Consider, for example, how an alternative strategy for the struggle would look like: The union refuses to make this a question of Australian workers versus overseas workers. Instead it demands through industrial action not only the reinstatement of all sacked workers but, as a way to build international solidarity and undercut Alcoa’s efforts to play one lot of workers off against another, demands that a portion of the proposed overseas crew also be hired. It, of course, insists that this overseas crew is hired on the better Australian wages and conditions with the resulting lower workload per worker, resulting from a now larger workforce, being used to reduce working hours with no loss in pay. The right wing shock jocks and politicians, of course, then refuse to support the union campaign. However, the union’s internationalist stance meets with a very enthusiastic response from Alcoa workers throughout the multinational corporation’s operations in nine other countries. These workers then launch protest industrial action in support of the MUA demands. Now that’s a strategy worth fighting for! A strategy befitting the very good work that the MUA is doing in other arenas to oppose racism and support other progressive causes like defence of public housing in Millers Point.

Yet protectionist ideology is so overwhelming within the workers movement in Australia – and indeed most of the richer capitalist countries – that even most of the Far Left embraces it. Thus, the newspaper of Socialist Alliance, the Green Left Weekly, supported the MUA leadership’s “Australian workers first” strategy on the MV Portland sackings while trying to ignore some of the most blatantly national chauvinist aspects of the campaign. However, Socialist Alliance are hardly alone on the Left in pandering to economic nationalism. So too does Socialist Alternative (SAlt) and – in an even more blatant way – the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). Both these groups hailed the largest economic nationalist rally in Australia in recent times: the 10,000 strong “Local Workers First” rally in Perth in July 2012. To be sure, they sought to distance themselves from the most jingoistic aspects of the rally. Yet, no matter in how cleansed a form they presented it, as the rally’s main banner slogan “WA Kids Miss Out When Miners Use Overseas Workers” made all too clear, this was a poisonous campaign that pitted local workers against their overseas comrades.

Left, Melbourne, August 2015: Union-led rallies against the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (CHAFTA) have been based on the divisive nationalist agenda of giving greater support to local bosses in trade and purchasing over overseas producers. The rallies have also been shot through with irrational fear mongering about China as seen by this sign (Centre) at the Sydney 31 July 2015 anti-CHAFTA protest. The national-chauvinist essence of this protest was indeed so strong that the fascist Party For Freedom felt comfortable enough to participate and brandish its openly racist slogans (Right). Down with all economic nationalism – workers of all countries unite!

Just like the Greens, those far left groups that think that it is possible to have a “clean” version of protectionism that does not dog whistle to racism are deluding themselves. Any policy that calls for putting the interests of (mainly white) Australian workers over (overwhelmingly coloured) lower paid workers from “Third World” countries will inevitably appeal to and reinforce White Australia xenophobic attitudes as well as “First World” arrogance. This will be the case regardless of whether those making such calls intend this to happen or not.

Yet even if it were hypothetically possible to promote protectionist policies without inciting racism it would still be harmful to the struggle for working class people’s interests. For it would still divert workers away from the struggle that is actually needed – the one against the job-slashing exploiters – and would still pit local workers against their natural allies: the working class people of the world. Marxists have long understood the danger that could arise if workers end up being divided along national lines. That is why Marx and Engels chose to make the slogan, “Workers of All Countries Unite!” as the central slogan of their famous Communist Manifesto. This slogan does not only mean that workers in one country should collect money to support a strike by workers in another country or take industrial action in solidarity with an overseas workers’ struggle. All that, of course, is a very important part of it. But to “unite” means much more: it means to fight as one. That, naturally, means rejecting any calls for workers in one’s own country to be prioritised over workers abroad. Indeed, the Communist Manifesto even emphasised that fighting for the common interests of the international proletarian working class – as opposed to standing for one’s own national working class in competition with those of working classes abroad – is indeed the number one difference between communists and other tendencies in the workers movement:

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…

Those nominal Marxists who spit on this central message of the Communist Manifesto by making calls to favour Australian workers in hiring over their sisters and brothers abroad have no right to call themselves “communists.”

Indeed, those leftists and trade union officials that promote “Australian workers first” demands are not only violating the key principle of Marxism, they are in fact violating the spirit of trade unionism itself. The essence of trade unionism is the idea that only if workers stand united as one can they effectively fight for their rights. Trade unions – and, indeed, workers’ unity at a workplace – are built on the understanding that if one group of workers – say, senior workers – ask for the boss to favour them in employment and conditions over other workers and the other sections of workers – including, say, a bloc of younger workers – who, in turn, respond by making their own selfish demands all that will happen is that workers will be divided and weakened in their ability to win concessions from the boss and all workers will end up losing out. If, in the above scenario, one replaces the senior workers making demands to be prioritised with Australian workers and those groups responding to these demands as the workers of other countries, then one can see how “Australian workers first” demands not only fly in the face of basic trade union principles but damages the interests of all workers.

A man comforts Ilies Soufiane, fifteen-year-old son of Azzeddine Soufiane, one of the six people murdered when far-right terrorist, Alexandre Bissonnette (Right), opened fire on a Quebec City mosque. The heinous white supremacist was notorious for online rants against refugees and supporters of women’s liberation. He was also a proud supporter of Donald Trump and far-right French politician, Marine Le Pen. The 29 January 2017 massacre came just two days after Donald Trump’s notorious ban on U.S. entry for nationals of seven Muslim majority countries. The official racism of capitalist politicians is encouraging extreme right-wing terrorist attacks.

Is “Globalisation” Really the Problem?

The most seemingly left-sounding argument that pro-protectionist leftists and social democrats use to justify their demands is to claim that giving jobs to Australian workers instead of foreign workers saves those non-local workers from being badly exploited. Of course it is true that 457 Visa workers and workers in poorer countries are often exploited more starkly than local workers. However, to say that these workers should have their livelihoods taken from them to save them from being exploited is the very height of cynicism. Will that not make them suffer even more? Will that not compel many of these workers to accept other even lower paying jobs?  Mexican workers themselves answered these questions when they angrily protested outside Ford dealerships in Mexico against Trump’s plan (which is similar to Bernie Sanders’ plan) to make auto companies move their production from Mexico to the U.S. Their protest actions on the day of Trump’s inauguration especially targeted Ford after the company pulled out of a car assembly plant that it was building in Mexico’s Villa de Reyes in the wake of Trump’s election.

To the extent that social democratic protectionism is not consciously a selfish, nationalist agenda to favour workers in one’s own country at the expense of their counterparts abroad, it is the core part of an ideology that sees the main problem of the world as “globalisation.” Now, “globalisation” means different things to different people. The term is generally used in the economic sense to refer to growing trade as well as investment by capitalists in other countries; and in particular to investment by capitalists of richer countries in business operations in poorer countries. Leftist supporters of protectionism, when seeking to mask the nationalist essence of their politics, focus on opposing “economic globalisation” which they say hurts the working class and poor of all countries. Now, certainly in the ex-colonial countries, which are still subjugated by imperialism, opposition to “globalisation” represents a very understandable resistance to the imperialist exploitation of the masses in these countries by the capitalist bigwigs of the richer countries. However, anti-“globalisation” sentiment in the imperialist countries – like the U.S., Australia, Britain, Germany etc – usually reflects a “First World” chauvinist desire to keep the privileged position of these countries by ensuring that jobs and trade advantages do not flow to the poorer countries. The “leftist” cover for such sentiment is the cynical – as we have shown above – claim that ensuring that economic activity is kept centred in the wealthier countries saves the “Third World” masses from being unscrupulously exploited.  This opposition to “economic globalisation” from social democrats ends up being quite similar to that of the Far Right. For example, fascistic U.S. president Trump rails against U.S. jobs being lost to Mexico and against Mexico supposedly hammering the U.S. in trade. The racist Far Right, of course, add to the reformist Left’s stand against “economic globalisation” opposition to the movement of people and opposition to “cultural globalisation” – in other words, they add open xenophobic nationalism to economic nationalism.

The working class in the imperialist countries like Australia should solidarise with the concerns of the masses of the so-called “Third World” about “economic globalisation.” They should do this by very militantly standing against the raping of the poorer countries by capitalists of the richer countries. This should be the case whether that imperialist theft takes the form of exploitation of labour, plundering of natural resources, reaping of exorbitant interest payments from indebted poorer countries or through forcing producers in these poorer countries to sell their produce at ultra-low prices through tyrannical imperialist control of world markets. That means we should oppose Australian capitalists looting exorbitant wealth out of the likes of East Timor, PNG, Fiji and the Solomon Islands and to some extent also from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka; just as we should stand against U.S. imperialists raping the likes of Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Nigeria, Egypt, India, Malaysia and Thailand.

Miami Airport: One of the huge protests in the U.S. against Trump’s 27 January 2017 executive order suspending entry by nationals from seven Muslim majority countries and all refugees. People from coloured & migrant-derived communities have been prominent at the demonstrations.

However, Leninists understand that whether there’s more “globalisation” or less, capitalism will bring misery to the masses. Therefore, the Left and workers movement – while standing resolutely with the masses of the neo-colonial and semi-colonial countries against imperialist exploitation – should be neither for more or less “economic globalisation.” This does not mean we should be indifferent to the case where capitalists in richer countries close down factories in these countries in order to set up ones using a lower paid workforce in poorer countries. Capitalist bosses use the threat of such offshoring to bully workers in their base countries into accepting poorer wages and conditions. This is, after all, why mainstream conservatives and liberals tend to support economic globalisation. We should of course stand against all workers losing their jobs – importantly including when the bosses are to hire other workers on lower pay. However, the slogans we must fight on should not be the divisive and deliberate pandering to nationalism of “save Aussie jobs from being exported” but, instead, demands of “no job losses,” “jobs for all workers” and “the best and equal conditions for all workers.” In cases of mooted offshoring, we should not in the least object to the plant opening up in the poorer country. We should welcome more jobs for our working class sisters and brothers abroad. Only we demand no loss of jobs for the already employed workers in the richer home country of the business and demand a massive uplifting in wages for any workers hired in the poorer country.

At the same time we should understand that the impact of companies slashing jobs to move operations to poorer countries abroad is full of myths. One myth is that companies are moving in a big way to China. Although that may have been true in the past it is now largely out of date news. China’s socialistic economy has pulled its people so far out of the dire poverty of its pre-1949 capitalist days and wages are rising so quickly there and workers’ rights have been so boosted by Red China’s 2008 pro-worker Labour Law that many Western factory owners are actually leaving China. Some are moving their plants to lower wage countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico and Thailand. However, others are even slowly picking up shop to move or return to wealthier countries like the U.S.  In the five years to March 2016, almost 100,000 factory jobs have moved back from China to the U.S. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of job losses in Australia have nothing to do with being “exported overseas.” Indeed, many types of jobs cannot be sent overseas by their very nature including most jobs in construction, commuter and cargo transport, infrastructure, mining, maintenance, home service/repair, medical and aged care, childcare, teaching, utilities, warehousing, post, hospitality, food service, tourism, retail and the public service.

So, when part Australian-owned mining giant Rio Tinto slashed nearly 700 jobs last year – those jobs were not sent overseas at all. It was simply that the greedy company owners who were already making a profit of some $2.3 billion dollars in just half a year wanted to make even more profit by cutting their wage costs. Similarly, the over 4,000 jobs axed by the four big banks last year were not “exported.” The bank bosses simply cut these jobs in order to boost the already exorbitant profits of these corporations by downsizing less profitable divisions. The same goes for the 500 jobs slashed by retail giant Woolworths last July. And the over 18,000 federal public service jobs that have been axed over the last three and a half years have certainly not been off-shored – the jobs have simply been eradicated to help the government finance tax cuts for wealthy business owners. So all this gets us to the crux of the matter about “globalisation.” Although we should oppose companies slashing jobs in order to move operations to lower-wage countries and should stand with the “Third World” masses in opposing imperialist exploitation of their countries; and although the workers movement should neither call for more or less “globalisation” under capitalism: we must expose the myth that “globalisation” is the major cause of unemployment. For this myth is obscuring the truth that the principle cause of workers losing their jobs is the drive of the owners of profitable businesses to make even more profits by pruning their workforce in order to cut “labour costs.” In other words, belief in the myth that “globalisation” is the main cause of unemployment is diverting workers from a fight to force capitalists to maintain larger workforces – which is the real way to struggle against unemployment. Furthermore, this myth about globalisation, which is consciously promoted by sections of the mainstream media in order to impede class struggle, is propelling the growth of dangerous far right, racist forces.

Even when a corporation cites overseas competition as an excuse for job cuts such cuts are only “necessary” because those bosses insist on maximising profits.  Consider Australia’s biggest steel manufacturer, Bluescope Steel. The steel industry and Bluescope in particular have been at the centre of protectionist calls to buy Australian-made steel and restrict competition from imports. In October 2015, Bluescope arm-twisted unions into a deal that saw 500 jobs axed and wages frozen for three years which the company said was essential to keep its Port Kembla operations going. Yet, the company, which is owned by rich investors through several wealth management firms, was even then making over $136 million in profit! Its latest annual profit was in fact over $353 million. In other words, if we do the maths and assume generously that Bluescope’s average annual wages bill per worker is between $80,000 to $100,000, we will find that if Bluescope had not slashed those 500 jobs and even if those workers contributed zero to total revenue (which would of course not be the case), the company would still only have most lost some 11% to 14% of its current profit.  Here we see very starkly exposed how protectionism covers up the truth that job shedding is not ultimately caused by competition from imports or from a lack of “buying Australian” but from the drive of greedy company owners to make even more profits than they are making today.

Chicago: One of many large protests that erupted throughout the U.S. following the election victory of hard-right candidate, Donald Trump. This movement, driven by understandable hostility to Trump’s extreme racism, misogyny and homophobia, must be broken from influence of – and illusions in – the capitalist Democratic Party so that it can become a powerful force against the capitalist system – the root cause of racism, the subjugation of women and unemployment.

Those Who Understand the Harm Done to the Workers Movement by Economic Nationalism Must Fight Against It By Organising Themselves into an Internationalist Workers Party

Today, protectionism – whether pushed in the name of “anti-globalisation” or open economic nationalism – is rapidly escalating all across the capitalist world. It is being pushed by those from right across the political spectrum from outright fascists, to far-right leaders like Trump and Pauline Hanson to mainstream Laborite social democrats to Greens to so-called “anti-establishment” progressive liberals and social democrats (like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn) to reformist far left groups to pseudo- “Marxist Leninists.” This economic nationalism is undermining class struggle resistance to job slashing. That in turn leads to higher unemployment and hence leaves the masses even more prone to accepting protectionist slogans. Protectionism is, on the one hand, being incited by national chauvinism and racism and, on the other, is itself further igniting national chauvinism and racism. In this way the raging wildfire of economic nationalism is continually spreading and getting hotter. It will end up in setting off a trade war. We know that trade wars can in turn ignite a shooting war. Notwithstanding pseudo-Marxist attempts to resurrect a version of Kautsky’s theory of a united imperialism – which Lenin so fiercely attacked – by explaining the world as consisting of just a single imperialist bloc led by the U.S., we are actually in a world of inter-imperialist rivalries. Massive U.S. spying on Germany revealed a couple of years ago and prickly relations between new U.S. president Trump and some West European imperialist leaders amid a backdrop of impending trade frictions and a possible re-alignment in U.S. alliances with other capitalist powers all point to increasing rivalries between imperial powers. To be sure, competing imperialist powers are somewhat held together by their common enmity to socialistic rule in China. However, the long term trend of the capitalist “order” and heightened economic nationalism is towards inter-imperialist conflict – especially when capitalism dives into severe economic crises. Let us not forget that last century the imperialist powers plunged humanity into two catastrophic world wars (although the socialistic USSR’s role in WWII was to wage a progressive class war of a workers state against Nazi-led, German imperialism). This time all the capitalist rivals will have access to nuclear weapons at the start of a war!

Even right now protectionism is doing immense harm to the masses. Economic nationalism in Australia is literally strangling workers’ resistance to job slashing and casualisation. It is also hurting union membership numbers. For if the fight to save jobs is focussed on calling for policies to help Australian corporations compete against overseas rivals then that takes away a sizeable part of the reason for workers to join our unions. Workers could help Australian corporations by joining the bosses lobbying efforts to government for “Buy Australian” policies – they don’t need a union to do that. After all, the purpose of our unions is to unite workers to stand up against the bosses. Economic nationalism has, indeed, so diverted the workers movement from fighting the capitalist exploiters and so poisoned workers’ class consciousness that most job slashing by bosses is today met with little resistance.  About the only time that most Laborite union leaders are taking any stand against job losses is if they can demonstrate a connection between these layoffs and off-shoring or competition from imports. Yet, as we have shown above, their answer to such job cuts is simply more protectionism which, far from saving jobs, divides and diverts the working class and, thus, ultimately harms the fight to save workers jobs. Furthermore, the majority of job slashing by bosses has little to do with either competition from imports or offshoring.

Top, Great Shot: Leader of the U.S. fascist “Alt-Right” movement, Richard Spencer, is given a small taste of what he deserves by an anti-racist while giving a media interview on the day of Trump’s inauguration. At a meeting of his National Policy Institute which celebrated Trump’s election victory and was full of race-hate messages against blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Jews, Spencer invoked unmistakable Nazi rhetoric and concluded with a toast, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” This was met with a Nazi salute by several in the audience (Bottom Right). The new U.S. president has brought such fascists into his administration – making former leader of the Alt-Right Breitbart News, Steve Bannon, his Chief Strategist (Bottom Left). Trump’s election has emboldened outright fascists worldwide leading to a marked rise in violent attacks on people of colour from the U.S. to Canada to Britain to Australia.

A rare example of a recent union struggle against job slashing was seen in the struggle of Carlton & United Breweries maintenance workers at Melbourne’s largest brewery in Abbotsford. There, the bosses outrageously retrenched 55 maintenance workers last June and told them to re-apply for their jobs through a new non-union contract involving a 65% pay-cut and a loss of most of their hard-won conditions. However, after a seven-month long struggle involving sacked workers picketing the brewery and stopworks by production workers, the sacked workers won back their jobs with most of the previous pay rates and conditions and a guarantee of no forced redundancies for at least three years. Although the struggle was endangered by Laborite union leaders refusing to mobilise a shutdown of the brewery – through a no-cross picket line and an ongoing strike by production workers – the December victory does show that class struggle can stop job slashing.

Worker activists need to outline a class struggle program to win jobs for all if we are to turn back the tide of protectionist ideology that is engulfing the workers movement. Working class people, understandably worried about finding and keeping jobs in these uncertain times, will be hypnotised by the false salvation promised by economic nationalist policies if they are not presented with a viable alternative. However, a class struggle movement will only be powerful enough to force bosses to retain a larger workforce than their profit imperative requires if it is able to unleash the full power of the workers movement. This requires a program to defy the whole swath of anti-strike laws that have been instituted by Liberal and ALP governments alike – abiding by which makes it very hard to win any struggle. Of course, defying these laws up the ante and would be met with threats of repression by the capitalist enemy and hysterical denunciations from their media. However, if our trade unions in turn crank up the struggle with indefinite strikes backed by solid picket lines and secondary solidarity strikes then we can hurt the bosses’ profits so much that they may be scared to actually use their anti-union laws. We need to turn our union movement into one that understands this and is prepared to fight for such a militant, class struggle perspective. Such a movement requires a leadership that does not restrict its outlook to what is possible within the capitalist system – which is what the current social democratic leadership does. For if the working class starts to look like winning victories in forcing capitalists to maintain larger workforces than they want to, the capitalists will scream that this will make the system collapse and will threaten to withdraw their capital. We must respond that: if you capitalists are not capable of running your businesses and the economy in such a way that providing jobs for all will not cause collapse then we will need to strip you of the means of production and place it into our, the working class peoples, hands under a state where it is we who have the power.

However, to even begin to mobilise such a struggle we need to counter economic nationalist ideology within the workers movement. For economic nationalism and its divisive and diversionary effects has become the number one obstacle to a working class fight back against capitalist attacks. Currently, the proportion of worker and other Left activists who do understand the harm done by protectionist ideology is relatively small. This makes it triply important that those that do understand stand up and energetically take on this political battle. Unfortunately, however, even amongst these layers many shy away from this crucial ideological struggle. Some do so because they are uncertain about their own impulse to oppose protectionism – given that they are constantly bombarded by economic nationalist appeals from Laborite union officials and from their co-workers. Others worry about being “vanguardist” if they “tell workers what to think.” The problem with this notion is that workers are constantly being told “what to think” by the mainstream media, by pro-capitalist politicians and by the current, Laborite union leaders. To not counter the false ideologies of economic nationalism and White Australia chauvinism that these forces are flooding the workers movement with is to be complicit in drowning the class struggle. It means leaving the working class under the “vanguardship” of Laborite social democracy – and that spells defeat for the working class and all the downtrodden. It is therefore the duty of those who understand the harm done by protectionist ideology to resolutely oppose it. This, of course, necessitates strengthening one’s own ideological commitment to opposing economic nationalism, co-ordinating with like-minded activists to amplify their common political struggle and winning others to this perspective in order to strengthen the forces waging the battle against protectionist ideology. Yet a group of like-minded worker activists who coordinate in a struggle for a revolutionary class struggle perspective and against economic nationalism, who consciously seek to improve their ideological training  and who seek out new activists to wage this political struggle is nothing other than a budding revolutionary, internationalist “vanguard” of the workers movement. Such a class struggle, would-be leadership of our unions would be linked to a party that would also include the most active revolutionary elements from all the most downtrodden sections of society. The prospects for a badly needed working class fight back depend on the building of such a revolutionary workers party. So do efforts to pull humanity to the safe haven of socialism as we, increasingly rapidly, near the cliff that will drop down to the hell of fascism and world war.

December 2013: Protest in East Timor’s capital, Dili against the Australian rulers’ theft of its oil and gas wealth. As a result of Australian imperialist plunder, enforced by repeated Australian military intervention to ensure a more compliant government there, East Timor (Timor Leste) has the highest rate in the world of children under five who are underweight due to malnourishment. Contrary to nationalist myths that Australia is a victim of foreign control, Australia is an imperialist country where the rich capitalists here not only exploit workers at home but rip-off even more cruelly the masses of South Pacific and developing Asian countries.

Trotskyist Platform May Day 2017 Statement – For an Internationalist Struggle

Greedy Aussie Bosses Like to Blame Overseas Producers for Their Job Slashing. Don’t Buy Their Lies! Force Them to Retain Their Workforces & Accept Lower Profits!

1 May 2017 – Over the last five years, Australia’s biggest steel corporation, Bluescope Steel, has retrenched 2,000 workers. They said that they had no choice because of competition from overseas steel producers. They cried poor. What a load of horse manure! Three months ago, Bluescope Steel announced a profit, for just half a year, of over 600 million dollars! Meanwhile, the company share’s price is six times what it was just five years ago. That means, with- out doing any work for it, the company’s rich owners have increased their wealth held in it by six times while cruelly throwing out of work 2,000 of the workers who made them this fortune.

So who owns this corporate giant? Mainly, very rich local Australians who own shares in it through secretive bank nominee arrangements and through wealth management firms. Among the big shareholders are its executives. Filthy rich, Aussie CEO, Paul O’Malley owns nearly nine million dollars of shares. Another director is Daniel Grollo with an approaching half a million dollar holding. He is also the owner of developer Grocon – notorious for its obsession with suing the CFMEU union in the bosses’ courts and for its callous disregard for the safety of workers and bystanders. These Bluescope Steel executives sure do make sure that they are lavishly looked after … to put it mildly! In the previous financial year, when they threw out of work 500 workers, CEO O’Malley was given a $7.5 million pay package! That was actually $3 million more than the previous year. It’s almost like they get a bonus for sacking workers!

So Bluescope did not lay off thousands of workers ultimately because of competition from overseas. It’s simply that the owners and executives of this company wanted to make even more of a killing than they were already making. It’s the same reason why sly billionaire Andrew Forrest, a couple of years ago, cried poor that his Fortescue Metals Group “only” made a 400 million dollar profit and used that as a pretext to throw onto the scrapheap hundreds of the workers that made him his fortune. It is the same reason why the bosses of the big banks, IBM and Toll Group have been slashing jobs in the recent period left, right and centre. For these capitalist bigwigs, having three luxury holiday homes and two spare Porsches are not enough. They want more and are prepared to crush the lives of workers to get it.

A year and a half ago, Bluescope bosses held a gun to workers’ heads saying that if they did not accept job cuts and a pay freeze, they would stop steelmaking and 4,500 jobs in the Illawara would be lost. The pro-ALP leaders of the AWU trade union buckled and recommended that workers bow to these demands. They should have, instead, insisted that any attempt to shut down production would result in workers occupying the plants and the big shareholders would, thus, lose all their investments. Bluescope’s mates in the NSW Liberal government, meanwhile, granted them $60 million. Now, three million dollars of that had to go straight away to cover the CEO’s pay rise (no wage freeze for him!) and the rest has gone into boosting the owners’ huge profits. Yet, while handing over sacks of money to job-slashing millionaires, the government cries it is short of funds and must slash public housing in the Illawara and Millers Point!

Bluescope’s argument that it needed to cut jobs and freeze wages was a bunch of lies! In the year before they were still making over $136 million in profit and in the year of the big sackings they made over $353 million. In other words, if we assume that Bluescope’s average annual wages bill per worker is around $90,000, we will find that if Bluescope had not slashed those 500 jobs and even if those workers contributed zero to total revenue (which would, of course, not be the case), the company would still only have lost some 13% of its current profit.

So next time a capitalist boss tells you that they need to cut jobs because of overseas competition you know what to do! Workers interests lie not in trying to make big business owners more profits but in actually forcing them to accept lower profits by compelling them to retain and, in fact, increase their workforces. The way we can force them to do this is through the methods that have won working class people all the rights that we have: industrial action and mass struggle. Of course, the capitalists will scream that forcing them to hire more workers at the expense of their profits will “kill investment” and make their operations “unfeasible”. To this we will respond: if it is unfeasible for you capitalists to run the economy in a way that provides for and utilises the labour and skills of all workers then we working class people will rip the ownership of the economy out of your hands and put it into our able collective hands.

Every Day Should Be International Workers Day!

The dominance of Laborite politics within our unions means that, currently, the struggle for jobs is not focussed on forcing bosses to increase hiring. Instead, our union leaders are pushing for measures to help local bosses do better against overseas rivals. However, such protectionism never works. Just as the workers movement here can call on the government to take measures to favour local firms, workers movements abroad can do the same. The only net result is that the workers of different countries are left divided leaving the bosses everywhere laughing all the way to their respective banks. Note that when Bluescope sacked hundreds of workers and froze wages, it screamed about “unfair” competition and “dumping” from overseas as an excuse. As we have shown that was just a diversion! Protectionist demands to favour local bosses simply plays into the hands of the capitalist exploiters. Of course, sometimes capitalists sing the tune of “free trade” too so that they can use the existence of competition to justify cutting wages and jobs. That is why we should be neither advocating protectionist measures nor free trade, just uniting workers to fight against the capitalists. What we must do, however, is to oppose protectionist appeals – as they serve to divert workers from fighting against their exploiters.

The capitalists and the various political parties that serve them are always blaming someone else for the, job slashing. Most recently, Liberal prime minister Turnbull, aping Donald Trump and extreme racist bigot Pauline Hanson, sought to blame guest workers. Ranting “Australians first,” he put additional restrictions on the entry of guest workers. The ALP and many union leaders have responded by saying the changes do not go far enough. Meanwhile, even while calling out the government and ALP for dog whistling to racism, the Greens propose their own additional “local workers first” measures which will, even when presented in a “nice”, liberal way, feed into poisonous nationalism too. The truth, however, is that guest workers can hardly be blamed for unemployment when they make up an absolutely tiny 0.7% of the workforce! Like all immigrants, a guest worker employed here not only works but spends money and pays taxes: both of which create jobs. It is true that bosses can especially exploit vulnerable guest workers and use that added level of exploitation to drive down the conditions for all workers. However, we should respond to this not with divisive slogans to “keep out guest workers” but by demanding equal wages and extra protections for guest workers and, most importantly, by demanding that our guest worker comrades have the rights of citizens so that bosses cannot threaten them with deportation if they resist.

To be as powerful a force as possible, local workers must unite as one with our guest worker and overseas worker comrades; and must unite as one across racial and ethnic lines. However, we can only build such a genuine unity if we positively mobilise against every method used by the exploiting class to divide and divert the masses with racism and nationalism. The workers movement must oppose Turnbull’s insulting scheme to force new citizenship applicants to accept “Australian values” (as if migrants have a much greater propensity to commit violence against women than existing citizens), must demand freedom for refugees and full citizenship rights for everyone who lives here and must stand by Aboriginal people in their struggle against their ongoing brutal racist oppression.

As the 100th Anniversary of the World’s First Socialist Revolution Draws Near Never Forget Its Lessons

If we can orient our unions onto the path of forcing capitalists to retain more workers than is most profitable for them, we can make headway in the struggle for jobs for all. However, we would eventually come up against the very essence of the capitalist system whose existence depends on big business owners being able to maximise profits. That is why our struggle must culminate in the working class seizure of the means of production from the capitalist class. Nearly 100 years ago, the working class and allied toiling peoples proved for all time that this is possible when they made the October 1917 Socialist Revolution in Russia. That revolution brought great gains for the masses – not least guaranteed jobs for all and a significantly improved social position for women. If the resulting workers state later became deformed and eventually in 1991-92 destroyed, it was because our side was not strong enough to defeat the revolution’s external and internal threats. However, the world’s most populous country remains under socialistic rule – despite being weakened by capitalist inroads and bureaucratic deformation. The continued dominance of socialistic state-owned enterprises in the Chinese economy has allowed that country to spectacularly bring hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Even in North Korea where socialistic rule has been quite deformed under immense hostile capitalist pressure, the masses continue to endure the hardships caused by sanctions to defend their workers state against incessant U.S./Australian imperialist threats in the same way that striking workers on a picket line will accept the hardships of struggle in order to fight for a better future. The North Korean masses have indeed been on the picket line in this way for over 70 years! They and those Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese and Laotian people standing by socialistic rule in their countries need our support. This is part of our fight to complete the work that the October 1917 Revolution began – to bring the working class to power throughout the world.

Let’s never forget what made the October Revolution possible. One key factor was that the working class was led by a party that fought tooth and nail to defeat every attempt of the capitalist enemy to divide its ranks with racism and national-chauvinism. We, too, here need to build a workers party that will in Lenin’s words “declare war to the death on dominant nation chauvinism.” A key part of the fight to ensure that such a program guides the workers movement today – especially in this time of rising protectionism worldwide – is to oppose “Aussie First” economic nationalism and to ensure that the fight to defend jobs is a fight against the capitalist bosses and their relentless drive to minimise labour “costs.”

Workplace Safety Now Better in China than in Australia

Australian Rulers’ Union Busting Drive against the CFMEU Union Threatens Construction Workers’ Lives

22 November 2016: Remember the days when hardly a fortnight would go by without the Australian media reporting a major work accident in China that killed dozens of workers? To be sure, China is the world’s most populous country – with about 60 times the population of Australia – so everything both bad and good necessarily happens on a huge scale. Furthermore, the mainstream Western media have always been looking for any means to paint a bad picture of the socialistic Peoples Republic of China (PRC). Nevertheless, it is true that China did have poor workplace safety. The country is industrialising and developing so fast that there was a period when the technological level and safety systems simply did not keep up – leading to dangerous workplace environments. Furthermore, the late 1980s, 1990s and first couple of years of this century was a period when China’s private sector expanded in influence relative to the state-owned sector which, nevertheless, to this day still dominates the pillars of the PRC’s economy. But it is in the private sector where workplace safety is at its worst including in the foreign-invested industries owned by Hong Kong, Taiwanese, American, Singaporean, Japanese and Australian bosses.

Workplace Safety Now Better in China than in Australia
Despite technological improvements that improve workplace safety and despite the shift in employment in Australia from heavy industry and manufacturing to less hazardous jobs in the service and IT/digital sectors, reduction in workplace deaths have been relatively modest here. In contrast, socialistic China has dramatically improved workplace safety over the last fifteen years.

Thankfully, all this is becoming in significant part old news. Through a combination of nationalisation of formerly privately owned mines, the closure of smaller, unsafe private-sector mines, a 2008 pro-worker industrial relations law, increased government emphasis on workplace safety and spirited repression of greedy bosses responsible for workplace accidents, the Peoples Republic of China has dramatically reduced deaths from workplace accidents over the last 15 years. China’s workplace safety issue is still serious and, as a gigantic country with often large-size operations, when China does have work accidents they are often on a huge scale. Yet, the PRC’s achievements in improving workplace safety are so dramatic and the failure of greedy Aussie bosses to provide a safe workplace here so harmful that it is now safer to be a worker in China than it is to be one in Australia.

So what are the hard facts on this comparison of workplace safety in Australia and the PRC. There are some complications in comparing statistics because each country lists workplace deaths in different ways. In particular, in China, a death in a traffic accident has long been listed as a ‘workplace death.’ The inclusion of traffic accidents Continue reading Workplace Safety Now Better in China than in Australia