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: http://thediplomat.com/2014/12/the-strange-tale-of-yeonmi-park/).
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 (https://www.unicef.org/newsline/99pr29.htm). 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” (https://www.smh.com.au/news/national/baddestofthebad-convicts–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.
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: http://www.trotskyistplatform.com/an-eye-witness-account-of-capitalist-south-korea/). 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, https://data.unicef.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/130565-1.pdf )! 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” (https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/otto-warmbier-had-breathing-tube-n-korea-exam-shows-n805191). 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! (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database). 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: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal-affairs/kirby-true-to-himself/news-story/1d080f4607675de6df618f3ed3a56bbb ).
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.
12 August 2017 – The April 7 U.S. missile attack highlights that, at this time, the main goal of the U.S./ Australian intervention in Syria remains to impose regime change on that country’s people – or at minimum to force the Syrian government into taking a servile attitude towards these Western imperialists. Indeed, the Western imperialist powers have been plotting regime change in Syria from even before the current upheaval began in 2011. For years Washington had been funding pro-Western NGOs and “dissident” figures within Syria. For, although Syria’s Baathist Assad government is a capitalist government – unlike that of North Korea and China who are targeted because of their socialistic character – and although it has facilitated a level of imperialist exploitation of Syrian workers and local natural resources, it is still currently not subservient enough to be accepted by the imperialists. To be sure, in the years leading up to the start of the conflict, the Syrian government had been implementing more and more neo-liberal economic policies. However, its privatisation program was not anywhere as deep going as that of, say, neighbouring Jordan. Thus, its economy was not “open” enough to be as deeply plundered by Western multinational corporations as these corporations would like. Furthermore, the Syrian government backs some opponents of key NATO ally, Israel, and has friendly relations with present Western foe, Iran. The imperialist powers thus insist on installing a regime in Damascus that will be far more servile to them – like the monarchy that lords it over Jordan or the military dictatorship that rules Egypt.
Nevertheless, when unrest broke out in Syria in 2011 this was not simply a Western-directed regime change movement. The protests in Syria at that time were partly triggered by the Middle East uprisings that began in Tunisia and Egypt and spread across other countries in the region. Many came out on the streets out of anger at rising prices, unemployment, corruption and government repression. However, even from the very start of anti-government demonstrations, Western-funded liberals and pro-Western politico-religious movements like the Muslim Brotherhood were already playing a prominent role. After all, they and various “NGOs” had been nurtured for years by their imperialist patrons to intervene when such a crisis broke out. Hence, they were able to hit the streets running when the so-called Arab Spring emerged in Syria. Yet, these were not the only forces participating in the anti-government actions. There were also some leftists, liberal secularists and others who did not want to become allies of imperialism as well as a large number of people who were unclear on what direction they wanted to go except to simply say that they wanted change. However, concerned that the “Arab Spring” was destabilising its key allies in the region like Egypt, Washington moved to turn the focus of the Middle East uprisings against those governments that had failed to join the U.S. fold – like Libya and Syria. The Western capitalist powers moved their intervention into the Syrian events into high gear like only they can. As U.S. money, media and machinations inflamed the anti-government movement in Syria and Western arms and material flowed lavishly into their most favoured armed “Rebels,” imperialist-backed groups naturally gained an ever increasing weight in the opposition movement. At a certain point, the armed opposition, in particular, became decisively subordinated to the drive for imperialist-imposed regime change in Syria. Some eight to twelve months after the upheaval broke out, it was clear that the armed “Rebels” had become proxies for the agenda of the Western imperialist powers.
Since then Trotskyist Platform has argued for the defence of Syria against the U.S./Australian imperialists and their “Rebel” proxies. We were the first Marxist-based Australian group to take up this position. Indeed, Trotskyist Platform were the first non-Arab leftists of any stripe to join with those Syrians and other Arabs in Australia opposed to the “Rebels” in protests against Western imperialist meddling. Our stance is based entirely on the Leninist position of defending against the capitalist “great powers” those countries who are – directly or indirectly – subjugated by imperialism. As Lenin famously wrote in his 1915 Marxist classic, Socialism and War:
… if tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, India on England, Persia or China on Russia, and so forth, those would be “just”, “defensive” wars, irrespective of who attacked first; and every Socialist would sympathise with the victory of the oppressed, dependent, unequal states against the oppressing, slaveowning, predatory ‘great’ powers.
However, most of the rest of the Left have taken the opposite position. The Socialist Alternative and Solidarity groups have campaigned in rabid support of the imperialist-backed “Rebels.” So has the Socialist Alliance group although it has now become more circumspect in that support. All these nominally socialist groups have even portrayed the “Rebel” movement as spearheading a progressive “Syrian revolution.” Thus, they have lined up behind a concerted imperialist campaign. For not only have the Western imperialists been arming and training their “Rebel” allies, providing military intelligence to these forces and even giving battleground direction to these “Rebel” proxies via its special forces officers, they have also hit Syria with sanctions, placed her under immense diplomatic pressure and bombarded the public with propaganda supporting their regime-change drive. The latter has been ably assisted by big business or government owned mainstream Western media. Meanwhile, the U.S.’s key regional ally, Israel, has conducted many airstrikes on Syrian government positions.
This does not mean that the imperialists could not in the distant future make a rapprochement with the Syrian government. That is one of the many areas where the Syria issue is, indeed, quite different to the North Korea and China questions. Unlike Syria, North Korea and the Peoples Republic of China are socialistic states. Therefore, in the long-term there will always be implacable hostility between these states and the capitalist powers because it reflects the innate conflict between capitalist ruling classes and socialistic working class rule. Any easing of tensions between the workers states and the capitalist powers will necessarily be tenuous and temporary. In contrast, because Syria is under capitalist rule, it is possible (although unlikely at present) that, in the long term, imperialist powers could quietly drop their regime change drive. This will especially be the case if the Assad government signals it is more willing to accommodate the interests of key imperialist powers. Yet all this is not the point right now. Because right now the imperialists are intent on imposing regime change on the people of Syria. For six years the U.S.A, Australia, Britain, France and other capitalist powers – assisted by regional allies like Israel, Turkey, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan – have all been hell bent on violently toppling the Syrian government. In this post-Soviet world, the imperialists are not willing to accept anything but complete subordination from governments in their ex-colonies.
When Donald Trump unleashed his April 7 cruise missile barrage against Syria, those left-wing groups that were backing the pro-imperialist Syrian “Rebels” were confronted by a political dilemma. The fact that the Western capitalists had made their first open and declared strike on Syrian government targets starkly exposed the pro-imperialist character of these groups’ support for the Western-backed, anti-government “Rebels.” As a result Solidarity, Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance sought to refurbish their anti-imperialist credentials by stating opposition to the missile attack while maintaining their support for the“Rebels.” In this they were taking a similar position to that which they took during the 2011 imperialist-backed regime change war in Libya. Then, these left social-democratic groups stated opposition to the imperialist airstrikes but backed the pro-imperialist “Rebels” that were effectively acting as NATO’s ground troops.
The reality of this position was seen all too clearly three days after Trump’s missile attack on Syria in a demonstration called by the “Syria Solidarity” coalition in which members of Solidarity, Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance formed the majority of the rally. The rally was against the Syrian government but claimed to be also against Trump’s bombing of Syria. Yet the call out for the demonstration retailed the very propaganda used by Washington to justify the bombing. Syria Solidarity’s call out spread the highly dubious claim that the Assad government had used chemical weapons against the people of Khan Shiekhoun (https://www.facebook.com/events/1420705451314295/?acontext=%7B%2 2ref%22%3A%22106%22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D) . Indeed, photographs from their rally showed that almost everyone holding a placard was holding one that simply said: “Chemical Massacre in Syria.” Any signs opposing Trump’s bombing were either not present at all or so insignificant as to be invisible. Thus, especially given its timing, this rally could only have served to justify Trump’s missile strike, regardless of any pretensions otherwise. Furthermore, the fact that this demonstration promoting Washington and Canberra’s line that Syria had used chemical weapons was held outside the UN offices in Sydney had more than the whiff of being a call for greater imperialist political and/or military intervention against Syria.
So there is no two ways about it: to side with the “Rebels” in their proxy war to topple the Syrian government means to side with the U.S. and Australian imperialists. The only way that those nominally socialist groups who hail the Syrian “Rebel” forces could claim otherwise is for some of them to concoct a nutcase conspiracy theory that the U.S. and Australian imperialists, while energetically arguing for the need for regime change in Syria and while engaging in a frenzied propaganda campaign behind this goal, are actually secretly doing the opposite. Now, the capitalist powers certainly do engage in hoaxes, false flag attacks, manufacture of “alternate facts” and secret actions behind the backs of the masses. However, what they don’t do is for years implement a particular foreign policy agenda while aggressively campaigning for the opposite. This is not because of any honesty on their part. Rather, it is for the simple reason that political campaigning and propaganda are an essential part of the imperialists’ need to mobilise support behind – or at least mollify opposition to – their goals. So, could you imagine that at the very same time that Australian governments have been persecuting dozens of CFMEU construction workers union activists in the courts, that these same capitalist governments would be running an aggressive propaganda campaign about the need for militant unions in the construction sector, about the greed of construction sector bosses and about the necessity for the CFMEU to conduct militant actions to defend workers’ rights? That is definitively not what has been happening! And it never could! Just like it is impossible for the imperialists to wage an intense, six years-long propaganda campaign in favour of regime change in Syria while actually secretly doing the opposite. And if this notion that the Western imperialists are actually supporting the Syrian government in the current conflict sounded completely like a whacko conspiracy theory before, it is pure lunacy now in the wake of the open U.S. missile strike on Syria and the associated further escalation of imperialist political attacks on the Syrian government.
A slightly less crazy-sounding argument of the Left-backers of the “Rebels” is that there’s is a “progressive” uprising against neo-liberalism. Indeed, anger at the effects of neo- liberal economic polices, in particular rising prices – a result of the pro-free-market removal of price controls – and unemployment were major factors in breeding hostility to the Syrian government. The average inflation rate in the five years prior to the 2011 upheaval was a high 7.5% and the average official unemployment rate in that period was an also large 9% with many others barely employed at all in insecure part-time and temporary work or in self- employed operations that had no prospects. However, there is a massive difference between a movement given support by people angered by the effects of neo-liberal economic policies and a movement against such policies. Unfortunately, anger at the effects of capitalism does not always end up with struggle against capitalism. Indeed, it can be channelled into reactionary movements. We only need to look at some of the supporters of Trump who were angry about unemployment and low wages but voted in a capitalist billionaire exploiter who wants to give massive tax cuts to the rich. Then there is some of the support for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation here where anger at social decay, crumbling infrastructure and a lack of jobs ends up being channelled into support for ultra-racist bigots – ones who, furthermore, support deep cuts to the already meagre welfare provisions for the unemployed and poor. Then there is the rising support for far-right French leader, Marine Le Pen. And then there was Hitler! The Syrian “Rebel” movement is, likewise, another movement where, in part, anger at the effects of capitalism has led to a reactionary movement that, if victorious, would serve to reinforce the rule of capitalism over the masses – in this case by increasing Syria’s subjugation by the capitalist great powers. The Syrian “Rebel” forces have another characteristic of reactionary right-wing movements – they are in good part mobilised on the basis of hostility to ethnic and religious minorities. Thus, even if one excludes ISIS from the list of “Rebel” groups (even though they were once one of the Washington-backed “Rebel” outfits), the strongest “Rebel” organisations – Al Nusra, Ahrar al- Sham and Jaysh al-Islam – are Sunni communalists who are viciously and often violently hostile to the country’s Kurdish, Shia, Alawi, Druze and Christian minorities. It is partly on the basis of this extreme bigotry that these groups have recruited fighters from not only Syria but from extreme religious fundamentalists throughout the world.
Those Western leftists who support the imperialist-backed Syrian “Rebels” should ask themselves: since when do the U.S. and Australian capitalist rulers back any movement against neo-liberalism … anywhere? If the “Rebels” were, indeed, a progressive movement against neo-liberal economic polices, Washington and Canberra would be firmly on the other side: backing Assad’s Baathist Party government! And that has certainly happened before when the Baathists were suppressing actually progressive movements. This was most starkly shown in the events in Syria and Lebanon in 1976. It was then that Lebanon was in a civil war that pitted leftist and Palestinian forces in a coalition against conservative forces. Although there was also a sectarian aspect to the conflict with many Muslims supporting the leftist-Palestinian side and many Christians the right-wing side, the working class definitely had to side with the leftist-Palestinian coalition. However, with this progressive side nearing victory, Bashar Al-Assad’s father, Hafeez, sent in the Syrian Army to crush their movement. Although Syria at the time was a Soviet ally and probably had even frostier relations with the West than it had at the start of the 2011-2012 uprising, the U.S. and France welcomed the Syrian Baathist government’s repressive intervention.
Of course, when nominally socialist groups support forces backed by their own imperialists abroad and retail the propaganda used by their rulers to justify this support, it has major domestic implications. It sends the very false message to those that they influence that, while their “own rulers” may be no good, at least they are on the right side of the fence in Syria. It says that: these Australian capitalist rulers may be capitalist but they are not as cruel and barbaric as others – like the “Syrian regime.” In other words, these pro-“Syrian Rebels” left groups, by supporting Canberra-backed forces abroad, are diminishing hostility to the Australian ruling class at home. Now, at the same time that they are doing this, these groups do participate in – albeit with a left social- democratic rather than a revolutionary program – many progressive struggles at home including in defence of trade unions and for refugee rights, Aboriginal rights and LGBTI rights. Yet by adding to the myth that the racist Australian ruling class is backing in Syria the side that is fighting for “democracy”, groups such as Solidarity, Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance are actually harming the very campaigns that they work for at home. For one, if they are saying that the Australian capitalist rulers back – in Syria – the side that is standing for “human rights”, it gets in the way of asserting the truth that Australia’s rulers are an extremely brutal, racist, ruling class that secured its power through genocidal terror against Aboriginal people.
SUPPORTING “DEMOCRACY” OR OPPOSING IMPERIALISM?
As well as sometimes claiming that the “Rebel” movement is a movement against neo-liberalism, the Socialist Alternative and Solidarity groups wax lyrical that the armed struggle against the Syrian government is a “democratic revolution.” Yet the strongest groups in this “democratic revolution” are extreme religious fundamentalists who want to subjugate women, axe all secularist laws and behaviours and impose a strict theocracy. Don’t take this characterisation from us … see what these “Rebel” groups say themselves! Thus, the largest “Rebel” group, Ahrar al-Sham openly rejects democracy as a concept. Although they say they accept elections of political leaders, that is “as long as it is regulated by sharia” and only candidates whose policies “are bound by sharia” are involved. Indeed, in an interview, Ahrar al-Sham leader Hassan Aboud said of his fellow “Rebels”: “there are no secular groups” in Syria (http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-crowning-of-the-syrian-islamic-front). The truth is that the “Rebels” could be more accurately described as fighting for an “anti-secular, theocratic revolution” rather than a mythical “democratic revolution.”
Australia’s “Left” supporters of the “Rebels” would scream that there are actually secular people in the “revolution” against Assad. Indeed, there are. Except that their weight in the movement is so small that they could only, at best, act as recalcitrant “Rebels” who express their displeasure with the religious fundamentalist platform of their much bigger “Rebel” allies while shooting in the same direction as them. In other words, they will be, regardless of their intentions, shooting towards the same goal of an extreme theocratic, undemocratic order. Similarly, there are also a small amount of one-time leftists supporting the present “Syrian Revolution.” These leftists may well receive no direct imperialist aid. However, the fact is that they are in a military united front with much larger proxy forces of imperialism – meaning that they are, in practice, in a united front with imperialism themselves. To be sure, some of these people may genuinely believe that they are still leftists. But there is a huge problem! They are lining up behind the biggest enemies of liberation of the Syrian and entire world’s toiling peoples: the Western imperialists. Therefore, for any Australian leftist to highlight the small number of secular-democrats and leftists among Syria’s “Rebels” is a bit like right-wing apologists who stress that there are some non-white people in Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party or some blacks and Muslims who support Donald Trump!
Unlike the Socialist Alternative and Solidarity groups who have never wavered in their cheering of Syria’s pro- imperialist, armed “Rebels,” the Socialist Alliance party has over time, to an extent, recognised the dominance of thoroughly misogynist, religious fundamentalist cutthroats within the “Rebels.” Thus, an article in their Green Left Weekly newspaper written on the day of the April 7 U.S. missile strike on Syria describes these “Rebels” as a “fractious array of Sunni Islamist opposition groups” with a model “far from” one of “ethnic inclusion and religious tolerance.” That, however, has not stopped Socialist Alliance from siding with these “Rebels” against Syrian government forces. Thus, when Syrian forces and their allies defeated the “Rebels” in Aleppo, Socialist Alliance issued a statement portraying the victory negatively. They stated that: “The Socialist Alliance affirms the position we have held since 2011 in support of the Syrian people’s right to rebel against the Assad dictatorship” (Peace in Syria can only come from the democratic empowerment of Syrians, Socialist Alliance statement, 18 December 2016). In the context of the current conflict that can only mean support for the imperialist-backed “Rebels”, however critically, against the Syrian government.
However, since 2014 in particular, Socialist Alliance have switched the main focus of their support in Syria from the “Rebels” to the PYD/YPG, the most powerful group based on the Kurdish minority of northern Syria. This group had fought for the national rights of Syria’s oppressed Kurdish minority. As in neighbouring Turkey, the Kurdish minority in Syria have faced intense national oppression, albeit not with the same genocidal brutality that they have faced in Turkey. In the early period of the conflict, the PYD had an uneasy, on-again, off-again relationship with the Arab-based “Rebel” groups and with more conservative Kurdish groups. However, in mid-2012 the Assad government withdrew its military from Kurdish areas of Syria leaving the PYD/YPG largely in charge. This was the crowning of a tacit, semi-alliance between the Kurdish forces and the Assad government. The PYD/ YPG, meanwhile, increasingly came into conflict with “Rebel” groups who were violently opposed to even the most minimal expressions of self-determination for the Kurdish minority. These “Rebels” also wanted to replace the relative secularism of PYD/YPG controlled areas with a theocratic order. Among these imperialist and Turkish backed “Rebels” was the then still emerging ISIS. When the U.S. and Australian imperialists decided to turn on their former ISIS proxy – to some degree – they found in the PYD/YPG a useful and militarily effective ally. Today, the Western imperialists are backing the PYD/YPG with airstrikes, massive shipments of arms and through direct support by a large number of U.S. special forces on the ground. Indeed, U.S. special forces troops in Syria have even been wearing badges of the YPG on their uniforms! This new alliance with Western imperialism saw the PYD/ YPG also make a rapprochement with some “Rebel” Free Syrian Army groups. They have together formed the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). This alliance between the PYD/YPG on the one hand and, on the other, the Western imperialists and some of their “Rebel” factions is complicated by the fact that the PYD/YPG has also been clashing with other – mainly Turkish-controlled – “Rebel” outfits and with Washington’s Turkish NATO ally. Furthermore, the PYD/YPG has been diplomatically supported by Moscow, the most powerful foreign backer of the Syrian government, even as it is in an alliance with the Western powers, who are the most powerful force behind the “Rebels.”
The PYD/YPG is lionised by Socialist Alliance and some anarchists for its secular, left-leaning platform and its stated commitment to democratic, “self-governing” forms of organisation in the areas that it controls. Its platform is indeed secular-democratic and the position of women in the areas that it controls – known as Rojava – currently does appear to be significantly better than in the parts of Syria controlled by the “Rebels”. However, the massive problem is that the PYD/YPG are in a direct alliance with the greatest forces against any form of social liberation in the world: the U.S., Australian and other Western imperialists. Granted that this alliance is partly directed against a group with a horrific, reactionary program, ISIS. However, as despicable as ISIS is, it is the Western imperialists with their enormous military and economic power who are able to do far more damage. As we explained in our leaflet issued after the April 7 U.S. missile attack on Syria:
It is not ISIS but the U.S., Australian and other imperialists who have been able to intervene in and destroy whole countries – like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and indirectly Syria – who have dropped nuclear bombs on human beings (as the U.S. with Australian backing did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki), who today are threatening a new war against North Korea that could again kill millions and who one day, because of the crisis-ridden nature of their violent system, could end up again leading humanity into a savage global slaughter the way they did in World Wars I and II … but this time with nuclear weapons! They are the tyrants who rule the world … and lord it over the world … and in the future could destroy the world!
Defend Syria against U.S./Australian Imperialism & Their “Rebel Proxies, Trotskyist Platform statement, 12 April 2017
It is telling that the Western leftists hailing the PYD/YPG only started energetically doing so after the Western imperialists started backing them in 2014. They certainly weren’t supporting the PYD/YPG when they were in a de-facto, semi-alliance with the Syrian government forces against the Western-backed “Rebels.” We are not suggesting some conspiracy here or some conscious decision by these leftists to jump onto the same side as their own ruling classes. However, it does reflect how cravenly these groups bend to the propaganda of the mainstream media which suddenly started running documentaries sympathetic to the PYD/YPG and how much they bend to the progressive, middle-class public opinion that is shaped by imperialist propaganda.
The question remains when evaluating whether it is correct to support the PYD/YPG: does the positive of their stated left-leaning, secular-democratic platform outweigh the negative of their alliance with U.S.-led Western imperialism? The answer is a resounding: NO! Firstly, by helping the Western imperialists to achieve victories – even it be, in part, against the ultra-reactionary ISIS – the PYD/YPG are strengthening the strongest, most tyrannical oppressors of the world’s masses. For one, any victories for the Western Coalition in the North and North-East of Syria would not only give these forces a geographic/military presence to enforce their agenda in the region but would politically embolden them to intensify their push to impose regime change on the Syrian people, to still further subordinate Iraq under their domination and to threaten Iran with a bloody Libya-style regime change assault. Already, as the subordination of the PYD/YPG to the Western imperialists deepens, these forces have increasingly clashed with Syrian government forces. In August last year, in Hasakah city, intense clashes erupted between the YPG and the Syrian Army. In recent months the conflict has escalated further. In mid-June, the YPG-dominated SDF clashed with Syrian government troops near the town of Tabqa, which is in the vicinity of ISIS-held Raqqa. As part of these battles, the U.S. military shot down a Syrian fighter bomber. Then, just today, news emerged that the SDF had killed four Syrian Army soldiers after shelling their positions in the western Raqqa Governorate. The YPG – and the SDF that they dominate are, thus, now openly on the wrong side of the most significant conflict within Syria: that between, on the one hand, the Western imperialists and their “Rebel” proxies and, on the other, the Syrian government. The YPG may have leftist pretensions and may have implemented, in some aspects, a more socially progressive platform than other forces but they are on the side of imperialism, of neo-colonialism, of the greatest enemies of social progress on the planet.
It is, nevertheless, true that the PYD have a relatively progressive platform on the women’s rights question and the presence of a sizeable proportion of women fighters in the YPG does matter a great deal. However, the PYD/ YPG’s role in strengthening imperialist influence in the region threatens to derail this. For continued imperialist domination of the former colonies is the main reason why even nominal democratic rights that, to a degree, exist – albeit in increasingly attenuated form – in the imperialist countries, like separation of religion and state, formal legal equality between men and women and parliamentary “democracy” are severely curtailed in the ex-colonies. For through their domination of world markets, their control over sources of capital and their sheer bullying, the imperialists so severely gouge the wealth of “Third World” countries and so exacerbate social inequalities there that the masses in these lands can only be kept in line by the most severe repression and by reinforcing all sorts of religious and other social reaction to keep the toilers divided and distracted. Very immediately it is noteworthy that, under Washington’s prodding, among the “Rebel” groups that the PYD have entered into an alliance with in the SDF (including the Euphrates Martyrs Battalion – a former faction of the al-Tawhid Brigade – and the Two Holy Mosques Brigade – a former member of the 19th Division of the Army of Mujahedeen) are extreme religious fundamentalist opponents of secularism and women’s rights. What this means is that in areas that the U.S.-backed SDF have taken over, the PYD/YPG share administration, in part, with reactionary theocratic forces.
That is why it is bogus to speak of “fighting for democracy” in a “Third World” country if one is simultaneously strengthening the hand of imperialism. The most crucial democratic task in such countries is achieving freedom from neo-colonial domination – the task upon which the success of all other democratic tasks depends. This means that even if the Syrian “Rebels” hypothetically were dominated by forces claiming adherence to a secular- democratic platform, the international working class would still need to defend Syria against these “Rebels” if the “Rebels” remain imperialist-allied. This point has much relevance to Iran. For it is possible that in the future, the U.S. and other imperialists will be able to incite “Rebel” proxies there to wage a Syria-style insurgency against the Iranian government. Unlike in Syria, these Iranian “Rebels” may turn out to be more secular and have a less repressive position on the women’s rights question than the government they are fighting against – the theocratic, Iranian dictatorship. However, in the event of such a scenario we would still need to defend Iran against the imperialists and their “Rebel” proxies. For the victory of the pro-imperialist forces would not only strengthen and embolden imperialism for more marauding around the globe, it would intensify the exploitation of the Iranian masses and in the long run end up reinforcing the subjugation of Iranian women too. We only have to look at what has happened since the 2003 imperialist invasion of Iraq. At the time of the invasion, Iraq was a capitalist dictatorship under Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, the invading powers like the U.S. and Australia were capitalist, nominally parliamentary “democracies” where the population had certain formal democratic rights in excess of those that were present in Iraq. However, the strengthening of imperialist domination of Iraq since the invasion has led to brutal repression and torture of the Iraqi masses that far exceeds the brutality of even Saddam. It has led to the ascendancy of reactionary theocratic forces, a severe degrading of the position of women, increased oppression of LGBTI people and an intensification of the discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities.
Of course, it is only a socialist revolution in countries like Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Iran that can decisively free these countries from imperialist subjugation and/or economic dependency and which alone can open the road to not only the toilers’ emancipation but to the liberation of women and oppressed ethnic minorities. Such a revolutionary struggle in the Middle East would include, on its banner, standing up for the right to self determination for the downtrodden Palestinian and Kurdish people. However, on the road to such conquests of power by the working class it is crucial to, as Lenin insisted, stand in any conflicts for “the victory of the oppressed, dependent, unequal states against the oppressing, slaveowning, predatory `great’ powers.”
OPPOSE ISIS FIRST OR OPPOSE IMPERIALISM FIRST?
Those on the Australian Far Left that are most rabid in backing the Syrian “Rebels” – in particular, both the Solidarity and Socialist Alternative groups and a small number of avowed anarchists – are prone to making excuses for the fact that a major part of these “Rebels” consist of extreme, anti-women, religious fundamentalists. Yet, the Socialist Alliance group which is also on the side of these imperialist-backed “Rebels” against the Syrian government forces – albeit more tepidly now – simultaneously advocates its position of supporting the PYD/YPG in good part based on the latter’s opposition to the misogynist, ISIS reactionaries. Similarly, that section of the anarchists who lionise the PYD/YPG support them, in part, on the basis that they are fighting “ISIS fascism.” The Communist Party of Australia – even as a small number of its members campaign hard against imperialist intervention in Syria – also appears to support the PYD/YPG. A back page article in the 24 May issue of the CPA paper, The Guardian, is an interview lionising the PYD’s struggle against ISIS (http://cpa.org.au/guardian/2017/1778/19-hunger-for-peace.html). The article avoids mentioning that the PYD/YPG is, today, staunchly backed by the Western imperialists.
ISIS are, indeed, brutal religious fundamentalists who horrifically oppress women and non-Sunni, non-Arab religious and ethnic minorities. They are one of the most reactionary forces on the entire planet, bar one: the imperialist powers. As well as carrying out murderous attacks on women, religious and ethnic minorities and secular Sunnis in Syria and Iraq, ISIS and its parent, Al- Qaeda, have brought some despicable terror to Western countries as well. For this reason their reactionary nature is very much in the consciousness of Western leftists. Yet in the Middle East – and in the whole globe put together – the terror stoked by ISIS is dwarfed by the scale of the monstrous violence committed by the U.S.A, Australia, Britain and other imperialist powers. Indeed, because of the savagely indiscriminate manner that they have conducted their battles against ISIS in Mosul and their airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, the Western imperialists and their allies have in their anti-ISIS operations alone killed more civilians than the ISIS cutthroats have killed in total around the world throughout their history.
If one wants to know who the biggest force for social reaction in the world is then think about what the effects of imperialist military victories are: even when they are made in alliance with forces with a secular, left-leaning platform like the YPG/PYD and even when they are in battles against terribly reactionary forces like ISIS or the Afghan Taliban. For one, imperialist successes in their wars in the Middle East would encourage them to unleash new regime change operations around the world. Recent successes of the U.S.-led Coalition in their battles against ISIS in Iraq and Syria are, no doubt, in some way contributing to making U.S. president Trump confident enough to threaten military action against the left-leaning government in Venezuela or the not servile enough one in Iran. Meanwhile, battlefield successes for the U.S., Australia and other capitalist powers would be emboldening them as they make increasingly bellicose threats against socialistic North Korea – and through that indirectly threaten North Korea’s socialistic neighbour, China, too.
Consider what the battlefield victories of imperialism and its allies mean to the countries where these wars are waged. For one, it means death and demoralisation for the population. The fact that the PYD/YPG forces allied with imperialism have a secular-democratic platform will, thus, mean little to the people suffering destruction. They will understandably resent not only imperialism but all its allies. Indeed, for the people of ISIS-held areas suffering under not only ISIS’s rule but also the indiscriminate and ferocious Coalition airstrikes, the fact that the U.S.-led Coalition’s PYD/YPG allies have a secular democratic platform will only give progressive secularism a terrible name! In the end, just as the 2003 U.S./British/Australian invasion of Iraq opened the way for the emergence of ISIS, their current interventions in Syria and Iraq could well create the conditions for a new crop of ultra-reactionary forces to emerge. Meanwhile, any increased strength and reach of the imperialists that comes from any victories for themselves and their current YPG allies would make them better placed to back or even create ultra-reactionary forces should that serve their purpose – the way that they orchestrated the creation of Al Qaeda to fight the socialistic USSR and its allies in Afghanistan and then for a crucial period backed ISIS in its early years, in Syria.
Think carefully also what victories for the U.S. and Australian ruling classes abroad mean in their own countries. Every bomb that the imperialist Coalition drops on Syria and Iraq, every advance that they and their YPG allies make encourages flag-waving nationalism at home. This is destructive to the international and inter- racial unity crucial to the struggle for workers’ rights. Meanwhile, the rise in nationalist arrogance is helping fuel the terrifying growth of fascist forces in the U.S., Australia and other Western countries. For all these reasons we must on principle oppose the Western imperialists and any allies that they have in all their wars in the “Third World” – even those against religious fundamentalists or other reactionaries.
The force that leftists should seek to build to defend people in areas where the ISIS and Al Nusra reactionaries are present are worker and peasant militias that are totally independent of – and hostile to – the intervening imperialist militaries. Right now there is another force that is opposing ISIS and Al Nusra that is not aligned with the Western imperialists and that’s the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies. Given that ISIS and Nusra attacks on Syrian government forces serve the imperialists’ drive to impose regime change in Syria which, at this time, remains the main goal of the imperialists in Syria and the most significant axis of the multi-directional Syrian conflict, we must side with the Syrian government and their Russian and Iranian allies in these clashes despite the fact that these are pro-capitalist forces.
Ironically, some pro-Syria leftists themselves focus on ISIS as the main enemy rather than Western imperialism. According to them, the Western imperialists are actually still fully backing ISIS. ISIS, in this analysis, remains a complete puppet of the U.S. imperialists. This is, however, a slightly whacky conspiracy theory. Of course, it is true that a few years ago, the U.S. and its allies did fund and support ISIS. Now, however, the picture in Syria is more complex, as we noted in our leaflet issued after the April 7 U.S. missile attack on Syria:
Certainly, when ISIS has clashed with the imperialist-backed “Rebels” or Washington’s new-found Syrian Kurdish allies, the U.S.-led airstrikes and special forces operations have aggressively targeted them. At some other times, however, the imperialist forces seem more to be herding the ISIS forces so that ISIS end up concentrating their forces against the Syrian government rather than against the “Rebels” – just as U.S. operations often herd the Al-Qaeda troops in Yemen into battle against the Houthi forces. Additionally, there have been some reports of U.S. weapons drops to its “Rebel” and Kurdish allies in Syria suspiciously going “astray” and “accidentally” ending up with ISIS. To be sure, the U.S. does seem to think that, even in Syria, ISIS is a force that they cannot control and so needs to be put down.
Defend Syria against U.S./Australian Imperialism & Their “Rebel” Proxies, Trotskyist Platform statement, 12 April 2017
The line taken by some pro-Damascus Western leftists that portrays ISIS and Al Nusra as the main enemy – rather than directly the U.S., Australian and other imperialist powers – is an attempt to mesh in with the Western regimes’ “war on Islamic terror.” In doing so it is unhelpful to the struggle. For it feeds into an, at bottom, racist narrative of Western imperialism; moreover one that they are frequently using to justify their interventions abroad. Furthermore, it obscures the truth that the main enemy of the world’s toiling masses aren’t Islamic fundamentalist terrorists but the ruling classes of the rich capitalist powers.
OPPOSITION TO IMPERIALIST INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
In the face of the ruling class’ propaganda campaign, the secular, anti-colonial section of the Syrian and Lebanese communities in Australia built large demonstrations from 2012 onwards that opposed the pro-imperialist “Rebels” and Western support for them. In Sydney, they formed the Hands Off Syria coalition to organise the actions. Later, non-Arab leftists became involved in Hands Off Syria. They added their knowledge to the movement and political depth into the campaigns. However, the movement dwindled in size somewhat – in good part because the Australian regime’s “war on terror” intimidated many in the local Syrian community from participating in any anti-government rallies.
Those involved in the Hands Off Syria movement had shown quite a degree of political courage to resist the screeching media drive to promote the “Rebels” and to stand firm in the face of the many on the Left who echoed the capitalist media’s narrative. In the days following the U.S.’s April 7 missile barrage against Syria, the mainstream Australian media ran a witch-hunting campaign against two leaders of Hands Off Syria for their refusal to accept the “justification” for the bombing. The media witch- hunt sought to remove these individuals – academic Tim Anderson and casual tutor Jay Tharappel – from their teaching jobs at the University of Sydney. Despite significant political differences with them, we opposed the media witch-hunt against them – although it later emerged how seriously flawed the politics of Anderson is in particular (see further below).
However, even from the start, the politics of Hands Off Syria groups had problems. Rather than focussing exclusively on mobilising working class opposition to the Australian regime that was part of the proxy war against Syria, the coalitions sought, in part, to appeal to the Australian ruling class or at least elements within it. In particular, Hands Off Syria groups sought to win support for their cause by portraying the Syrian government’s opposition to the “Rebels” as synonymous with the Western regimes’ war on “radical Islam.” This appealing to the Australian ruling class was apparent in the presence of the flag of Australian imperialism at the pro-Syria demonstrations. Especially as the size of the protests became smaller and thus easier to control, the presence of Australian flags in the demonstrations reflected not only illusions among the mass of participants but flaws in the leadership’s program.
Despite these problems, Trotskyist Platform actively participated in the actions called by Hands Off Syria Sydney against imperialism’s proxy war on Syria. We did so, however, bearing our own slogans that sought to appeal to the working class and others at the bottom of this society to mobilise in opposition to all forms of U.S. and Australian intervention in Syria. We simultaneously sought to warn against any appeals to the imperialist Australian ruling class. Thus, while calling to “Defend Syria against U.S./Australian Imperialism & Their “Rebel” Proxies!”, we invariably also carried placards at the actions with slogans like the following: “Australian Government’s Plans for a New Pro-Imperialist Regime in Syria Will Only Serve Australia’s Capitalist Exploiting Class. Australian Working Class: Oppose all Imperialist Meddling in Syria!”
In late 2014, weaknesses in Hands Off Syria’s perspective came to the fore at a critical moment. This was when the U.S., Australian and other imperialists began to openly send large air and ground forces to Iraq and Syria under the guise of fighting ISIS terrorism. It was a time which called for urgent mobilisation against this direct intervention. However, the Hands Off Syria movement was weighed down by illusions that it was possible for imperialism for its own purposes to end up supporting, in some sort of way, their cause. Thus, when the imperialists said they would be intervening in Syria to “fight against terrorism”, some in the Hands Off Syria leadership in Australia and abroad thought that they could “use” imperialism for their own purposes in this situation. They thought that by fighting off ISIS, the Western imperialists would end up helping the cause of Syrian independence without meaning to. Others were not so sure but thought it was a possibility. Thus, the Hands Off Syria groups became paralysed at a most crucial time. They did not mobilise any actions to oppose the sending of a large contingent of U.S. and Australian military forces to Iraq and Syria. Therefore, we in Trotskyist Platform felt it necessary to take on the work of building such an action. In the face of illusions in the potential benevolence of the imperialists amongst even opponents of the neo-colonial conquest of Syria, Trotskyist Platform initiated a united front rally in Sydney on 29 November 2014 that opposed the entire U.S. and Australian intervention in Syria and Iraq, saying: “Obama, Abbott and Shorten’s Military Intervention Is Bad For Working Class People – Oppose the U.S. & Australian Ruling Class and Down with Their War in the Middle East!” and calling to, “Defend Syria against Western Imperialism and its `Rebels!’” Unfortunately this was the only action in Australia to oppose the 2014 deployment of large imperialist military forces to both Iraq AND Syria and which called to oppose the neo-colonial attacks on Syria that would inevitably follow. To their credit, however, some leading individuals in Hands Off Syria Sydney, with a stronger anti-imperialist sense, chose to participate in that action.
Eventually, as it became obvious over a period of several months that the direct imperialist military intervention, while it included attacks on ISIS, was being used to strengthen the drive to subjugate Syria, Hands Off Syria began to correct itself and – to their credit – mobilise against the intervention. However, their earlier line that imperialism could be “used” had confused many of their supporters. Hence, the movement became weaker at a time when the need to oppose the neo-colonial drive became more urgent. Moreover, two years after Hands Off Syria groups took a dive when the U.S. and Australia made large open deployments to Syria and Iraq in the latter half of 2014, the groups’ willingness to embrace pro-capitalist forces would send them plunging into an even deeper hole – as we will detail below.
HANDS OFF SYRIA’S DALLIANCES WITH THE FAR RIGHT
Although Hands Off Syria Sydney does participate in Sydney May Day rallies and other leftist events, overall these groups have always lacked a definitive perspective of siding with the working class against the capitalist exploiters. Thus, their strategy is to look to ally with whoever would support Syria against the “Rebels” regardless of which side of the class fence they were from. That meant that the movement was looking to win support from, among others, a section of the capitalist class. However, the only section of the capitalist class that included opponents of the Syrian “Rebels” is the far-right, ultra-racist wing. Now these ultra-right wingers are no opponents of imperialism. Far from it! Nor could they ever be – since they are part of the capitalist exploiting class for whom imperialism is a necessity. For example in the U.S., Steve Bannon, the fascistic mastermind of the election victory of Donald Trump, stands for intensifying the hostility of the U.S. regime towards the socialistic Peoples Republic of China. However, for a congruence of different reasons, some in the far right do “support” Syria in the conflict with the “Rebels.” For one, in their warped, race-obsessed view of the world, the main “threat” to what they think of as “white civilisation” is radical Islam. Thus, for them Assad is a lesser evil to the Islamic fundamentalist “Rebels” not from any anti-imperialist point of view but from their white supremacist standpoint. Then there is their Hitler-like hatred of Jewish people. These extreme right wingers oppose Israel not because of its fascistic oppression of the Palestinian people – who have suffered genocidal terror of the type the White Australian capitalist regime has perpetrated against Aboriginal peoples and that White American capitalism/feudalism imposed on that country’s Native American first peoples – but because the Israeli state happens to be run by Jews. The Syrian government, which has sometimes stood up to Israel, and which is opposed by the Israeli regime is, thus, seen as relatively worthy by some of the far right – again for really reactionary reasons. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, some of the far right are opposed to attacks on Syria because Syria is currently backed by Russia. Putin and Russia’s capitalist rulers, in general, are heroes of most of the far right around the world – except in some of Russia’s neighbours where opposition to Russia is one of the recruiting themes of fascist groups. Putin, himself, is not an actual fascist – although like Trump he has key advisers who are, indeed, fascists. He is, rather, a right-wing conservative – a kind of Russian equivalent to Tony Abbott – although that analogy should not be taken too far since the history and position in the world of Russia and Australia are different. However, the Russian government’s right wing policies – including its harsh crackdown on “illegal” immigrants, its Jacqui Lambie-like anti-Muslim rhetoric and its attacks on LGBTI rights – are hailed by much of the far right in the West. Putin is glorified by these extreme rightists as a strong, white leader who rejects what they see as the “political correctness,” “cosmopolitanism” and “multiculturalism” of the more liberal of the leaders in the West, like Obama; and who, unlike U.S. leaders, is not one of the main backers of Israel (although Russian-Israeli relations have lately been surging). Much of the Western extreme right see the Russian government as their “great white hope” and – in good part for that reason – some of these far right groups support the, currently Russian-backed, Syrian government.
Treacherously, some of the leaders of the Hands Off Syria movement both in Australia and internationally started to look towards making common cause with these filthy right-wing racists – even though some of the leaders of the Hands Off Syria movement were themselves avowed leftists. One leader of Hands Off Syria in Australia – who is definitely not a leftist but a right-wing conspiracy theorist type – even did a friendly interview together with notorious American fascist, David Duke. David Duke was one of the main leaders of the horrific white supremacist rally that has taken place in Charlottsville, Virginia over the last two days. One of the Neo-Nazis taking part in that demonstration rammed his car at speed into anti-racist protesters – murdering one of them, Heather Heyer. And it is these type of people that some of the leaders of Hands Off Syria think it is acceptable to make common cause with! It is not only the prominent, right wing Hands Off Syria member who did the “united front” work with David Duke that is the problem here. It is the many others in the leadership of the movement – including avowed leftists – who defended this deed or, at best, refused to publicly condemn it.
As Donald Trump’s bid for the White House gathered steam, the willingness of some in the Hands off Syria groups (both locally and internationally) to collaborate with – or make apologies for – the far right increased. Trump’s stated intention to improve ties with Russia and his occasional rhetoric saying that the then Obama administration’s Syria policy was wrong made some in the Hands Off Syria movements in Australia and abroad start to back him. Of course, those who still had pretensions of being leftists were not going to openly proclaim that they were supporting a hard right presidential candidate. Yet they may as well have! These people denounced any condemnations of Trump as being necessarily pro-Clinton. When commenting on Trump, they ignored his plans to make medical cover even less affordable for the poor and his agenda to give huge tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the masses. Most notably, they greatly minimised the extreme racist character of his attacks on Muslims, Blacks and Mexicans and the white supremacist terror that he was inciting on the streets. Instead, they almost portrayed him as a pro-working class populist with some “Left” policies. Once Trump was elected, some of these avowed “leftists” associated with Hands off Syria groups – both internationally and in Australia – even denounced any protest against Trump. They slimily claimed that any anti-Trump demonstration would necessarily be pro-Democratic Party. With that logic they would not be attending most progressive demonstrations against racism, sexism and exploitation of workers in Australia since, currently, the politics leading these rallies usually includes back-handed support for the ALP and Greens. Yet, any sincere leftist would thoroughly condemn anyone who used that as an excuse to oppose such protests. Instead, they would insist on intervening in such actions in order to both support their progressive aspects and to argue against illusions in the ALP and Greens. Of course, the “leftists” condemning demonstrations against Trump know all this. It is just that they had gone so far down the road of critical support for the hard right president that they even attacked the protests – which were mostly driven by hostility to Trump’s extreme racism, sexism and homophobia – during Trump’s inauguration. In summary, these political groupings acted as “left”-apologists for Trump.
Therefore, we in Trotskyist Platform became wary of attending rallies or meetings organised by Hands Off Syria groups. Unfortunately, our fears about the direction of the movement became more than confirmed. This became apparent at a rally held by Hands Off Syria Sydney against the killing of dozens of Syrian soldiers in Deir al Zour from airstrikes by the U.S.-led Coalition. The U.S. dubiously claimed that the attack was a strike on ISIS that “accidentally” went wrong. It seemed far more likely to have been a deliberate attempt by dominant sections of the then Obama Administration and U.S. military to scuttle the 9 September 2016 deal that their own secretary of state, John Kerry, had struck with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, for a ceasefire in Syria and joint U.S.-Russian air strikes against ISIS. It was certainly worthwhile to protest against the attack on Syrian soldiers in Deir al Zour. However, this 24 September 2016 rally, held at the height of Trump’s bid for the White House, came with a backdrop of significant parts of the Hands Off Syria movement in Australia and internationally lurching towards a de facto alliance with sections of the far right. In this context, Trotskyist Platform, although sympathetic to its nominal theme, was wary about the action and did not attend this particular rally. Just as well that we didn’t! A key component of that demonstration turned out to be the Russian far right group – the Zabaikal Cossack Society of Australia. This group harks back to Tsarist Russia. They eulogise the role of anti-communist Cossack generals in the counterrevolutionary White Armies that fought against Soviet Russia in the 1918-1921 Civil War that followed the 1917 socialist revolution in Russia. They are staunchly pro-Putin – which many others in the Russian community currently are – but they are much more than that. The Zabaikal Cossack Society fanatically espouses Orthodox Christian fundamentalism, “traditional values”, Islamophobia, and homophobia. They are in a very close alliance with Australia’s main fascist group, the Australia First Party (AFP) and the Greek Neo-Nazi group, Golden Dawn. The Australia First Party were one of the instigators of the horrific December 2005 white supremacist riot at Cronulla Beach. Their trademark is inciting racist violence against Asians, Muslims, Blacks and members of the LGBTI community. Golden Dawn is, meanwhile, notorious for murdering many refugees as well as other non-white migrants and leftists in Greece. Just a month after his participation in the Hands Off Syria rally, Zabaikal Cossack Society leader Simeon Boikov and AFP leader Jim Saleam were special guests at the national conference of the Australian chapter of Golden Dawn. This is how the Golden Dawn scum describe the Zabaikal Cossack Society participation at their conference:
The Event then continued with the introduction of our fellow Nationalists outside the Greek community, starting first with the head of the Russian Cossack Association of Australia, Simeon Boikov. Simeon took to the stage, and spoke of the historical alliance between the Russians & Greeks…
… The Russian Cossacks of Australia presented Golden Dawn with the resistance flag of Novo-Russia, to which we shared a Greek flag with the Russians, a flag from our head office in Greece, which had survived many protests against the globalist filth (and their enablers) on the Streets of Athens.
Simeon was also awarded with a plaque to recognise our official friendship and alliance with Russian nationalists, and a promise that Golden Dawn holds true to its word that should (or when) we take power, to align the Greek state against the Zionists of Washington, and towards our comrades in Moscow.
For the local movement, special guest and speaker Dr. Jim Saleam took to the stage on behalf of Australian Nationalists, representing the Australia First Party.
Boikov’s extreme hostility to Lenin, the Bolsheviks and communism stems in part from the experience of some of the descendants of the classes that he represents. After losing the Civil War to the heroic communist-led workers and poor peasants of the Soviet workers state, some of the former exploiting class of Russia and its privileged military officers fled to the then still capitalist-feudal country, China. The wealth that they brought with them and their lauded status as “refugees from communism” in Chiang Kai-Shek’s imperialist-dominated China allowed them a privileged life there. Yet when the Communist-led agricultural labourers, urban workers and poor tenant farmers of China took power in the 1949 Revolution and over the following decades consolidated their rule, the descendants of the former Russian exploiting class and their military protectors now lost their privileged status in China too. Some of these twice-cut-down-to-size by communism families linked to Russia’s former Tsarist oppressors – like Boikov’s himself – then ran to Australia, bringing with them a doubly fierce hatred of Communist-led revolution.
Video footage shows that at the 24 September 2016 Hands Off Syria event, Boikov’s extreme rightists were not only merely a part of what was by Hands Off Syria Sydney’s standards a rather small action but their huge portrait of Putin, large Russian flags, nationalist “Forward Russia” flags and the flags of their hard right Serbian Chetnik allies almost visually dominated the rally! They seemed to have a disproportionate influence on the political line of the demonstration too. Boikov led participants in chants of “Putin, Putin, Putin” and, thus, diverted the thrust of the action away from the key question of defending Syria against Western imperialism.
As Trump won the U.S. presidential election, the Hands Off Syria movement in Australia and internationally flirted even more ostentatiously with the far right. Most disgustingly, two leading members of Hands Off Syria, including Tim Anderson, attended a 24 December 2016 Sydney rally organised by the Zabaikal Cossack Society and its fascist allies, the Australia First Party and the Australian chapter of Golden Dawn. Also present were other far right groups including Serbian Chetniks and a right-wing, Russian nationalist bikie gang called “Night Wolves.” The rally protested against the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey a few days earlier and there were a small number of non-fascist, mainstream capitalist figures present including the Turkish and Russian ambassadors. Yet this rally was openly led by fascists, was numerically dominated by extreme right-wingers and some very prominent fascist figures participated – including local fascist Nathan Sykes and Australian Golden Dawn leader, Iggy Gavrilidis, who was a featured speaker at the event. Also a featured speaker at the demonstration was none other than AFP leader, Jim Saleam, Australia’s most notorious neo-Nazi. Saleam was imprisoned for a few years after organising a drive by shooting on the house of anti-Apartheid activist, Eddie Funde, in 1989. Video footage of the December 2016 rally (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD7RMqplRYY for footage from the filthy fascists themselves) shows that not only was there not the slightest hint of a single person at the rally heckling Saleam throughout his entire speech – or even at the end of it – but he received strong applause at the conclusion of the speech. What the rally served to do was to legitimise the very forces that are conducting and inciting – and organising for even larger scale – racist terror against Muslims, Asians, Aboriginal people, Jewish people and Africans as well as violent attacks on leftists and on the LGBTI community. And supposedly “leftist” Hands Off Syria leaders were a part of this disgusting rally!
Now, it is quite probable that the Russian and Turkish ambassadors and their small entourage were simply unaware of really who was behind this 24 December 2016 commemoration. The same, however, could not be said for the likes of Tim Anderson who has a decades- long association with the Left. Furthermore, around the time that Saleam was prosecuted for organising the shotgun attack on the Australian representative of the anti-apartheid ANC, Anderson was active in the anti-apartheid movement himself. He would know exactly who Saleam is!
It is important to stress that, given that it is far easier to influence events at home than those abroad: the main effect of leaders of Hands Off Syria participating in the far-right rally was not any effect on events in Russia, Turkey or Syria but to give comfort and encouragement to the fascist terrorists at home.
A UNITED FRONT WITH LOCAL FASCIST FILTH HAS NOTHING IN COMMON WITH THE 1939 GERMANY-USSR NON-AGGRESSION PACT
Almost as harmful as the conduct of Anderson and Co. in attending the 24 December 2016 fascist-led event was that of others in the Hands Off Syria movement who defended his participation in the far right action. Since the Syrian question has seen avowed leftists of various varieties throw out the most sophisticated arguments for terrible positions we must make a pre-emptive strike here: one against any attempt to legitimise the conduct of those joining in de facto “united front” actions with fascists in Australia by comparing that with the USSR’s entry into a non-aggression pact with Nazi-ruled Germany in August 1939. The socialistic USSR, then headed by Stalin, entered into this Germany-USSR Non-Aggression Pact as a defensive measure to delay an impending German invasion. From before he took power, Hitler had made clear that his main foreign policy goal was to destroy the Soviet workers state which his propaganda called the “Jewish Bolshevik” state. Under the serious threat that the USSR was faced with, the most durable, effective defence strategy was to fight to extend socialistic rule through politically supporting the struggle for workers revolution – which in Spain and France in particular had great possibilities in that period. However, the by then conservatised, bureaucratic leadership of the Soviet workers state recoiled from such an internationalist perspective – turning their backs on one of the key strategies that guided the 1917 Russian Revolution. Stalin did, however, attempt to defend the USSR through diplomatic-military manoeuvres which, especially in the absence of successful socialist revolutions abroad, was indeed necessary. In particular, Stalin sought a military alliance with British and French imperialism against Nazi-ruled German imperialism. However, given the Allied powers’ refusal to give a guarantee that they would oppose a Hitler attack on the USSR and rightly seeing that the British and French rulers were actually hoping that their German counterparts would do the “job” of crushing the Soviet workers state, Stalin was pushed into a non-aggression pact with Germany as a defensive measure.
Of course, given the flawed perspective of seeking “peaceful co-existence with imperialism,” there were some very negative aspects to the USSR’s conduct around the pact. In particular, rather than being crystal clear to its supporters that this was a temporary non-aggression, military deal with the enemy designed to buy time, the Soviet leadership caused confusion and demoralisation in its ranks by instructing the Communist International, which it led, to somewhat tone down its anti-Nazi, anti-fascist propaganda. This was, certainly, not a policy that was uniformly implemented. Thus, when Soviet forces moved into what was then Eastern Poland in September 1939 they made clear that this was to protect the ethnic Ukrainian and Byelorussian populations that lived there against the horrors of Nazi fascism. Furthermore, even the bureaucratised Soviet leadership never thought that the Nazis had ceased to be their enemies. Ironically, the year and a half that the Germany-USSR Non-Aggression Pact was operational, the largely USSR-directed, communist parties in the Allied countries conducted much better work than they had in preceding years. Previously, shackled by Moscow’s direction that they should form “peoples fronts” with the “progressive, democratic” bourgeoisie in these countries in order to aid the USSR’s diplomatic efforts to forge a pact with these countries rulers against Hitler’s Germany, the communist parties in these countries acted to contain, within certain limits, the militant working class upsurge that was arising in order to preserve their hoped for alliance with the “progressive bourgeoisie.” Most criminally, the Moscow-line communist party in Spain opposed the workers revolution unfolding there and in France betrayed the revolutionary upsurge there as well. After the Non-Aggression Pact was signed, however, the Moscow-line communist parties in the likes of Britain, France, the USA and Australia rightly identified the entire capitalist class in these countries as the enemy and correctly labelled the impending war between the Allied powers and the German-led Axis powers as an, at bottom, inter-imperialist conflict. Meanwhile, on the military front, less than a year after the pact was signed, Stalin, without the consent of Germany, sent Soviet Red Army forces to occupy the Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – and parts of Finland as a forward defence against a potential Nazi invasion.
By a year into the pact, the USSR’s excellent intelligence network began warning the Soviet leadership that Hitler was finalising plans for the Nazi invasion of the USSR:
In December 1940 the Soviet agent Rudolf von Scheliha (code-named Ariets) reported that Hitler planned to declare war on the Soviet Union in March 1941. By Feb. 28, 1941, the same agent provided a provisional launching date of May 20. This intelligence was corroborated by sources in Bucharest, Budapest, Sofia and Rome, to say nothing of the information provided by the famous spy Richard Sorge (code-named Ramsay) in Tokyo. On April 17 a Prague informant predicted a German invasion in the second half of June. The precise date and time of the invasion were revealed by a reliable source in Berlin fully three days before the Germans attacked.
“Stalin’s Intelligence”, New York Times, 12 June 2005
However, blinded by their perspective that it was possible to build “peaceful co-existence” with imperialism which made them susceptible to being tricked by Hitler’s lying “assurances,” the then Soviet leadership chose to ignore this intelligence. Indeed, Red Army officers and Soviet officials who insisted on considering the warnings about an imminent German invasion were denounced by their own hierarchy. The then Soviet leaders convinced themselves that their non-aggression pact with Hitler would last for a period longer and went into denial when presented with compelling evidence to the contrary. As a result, when the Nazis launched their June 1941 Operation Barbarossa invasion, Soviet defences were completely unprepared. Much of the Soviet air force did not even leave the ground leaving the planes to be destroyed before even taking off. Of course, the USSR did famously recover. Through the heroism of its peoples, their commitment to defending socialistic rule and the economic and social organising power of a system based on collective ownership of production, the USSR, at great sacrifice, went on to smash the Nazis. However, the first few weeks after Hitler’s invasion were an absolute disaster for the USSR – and, thus, the international working class. In a matter of days, the Nazis took huge swathes of Soviet territory – including much of its key industrial and agricultural regions – and killed hundreds of thousands of Red Army troops. It was the failure to fully understand the limits of the non-aggression pact and not the actual entry into it – which was, after all, effectively forced by circumstance – that was the cause of the tragedy here.
However, whatever issues there were around it, the 1939 Germany-USSR non-aggression pact was never about communists doing joint work with fascists within any particular country. Rather, it was a pact involving a military, non-aggression deal between a workers state and a capitalist state administered by fascists. During the year and a half that the pact was tentatively and precariously operational, the fascists continued to imprison, torture and murder communists in the states where they were administering capitalism. Meanwhile, in the Soviet workers state, although the by then bureaucratized leadership was in that period carrying out very harmful repression and purges against fellow communists – including long–time communists in the Red Army – Stalin at the same time continued to administer very necessary repression against the far right within the USSR: including active Nazi sympathisers, Tsarist supporters and other White Guardists. In capitalist countries not then administered by fascists – like the Australia of today where certain Hands Off Syria leaders are joining in fascist-led activities – fascist gangs continued to physically attack communists and the best of the communists continued to mobilise anti-fascist self-defence actions. In summary: the USSR’s non-aggression pact with fascist-administered Germany in 1939 – whatever serious flaws there were in issues around it – never stooped to what some Hands Off Syria leaders have done by joining fascist-led political activities here in Australia.
What some in the Hands Off Syria movement were doing by joining fascist-led activities was not “Stalinist.” It was White Australia left-liberalism gone mad! The essence of left-liberalism is the notion that while capitalism may be no good there are still always “good” capitalists who should be allied with – even it be for just a specific cause. This is counterposed to the Marxist understanding that capitalism is a complete system that must be opposed – and that the entire capitalist class and all the political forces representing them are the political enemy (regardless of whether individual capitalists may be at a personal level nice people). Usually left-liberals look to “progressive” capitalists and pro-capitalist politicians to ally with. However, in this case nominally “anti-imperialist” left- liberals were joining in a united front with the most reactionary forces in Australia!
The White Australia chauvinist aspect of some Hands Off Syria leaders’ plunge into united fronts with the far right cannot be ignored too. Only those insensitive to the terrible racist oppression that Aboriginal people and non-white, migrant-derived communities face – regardless of their own particular racial background – could bring themselves to join activities led by the very forces who are working feverishly to incite violent terror against people of colour on the streets. By legitimising – and, hence, emboldening – these extreme racists and homophobes, those in the Hands Off Syria movement who participated in – or defended – joining fascist-led activities, to some degree, bear indirect responsibility for the racist terror on the streets of Australia that the fascists have energetically worked to incite: from the heinous running over murder of 14-year-old Aboriginal youth, Elijah Doughty, in Kalgoorlie to the firebombing murder by a far right fanatic of an Indian-born Brisbane bus driver, Manmeet Alisher, to the countless assaults upon Muslim women and the many racist attacks on Chinese students.
Any attempt by fascists to build their forces or to gain publicity and legitimacy is a threat to people of colour, Muslims, Jews, members of the LGBTI community, feminists and leftists. This is the case irrespective of the stated political content that the fascists may build an activity around. If anti-fascists could have mustered adequate forces, what was on the order of the day of the 24 December 2016 fascist-dominated rally was to build a mass mobilisation to drive the Australia First Party, Golden Dawn and Zabaikal Cossack Society scum off the streets. The Russian and Turkish ambassadors and their small entourages would not have been harmed at all and Anderson and other Hands Off Syria members would have, of course, been spared … provided they did not come to the physical defence of their fascist, then “united front” partners! It is worth recalling what happened when most of the same forces involved in the 24 December 2016 pro-Russia rally tried to openly mobilise on the streets of Brisbane on 2 May 2014. It was then that over a hundred construction workers from the BLF, CFMEU and ETU trade unions formed the core of a demonstration of 200 anti-racists – including also anarchists, Trotskyist Platform supporters and individuals from Socialist Alliance – that successfully shut down an attempted march by the Australia First Party and Golden Dawn. Yet, two and a half years later, some leftists were joining events co-organised by these very same far right groups and some others on the Left were justifying this or trying to downplay the harm it has done.
TRUMP’S APRIL 7 MISSILE ATTACK ON SYRIA SHOWS THE NATURE OF THE EXTREME RIGHT’S “ANTI-IMPERIALISM”
The ugly fruit of the liaisons with the far right – including apologies for Trump – of some in the Hands off Syria groups were borne when the racist U.S. president ordered the first, open, direct U.S. military attack on Syria on April 7. Only those particular individuals in the movement that happen to be so blinded by their own insensitivity to racial oppression that they are willing to give Trump another go, continue to make excuses for Trump or seek to downplay his responsibility for the missile strike. We will not bother even arguing with such people – some of whom later even espoused sympathy for French far right leader, Marine Le Pen! For others within the movement who had been sucked into the despicable dalliance with the far right, this was hopefully a wake-up call.
In response to Trump’s April 7 attack on Syria, Hands Off Syria Sydney called a protest for April 23. This was the only demonstration called at the time that was squarely against the attack on Syria. We in Trotskyist Platform felt it was crucial to take a stand since this was, in this war, the first, openly declared, direct military attack on Syria by the Western imperialists. At the same time we were concerned that fascists may turn up to the rally “in support of it.” However, in deliberating on the issue of what attitude to take to the planned rally, we calculated that given that it was an action against a military strike by the hard right, U.S. president – the same one whose electoral triumph was so enthusiastically supported by fascists from Saleam to Boikov – fascists would be unwilling to turn up to participate. Therefore, we decided to participate in the rally. However, we resolved that if fascists did, indeed, join the rally we would approach organisers to insist that they should be removed and if rally leaders instead accepted the fascist presence we would walk out of the event and refuse to be part of it.
Fortunately, the far right did, indeed, stay away from the April 23 Sydney protest. We in Trotskyist Platform were able to put forward at the demonstration our class struggle-based opposition to Australian imperialism and its support for Trump’s missile strike – as it so happens with a small contingent composed entirely of people of colour with backgrounds from various parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. As well as calling to defend Syria against U.S. and Australian imperialism and its proxies, our signs at the rally sought to cut against any softness on the far right – or, indeed, any embrace of any wing of the U.S. and Australian capitalist ruling classes. Thus, among the slogans we carried was: “Trump and Turnbull Regimes: Racist and Anti-Working Class Policies At Home, Imperialist Tyranny Abroad” and “Oppose the U.S. & Australian Ruling Class & Down With Their War in the Middle East.”
There was an aspect of the April 23 Sydney rally that was especially welcome: it seemed that not a single Australian flag was carried at it. It would have been terrible if it was; especially given that the Australian regime was fully behind the U.S. missile attack – and, indeed, the joint U.S.-Australian Pine Gap spy base was undoubtedly involved in gathering target information and pinpointing the strikes. The Australian flag does not represent the masses of this country but, rather, the current Australian state. Despite its “democratic” facade, this state machine does not serve the Australian people as a whole but only the exclusive interests of the capitalist big end of town. It consists of organs – including the military, ASIO, police and courts – that act to suppress the working class masses in order to protect the rule of exploitation of the big business owners. As well as being the flag under which Australian state bodies attack pro-working class resistance, the Australian flag is the symbol under which the invading power has meted out brutal terror against Aboriginal people and the flag of the forces that have carried out imperialist violence and neo-colonial subjugation of the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan, PNG, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. If there were Australian flags being allowed to be waved at the demonstration that would have unmistakably indicated (especially since the April 23 rally of some 80 to 100 people was small for a Hands Off Syria rally and, thus, easier to guide and direct) that the leadership of the protest was still openly courting sections of the capitalist class – or, at least, not opposed to doing so – and leaving the door open to a united-front with reactionary Australian nationalists (including dubious, “neither left wing nor right wing” conspiracy theorist types). That no one joining the rally did march with the Australian flag shows the possible beginnings of an understanding that opposing the neo-colonial takeover of Syria means making a stand to oppose Australia’s capitalist order. It also indicates a reluctance of participants to buy into the false notion – pushed by many in the Hands off Syria movement – that the Australian rulers are not part of the imperialist enemy who are intervening in the Middle East to advance their predatory overall agenda but are, instead, misguided and ill-informed individuals being duped by Washington into supporting a Syria policy that is against their very own interests.
Australian Imperialist Military Get Out of the Philippines and South Pacific Now!
HANDS OFF SYRIA LEADER’S SHOCKING ASSOCIATION WITH FASCISTS
It emerged in the weeks after the April 23 rally that the descent of some in Hands Off Syria into common activity with fascists went further than most people knew about. At the very end of April, one prominent member of the Hands Off Syria leading committee was even outed as a white supremacist himself. This person, Paul Antonopoulos, is an academic, celebrated by some as a learned entity on Syria and a contributor to political websites such as Global Research. He was exposed as having been, for the last ten years, posting the most despicable racist hate speech against Aboriginal people, Asians, Africans, Arabs and Jews on various online forums – including the world’s most well known neo-Nazi website, Stormfront. He ranted that Asians are “gooks,” Arabs “sand nig__ rs” and black people “negro trash,” while referring to Iranians as “dumb Persians.” Immediately after Antonopoulos was found to be an extreme racist by Al Masdar News, which he had worked for, Tim Anderson and Hands Off Syria did suspend him from the group.
Yet, days later it emerged that Anderson himself had associated with and carried out joint political work with fascists in a way even deeper than initially thought. A 2nd May exposé by the hard working anti-fascists of Anti-Fascist Action Sydney revealed that Tim Anderson had spoken as a guest speaker at the annual fascist conference called the Leura forum. This conference held in the Blue Mountains town of Leura in November 2016 – around the time of the U.S. election – brought together a range of different fascists and other hard right figures. This included NSW’s most notorious fascists including Jim Saleam, Nathan Sykes and Ross May, the latter a neo-Nazi prominent for his violent physical attacks against leftists, Asians, blacks and people in the LGBTI community as well as sexual assaults against women. This racist and misogynist scum invited Anderson to speak about Syria at their conference … and he accepted! Others on the panel with Anderson included “historian” Keith Windschuttle – an apologist for genocidal terror against Aboriginal people and for the despicable claim that the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal children is a myth – and, of course, Jim Saleam.
There is no controversy as to Anderson’s participation at the conference or the tone of the forum. The fascists, themselves, posted up video footage of Anderson’s presentation at it. That is how much they understood that the participation of a prominent “leftist academic” at their meeting would help boost their efforts to gain legitimacy. This was a propaganda coup for some of Australia’s most violent bigots! Indeed, following the exposure of Anderson’s participation at the Leura conference, Jim Saleam’s Australia First Party on May 19 published a statement defending Anderson from criticism by the “extreme left.”
The Leura forum was chaired by James Sternhill, a leading member of the fascist Party For Freedom which is notorious for its extreme hostility to Muslims, its attempts to start a new Cronulla white supremacist attack on the tenth anniversary of the 2005 riot and its recent alliance with the violent neo-Nazi gang, Squadron 88. Sternhill’s introduction involved the usual tirade against the Left, an attack on the LGBTI community and a prayer for Trump. After politely sitting through this disgusting introduction and then through presentations by two of the far right featured speakers, Anderson then gave his presentation in front of a large right-wing banner put up by the organisers extolling “national security” and Christian heritage! At various points while he was talking, various fascists threw in filthy anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic comments without a peep of objection from Anderson! Indeed, never did he even in the mildest way take issue with any of the bigoted comments made during Sternhill’s introduction, the other two presentations or the comments made during his speech. He ended his presentation with a polite statement, “thanks for your patience folks.” Following Anderson’s presentation, there was one by Jim Saleam. Saleam devoted his entire presentation to “yellow peril” xenophobic, fear- mongering against Chinese people and China.
As the exposé by Anti-Fascist Action Sydney (a coalition involving many anarchists and anarcho-communists, some avowed communists and other leftists) points out:
Not only did Dr Anderson agree to speak at an explicitly white nationalist forum alongside outspoken racists,
anti-Communists and downright fascists – he sat through the entire day’s proceedings (and presumably joined them for lunch!) At any point during the event, Dr Anderson “might” have been able to save some small shred of Leftist credibility, had he called-out any of the numerous racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic or transphobic comments during the day. He could have challenged their far-right and fascist “discourse”. He could have gotten up and walked out of there [But he did not].
Better yet, he could have refused to participate in the first place.
Anderson’s participation as a featured speaker in the Leura forum further shines a light on his and another leading Hands Off Syria member’s participation in the 24 December 2016 fascist-led rally just weeks later. Anderson would have long known who Saleam is anyhow. But how much Saleam is an enemy of the Left and ethnic and religious minorities would have been reinforced at the Leura forum and it would have become clear too who some of the other fascists that would participate in the December 24 demonstration were – like Nathan Sykes. On arrival at the tiny, fascist-led, December 24 event, Anderson would have immediately noticed Saleam, Sykes and their allies and seen the prominent place that they were holding in the tiny rally. This makes Anderson and Co.’s participation in that demonstration all the more disgusting.
Just as with his participation in the 24 December 2016 fascist-led rally, almost as bad as Anderson’s participation in the Leura forum is the fact that many Hands Off Syria activists defended his participation in it or sought to minimise it as a minor error. Others in the Hands Off Syria movement refused to make any public statements condemning this association with fascists – effectively acquiescing to it. These people have kicked in the guts all those who have been victims of violent attacks and intimidation by fascists – or those incited by fascists – from Aboriginal people to Asians, Africans, Muslims, Jews and members of the LGBTI community to leftists and women attending abortion clinics.
Furthermore, joining fascist-led political activities – what is more as featured speakers (!) – actually does great harm to the cause of opposing the neo-colonial subjugation of Syria. For opposing the depredations of the U.S. and Australian imperialists means class struggle opposition to them at home. Consider the most powerful anti-imperialist actions in Australia’s history. These include the union bans against Dutch ships being sent from Australia to reinforce Dutch reconquest of Indonesia after World War II and the refusal of waterfront workers and seamen to load or carry weapons and supplies intended for Australian troops fighting in the neo-colonial, anti-communist Vietnam War against Vietnamese revolutionaries. And when the Australian working class begins to mobilise again like this then it would be the fascists – the extreme nationalist enemies of the Left – who would organise to physically threaten such internationalist, anti-imperialist actions.
Although fascists sometimes use rhetoric against the banks and monopoly capitalists to appeal to the middle class and even sections of the working class – alongside their vicious attacks on the Left-led workers movement – no one should be fooled by this. The fascist movement is based on smaller scale capitalists as well as on the most reactionary layers of what in Marxist terminology is called the petit bourgeoisie – the self-employed. Since these layers of society (in the absence of the petit bourgeoisie being attracted to and led by a powerful left-wing, anti-capitalist workers movement) are always tied to and politically bow down to the big capitalists, fascist attacks end up being directed exclusively against the workers movement and minorities. The fascists’ extreme opposition to the multiracial workers movement – the only movement able to defeat the financial elite – means that they end up pandering to the finance capitalists too. Thus, fascists end up being the crudest and most rabid enforcers of capitalist interests in every way imaginable. When fascist movements in Australia reached their high point in the late 1920s to the early 1930s, their paramilitary fascist squads – in particular, those of the Old Guard and New Guard outfits – were notorious for attacking workers’ strikes, bashing union leaders, violently storming communist meetings and even targeting left ALP events and politicians. Needless to say, strengthening fascists, by giving them both legitimacy and self-confidence through participating in their events, bolsters the ugly forces who would violently oppose union struggles and especially attack union and leftist actions against Australian imperialism. Moreover, anything that allows the fascists to enter the mainstream and gain broader acceptance allows them to further spread their race hate – the very racist lies and threats that both divide workers and intimidate non-white workers. All this undermines efforts to mobilise the working class in struggle – the struggle against the actions abroad of Australian imperialism both in faraway places like Syria as well as in our neighbouring South Pacific.
AS FAR AS BEING ANY SORT OF USEFUL FORCE
HANDS OFF SYRIA HAS EFFECTIVELY KILLED ITSELF
Although we have a different ideology to many of the activists in Anti-Fascist Action Sydney, we need to give these determined anti-fascists great credit for the fact that when they released their exposé of Tim Anderson’s association with fascists, they went out of their way not to use that as a rationale to side with the backers of the pro-imperialist Syrian “Rebels.” Thus, Anti-Fascist Action Sydney introduced their article with the statement that:
To be clear, what follows is not an attack on Dr Anderson’s work on Syria. Nor should it be read as an attempt to weigh in on the Syrian conflict, or an implicit endorsement of one side or the other. Rather, given the history of fascist attempts to infiltrate Leftist circles and university campuses, we believe people must be vigilant in the face of fascist entryism and the emergence of a possible ‘red and brown alliance’. It is important that Leftists of all stripes, regardless of their position on Syria, are aware of Dr Anderson’s ongoing willingness to share a platform with fascists and their fellow travellers.
Nevertheless, not only has the joining of fascist events by some Hands Off Syria leaders – and the acquiescence to this by many others in their movement – done harm to the class struggle and, therefore, to the struggle against imperialism, it has also given those left social democrats backing the pro-imperialist “Rebels” a political gun with which to shoot the opponents of the neo-colonial takeover of Syria. Of course, there is plenty of hypocrisy in groups like Solidarity, Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance using outrage at association with fascists to attack opponents of their stance on Syria. During the capitalist powers’ Cold War against the socialistic Soviet Union, Solidarity and Socialist Alternative – then united in the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) – ended up cheerleading for several fascist forces (or for anti-communist movements in which fascists played a prominent role) arrayed against the then Soviet and East European workers states. So did the Socialist Alliance – then called first the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and then the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) – even though it was less rabid in its hostility to the USSR than the ISO. Thus, the SWP caused a scandal in the early and mid- 1980s when they promoted the ultra-right wing Croatian “Movement for Statehood” (HDP) who were apologists for the Ustasha fascists that murderously ruled Croatia during the Nazi Axis occupation of Yugoslavia during World War II. The ISO and DSP (the groups that are today called Solidarity, Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance) both cheered the August 1991 counterrevolutionary barricades protecting the Yeltsin-led Russian parliament a movement in which fascists played a sizeable role and which led to the destruction of the USSR. They also supported the late 1980s, fascist-infested Ukrainian anti-Soviet movement. Out of this movement and the August 1991 anti-communist movement in Moscow, arose among others – some of the ultra-right wing figures who retain a level of influence and some access to positions of power in today’s Ukraine and Russia. Following on from this, the Solidarity group today works in a united front in the pro-Syrian “Rebels” movement in Australia with a far right Ukrainian nationalist, Oxana Kriss. This association was again exposed thanks again to the painstaking work of Anti-Fascist Action Sydney – a fact which, by the way, demolishes Anderson’s attempts to dismiss their critique of his dalliances with fascists as a plot to assist Western imperialist propaganda over Syria. Now, as the evidence presented by Anti-Fascist Action Sydney proves, Kriss is an apologist for the Ukrainian Stepan Bandera Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B) movement that collaborated with the Nazis during WWII. Bandera’s forces murdered 60,000 Polish civilians as well as Jews and Russians in its fascist ethnic cleansing drive. As well as joining rallies with Solidarity and Socialist Alternative to support the pro-imperialist Syrian “Rebels”, Kriss collects money for the fascist-infested Ukrainian volunteer forces fighting in the conflict in the Eastern part of the country. The Anti-Fascist Action Sydney article also notes that Kriss and leading left proponent of the “Syrian Rebels,” Solidarity member Mark Goudkamp are political allies. Having said all the above, it must be noted that while it is despicable to cheerlead for fascists abroad or to associate with their exiled supporters here it is even more politically depraved to join the events of locally- based fascist groups (as Anderson has done). For in the latter case, the racist violence unleashed and incited by the fascists is right smack in front of one’s view. And since political actions have more impact at home than abroad it is worse, too, in terms of the harm that it does by giving encouragement to the forces who sow racist terror and who divide and suppress the class struggle here.
There is no getting away from the truth that the participation in fascist events by some Hands Off Syria leaders – and the apologising for this by many others in their movement – has dirtied the name of the worthy cause of opposing imperialist-imposed regime change in Syria. It has also, very understandably, tarnished the reputation of the Hands Off Syria groups in Australia. Indeed, as a force able to play any sort of positive role – even in the flawed way that they had done so previously – Hands Off Syria is now as good as dead. At least, without the application of major surgery!
Those within the Hands Off Syria groups who have refused to condemn the association with fascists of some of their leaders should not avoid addressing the issue by comforting themselves with the notion that this is not a big deal as “Syria is winning the war” and, thus, the role of the movement is no longer important. For one, although Syrian government forces backed by their Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies are scoring victories against ISIS and the “Rebels”, U.S. and Australian imperialism and their SDF allies are also gaining strength. Although both these different forces are currently arrayed mainly against ISIS they have also been clashing with each other to some extent. In the likely scenario that ISIS is for the moment defeated, you will have the imperialists and their SDF proxies in control of a large portion of Syrian territory. The history of imperialism teaches us that they will not simply relinquish this without at minimum demanding significant concessions. Such concessions could include forcing changes to some of the leading personnel of the Syrian government or arm-twisting it to make specific policy changes that would allow easier penetration of Western capitalist economic interests and better alignment with Washington and Canberra’s geopolitical goals. And while it may not be likely right now given the depth of current tensions between U.S. imperialism and Russia’s ambitious capitalist rulers, it is not impossible that the U.S./Australian imperialists and Russia could cut a deal at the expense of Syria’s independence. Another scenario that is possible, although currently unlikely given that the imperialists are currently focussed on a bigger goal – strangling the DPRK workers state and through that advancing its number one strategic goal of destroying socialistic rule in China – is a future all out conflict between, on the one hand, a Western-backed SDF-“Rebel” alliance and, on the other hand, the Syrian government and its allies. Any one of these possibilities may not take place immediately but may take years to emerge. However, as with their violent toppling of governments in Iraq and Libya that had failed to sufficiently accept their diktats, the imperialists are capable of playing a long game when pursuing their interests.
So there definitely is still a need for a movement that opposes the U.S. and Australian regime’s direct and indirect military and diplomatic intervention in Syria. However, for the Hands Off Syria movements to perform any sort of useful role in this, they would need a massive shake up. At the very minimum, there needs to be a very clear distancing from the actions of some of its leaders in joining fascist events and from the apologies for these outrages – or the ostrich-like refusal to respond to them – by many other prominent activists in the movement. The groups need to issue public statements condemning the participation in fascist-led activities by some of their leaders and strongly repudiating their previous refusal to have made such condemnations. Then anyone who refuses to support such a correction should be summarily expelled from the groups. For such a major re-orientation to occur, someone or some people in the groups are going to have to muster the political courage to fight for such a course which would, inevitably, involve a big split.
However, given the degree to which many prominent Hands Off Syria activists have defended or ignored Anderson’s participation in fascist events – with some even apologising for raving, racist, social media contributor Paul Antonopoulos – it is doubtful whether the movement is capable of even the most elementary self-correction. We won’t be holding our breath. We look forward to participating in actions which oppose imperialist meddling in Syria that are initiated by some of the people we know who both defend Syria against imperialist-imposed regime change and have gone on record opposing the sharing of platforms with fascists and/or previous apologising for Trump of some Hands Off Syria activists; or to join with such staunchly anti-fascist, anti-imperialists in building united front actions against imperialism and its proxies in Syria.
WHERE DID ALL THESE POLITICALLY DEVIANT DEEDS COME FROM?
We have detailed here how most of the Left have in one way or another taken bad positions related to events in Syria. But why? To begin to answer this question we first need to stress that serious flaws in a leftist tendency’s stance on a major particular issue always reflects a broader disorientation and is often also a continuation of similar problems from the past. In the case of those who support the so-called “Syrian Revolution”, i.e. the imperialist-backed “Rebels” (which turns out to be the majority of the “Far Left” in Australia), their stance reflects these groups’ long history of bending to the “human rights” propaganda of the Western capitalist ruling classes and to the left-liberal middle class opinion shaped by such propaganda. The biggest example of this occurred in the 1980s-early 1990s Cold War II. It was then that these pseudo-Marxist groups capitulated to anti-communist “human rights” propaganda and supported the forces working to destroy the Soviet Union. Then, as the imperialists, having successfully strangled the USSR, turned their fire against the Chinese workers state, these groups also started campaigning in support of anti-communist forces arrayed against the Chinese state. They backed recently dead neo-con “dissident,” Liu Xiaobo, and the yuppy, Western-backed, Hong Kong anti-PRC movement. Having, thus, spent decades supporting imperialist-backed “human rights” causes, in 1999 the leftist tendencies that are now known as Solidarity, Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance went a step further: they marched in demonstrations actually calling for the Australian government to send the military into another country. The rallies screamed “Troops In Now” to, supposedly, “Save East Timor.” The Australian regime did, indeed, proceed to send the troops in. The result was that Australia’s capitalist rulers were able to hijack the East Timorese people’s just struggle for self-determination from Indonesian occupation and, thus, bring East Timor under direct Australian neo-colonial domination. The presence of Australian troops in East Timor allowed the Australian imperialists to mould the fledgling East Timorese state into serving their interests and to pressure it into ensuring that most of the oil wealth of the country would be plundered by Australian-owned multi-national corporations. As a result, East Timorese people’s real independence is curtailed and its children have one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the entire world.
The actions of most of the Left around the time of the Australian intervention into East Timor were, indeed, a watershed. Up until then, most of what is considered the Far Left had – to varying degrees – opposed most direct military interventions by the Australian ruling class – for example, during the Vietnam War and in the 1991 first U.S.-led attack on Iraq. Now much of the Left was treacherously sending a message that even direct military interventions by capitalist powers can sometimes be a “good” thing. Having thus entrenched themselves in the practice of supporting particular overseas interventions by Australia’s capitalist rulers, groups like Solidarity, Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative then found it easier to back subsequent imperialist campaigns: like the U.S. and Australian rulers’ “regime change” agendas in Libya and Syria.
What then of the prominent activists in the Hands Off Syria groups? What led some of them to descend into participating in fascist-led activities or defending – or at best ignoring – such shameful association with the violent racist enemies of the Left and the workers movement. After all, unlike the in practice social democratic left groups that fell in behind imperialism’s proxy war against Syria, these people had in the first few years of the Syria conflict played a progressive role. Well, in the case of Tim Anderson in particular, a clue to the political defects that led to his participation in fascist events can be seen in the stance that he took with respect to the Australian-led occupation of East Timor. You see, those who backed that Australian intervention included not only those groups who today cheer for the imperialist-backed Syrian “Rebels” but also the likes of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) and Tim Anderson. Thus, as with those pro-Syrian “Rebels” left groups that he so bitterly opposes, Anderson’s pro-imperialist position on the Australian intervention in East Timor not only reflected his own illusions in capitalist powers sometimes playing a progressive role (even if inadvertently) but would have further locked in such a flawed approach. Fast forward many years then to the Syrian conflict. Here Anderson and those with similar political thinking find no wing of the capitalist ruling class that they can expect to conduct a “positive” policy on the Syrian conflict, as they supposedly did over East Timor, except, in their eyes, a burgeoning Far Right. So, especially as Trump made his charge for the White House, they ended up gravitating towards an association with the Far Right.
Today, following the U.S. regime’s April 7 missile strike on Syria and several other subsequent attacks on Syrian government forces by the U.S. and Australian imperialists or – more frequently – their SDF/PYD allies, all but the most useless people within the Hands Off Syria movement no longer openly apologise for Trump. Others prominent within the Hands Off Syria groups both internationally and in Australia simply don’t mention their earlier efforts to prettify Trump hoping that no one will remember. Some, however, still seek to quietly justify their earlier stance by saying that Trump’s foreign policy is now being dictated to by the American “Deep State” … as if the “Deep State,” which is tied by a million threads to the capitalist big business owners, does not have ultimate power during every single U.S. administration! The so-called “Deep State” is simply the capitalist state and is the ultimate political power in every single capitalist country! Whoever chooses to be in government in any capitalist country, let alone the head of government, chooses to become one of the key administrators of the “Deep State” and bears responsibility for all its crimes.
Trump’s foreign policy was never anything “positive” for the working class and downtrodden of the world. If for the same reasons as the outright fascists he initially spoke of turning away from hostility to Syria, it was only as part of targeting other people more viciously. Trump adhered to the perspective of Steve Bannon’s extreme right wingers in trying to forge a U.S. capitalist super alliance with Russia in order to undermine socialistic China. Since his administration took over, U.S. anti-China moves have indeed stepped up. These include trade measures against China, sanctions against Chinese enterprises associating with North Korea, an escalation of the U.S. war drive against North Korea that is ultimately aimed against China and in June the announcement of a massive U.S. arms sale, including advanced missiles and torpedos, to that renegade capitalist-ruled part of China, Taiwan. However, due to strong pressure from decisive other wings of the U.S. capitalist ruling class who are unwilling to allow any room for Russia to emerge as a rival, Trump’s initial plan for bringing Washington and Moscow together has been put on hold. Nevertheless, there has indeed been a slight shift in U.S. policy from the last period of Obama’s reign. The shift is subtly, in terms of rhetoric at least, away from focussing on Russia as a primary adversary to concentrating on other targets. So what are the priority overseas goals at this point in the Trump presidency? Well, it is to give still more ostentatious support for the murderous Israeli regime so that it can carry out still more savage oppression of the Palestinian people, it is to accelerate U.S. support for the right wing opposition in Venezuela, intensify hostility to Iran, increase U.S. forces in Afghanistan, put further pressure on the Cuban workers state and, most notably, greatly escalate war threats against socialistic North Korea. Needless to say there is nothing “anti-imperialist” about such a shift in priorities! Similarly, there is absolutely nothing “anti-imperialist” about the pro-Russia, outright fascists that some Hands Off Syria leaders chose to associate with. Thus, the Australia First Party Jim Saleam’s presentation at the Leura Forum – immediately after Anderson’s (!) – was entirely a call to arms against China. The racist bigot called for Australia to ally with [capitalist] Russia against Red China.
Even if Trump was allowed to go further in reaching an accommodation with Moscow, this may do no good for Syrian independence in the long run. Say, Trump and Putin do cut a deal. And, say, such an arrangement does not involve Moscow knifing in the back Syria for concessions from Washington elsewhere which is a possibility too, albeit less likely at this point. Rather, imagine that Trump bows to the reality of the U.S.-backed forces’ currently inferior military position in Syria and agrees to accommodate Russian interests in Syria which, inadvertently, brings immediate benefits to the cause of Syrian self-determination. However, in exchange, the U.S. regime, of course, demands something in return. This could include Russia agreeing not to get in the way of – other than for some impotent, angry verbal protests designed for public consumption – U.S.-led war moves against North Korea or Iran or attempts to turn the screws further on socialistic China. If this led to a military attack or still more crippling sanctions against North Korea or a Syria-style imperialist proxy war against Iran or the weakening of socialistic China this would not only leave Syria more isolated but would greatly embolden the Western imperialists. All this would then provide the thrust for a renewed neo-colonial drive against Syria sometime in the future.
BLOWN ALONG BY NOXIOUS POLITICAL WINDS
Like chunks of society in capitalist countries, the political course of Hands Off Syria groups has been pushed by the political winds of a period that has seen far right populist and fascist movements growing. Thus, those groupings that are not rooted in a firm Marxist grounding and working class basis can easily be swept along by the noxious winds blowing to the right. At first this may be almost imperceptible as they borrow arguments used by the Far Right – for example those which portray fundamentalist Islam as the number one threat – to justify their own positions. Yet, using such deviant rationales is harmful even when it is used to justify correct positions as it entrenches acceptance of aspects of the Far Right’s reactionary worldview.
There has also been another, related, yet somewhat distinct, pressure on political groupings in this period including the Hands Off Syria groups. That is the influence of “neither Left nor Right,” “anti-establishment” ideologies that have gained traction over the last decade or so. Such political currents were notable during the 2011 Occupy Sydney activities. One such current is the, often Guy Fawkes mask-wearing, hacktivists associated with the diverse groups that identify as “Anonymous.” Other currents are further to the right. Although proponents of such politics were numerically smaller than the leftist components in the Occupy Sydney protests, they seemed to have an influence on them that was disproportionate to their size – in good part because reformist left groups in their obsession with “unity” and “inclusiveness” were willing to tailor the movement to suit such elements. These “neither Left nor Right,” “anti-establishment” ideologies do reflect grievances of self-employed layers in society and of unemployed or underemployed educated youth – many of which are legitimate. Such concerns include fury at the tyranny of the banks, outrage at big corporations bullying self-employed business people, rage at unemployment or casualisation of jobs, anger at corruption and hostility to growing repressive state powers in Western countries. However, reflecting their social base and, thus, their physical and political distance from the union movement, these political currents, despite their “anti-corporate” rhetoric are, at best, neutral in the conflict between the organised working class and the owners of businesses using hired layer; which is the fundamental divide in capitalist society and the main axis along which the downtrodden can come together to overturn this unjust society. At worst, some are actually opposed to militant union struggle. Furthermore, although they do not openly espouse white supremacist ideology or the race hate rhetoric of the fascists, reflecting the current prejudices of the social layers that they are based on, many elements of them subscribe to anti-immigration and economic nationalist demands. These are sometimes justified on the basis of some way out conspiracy theories. For, since many of the people involved in these “neither Left nor Right” tendencies are separated from the main axis of struggle that shapes society – the conflict between the capitalist exploiters of labour and the organised workers movement – the socio-economic dynamics that govern the way capitalist society works are obscured from these groups. Hence, they easily fall for conspiracy theories that purport to “explain” what is wrong with society. In turn, they are themselves the main proponents of the conspiracy theories that flood the internet. Such theories do a lot of harm. For they obscure from people the centrality of the class structure of society in determining the political and economic realities of countries. At worst, these conspiracy theories can take on an open or subtle anti-Semitic hue – reflecting the stain of decades-long right wing propaganda that continues to have an influence on discourse.
At the same time, because many people influenced by “neither Left nor Right,” anti-establishment tendencies, are angry at the way society is going, they can be rightly suspicious of Western military and political interventions abroad. They can often see the injustice and hypocrisy involved in them – although, again, they have an inclination to explain this in terms of conspiracy theories rather than a Leninist understanding of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism. These tendencies are influenced by websites such as Global Research which mix some leftist critiques with their own version of “neither Left nor Right” anti-establishmentarianism.
Many people influenced by these “neither Left nor Right” ideologies became hostile to the Western powers’ proxy war against Syria. Indeed, other than for a very small number of leftists, they became among the few people from non-Middle Eastern backgrounds supporting the Hands Off Syria groups – if only, in many cases, just through social media. Furthermore, many Syrians involved in the Hands Off Syria groups themselves subscribed to aspects of these ideologies. However, the leftists within the leadership of the Hands Off Syria groups failed to try and win over the best of the non-leftist, “anti-establishment” types to a leftist, anti-capitalist perspective. That would have entailed drawing a sharp line against the reactionary aspects of the “neither Left nor Right ideologies” while insisting on a pro-working class, internationalist perspective. But such a political struggle did not sit well with the perspective leftists within Hands Off Syria had of building an all-inclusive alliance and would have clashed with their own hesitancy to adhere firmly to a pro-working class line. Thus, instead of challenging the worldview of their “neither Left nor Right” supporters, the leftists within the leadership of Hands Off Syria groups politically coddled up to these people. The result? Well, there is a law of politics that if you are in frequent political contact with people – especially as part of the same movement – and if you are not influencing them … then they are influencing you! And thus, step by step, in at first subtle ways, the small number of leftists within the Hands Off Syria groups started to imbibe the analysis and even conspiracy theories of these “neither Left nor Right” ideologies – some of which are, what’s more, synonymous with the shibboleths of the Far Right. Thus, gradually, some of the leftists within Hands Off Syria came to accept, or at least act on the basis of, the idea that the main direct threat to the world’s peoples is ISIS/Al Qaeda-style Islamic fundamentalism (rather than capitalist imperialism). What is more, they began to accept the idea that ISIS and Al Qaeda are puppets who are one hundred percent controlled by the U.S. – and, possibly, Israel – and that Russia’s present capitalist rulers are a consistent force for good in the world.
The individuals associated with “neither Left nor Right” type ideologies have themselves shifted politically. It has always been the case that political tendencies not wedded to one of the two decisive classes in society the capitalists and the working class – are unstable and can swing quickly to one side or the other. And tendencies based on the intermediate classes, if they do not lock in behind the struggle of the multiracial working class against the capitalists, inevitably end up swaying behind one or another wing of the ruling capitalists. Thus, as the Far Right made its push, personified by the rise of Trump, many of the “neither Left nor Right” “anti-establishmentarians” were gradually sucked in behind them. The conspiracy theories of these tendencies started to merge into those of the Far Right. And as these “anti-establishmentarians” lurched to the right, they pulled some of the leftists in Hands Off Syria groups with them a certain distance too. Indeed, if five years ago you told some of these leftists in Hands Off Syria groups around the world what they would be doing today they would be furious at you for even suggesting such things, for suggesting that they would in the present period have sought to minimise the thoroughly reactionary character of hard right politicians like Trump, for saying that they would be retailing conspiracy theories critical of giving asylum to refugees from Syria and certain other Muslim countries, for suggesting that they would, for all practical purposes, be uncritical apologists for a capitalist power like Russia and for saying that they would be claiming that certain fascists who supposedly “support” their cause are not actually fascists … but merely “confused.” Yet this is what has, in fact, happened in the case of some of these leftists.
Indeed, it can be said that some of the leftists involved in Hands Off Syria groups around the world have not merely associated with fascists or justified such an association but have shown signs that they, themselves, are in the early stages of starting to take on aspects of the fascists’ outlook. If the growth of the Far Right around the world intensifies and corresponding political winds to the Right get stronger, the seemingly unthinkable could occur: a few of these inconsistent leftists could turn into fascists themselves. Unfortunately, they would not be the first ones to go down that path. We recall here the case of Italian fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. Mussolini had, before he founded the fascist movement, actually been a leader of the leftist Italian Socialist Party and the editor of their newspaper. Given that some of those leftists involved in Hands Off Syria groups who have justified participation in fascist events have publicly stated adherence to Marxism and Leninism for many years, they would, of course, still like to call themselves “communists” or “Marxists” even if they end up embarking on a course towards fascism. Thus, they may end up like the sinister “National Bolshevism” movement in Russia whose members sport communist symbols alongside fascist attire but have a thoroughly fascist, extreme Russian nationalist agenda.
Those leftists involved in Hands Off Syria groups overseas or in Australia that are starting to lurch to the right but are of non-white racial backgrounds would, of course, have good reason to baulk at a further drift towards the white supremacist extremists. Others, like Tim Anderson himself, have strong personal connections to people of colour or historical connections to anti-racist movements. These would likely deter him from an outright jump into the camp of fascism. Yet there are white, nominally leftist members of the movement internationally – including possibly in Australia – whose stated opposition to racism is so perfunctory and toothless that their current softness on collaboration with fascists and their current partial embrace of certain fascist conspiracy theories opens up the possibility, as improbable as it may seem now, that they will in the future end up as full on fascists. They should realise that if they go down that road, the revolutionary working class will not have any nostalgia for their former participation in the Left. If they do the unthinkable and turn into fascists then things could end up badly for them. They should take note of what happened to one infamous leftist turned fascist: Mussolini. In 1945, brave Italian communist partisans arrested and then executed Mussolini and his entourage. The next day his corpse was dumped in a major public square in Milan and after a huge crowd gathered to understandably kick, spit and urinate on his body and pelt it with vegetables, his corpse was famously strung up upside down from a service station roof to the sound of cheering crowds.
IT’S HIGH TIME TO ASSERT THE FUNDAMENTALS OF MARXIST-LENINISM
Given the multi-sided disarray of Western-based leftists over the Syria question it is urgent that the basic principles of Marxism and Leninism are brought into the debates. And when we are talking about the principles of Marxism and Leninism, here we are talking about the very A in the A-B-C of Marxism-Leninism. That is, the understanding that the exploitation and injustice inherent in modern society is due to the capitalist system. That this capitalist problem is not a matter of the moral character or ideology of individual capitalists or capitalist political factions. That the problem is the whole system based on the exploitation of workers’ labour. Marx’s famous Communist Manifesto is dedicated to advancing the struggle of the working class against, not just particular wings of the capitalist class, but against the capitalist class as a whole. It is a fundamental principle of Marxism that all the capitalist bosses and all the factions representing them are, by virtue of their position in the economic system, the political enemy of the masses regardless of which ideology they personally espouse. Furthermore, Leninists understand that in this period of capitalism at its highest stage, the ruling class of the richer, more powerful capitalist countries, having outgrown national boundaries, are also imperialists. That means that in order to make up for the inherent contradictions of their system these capitalists of the powerful countries are forced to seek out super-profits from plundering resources, super-exploiting labour and controlling markets in the poorer or weaker capitalist countries. It is not a personal choice whether these capitalists act as imperialists or not: it is a necessity for their own economic system’s very survival. If one understands this then one sees how preposterous the notion is that the capitalist rulers of Australia could act in a non-imperialist way when they intervene abroad: whether that be when they militarily occupy East Timor or when they support a proxy war on Syria.
Indeed, other than for the Leninist principle that we should side with semi-colonial and poorer countries when they are in military conflict with the imperialist powers – or their proxies – the conclusions of Marxist and Leninist ideology for socialists living in the richer, capitalist powers are very simple. Firstly, all the capitalists and all the factions serving them must be opposed. And, secondly, all military and political interventions abroad by imperialist powers should be opposed irrespective of the purported motivation behind them. To the latter there are two very particular exceptions … but otherwise this is an absolute principle. One exception is the case where a capitalist power, in order to promote its own geo- strategic position with respect to rival capitalist powers, happens to stifle an attempt by a rival capitalist power to attack a workers state. In the second exception, for similar reasons as above, an imperialist or mid-ranking capitalist power hinders an attempt by a rival power to further subjugate a semi-colonial or otherwise dependent country. The latter exception would only apply provided that the power making the intervention is not in a position to immediately, itself, become the neo-colonial oppressor of the poorer, weaker capitalist country. When a situation arises when this exception applies, it means that leftists should not get in the way of the intervention by the power stifling the predatory moves by its rival. Yet, at the same time, we should not in any way attempt to prettify the capitalist class that is making the blocking intervention. Instead, we would stress that it is doing this purely for its own capitalists’ interests which, in this rare case, happens to assist the overall interests of the world’s toiling masses. We would make clear that this capitalist ruling class remains 100% the enemy of its own working class and we would stand by all of this working class’ efforts to fight against it.
The particular circumstance of a capitalist power hindering attempts by rival powers to further subjugate an economically dependent country does, indeed, occur in the Syria conflict. It applies to the intervention by capitalist Russia. This intervention is being unleashed for the Russian exploiting class’ own greedy, ambitious interests but happens to, at this time, protect Syria from imperialist-imposed regime change (for a detailed exposition of this point see our article: http://www.trotskyistplatform.com/russian-intervention-and-syria/). Therefore, at this point, the international workers movement, including the working class in Russia, should not hinder this intervention. At the same time, we must make clear that this intervention does not in any way weaken the need for the Russian working class and other downtrodden groups to fight against their own capitalist exploiters and oppressors. In the context of currently tense relations between Russia, on the one hand, and Australia and its main ally the U.S., on the other, it would, of course, be wrong for leftists in Australia to make opposition to the Russian capitalists the main headline focus of agitation here. However, it would also be wrong to harm the building of class struggle in Russia by acting as apologists for Russia’s capitalist rulers. That would be spitting on the very working class which a hundred years ago smashed the rule of the Putins and Yeltsins of their time and the early 20th Century equivalents of [multi-billionaires] Mordashov, Lisin and Timchenko in the greatest victory for the downtrodden that humanity has ever known. It would also undermine efforts to build up the class struggle against the capitalists here in Australia since it promotes the notion that there can be “good capitalists.” It is important to stress all this because shared support for Russia’s capitalist rulers and shared softness towards the hard right U.S. president are a good part of what brought some Hands Off Syria leaders and the Far Right to associate with each other. As it was for other prominent leftists within the Hands Off Syria groups to take the disastrous step of apologising for, or in a cowardly manner simply ignoring, some of their leading members’ participation in the political activities of the fascists.
Any socialist with even a partial commitment to the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism would never allow themselves to end up as an apologist for Russia’s capitalist rulers. Nor would they ever, even for a period, act as “left”, critical supporters of Donald Trump on the grounds that he would be supposedly “less imperialist” or even “anti-imperialist”. Why? Let us first deal with the latter issue. The Leninist understanding of imperialism is that it is not a policy choice as to whether a rich capitalist ruling class acts in an imperialist way or not. Imperialism is capitalism, itself, at its highest stage. Therefore, to expect a rich capitalist power, when administered by a particular leader, to act in a non-imperialist way when intervening abroad is as fanciful as saying that a capitalist corporation would avoiding exploiting the labour of their workers if they had a particular CEO! Thus, it is simply impossible that Donald Trump – or, for that matter, any other leader or pro-capitalist political faction in a rich capitalist country – could be “less imperialist” let alone “anti-imperialist.”
Moreover, Donald Trump has been spewing vile racist abuse at Mexicans, Muslims and Blacks and has implemented new discriminatory measures against migrants from Muslim countries, “undocumented” migrant workers, refugees and transgender people. This has translated into a startling rise in violent racist attacks on people of colour on the streets of America as well as an increase in bigoted attacks on the LGBTI community. Trump’s agenda has naturally emboldened murderous fascist paramilitaries as we saw over the last couple of days in Charlottsville. All this reactionary terror on the streets deepens racial divisions within the American working class and intimidates its crucial coloured component. Needless to say, all this is very harmful to organising working class resistance – resistance against both attacks on the working class and other oppressed groups at home and against U.S. imperialist actions abroad. In other words, those who have, even for a period, acted as “left” apologists for Donald Trump have done a lot of harm to the struggle against imperialism.
This applies all the more so to those within Hands Off Syria groups who have either participated in events led by outright fascists or who have defended – or turned a blind eye to – such participation. The central slogan of The Communist Manifesto is the famous call for workers of all countries to unite. No one with any serious commitment to Marxism could ever coddle up to or apologise for a faction of the capitalist bourgeoisie let alone its most extreme reactionary nationalist wings who are hell bent on dividing workers across national and race lines!
Now, what about attempts by some within the Hands Off Syria movement to portray Russia as an “anti-imperialist state” or as “capitalist but good capitalist”? How does this stack up against the basic principles of Marxism and Leninism? An entire chapter of Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto is devoted, in good part, to warning against sections of the capitalist bourgeoisie who masquerade as supporters of working class interests but who, to quote from this great work, “endeavour… to deaden the class struggle and to reconcile the class antagonisms” and “violently oppose all political action on the part of the working class.” Put simply, the idea that particular capitalist ruling classes, like that of Russia, are somehow progressive has nothing to do with communism but a lot to do with left-liberalism. Small-l left liberals, rejecting a clear class line, always insist that there are “progressive capitalists” that can be allied with – if only for a particular campaign. Some “leftists” in the Hands Off Syria groups have practiced a particular form of this liberalism where those credited as the relatively “good capitalists” are not just particular opposition factions of the ruling class in home countries but the entire capitalist ruling class of another country – like Russia and Iran.
As to the notion that Russia is an “anti-imperialist state,” this claim is so far removed from the principles behind the October 1917 Russian Revolution that the category of “anti-imperialist state” simply does not exist in Marxism and Leninism. It does not exist in the theory of communism because it does not exist in the real world! Leninist theory only recognises two types of states in the modern era: capitalist states and workers states. The only truly “anti-imperialist states” can be workers states – that is, states created by the overturn of capitalist state power. The problem with some in Hands Off Syria milieus – both internationally and at home – crediting certain capitalist states as “anti-imperialist states” is not so much the flawed analysis, in itself, but the political conclusions that they draw. For, once they put a state into the “anti-imperialist” basket, they then defend it against any exposure of its crimes. Although, as leftists, they may occasionally pay lip service to the capitalist nature of these states, in practice they oppose just about every working class and progressive struggle in these countries. In other words, those obsessed with the idea that some capitalist states can be considered part of an “anti-imperialist camp” act as apologists for the capitalist exploiting classes ruling these states. Worse still, when a capitalist faction in the imperialist centres shows sympathy for one of these “anti-imperialist states” then that becomes a reason for them to support that faction. That was what, in good part, led them to apologise for the initially pro-Russia Donald Trump and to accept association with the far right Zabaikal Cossack Society and its white supremacist Australia First Party allies.
It is, of course, the case that the states administering capitalist rule in countries that are subjugated by imperialist powers or that otherwise remain economically dependent on imperialism can have conflicts with the imperialist bullies. That is why we need to, today, defend Syria against Western imperialism and its proxies and to strongly oppose imperialist threats to Iran. Conflicts between the imperialist states and their neo-colonies and semi-colonies arise because, sometimes, the imperialists demand such a big share of the wealth of these countries and insist on distorting the political direction and foreign policy of these countries to such an extent that the local capitalist rulers there object. These capitalist rulers face a fundamental contradiction. On the one hand, they are economically tied to and dependent on the imperialists – who control world markets, sources of capital and access to technology – and rely on the might of these big powers for protection from any progressive revolt from their own masses. However, on the other hand, they bristle at how much of the surplus extracted from the country’s natural resources and exploited from the country’s toilers is grabbed by the imperialists. That leaves less profits for them to feast on. Secondly, they get irritated when the imperialists demand policy directions which hurt even capitalist development in these countries. Such demands could include that the country sell off key nationally-owned strategic industries to multi-national corporations or that it put off spending resources on vital infrastructure projects in order to focus on merely producing low-priced crops, minerals and manufactured goods that can then be sold off at high prices by imperialist trading monopolies. Often, the imperialist overlords will also demand that a subject country’s government turn its back on useful opportunities for trade, investment and other economic links with either socialistic states (which today means, largely, China) or rival capitalist powers. Moreover, the capitalist class in countries subjugated by imperialism sometimes seek to win broader support for their rule amongst the imperialist-hating masses by, at times, standing up to the imperial powers. They sometimes find this necessary because their rule is fragile and rests on a narrow base. For since the imperialists plunder so much of the wealth of these countries, the capitalist class in the ex-colonial countries is numerically small. So is the size of the privileged upper-middle class. In imperialist countries this affluent layer of the middle class is quite large and this provides for the capitalist ruling classes there a base of wider support upon which they can rest. Without a large upper-middle class layer to rely on, the isolated capitalist rulers in the neo-colonies and semi-colonies are sometimes compelled to curry favour with sections of the masses by claiming to be at the forefront of standing up to the imperialists. Within each of these countries there are factions of the local capitalist exploiting class that are a bit more inclined towards such a course while other factions are more content with totally bowing down to the imperialists. So, in general, the capitalist class in the countries subjugated by, or otherwise dependent on, imperialism are torn between a pull towards subservience to imperialism and a push to resist imperialist depredations. At times this contradiction plays out in a way that leads these capitalists being pushed by their masses to stand up to imperialism. We welcome this when it happens and socialists must work hard in such cases to ensure the victory of the subjugated or dependent countries against the imperialist overlords and their proxies. Indeed, we are likely to see more conflicts between the imperialist powers and the countries that they oppress. For, given the economic crisis that imperialist-capitalism is quite obviously in, they are going to try to exploit even more the peoples of the ex-colonial countries in order to make up for their own economic woes at home.
But even in these cases where the capitalist states in neo-colonies, semi-colonies or otherwise imperialist-dependent countries resist the imperialist bullies we would not call these states “anti-imperialist states.” For the economic and political factors pulling the capitalist rulers in these countries towards subservience to imperialism do not disappear even when they are in conflict with imperialism. These capitalist rulers can just as well in future cut a deal with the imperial powers and act as their running dogs. Syria’s Baathist government has certainly done this in the past. We have already noted earlier in this article how, in 1976, to the cheers of U.S. and French imperialism, Bashar Al-Assad’s father, Hafeez, sent in the Syrian Army to crush the leftist-progressive side in the Lebanese Civil War. Then, in 1991, Syria’s Baathist government criminally sent nearly 15,000 troops to participate in the 1991 first U.S.-led Gulf War slaughter of Iraqi people – an attack that paved the way for the death, suffering and chaos that has wracked Iraq ever since. Similarly, while today the Iranian government resists ever more unreasonable demands on it by the Western capitalist powers, at other times it has played a major role in ensuring the success of imperialist campaigns. During the 1980s, the Iranian government was alongside Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the main non-Western supporter of the imperialist-backed Afghan Mujahedin religious fundamentalist cut-throats that fought an anti-communist war against the then secular, leftist Afghan government and its Soviet Red Army protectors. Iran provided a massive amount of arms to Shia-based Mujahedin groups and hosted the exile bases of these groups within Iran. Then, in 2001, the Iranian (so-called) “anti-imperialist” state provided crucial support to the U.S./Australian/ NATO imperialists in their invasion of Afghanistan. This involved not only providing diplomatic support for the U.S. to set up military bases in Central Asia and for building the links between Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance insurgent forces and the invading imperialist forces but also actual direct military support to the Western imperialists. Iran provided intelligence to the invading U.S. military and even provided search and rescue for downed U.S. aircrew members fighting there. Moreover, when the capitalist rulers of imperialist-subjugated or otherwise imperialist-dependent countries are threatened by anti-capitalist revolt from their own revolutionary masses, even the most avowedly “anti-imperialist” of them will not hesitate to turn to the imperialists to help them prop up their own exploitative rule. A classic case of this occurred in Iraq in February 1963. This was a time when the Iraqi toiling masses were restive and the Iraqi Communist Party held great influence. Fearing socialist revolution, the country’s capitalists, represented through the Iraqi Baathist Party, collaborated with the CIA to launch a military coup to topple the government of then prime minister Abd al- Karim Qasim – who was seen as being not hard enough on the communists – and to carry out an anti-leftist purge. The Baathists murdered thousands upon thousands of communists and turned Iraqi foreign policy relations away from the USSR and towards the U.S. Soon after the Baathist coup, a massive arms deal was announced between the new Baathist government and the U.S. The Baathist party that carried out these pro-imperialist crimes is the same one that had participated in the 1958 anti-imperialist upheaval that culminated in the toppling of the pro-British, pro-U.S. monarchy. This Baathist Party that conducted the February 1963 pro-imperialist coup is also the very same party that vows that “anti-imperialism” is a central part of its ideology. At the time of their February 1963 coup, the Iraqi Baathists were actually united with the Syrian Baathists in one Arab “Socialist” Baathist Party. The Iraqi and Syrian wings only went their separate ways three years after the coup and president Assad today leads the Syrian Baathist government.
If it is wrong to call Syria and Iran “anti-imperialist states” then this is even more the case with Russia which is not a semi-colony subjugated by imperialist powers or otherwise dependent on imperialism. Capitalist Russia is, indeed, the only other military superpower in the world other than for the United States. Although the 1991-92 capitalist counterrevolution that destroyed socialistic rule there greatly weakened Russia’s economy, the country’s new capitalist rulers still inherited the former USSR’s powerful industrial and technological base. Of course, Russia is not anywhere near the planet’s main imperialist oppressor of “Third World” peoples – that title goes to the U.S. capitalist rulers and their allies like the British and Australian ruling classes. Russia is, however, probably somewhere between a middle capitalist power like Turkey and Saudi Arabia and a full blown imperialist one. Where it exactly fits in this spectrum is hardly the most important question facing socialists. We’ll leave that to be pondered by some leftist academics eager to boost their careers by stacking up their resumé with journal paper contributions. For active communists the point that matters is that Russia is not a semi-colony and is, at least, a middle capitalist power. That makes it even more wrong to refer to it as an “anti-imperialist state” than it is to do the same for countries subjugated by imperialism, since all middle powers want to be big imperialist ones. Suggesting that a middle capitalist power does not have ambitions of being a fully-fledged imperialist power is as ridiculous as claiming that medium-sized capitalist companies do not seek to become, one day, large-scale monopoly corporations. This is all the more so in the case of Russia whose ruling class can hark back to the vast capitalist-feudal empire that it had up until 100 years ago and under which it lorded over tens of millions of non-Russian people.
To be sure, the diplomatic rhetoric and propaganda broadcast by Russia today is different in tone to that used by, say, America. This, however, reflects merely their different current places in the world. Russia’s diplomatic language stresses multilateralism and a multi-polar world because it is an up and coming capitalist power and wants a diplomatic consensus that allows space for new powers like itself to break into the big league. In contrast, the U.S. sells itself on the diplomatic stage using American exceptionalism and the notion that the U.S. has a crusading duty to bring “freedom” to the world. That accords with the U.S. ruling class’ interests in maintaining itself as the top dog imperialist by seeking to justify special “rights” for itself to police – i.e. ride roughshod over – the world. Meanwhile, the German imperialists place slightly less stress on military action than, say, the U.S., Britain and France only because Germany is weaker militarily than any of them and, thus, prefers a world where its comparatively strong economic clout rather than its comparatively weak military muscle will be the decisive factor in determining its place.
FOR AN ANTI-IMPERIALIST MOVEMENT BASED ON THOSE AT THE BOTTOM OF CAPITALIST SOCIETY
The fact is that every capitalist ruling class that is not part of a country suffering imperialist domination either is an imperialist oppressor of semi-colonial and neo-colonial countries or wants to be one. That is why none of them can ever be considered part of an “anti-imperialist camp.” And as we have shown with the case of Syria and Iran, even the ruling classes of dependent capitalist countries that are currently in conflict – or have tense relations – with imperialist powers are far from consistently “anti-imperialist.” There are, indeed, two fundamental camps in the world but those camps are not a pro-imperialist camp and a supposed “anti-imperialist” camp. Rather, the two fundamental camps are, on the one hand, the capitalist ruling classes of the world and pro-capitalist “dissidents” in the socialistic countries and, on the other, the socialistic states, the class conscious working class and downtrodden of the world and the broader masses of the so-called “Third World” suffering under neo-colonialism. Yes, semi-colonial and dependent capitalist states can sometimes resist imperialism and we must wholeheartedly welcome and energetically support that when it occurs. And, in rare cases, ambitious capitalist powers in pursuit of their own interests can inadvertently play a helpful role by blocking the predatory designs of other powers – as Russia is currently doing in Syria. Yet, any of these capitalist ruling classes can switch, at other times, into playing a terribly reactionary role. Let us recall the role of capitalist Russia in Afghanistan, for example. We should firstly remember that the Russian capitalist ruling class has a big responsibility for the suffering of Afghan peoples. They are the ones who, with Washington, London, Berlin and Canberra’s massive assistance, smashed socialistic rule in the USSR and then immediately cut off the lifeline to the then secular-leftist government in Afghanistan which in turn led to the 1992 victory of the woman-hating, religious fundamentalist cutthroats. Later, this Russian ruling class, like that of Iran, gave much assistance to the 2001 imperialist invasion of Afghanistan. Russia provided intelligence and logistical support to the U.S./NATO/Australian forces, its troops conducted “search and rescue” missions to assist the imperialist forces and it provided big arms supplies to the West’s Northern Alliance proxies (see for example:https://www.csmonitor.com/2001/1015/p13s1-wosc.html). Today, while Russia’s intervention in Syria is at this point having a positive effect, in Libya, Russia is, like other intervening capitalist powers, involved in a mad scramble for privileged access to Libya’s oil resources and future infrastructure contracts. This is serving to deepen the regional and tribal conflicts there. In a de facto alliance with French imperialism and staunch U.S. allies, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Russia is backing with weapons, money and diplomatic cover one of the rival gangs of pro-imperialist Libyan “Rebels” brought to power by NATO in 2011 and which are, today, engaged in blood feuds with each other (for more details see:http://www.trotskyistplatform.com/russian-intervention-and-syria/).
The reality of the world is that all capitalist ruling classes, when they act abroad, do so not out of any real commitment to claimed foreign policy principles whether that be “anti-imperialism”, “spread of democracy”, “anti-terrorism” or “multi-lateralism” but in order to pursue their own greedy interests. Not only does this mean that we should not credit capitalist states currently in conflict with imperialism – or otherwise impeding it in some theatres – as being part of a definite “anti-imperialist” camp, it also means that those capitalist states deemed to be part of the “pro-imperialist camp” can also have conflicts with each other. For example, two months ago a full-scale cold war erupted between staunch U.S. ally, Qatar, and other strong U.S. allies in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Eqypt, Yemen and Bahrain. The tensions between the two sides are so intense that the opponents of Qatar have not only imposed crippling economic sanctions on that tiny country but have blockaded Qatar’s only land border and denied Qatari aircraft access to their airspace. One of their points of anger with Qatar is that it has relatively good relations with Iran, even while Qatar hosts a massive U.S. air base and is third only to the Western powers and Turkey in backing the Syrian “Rebels.” Since the crisis began, Qatar’s ties with Iran have continued to strengthen and, to a lesser extent, their relations with Russia too. Meanwhile, at the time this article is being written, Turkey, the main regional backer and most aggressive diplomatic supporter of the Western-backed Syrian “Rebels” is experiencing a deterioration in relations with NATO countries while its ties with Moscow are rapidly improving and relations with Iran are warming too. It has even been reported that Turkey, to the anger of other NATO members, is on the verge of signing a massive deal to buy S-400 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia. There is no certainty that relations between Russia and Turkey will continue to advance given that they currently still back opposing sides in Syria and given their mutually conflicting plays for influence in Central Asia and the Caucuses. However, say that these capitalist powers do draw even closer together by cutting a deal over Syria (that would likely see one or the other of them stabbing in the back the side it is currently supporting in the conflict there). Will the adherents to the anti-Marxist notion of “anti-imperialist capitalist states” then quietly move Turkey over into the “anti-imperialist” category and start denouncing any criticism of the Turkish regime’s brutal attacks on leftists, trade unionists and the country’s cruelly oppressed Kurdish minority?
Whether or not the rulers of another capitalist country currently have good relations with the U.S. and Australian regimes does matter in terms of the emphasis of the work of leftists living here. It would be wrong for leftists to make the primary focus of our work opposing a capitalist state that currently has tense relations with one’s “own” ruling class. That is why we are not going around organising rallies against the anti-working class privatisations and attacks on racial minorities of the Putin government. Furthermore, we make clear that we oppose the sanctions that our “own” capitalist rulers – and that of allied powers have put on Russia. Rather, the actions we organise – and the headlines of our publications – are overwhelmingly targeted against the anti-working class measures and brutal racist attacks of the Australian capitalist regime at home and that of allied capitalist ruling classes like those of the U.S., Britain and South Korea. However, to have such an emphasis in our work is very different to acting as “left” apologists for whatever capitalist states are deemed to be “anti-imperialist.” To do the latter is to spit on exploited masses in these countries and their struggles. Furthermore, it serves to undermine progressive struggles here because it undermines workers’ understanding that none of the capitalists can be relied on to provide anything positive for the masses and every step forward for our liberation will have to come from our own efforts united with all of the oppressed.
The liberal notion that some capitalist powers are “anti-imperialist” is a significant part of what has led many activists who initially did positive work on the Syria issue, both overseas and here, to lead the movement into a disastrous – and, ultimately, politically suicidal – course. They have reduced the struggle against imperialism to one that consists mainly of cheering and apologising for those states that they deem to be “anti-imperialist” and of “critically” supporting those local capitalist politicians that show sympathy for these states. This is directly counterposed to what is actually needed for an effective anti-imperialist movement in Australia and other Western countries: hard work to mobilise the working class at home in a struggle connecting opposition to the capitalist regime’s attacks against the masses at home with mobilisation against the regime’s imperialist interventions abroad. Such a perspective is based on the simple fact that the imperialist enemy of ex-colonial countries like Syria, East Timor, PNG and the Philippines is also the capitalist exploiter and oppressor of the working class and poor at home. An important part of realising this perspective is through strengthening the workers movement and liquidating threats to its unity by mobilising mass actions to smash the fascists – not seeking common ground with fascists as some in the Hands Off Syria groups have done. Indeed, the anti-imperialist movement that must be built would seek its strongest bases of support amongst the very people who are under attack from the fascists – who are one and the same people most oppressed in this society. Thus, Muslim people, as well as more broadly Middle Eastern, Asian and African communities, who are targeted by the fascists also cop abuse, discrimination and media demonization in this society and, thus, can be less wedded to believing the propaganda of the establishment. Meanwhile, another target of the fascists, LGBTI people, whatever their legal status ends up, know that this society remains full of prejudice against them and this leads many of these people to be suspicious of “mainstream” society’s political agendas. Most importantly, Aboriginal people who, because they face such brutal police and redneck terror and all-round discrimination, have every reason to be distrustful of anything the Australian state does – whether at home or abroad. Indeed, throughout Australia’s post- 1788 history it is often the very same people involved in the subjugation of colonies and ex-colonies abroad who are orchestrating racist violence against Aboriginal people at home. This goes right back to the 1800s. Thus, some of the police officers most notorious for overseeing massacres of Aboriginal people during the late nineteenth century frontier wars in Queensland had also served in enforcing British colonial subjugation of the people of China and New Guinea.
It would be helpful to the struggle against neo-colonialism if some of those involved in Hands Off Syria groups who are repulsed by the movement’s softness on the Far Right will fully understand what is wrong with the movement’s left-liberal perspective and can, thus, turn their talents towards the building of a working class-based anti-imperialist movement. Trotskyist Platform is ready to assist any of the most sincere of these activists to make such a political self-clarification. We also look forward to working in a united front manner to build the anti-imperialist struggle with any activist who had been involved in Hands Off Syria groups who is prepared to publicly condemn the groups’ acceptance of some of their leaders’ association with fascists. As to the left groups that continue to support the imperialist-backed forces in Syria, they need to have their views exposed and thoroughly discredited. That is an important part of clearing the obstacles standing in the way of building a powerful anti-imperialist movement.
Israeli Terror Machine Supercharged by Trump’s Jerusalem Statement
Oppose the U.S. and Australian Regimes that Support the Subjugation of Palestinian People
9 December 2017 – Israeli Air Force jets pounded Gaza overnight. They killed two Palestinian people and injured dozens of others. Several children were among those hurt. Hours earlier, Israeli troops shot dead two other people as they unleashed live fire ammunition on Palestinian protesters. The Israeli terror machine has been supercharged by Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Trump’s statement openly legitimized Israel’s seizure of East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank (and Gaza) in 1967. Within America, Trump has been busy inciting a wave of violent fascist and redneck attacks against Muslims, blacks, Asians, Native Americans, gays, Jews and Hispanics. That’s what his racist, ultra-right wing rants against Muslims, Mexicans and other oppressed minorities have served to do. Now this capitalist billionaire has charged up the Israeli terror machine to churn out yet more savage crimes against the oppressed Palestinian people.
Palestinian people have responded with typically brave resistance. There have also been large protests across the Arab world as well as in Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan. Meanwhile, opponents of racist oppression have joined Palestinian and other Arab migrants in protests in Western cities too.
Fake Criticism of Trump’s Decision by Enemies of Palestinian Liberation
U.S.-allied governments in Australia, Britain, France and elsewhere have, rather cynically, made some criticisms of Trump’s decision. But what the ruling class of Australia and co. really only object to is that Trump has so openly shown the Western imperial powers’ contempt for Palestinian people. Successive Australian governments – whether Liberal or ALP – have joined their Washington senior partner in steadfastly supporting Israel no matter how ghastly that regime’s crimes. They have proven their true stance on the Jerusalem issue by giving Israel the nod and the wink to implant hundreds of thousands of right-wing “settlers” in East Jerusalem and to divide up the West Bank with heavily fortified highways that Palestinians are not allowed to use. Six weeks ago, prime minister Turnbull went to Israel to sign an agreement for still greater Australia-Israel defence co-operation. Today, all that he and other Western rulers have to worry about in Trump’s statement is that by being so brazen he will stir up Palestinian resistance, reduce Western influence in the region and trigger rebellions against Western-subordinated Arab governments.
Similarly, most capitalist governments in Arab countries have criticized Trump’s decision only in order to avoid ending up being targets of the anger of “their own” people. However, much of the masses of those countries can see right through this. They know that these governments have no intention of taking any real action in solidarity with Palestinian people. These governments are firmly tied to the imperialist bullies who they depend on not only for access to markets and technology but in order to help protect them from their own restive masses. The main, U.S.-backed Arab power, Saudi Arabia has been secretly co-operating on intelligence matters with Israel for years. Last month its aggressive, young leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman dropped a bombshell. Acting for the Trump regime, he secretly sought to pressure Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas to accept an insulting “deal” which would see Palestinians get a “state” with only limited sovereignty, which would be geographically divided by the Israeli settlements in the West Bank – nearly all of which would remain – and where there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/03/world/middleeast/palestinian-saudi-peace-plan.html).
Yet, the PA leadership itself is under the grip of the Western imperialist powers. When Abbas met Trump in May, long after Trump had declared support to Israeli PM Netanyahu’s moves to further subjugate Palestinians, Abbas gushed to Trump that: “I believe we are capable under your leadership, courageous stewardship, and wisdom … to be true partners to bring about a historic peace treaty”! Today, Abbas is doing his best to hold back Palestinian resistance and restrict protest to formal statements of condemnation. However, the overwhelming calls from the Palestinian masses for a new Intifada may be too much for PA leaders to resist.
Cutting off Supply to the Israeli Killing Machine and Jamming It Up from Within
The bitter reality is that despite the courage of their resistance, the Palestinian people are heavily outgunned. They face an Israeli military that has been armed to the hilt by its imperialist backers. And they have been repeatedly stabbed in the back by the Arab capitalist governments that claim to support them. The force that can potentially decisively tip the balance in favour of the Palestinian people is the international workers movement – including the working class movements in the Arab countries. As a force that stands against its own exploitation, the working class naturally has an interest in supporting all those – like the Palestinian people – who are downtrodden by the same capitalist world order that oppresses them. The working class around the world must demand: No moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem! No theft of Jerusalem by the Zionist occupiers! All Israeli troops and settlers out of all of the West Bank and Gaza! Working class protest action must ramp up to industrial action targeting the imperialist ruling classes in the U.S., Britain, Australia and elsewhere that are fueling the Israeli terrorist machine.
The working class within Israel itself could act to undermine the fanatical Zionist agenda. Although the Zionist ruling class claims to stand for all Jewish people, it like every other capitalist class exploits its own workers. To be sure, the massive subsidies that the U.S. and other Western governments have provided to Israel have allowed the Israeli working class to obtain a significantly higher standard of living than their neighbors. This is of course a conservatizing force and makes it harder to win significant sections of the Israeli working class to take the side of the Palestinian resistance. Yet the Jewish masses in Israel still suffer most of the hardships of capitalism. Israel has one of the highest levels of inequality. Even excluding the subjugated Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories, Israel has more than 1.7 million people officially living in poverty (see: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/More-than-1-in-5-Israelis-live-in-poverty-highest-in-developed-world-475444). Three in every ten Israeli children live in poverty as do nearly half of all Ultra-Orthodox Jews – almost the same rate of poverty as Palestinian Arabs living in Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Meanwhile, dark-skinned Jewish people suffer terrible racism. Resentment at all these forms of oppression can potentially be harnessed to break a section of the Jewish working class from loyalty to the Zionist capitalist order.
There is another reason why Israeli working class people’s interests lie with junking their current allegiance to the racist order. The Zionist rulers’ selling card has always been that they would provide security to the Jewish people. Israel was sold as a sanctuary where Jewish people would be free from ever again having to suffer the daily discrimination that they had endured in Western Europe, the pogroms that they faced in Tsarist Russia and the genocide meted out to their people by the Nazis. Yet the history of Israel has proven that building a state based on driving another people out of their land with Nazi-like terror – no matter how much religious quackery it is justified by – does not bring security at all. Instead the racial-supremacist Zionist project has brought great hostility towards the Jewish people of Israel from their neighbors.
The rise of the fascist-supported Trump has highlighted an additional aspect of this question. Trump is a fervent supporter of Israel but his hard right-wing agenda has simultaneously emboldened anti-Semitic, fascist forces within America and around the world. This was evident in the far right rallies in Charlottesville four months ago, which Trump legitimized. There, Nazi and KKK filth not only marched with slogans against blacks, Muslims and other people of color but also had anti-Semitic slogans like, “Jews will not replace us” and “Jews are Satan’s children.” In Australia too, decaying capitalism is spawning the growth of violent far-right outfits. A few of these fascist groups like the Party For Freedom are actually avowedly pro-Israel. Mind you, some of these fascists are pro-Israel only because they want to “purify” White Australia of Jews by having them go off to Israel – in the same way that Hitler’s Nazis collaborated with some Zionist leaders. Most Australian fascist groups, however, basing themselves on the vile tradition of Nazism, are openly and fanatically anti-Semitic. And although their main targets have been Muslims, Aboriginal people and Chinese people and other Asians, Jewish people and synagogues have been among the secondary targets of their violence. The American imperialist-dominated order that props up Israel, far from keeping the Jewish people secure, is actually creating the conditions for far-right terror attacks on Jewish people.
The fact that a small number of Israeli citizens have bravely refused to serve in the military as a matter of conscience shows that some Israelis can see past the false promises of Zionism and the extreme racial supremacist propaganda that they are fed. When the Middle East region is radicalized by a revolutionary working class upsurge, it will be possible to break a section of the Jewish working class from Zionism and unite them with the brave Palestinian masses in a movement that can smash the genocidal, Israeli capitalist order from within. Together, they will establish a multi-ethnic workers state that will necessarily be secular and anti-racist and which will provide all Palestinian refugees the right of return to the pre-1948 lands that they resided on. A socialist Palestine will finally both free the Palestinian people from barbaric Zionist oppression and provide the Jewish people with the real security that they have longed for.
International Balance of Forces Shapes the Fate of Palestine
Trump’s kick in the guts of the Palestinian people has been made possible by prior aggressive imperialist intervention in the Middle East. The savage U.S., British and Australian war against the much hated ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria has given these imperialist powers a renewed military presence in the region, greater political influence and the allegiance of key local military forces. Further south, with the backing of these Western powers, the Saudi military – and its allies in the UAE, Egyptian and Sudanese regimes – have unleashed a brutal war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. This intervention has enhanced the power of the U.S.-Saudi-Israeli axis in the region. Meanwhile, Trump’s directing of this Axis towards war with Iran has drawn the two most reactionary local powers in the region – Saudi Arabia and Israel – closer together.
This Axis, alongside Britain, France, Australia, Turkey and Qatar have been waging a years-long war – via FSA and openly religious fundamentalist “Rebel” proxies – to impose regime change on Syria. As well as causing the death of hundreds of thousands of Syrian people, this proxy war has greatly weakened Syria. That has, in turn, hurt the Palestinian resistance. For, although the capitalist Syrian government’s support to the Palestinian cause has been inconsistent and limited, they did provide sanctuary and bases for key Palestinian resistance groups. Today, through the heroism of the Syrian masses and soldiers – and with the support of their external allies – the original crop of imperialist proxies have been close to defeated in Syria. Yet the U.S., Australian and other allied imperialists now have a new proxy force in the form of the Kurdish YPG. Allied with the PKK in Turkey, the YPG had been waging a just struggle for the national rights of the oppressed Kurdish people of Syria. However, they have now subordinated themselves to the most powerful force for social oppression in the world – the Western imperialists. They are set to be used as a force or bargaining chip to increase imperialist influence in Syria – and, thus, in the whole region. It is an urgent task for all genuine supporters of Palestinian liberation to oppose all the Middle East interventions that boost the power of the Western imperialist and Israeli enemies of Palestinian liberation! Let’s fight for: All U.S./Australian/British/French forces to get out of all of the Middle East! Defend Syria against all the imperialist-allied “Rebels” – from the FSA to the religious fundamentalists to the YPG! Saudi, UAE, Egyptian and Sudanese forces get out of Yemen! U.S./Australia, Israel and Saudi Arabia: Hands Off Iran!
Although driven by its own capitalist agenda, Russia’s military might in Syria has been crucial to holding back the imperialist regime change drive there. Today, president Putin is using the increased stature this has brought Russia and the loss of U.S. prestige following Trump’s Jerusalem announcement to engage in energetic diplomatic interventions. Given the horror that the American-dominated order has brought to the people of the Middle East it is tempting to think that any other power trying to nudge them aside can hardly be any worse. However, it would be very naive for supporters of Palestinian liberation to put their faith in yet another capitalist power. The fact that Putin has called Netanyahu one of his favorite world leaders and is rapidly improving ties with crucial Israel ally, Saudi Arabia, should be reason enough to make us wary (http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/strange-love-affair-putin-and-netanyahu-1736252238).
In addition to the brave resistance of Palestinian activists and the Syrian people, there are, however, other genuine forces that are opposing – or can potentially oppose – the imperialist world order that has brought such suffering to the Palestinian people. Most crucial is the working class within the imperialist centers like the U.S. and Australia, whose interests lie with opposing the rulers that oversee their exploitation. Then there are the people of North Korea. Today, they are defending their socialistic system and desperately trying to avoid meeting the same fate as the people of Iraq and Libya by defiantly building a nuclear deterrence in the face of U.S. and Australian war threats. All opponents of this brutal imperialist world order must stand by the people of North Korea.
Similarly, we must defend the rise of socialistic China that is challenging the capitalist-imperialist dominated world order. To be sure, the compromising Chinese leadership pursues a selfish foreign policy of “non-interference” in the affairs of other countries. It also accommodates a degree of capitalism within China. Nevertheless, the workers state created by China’s 1949 anti-capitalist revolution remains in place and the backbone of China’s economy remains the public sector of socialistic state-owned enterprises. This has laid the basis for China’s stunning economic development and poverty alleviation successes. This strengthening of socialistic China is already providing a support point for ex-colonial countries to start to lift themselves up from under Western neocolonial subjugation. Meanwhile, regardless of the intentions of China’s leaders, the emergence of a large, successful socialistic society provides inspiration to rebel to those masses of the world still suffering under the capitalist order. The imperialist powers know this all too well. That is why, from sending menacing naval forces to the South China Sea, to threatening China’s socialistic neighbour and ally North Korea to backing pro-capitalist, “dissidents” within China, the imperialists are doing everything in their power to undermine socialistic rule in China. The Turnbull government’s scare-mongering about “Chinese interference” in Australian politics is meant to justify to the population this anti-China, anti-communist drive. So, too, the right wing’s successful Cold War style witch-hunt of, now former, ALP Senator Sam Dastyari for merely stating the patently obvious fact that the South China Sea is China’s internal matter (for more on this issue see: https://www.facebook.com/TrotskyistPlatform/posts/1515409871846563 ). However, if these efforts to destroy socialistic rule in China are beaten back, if capitalist forces within China are decisively defeated and if China more proudly advocates on the world stage its socialist course then the U.S.-dominated world order would really be threatened. And that can only be good news for the Palestinian people and all the downtrodden of the planet.
Unfortunately, many of the Australian left wing groups that state solidarity with the Palestinian cause (including the Socialist Alternative, Solidarity and Socialist Alliance groups), simultaneously join the imperialist crusade against China by supporting the various Western-backed “pro-democracy activists” seeking to overthrow socialistic rule there. Similarly bowing to imperialist propaganda campaigns, these groups also support the pro-imperialist “Rebels” in Syria. A small number of leftists, of which we in Trotskyist Platform are amongst, did have the fortitude to oppose the imperialist drive to impose regime change on Syria. However, many of those involved in the Hands Off Syria groups then became badly disoriented and lapsed into becoming apologists for Trump or worse.
Mobilise Working Class Opposition to the U.S. and Australian Capitalist Regimes That Support Israel
The Trump regime and the U.S. ruling class it serves is more rabidly supporting its deputy sheriffs in the Middle East – primarily, Israel and Saudi Arabia – because it needs them to be more aggressive. It needs more from its regional enforcers because the more that the capitalist economic system is mired in crisis, the more that it must make up for it by more ruthlessly plundering the resource-rich Middle East and seizing control of markets and sources of labour to exploit everywhere.
Similarly, Australian governments – whether Liberal or ALP or ALP/Greens – have always, ultimately, supported Israel’s subjugation of Palestinian people because that conforms to the interests of the Australian capitalist class whom these governments all serve. It is a mistake to think that you can lobby the Australian government to change its position on Palestine by appealing to it to take a more independent policy from the U.S.A. For the Australian government supports U.S. power only because that is what is in the interests of Australia’s capitalist rulers. In particular, the Australian rulers need U.S. power to guarantee Australian imperialist plunder of South Pacific countries from PNG to East Timor to Fiji; and to have the back of Australian corporations participating in the neo-colonial exploitation of workers in Indonesia, the Philippines and beyond. These imperialist looters of the South Pacific, genocidal oppressors of Aboriginal people and brutal imprisoners of refugees can never be friends of the Palestinian people – or any other oppressed people!
However, while supporting the subjugation of Palestinian people is in the interests of Australia’s rich capitalist class, opposing U.S. and Israeli tyranny against the Palestinian people is very much in the interests of the working class and all oppressed of this country. For one, it is in the interests of movements fighting for the downtrodden to stand by others facing oppression. Moreover, it is in our interests to weaken the ruling class that attacks our trade unions, consigns us to perpetual job insecurity, drives up our rents by selling off public housing, punishes us when we get retrenched from work, murders Aboriginal people in state custody and vilifies Muslim, Chinese and other non-white ethnic communities. So, while we cannot appeal to the Australian rulers to change their position on the Palestine issue we can through powerful action force it to back off from its support for Israel. To do this we must build actions that are strong enough to harm the interests of the Australian ruling class – in particular its economic interests. That means workers industrial action against the Australian capitalist rulers. Let’s build up towards such action! Let’s shake the imperialist branches that are holding up the Zionist’s nest!
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!
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!
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.
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!
15 August 2017 – Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has vowed to join with the U.S. should it wage war on North Korea. U.S. president Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” The people of North Korea– the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) – have responded with brave defiance. Yet they have reason to be worried. Trump really is the cruel madman that he sounds like. He has slandered Mexicans as “rapists”, implemented despicable laws restricting entry of people from Muslim majority countries and created such a racist climate that race-hate attacks in the U.S. have skyrocketed. But Trump is not just your typical, hard-right wing nut job – he also happens to have his finger on the fire button of the most terrifying nuclear arsenal in the world! But the Australian regime backing him all the way is hardly any better. The regime here has overseen racist killings of black people in custody and the torture of imprisoned Aboriginal youth. New revelations last month have detailed the extent to which Australian SAS forces in Afghanistan are killing children and murdering other innocent civilians and then planting guns on them to make them look like enemy combatants. It is these shock troops of the Australian ruling class who would spearhead Australian military involvement in any war on the DPRK.
A glimpse of the horror that the people of the DPRK are threatened with can be seen in Mosul. There, to further their predatory goals, the U.S. and Australian imperialists and other allied powers conducted air strikes in such an indiscriminate manner that in just a four month period between February and June they killed 5,805 civilians according to the respected liberal, monitoring group Airwars. They killed thousands more through excessive artillery barrages and in airstrikes in other parts of Iraq as well as in Syria.
Part of the reason for the U.S. and Australian rulers’ crazed obsession with crushing the DPRK is the fear that other countries currently targeted by imperialism – like Syria, Iran and Venezuela – will be inspired by North Korea’s defiant building of a nuclear deterrent and themselves seek to stand up more to the Western powers.
However, the factors behind Washington and Canberra’s war drive against the DPRK are somewhat different to what’s behind their proxy war against Syria and their repeated invasions of Iraq. Those adventures are mainly about gaining dominance over the Middle East in order to seize control of the world’s oil supplies. However, the source of the U.S., Australian, British, Japanese and South Korean rulers’ enmity to the DPRK runs even deeper than oil: it is a product of the hostility of capitalist rulers to socialism. The fact that the North Korean people have courageously dared to reject capitalism and to, instead, build a system based upon collective ownership of the factories, banks, mines and land provokes fanatical hatred from the capitalist ruling classes. To be sure, the socialistic system in the DPRK is bureaucratically deformed. The intense military pressure that capitalist powers assert against her plus the economic strangulation of sanctions is an immense deforming force upon her. Nevertheless, the imperialist ruling classes cannot stand having any part of the world where they do not have the “freedom” to control markets and exploit labour at will. Moreover, the capitalists are denied this “right” not only in the DPRK but in her neighbour and ally, the world’s most populous country, the Peoples Republic of China. Although the ruling bureaucracy in China has strengthened pro-capitalist forces by ushering in pro-market reforms from the 1980s onwards, the PRC economy continues to be dominated by socialistic state-owned enterprises. That is why, from provocatively sailing warships through her waters to financing anti-communist “dissidents” and NGOs to targeting next-door neighbour, North Korea,, the U.S. and Australian ruling classes are so determined to undermine the state power in China. Although the national-centred leaders of the PRC and DPRK do little to encourage revolutionary class struggle in the capitalist countries, the mere existence of these socialistic states where the working class, in however a deformed way, rules provokes horror among capitalists. The horror that one day the toiling masses in their own countries will overthrow them and take power. That is why the enmity of capitalist powers to North Korea and China is more enduring and more deep-going than their current hostility to those capitalist-run, ex-colonial countries like Syria that refuse to kowtow enough to them. During their 1950-53 war on the DPRK, the U.S., Australian and other allied capitalist powers completely burnt to the ground the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, several times with bombs and napalm. Later, 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.
TheWashingtonPost, 24 March 2015
Lies, Distortions, Distractions and More Lies
In order to mobilise support for the war drive against North Korea, the mainstream Western media have been painting her as, on the one hand, an economic basket case and, simultaneously, as the “most dangerous threat to the world.” Yet it is not North Korea but the U.S. rulers, backed by Australia, who are the ones who have actually dropped atomic bombs on human beings. Meanwhile, the Australian big business or government-owned media have been deviously claiming that the DPRK has threatened to hit Guam with missiles. However, what the DPRK actually said was that if the U.S. and its allies continued to threaten North Korea, the DPRK would respond by launching missiles that would land in waters shortof Guam. That’s very different to saying that they would land nuclear missiles on the people of Guam. Having the U.S. provocatively fly nuclear capable bombers from Guam past North Korea and having the U.S., Australian, South Korean and other capitalist militaries stage massive war games within kilometres of her border is an unbearable situation for the DPRK. By raising the possibility of landing missiles in waters just short of Guam, the North Korean people are giving the U.S. a taste of facing a threat within kilometres of their own territory. Moreover, the DPRK’s refusal to abandon its nuclear weapons program makes a great deal of sense. Gaddafi’s Libya gave up its nuclear weapons under a promise to be “rehabilitated” by the Western powers – and look what happened to them! Iraq never had any weapons of mass destruction which made it easier for the U.S. and Australia to invade and kill over a million of her people.
That North Korea – when strangled by such severe sanctions and military encirclement – has been able to advance its nuclear deterrence so quickly has stunned the imperialist rulers. It is a testament to the superiority of the socialist system. As a Trotskyist Platform comrade of Chinese origin put it:
“To master great weaponry is not an advantage of capitalist countries. Our socialist DPRK can master such powerful means in such difficult domestic conditions, which is really inspiring, encouraging and empowering our working classes around the world.”
Indeed, contrary to the media’s portrayal of North Korea’s economy, the DPRK’s socialistic system allowed it to recover from the devastation of the Korean War and, within a couple of decades, build up the second most advanced industrial economy in Asia (after imperialist Japan). However, following the collapse of the Soviet Union which had been the DPRK’s military protector, the embattled North Korea was hit hard as it then had no choice but to greatly increase the proportion of its income spent on defence. A period of serious privation in the country followed in the mid-1990s.
Socialistic North Korea, despite the threats she is facing, has produced a warm and friendly society with a relaxed work environment and a rich musical, artistic, cultural, entertainment and sporting life. In contrast, capitalist rule in South Korea has not only led to a large amount of homelessness and poverty amongst the elderly there but also to one of the highest suicide rates in the world. This does not stop the Australian media from making much of the higher per capita income in South Korea. That is a product of, on the one hand, the sanctions and draining military encirclement of the North and, on the other, the fact that from the late 1960s onwards the U.S. provided massive aid to the South when they realised that dissatisfaction with capitalist rule and sympathy for the North amongst the South Korean masses was “threatening” the country with socialist revolution. Yet, today, most South Korean workers lack permanency in their jobs and many are forced to work terribly long hours. This and the cut-throat, dog eat dog nature of the society there has meant that hundreds of North Koreans who defected to the South in search of higher incomes have ended up defecting back to the North!
Not Opposition to Both Sides But Solidarity with the Socialistic DPRK
Turnbull has claimed that he would send Australia to war with North Korea because of the ANZUS treaty with the U.S. However, what is really driving the Australian capitalist regime is that they share the same reasons for wanting to destroy socialistic rule in North Korea – and ultimately China – as their U.S. allies. Indeed, as a capitalist ruling class located in Asia, the Australian rulers’ obsession with crushing Asian socialistic states is if anything more intense than their U.S. counterparts’. It was the Australian Menzies regime that pushed for the U.S. to escalate its anti-communist war in Vietnam in 1965. Indeed, the Australian government even pressured the then U.S.-puppet South Vietnamese government “to request” Australian troops to support it!
Just as it is not only the right-wing Republican Party in the U.S. but also the liberal American capitalists who are charging towards war on North Korea – and ultimately China – it is not only the right-wing Liberal Party that is beating the war drums here. ALP Opposition leader Bill Shorten ranted that it was the “bellicose and provocative actions” of North Korea, and not Trump’s rhetoric, which was of “big concern” adding that:
“I and the government share the same concerns and the same views, and Australians should be reassured that on this matter of North Korea and our national security, the politics of Labor and Liberal are working absolutely together.”
“Malcolm Turnbull by backing Donald Trump has just put a target on our back.”
“What we’ve got is two dangerous, paranoid and unhinged world leaders goading each other into a conflict which puts the very survival of each and every person on the planet at risk.
Such equating of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with Donald Trump or Turnbull on the part of supposed opponents of war is very harmful. For, regardless of personalities, these leaders are not the same at all because the systems that they preside over are not at all the same. Today, Trump covered for his fascist backers when he made excuses for these white supremacists after they unleashed racist “fire and fury” in Charlottesville culminating in a murderous terror attack that killed an antiracist protester, Heather Heyer. Meanwhile, like the previous ALP government, the Turnbull regime locks up asylum seekers in hell-hole offshore camps. Turnbull has also re-instituted the union-busting ABCC system against construction workers and attacked the rights of unemployed workers while giving tax cuts to millionaires. Trump, for his part, wants to deny millions more poor people in America access to medical care while giving huge tax cuts to the rich. Both he and Turnbull administer a system that has left large numbers of people homeless. In contrast, while Kim Jong Un may be a “dictator” who rides on a personality cult that is almost as gross as the establishment’s glorification of the British Royal Family, he administers a system that not only ensures zero homelessness in North Korea but also guarantees employment and virtually free housing for all of its people. Furthermore, North Korea’s leaders have never made a predatory intervention into another country. In contrast, the capitalist regimes in the U.S. and Australia have, between themselves over the last thirty years, invaded or otherwise intervened in – and often largely destroyed – Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Serbia, East Timor, Bougainville, Yemen, Somalia, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Panama, Haiti and more! Therefore, what the working class and all opponents of imperialism and capitalism in Australia and the U.S. must do is to stand in solidarity with the DPRK against all the war threats from the imperialist powers.
Unfortunately, much of the Left in Australia is instead tailing the Greens’ line of “neutrality” in the current crisis. Thus, the Hiroshima Day Sydney Committee and the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition, with the support of the Sydney Stop the War Coalition (coalitions which include among them prominent activists within the Communist Party of Australia as well as the Socialist Alliance, Solidarity and Socialist Alternative groups) have announced a rally for this Saturday in Sydney “to call for negotiations to resolve the crisis on the Korean peninsula.” Such a call steers anti-imperialists and anti-capitalists away from strongly politically opposing the U.S. and Australian military forces arrayed against the DPRK and also pushes them into supporting demands on the DPRK to wind back its nuclear deterrence development and acquiesce to imperialist diktats. It is acting like those small-l liberals who call for “reconciliation” between the Australian rulers and Aboriginal people – as if Aboriginal people should have to compromise with the racist, genocidal ruling class. It is of a piece with a nominal supporter of workers’ rights who, during a conflict between unions and a capitalist boss, argues that “both sides should negotiate not escalate.”
In contrast, Trotskyist Platform is fighting to convince other leftists and supporters of working class interests to not be neutral in the current crisis but to stand resolutely with the socialistic state against the capitalist powers! That means we must stand unconditionally with the socialistic DPRK – and ultimately socialistic China – against the capitalist war threats. We should also welcome the DPRK’s development of a nuclear deterrence capability. What sincere anti-capitalists and anti-imperialists must do is to build actions that demand: End all U.S.-Australian- South Korean war games threatening the DPRK! U.S. troops out of South Korea, Japan and Guam! Close the joint U.S.-Australian military facilities and bases in Pine Gap, Darwin and elsewhere – Down with ANZUS! End all sanctions against the DPRK! Get rid of the U.S.’s THAAD missile defence system in South Korea that targets not only the DPRK but also the PRC!
Australian Working Class: Let Us Defend the DPRK
Like We Should Defend Our Unions!
The fate of the DPRK will be affected much by its much larger and powerful socialistic neighbour, the PRC. The PRC is the DPRK’s only significant ally and over 90% of North Korea’s trade is with China. To a significant degree, the PRC provides protection for the DPRK and certainly its presence has acted as a major deterrent against imperialist attack on the DPRK. However, at the same time the vacillating rulers of Red China, who pursue a futile policy of seeking “co-existence” with capitalist powers, bend to imperialist diktats by publicly condemning DPRK missile and nuclear tests. Nine days ago, China’s leaders treacherously joined the Western imperialists and capitalist Russia in voting for a new round of even more crippling economic sanctions against North Korea. Although it is true that the PRC does try to somewhat limit the damage done by these sanctions and does more to stand by the DPRK militarily than it admits publicly, its public position does matter as it serves to increase diplomatic and political pressure on the DPRK. Any acquiescence to imperialist demands against the DPRK is suicidal for the PRC as it is the PRC itself which is the ultimate target of capitalist moves against its socialistic little sister, North Korea.
The question of what attitude to take towards the DPRK is the subject of intense debate within China. Those pushing for China to move away from solidarity with its socialistic neighbour tend to be the most right-wing elements within China who are simultaneously pushing for greater “rights” for the capitalist private sector and more political “freedom” for pro-capitalist forces. In contrast, those advocating greater PRC solidarity with the socialistic DPRK are also those fighting to preserve and strengthen China’s own socialist foundations. The debate within China over its position on North Korea is a fight over the very soul and direction of China itself. That makes it triply important that politically aware workers and leftists the world over must call for the PRC to stand resolutely behind her socialistic sister, the DPRK. China: Abandon all participation in sanctions against North Korea! Support the DPRK’s nuclear deterrence development instead! Strengthen solidarity between workers states to strengthen China’s own commitment toward socialism! Recall the spirit of the PRC’s heroic support for the DPRK during the 1950-53 Korean War!
Trotskyist Platform is proud that we have been at the forefront of organising every single action in Sydney defending the DPRK workers state over the last seven years. We want to help cohere a layer of activists both inside and outside our group who are both firmly committed to defending the DPRK workers state and who are striving to become very knowledgeable about the question. These activists would then be the core of building actions in solidarity with the DPRK – and also the PRC – in the near future.
We understand that durable solidarity with socialistic states can only be built by appealing to the interests that the working class and its allies have in supporting workers states. To those workers in Australia who currently buy the anti-North Korea propaganda we say: Do you believe the media and politicians when they say that the CFMEU construction workers union are a bunch of thugs who threaten “innocent” people for no reason? Of course not! So why do you then believe these same people when they say that the DPRK is the biggest threat to world peace? Indeed, the attacks on the DPRK and China have much in parallel with the bosses’ attacks on our unions. Except that the capitalist hostility to socialistic states is a lot more fanatical because in those countries the masses have not just organised workers to resist how much the bosses can exploit them… they have actually taken over the whole country. Let us trade unionists and all opponents of capitalist exploitation mobilise in action to oppose both the bosses’ attacks on our unions at home and their attacks on workers states abroad. For unconditional solidarity with the socialistic DPRK!
“Australians First” Economic Nationalism Fuels RacistHostilitytoRefugees and People of Colour
It was a video so openly racist that even right-wing senator Derryn Hinch said it “could be an ad for the Ku Klux Klan.” This ALP video saying that it would “Employ Australians First” had visuals where nearly all the Australians shown were white Anglos. The ad which was released two months ago had an unmistakeable racist message: white people had to be supposedly protected from having their jobs taken away by non-white people. Like the Turnbull government’s moves to make citizenship harder to get based on the racist premise that a migrant’s allegiance to values such as respect for women is more doubtful than an existing citizen’s – even though the horrific level of violence against women here is actually much higher than that of many countries like China where migrants are coming from – Bill Shorten’s video can only engender antagonism to refugees and people of colour. Meanwhile, that the ALP chose not to even include Aboriginal people in its image of “Australians” highlights not only the despicable nature of the ad but also the deep oppression that this country’s first peoples suffer under.
No doubt aware that the Labor Party retains support from working class people from various “ethnic” backgrounds, ALP frontbencher Anthony Albanese called the ad a “shocker.” However, even if the ALP’s “Australians First” video had several peopleofcolourinit,the ad would still be a shocker. For one, given that this country is still majority white in composition and that the majority of visa workers are people of colour, any counterposing of local peoples’ interests against those of foreign workers necessarily incites racist hostility to non-white people from Asian, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, African and Latin American backgrounds – whether those people are foreigners or Australians. Moreover, setting up local citizens as job market rivals of foreigners inevitably creates resentment towards guest workers, refugees and international students. Such xenophobic hostility then flows on towards Australians from coloured “ethnic” backgrounds. Economic-based prejudice is, indeed, the main stem of the noxious weed of racism that is currently overrunning Australia. It is the completely unfounded fear that refugees, migrants and guest workers will take up scarce jobs and affordable housing and use up dwindling public services which is at the root of the racist problem. Such resentment is consciously promoted by the capitalist bigwigs, the media that they own and the mainstream political parties that do their bidding. This exploiting class seeks to divert the masses from identifying them, the filthy rich big business owners, as the real cause of the people’s economic difficulties.
After his video was attacked, it was easy for Shorten to shrug it off by saying “the lack of diversity” in it was “a bad oversight.” However, for many coloured people, such nationalist ravings translate into being vilified and physically attacked on the streets. A report released today by Charles Sturt University detailed 243 verified cases of racist attacks on Muslims in just a 14 month period. Those reported incidents form just a tiny fraction of actual cases. Showing the link between racism and misogyny, the study found that more than two-thirds of those attacked were women.
Although Australia is especially racist, hostility towards minorities and refugees is growing in all capitalist countries. The more their economies falter, the more the rulers promote racist and protectionist “solutions.” Meanwhile, increasing rivalries between the capitalist powers – seen, for example, in heightened trade tensions between the U.S. and the German-led European imperialists – further stoke reactionary nationalism. Yet, even in “Third World” capitalist countries like India racist incidents are on the rise – in the case of India involving Hindu-chauvinist attacks. Indeed, our planet’s one large country not plagued by rampant racist attacks is a socialistic one: China.
The notions behind “Australians First” agendas simply don’t stack up. Refugees and guest workers all spend money here and pay taxes. They, hence, create as many jobs as they occupy. As long as the current social order prevails, no matter how few people there are in the country there will always be a significant rate of unemployment. This is because the rich business owners will – if they are allowed to – only hire as few people as maximises their profits. Whenever unemployment falls these bosses are less able to keep wages down and less able to threaten workers with the sack, making them reluctant to hire any more which in turn pushes unemployment back up. Moreover, the notion that guest workers are the cause of joblessness is ludicrous given that they make up much less than 1% of the workforce! It is true that bosses seek to use severe exploitation of foreign visa workers – as they do with vulnerable local workers like apprentices and casual workers – to undercut overall working conditions. However, that only underscores the need for the union movement to fight to ensure the highest wages, union coverage and, crucially, full rights of citizenship for all guest workers, refugees and overseas students.
As well as calling to “Employ Australians First,” the Donald Trump-like ALP ad also promised to “Build Australian First and Buy Australian First.” Such measures won’t save local jobs! For just as politicians can push such schemes here, their counterparts abroad can respond with similar measures which would then hurt Australia’s exports. Indeed, all agendas that counterpose the interests of Australian workers to guest workers ortogoods produced by workers abroad actually harm the fight for workers’ jobs. Forbydividingworkersandbydivertingthem from struggle against the capitalist bossesthey undercut the one fight that can immediately win more jobs – a trade union struggle to forcebosses to increase hiring. Yet, such a struggle that impinges on the fundamental “rights” of the capitalists is alien to the ALP and most of our current, pro- ALP union leaders. The ALP seeks to satisfy its working class base by merely extracting modest concessions from the capitalists while seeking acceptance from the latter. That is why it is left with little to offer on jobs except divisive protectionism. When the Turnbull government, with much fanfare, announced a slashing of the guest worker program, sadly many of our union leaders demanded the measures go further rather than mobilising actions to win equal rights for these workers.
Nationalism from the Labor Party and pro-ALP union leaders is especially harmful since it is they who currently lead the working class – the one class which has a consistent interest in opposing both racism and nationalism since both undermine the unity so crucial to any successful struggle for workers rights. Yet, national chauvinism is far from the preserve of the social democracy. The right-wing Turnbull regime – pushed ever further by Tony Abbott’s hardliners – fiercely oppresses refugees. Then there is the extreme racism of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, the anti-Muslim tirades of Jacqui Lambie and the fervent protectionism of the Nick Xenophon team.
Now the Greens have at least correctly called out some of Labor’s economic nationalist appeals as dog whistling to racism. However, the Greens push their own fervent protectionist schemes including calling for crackdowns on the guest worker program and restrictions on overseas-made steel. Even much of the Far Left acquiesces to economic nationalism. Both the Socialist Alliance group and Socialist Alternative– who have both been active in the refugee rights campaign – and the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) backed Australia’s largest demonstration to keep out foreign workers: the July 2012 “Local Workers First” rally in Perth. The CPA also parrots the “local content” demands of pro-ALP union leaders. Of course, these socialist groups and the Greens advocate a “clean” protectionism which rejects conscious dog whistling to racism. However, there is no “clean” protectionism! 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. And all protectionist demands divert workers away from the struggle that is actually needed – the one against the job-slashing capitalist exploiters – while pitting local workers against their natural allies: the working class people of the world.
That is why Trotskyist Platform is on a campaign to oppose all forms of economic nationalism. We are seeking to win those involved in the refugee rights movement and the anti-fascist movement to also take up this struggle. Until economic nationalist ideas are purged from the union movement and the Left, anti-racist movements will face serious obstacles. And so will the struggle for workers rights.
We fight to replace the ALP’s nationalist, co-operate-with-the-capitalist program currently ascendant in our unions with a militant class struggle perspective that relies on and values workers’ unity. That means a union movement that would fight for freedom and asylum for imprisoned asylum seekers, full rights of citizenship for all refugees and guest workers and liberation for brutally oppressed Aboriginal people. Rejecting bogus protectionist “solutions,” the union movement that we fight for would mobilise its industrial muscle to stop job slashing by bosses and force profitable companies to increase hiring at the expense of their fat profits. When the greedy capitalist bosses scream that this will cause their economy to collapse, the revolutionary, internationalist party of the working class that we need will respond: ifyoubigbusinessownerscannotruntheeconomyina way that guarantees secure jobs for all workers then we working class people will rip the economy out of your hands and place it into our own able collective hands. Such a socialist economy based on working class rule is what we need! In such a system, the material basis for racism will wither away as there will be no more exploiting class trying to divide exploited masses and no more scarcity and unemployment fueling rivalries between workers of different colours and ethnic backgrounds. Workersofallcountriesunite!
Tens of Thousands Protest in Australia on the Day of Land Theft & Genocide Rally Attacked by Ruthless Police
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
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!
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
12 April 2017 – For the last several years, the U.S., Australian, French, British and other allied Western imperialists have sought to impose regime change on the people of Syria. The former U.S. Obama regime intervened by providing arms, ammunition, training, special forces back-up and diplomatic support for the Syrian “Rebel” forces who had been subordinated to the imperialist agenda. In 2014, this former U.S. Democratic Party administration upped the ante of its intervention by using the pretext of fighting ISIS to directly conduct military operations in both Syria and Iraq. This enabled the U.S. and its allies, like Australia, to move forces into the region, grab control of territory and build-up proxies in order to – among other goals – further its regime change agenda. Five days ago, the extreme racist Trump regime qualitatively cranked up this U.S. intervention. It openly unleashed a missile barrage on Syrian government positions.
The struggle of the Syrian people against this intervention and against imperialism’s “Rebel” proxies is a struggle of the people of a former colony, which to this day remains economically subjugated by richer capitalist countries, to prevent itself being once again completely trodden over by colonial powers. Thus, as Leninists, we in Trotskyist Platform stand for the defence of “Third World” Syria against the predatory U.S., Australian and other Western imperialists and their “Rebel” proxies. We do so without giving any political support to Syria’s Assad government. Although we defend the just war that Assad is currently waging against a neo-colonial takeover of the country, he nevertheless leads an oppressor government that oversees the exploitation of the Syrian masses by Syria’s rich capitalists.
We have maintained a position of military defence of Syria despite intervention on the side of the Syrian government by a capitalist great power – Russia. Russian intervention began fairly early in the conflict. It began initially with arms and ammunition support to the Syrian military, then included intelligence and special forces support and finally from September 2015 it included airstrikes. While it was primarily the heroism of the anti-colonial and secular-minded sections of the Syrian masses that have enabled the Syrian people to achieve victory over the imperialist-backed “Rebels” in Aleppo late last year, Russia’s military might no doubt also played a major part in this victory. This years-long Russian intervention does not change the stance that Leninists should take on the Syria question because although Russia has intervened in order to promote its great power capitalist ambitions it has not, up to the present, threatened to become the – or one of the –direct neo-colonial overlords of Syria. Furthermore, unlike the U.S.A and its allies, Russia is not using its Syrian intervention as a means to secure overall domination of the oil-rich Middle East. Russia’s capitalist rulers primarily seek in Syria to maintain and deepen the benefits Russia had in the pre-war status quo. In this pre-war set up, Russia had political and military influence – including access to strategic military bases on the Mediterranean coast – but was not the biggest player in the Syrian economy. It was Western powers that were the main predators in the Syrian economy – indeed, in Syria’s oil sector, the biggest foreign players are not Russian corporations but the British/Dutch Shell, France’s Total and Britain’s Gulfsands. The Russian ruling class’ overall intentions are to assert itself on the global stage as a big-time world power that must be taken seriously, to protect and broaden its military bases in Syria, to form a forward obstruction to further grubby NATO meddling in ex-Soviet countries where Russia believes it has a Tsarist times-derived historical “right” to call the shots in, to incite nationalism at home and to advertise itself to more economically endowed capitalist powers that collaborating with Russia’s awesome military might in future ventures is a strategy that can guarantee their investments (out of which Russia would then be handed a share of the predatory spoils).
At the same time we should not be naive. If the Russian-backed Syrian forces triumph, the Russian establishment will naturally use their presence and increased influence in Syria to pressure Syria into accommodating Russian capitalist interests. For one, Russia would push to be granted a greater continued military presence than Syria would wish – even after the threat to Syria has been quashed. Already, this January, with Syria dependent on Russian backing, the Syrian government agreed to let Russia take 49-year leases over the strategically located Khmeimim Air Base and Tartus naval facility and even give Russia sovereignty over the latter’s territory. This loss of sovereignty of Syria over strategically located bases is for a far greater period than she would hope would be needed to secure and stabilise victory in the current war. One can bet that Syrian officials were quietly unenthusiastic about signing away sovereignty over their territory for so long in advance. Additionally, one can expect the Russian capitalists to, for example, consider preventing natural gas pipelines from rival gas suppliers to Russia passing through Syria into Europe even if that supplier were to offer to pay a level of royalties that the Syrians would be happy to accept.
In terms of the current conflict itself, the fact that capitalist Russia is, currently, inadvertently playing a positive role does not change the fact that its racist state forces who so brutally oppress non-European minorities and immigrants within Russia cannot in any way be trusted to take proper care to avoid hitting civilians in their air-strikes on enemy forces in Syria. Thus, we can expect the numbers of civilians killed by Russian air-strikes to be of the same order of magnitude as the thousands killed by the murderous U.S., Australian and other imperialists in their air strikes on Syria and Iraq. Furthermore, the fact that the Syrian anti-imperialist struggle is getting direct help from a major capitalist power makes it less inspiring to the anti-colonial sentiments of “Third World” peoples around the world when compared with, say, the Algerian independence struggle against France in the late 1950s and early 1960s and certainly in comparison with the Vietnamese revolutionary struggle against U.S. and Australian imperialism which was, after all, conducted by a workers state and a communist-led, toiling peoples’ armed movement. That is part of the reason why the level of solidarity with the Syrian anti-colonial resistance from the masses of other “Third World” countries has up to this point been so limited. Up to now, other than for protests in other Middle Eastern countries, most of the major rallies opposing the imperialist intervention in Syria have come from people living in Western countries or in capitalist countries whose governments are themselves backing the Russian intervention. Moreover, the success of the Russian intervention will further inflame reactionary nationalism within Russia which will dampen the class struggle there and incite even more racist terror against Russia’s racial and religious minority populations. This is at a time when Putin’s massive privatisation plans announced in February last year (see for example: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35473198) which five months ago saw a huge $A15.5 billion stake in oil giant Rosneft sold off to Qatari interests and Swiss multinational Glencore have the potential to spark mass working class resistance. Already the Russian masses’ hatred of the anti-working class privatisation agenda was reflected in the intense campaign to stop the privatisation of a dairy plant in the town of Vologda. Yet the upsurge in patriotism that will accompany any Russian war victories will undermine the Russian working class organising to fight as a class against their main enemy – the Russian capitalist exploiters. Furthermore, when the working class of Russia does rise up against its capitalist rulers it will now have to face a state whose armed forces capability has been boosted by the testing and experience of its military activities in Syria.
Nevertheless, the Russian intervention in Syria, as long as it continues to obstruct the drive for Western imperialist-imposed regime change and as long as it does not morph into a Russian experiment at re-entry into the club of neo-colonial overlords, is on balance having a positive effect. That means even while leftists within Russia must oppose the racist, capitalist rulers of Russia with the same vigour that we oppose the capitalist rulers of this country, they – and we – must not do anything which directly obstructs Russia’s Syrian intervention. Opponents of imperialism must not call for Russia to get out of Syria at this time. More importantly, the years long Russian intervention must not in any way change the obligation that leftists have to stand for the defence of Syria against the Western imperialists and their “Rebels”.
What the Leaders of the October Socialist Revolution Said about Similar Scenarios
To understand the question of the Russian intervention in Syria more deeply we refer here to 1917 Russian Revolution co-leader, Leon Trotsky’s 1938 article, Learn To Think. This article addresses two particular scenarios: in one scenario one capitalist power for its own geo-political purposes – in particular to weaken a rival – renders material assistance to an anti-colonial struggle of a subjugated country against another capitalist power. This is in a case where the power rendering assistance is not in a position to immediately replace the existing capitalist power as a new overlord of the subjugated country. In the second scenario, a capitalist power similarly, for its own machinations against rivals, finds it useful to pass arms to a workers state in conflict with another capitalist power. The first of these above scenarios is, up to the time of writing, similar to the scenario with the Russian assistance to Syria in its conflict with Western imperialism’s “Rebel” proxies. Thus we should study what Trotsky outlined should be communist policy in such a scenario. Trotsky explained that in such a scenario, we should not in any way obstruct the capitalist power that is giving military assistance to the anti-colonial struggle against a rival capitalist power – provided, of course, that the power rendering assistance is not currently seeking to itself become or is currently capable of becoming the colonial/neo-colonial overlord of the country waging the anti-imperialist struggle. At the same time, Trotsky insisted that this does not in any way, at all, make the capitalist power giving the assistance any more progressive. Indeed, Trotsky postulated an example where the capitalist power rendering anti-colonial assistance is a fascist one and the power fighting against the anti-colonial forces is a “democratic”-ruled capitalist power. Trotsky insisted that communists in the capitalist country rendering assistance to an anti-colonial struggle – in our case this is Russia – should “not in the slightest” moderate “their own irreconcilable struggle” against this regime which is the “the main enemy in their own country.” And they should call upon the people standing against the imperialist forces “not to trust their treacherous ally” even while ensuring that the assistance from this “ally” gets through.
In summary, the lesson from Trotsky’s Learn To Think article (which itself is a re-statement of the line of Lenin’s Bolsheviks) in regards to the Syria conflict is that we should not in any way oppose the Russian intervention at this time while at the same time we should avoid any prettifying of the purposes of the Russian intervention and should explain that Russia’s capitalist rulers remain the main enemy of Russia’s working class people. On the latter, we should additionally note that a workers’ revolution in Russia that topples the racist, capitalist ruling class there would not only be immensely beneficial for working class people and ethnic minorities in Russia but would also boost the Syrian people’s struggle against neo-colonialism. A future Russian workers state, led by an internationalist party like Lenin’s Bolsheviks, would more consistently support the Syrian people’s struggle against imperialism and its proxies, would not – unlike the present Russian government – use its influence to seek unfair concessions from the Syrians and could not be tempted to betray the Syrian anti-colonial struggle by any U.S. promises to boost her great power status. Moreover, a Syrian struggle against imperialism backed by a state where the multi-racial working class rules is far more inspirational to the toiling masses of the “Third World” than the current situation where the Syrian government is backed by a Russian regime that, at home, oversees the exploitation of its working class while brutally oppressing non-white ethnic minorities and immigrants. Thus, a Syrian anti-imperialist struggle backed by a workers state would win far more solidarity from the masses living in the ex-colonial countries than in the present case.
We need to stress here that Trotsky’s Learn To Think article which outlines when it may be necessary to not oppose the intervention of one capitalist power in a conflict abroad was specific to two particular scenarios. We emphasise this because this article has been one of the Marxist works that has been most twisted and most used out of context by opportunist leftists (even by some grandstanding as anti-Trotskyist “Stalinists”!) looking to justify collaboration with capitalist powers. We need to stress that only in the two very narrow and specific cases outlined in the Learn To Think article –cases related to a capitalist power driven by its necessity for geo-political positioning supporting either an anti-colonial struggle or a workers state against rival powers –is it permissible to not oppose the intervention abroad by a capitalist power. In absolutely all other cases, without exception, we must oppose intervention of any kind by such capitalist powers – whether diplomatic, material support to allies/proxies or direct military intervention –regardless of the particular circumstances leading up to the intervention and regardless of their stated â€œjustificationâ€ for the intervention.
All Capitalist Powers Have Zero “Commitment” to Opposing Imperialism
Our attitude to the Russian intervention in Syria is summarised in an article written five years ago, at a time after Russia had already, very publicly, started intervening in the Syrian conflict:
Russia, unlike the PRC, is administered by a capitalist state. The Russian rulers are military powerful but not currently economically strong enough to as yet be a full-blown, independent imperialist power like any of the main NATO states. But they would like to be one – Russia certainly ain’t the socialistic Soviet Union! Russia objects to Western intervention in Syria because Syria is its ally and Russia takes offence at its power being challenged. Furthermore, the Russian bourgeoise would like to draw a line in nearby Syria to try and reduce NATO encroachment into the affairs of its ex-Soviet neighbours which Russia would like to be within its own sphere of influence. Nevertheless, despite Russia’s intentions, opponents of imperialism can only welcome any Russian arms going to the Syrian government at a time when it is battling a takeover by imperialist proxies.’
At the same time it is our duty to warn the Syrian masses of the possibility that Russia could stab them in the back in the future. After all, Russia’s capitalist rulers have zero commitment to opposing imperialism. Like all other capitalist powers their main concern is to further their ambitious economic and political interests. It is worth noting that while the Russian intervention in Syria is happening to, at this time, have a positive effect, the Russian intervention in Libya is playing a reactionary role. Today in Libya we see rival gangs of the pro-imperialists “Rebels” brought to power by NATO in 2011 engaged in blood feuds with each other. Russia is backing one of these cut-throats, Khalifa Haftar, and has sent financial, diplomatic and weapons support to back the forces that he leads as well as private military contractors. Haftar’s “Libyan National Army” (LNA) backs one of Libya’s rival governments, the Tobruk-based “House of Representatives”. Russia, like the NATO powers, is also meddling diplomatically and has sought to be the broker of talks between the LNA-backed government and the U.N.-recognised and strongly Italian-backed Presidential Council government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj. The main goal of the LNA, like all the murderous rival, former “Rebel” militias, is to seize control of Libya’s oil ports and other oil facilities for themselves. This is hardly a case of Russia defending a country against imperialist takeover – not even inadvertently as is the case with its Syria intervention. Thus, also backing Haftar’s LNA are not only Egypt but the French imperialists who have conducted air strikes in support of Haftar’s Russian-backed forces. Indeed, the most open backers of Haftar’s army is the UAE which not only arms the LNA but has a joint airbase with France in Libya’s al-Sulaiyah region from where it conducts operations in support of Haftar’s forces. The strongly pro-Washington UAE regime is one of the regional players strongly backing the imperialist drive for regime change in Syria and is a key part of the reactionary U.S.-backed, Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. Meanwhile, the LNA, even while claiming to be secularist, receives some backing from that bulwark of religious extremism, the Saudi regime! Haftar himself was for over two decades a CIA asset who worked on plans for U.S.-imposed regime change in Libya. Indeed, he even lived close to the CIA’s Langley, Virginia base after going into exile in the U.S. in 1990! In 2011, Haftar was a key figure in the imperialist-backed “Rebels” that were brought to power on the backs of a NATO air and special forces operation against the former Gaddafi government. This NATO-“Rebel” imposed regime change has plainly destroyed Libya.
Russia’s backing of Haftar and its other diplomatic meddling in Libya is aimed – like all the other capitalist powers intervening in the squalid conflicts there – at securing prized access to Libya’s oil terminals, ports and airports. Additionally, Russia seeks to secure the renewal of the billions of dollars-worth of weapons and oil infrastructure contracts that it had signed with the pre-2011 Libyan government. All the capitalist powers involved in the mad scramble for privileged access to Libya’s oil resources and future infrastructure contracts are deepening the regional and tribal conflicts there. Opponents of imperialism must demand that all the foreign capitalist states intervening in Libya – including the U.S., French, Italian, Russian, UAE, Egyptian and Saudi regimes – should get their grubby hands off this already devastated country.
Relations Between the Two Military Superpowers
A significant factor that will influence Russian – and U.S. – policy on Syria will be the state of future U.S.-Russia relations. After a deterioration in relations during the last term of the Obama regime, the billionaire Trump outlined a perspective of strengthened U.S. relations with the world’s only other military superpower. His outlook represented the views of a section of the U.S. capitalist class. The U.S. ruling class is highly divided about what attitude they should take to Russia to best further their own interests. A majority of the media and political representatives of the U.S. ruling class currently favour a harder line against Russia. However, among the actual capitalist business owners, opinion is more evenly divided. Those in the U.S. ruling class who favour an antagonistic line don’t believe the U.S. needs to share dominance of the globe with anyone – certainly not an upstart trying to enter the imperialist club. On the other hand, those U.S. capitalists who want to forge a partnership with Russia see its awesome military power as a useful tool to help suppress and isolate U.S. adversaries. Specifically, Trump and his co-thinkers had been hoping to build a U.S.-Russia capitalist super alliance that would, on the one hand, be used to isolate and pressure socialistic China and, on the other, weaken the U.S.A’s European NATO allies cum imperialist economic rivals.
The U.S. missile barrage against Syria and the angry diplomatic exchanges between the U.S. and Russia that followed have, for the short and medium term, scuttled any plans Trump had to forge a partnership with Russia. But what of the future? Relations between the military giants could continue to spiral downwards. Alternatively, there could be a strong rapprochement. Or something somewhere in between. Interestingly, the U.S. actually informed Russia of its missile strike on Syria before it took place indicating some effort to at least open the possibility for stronger ties with Russia in the future.
As we pointed out in our article written soon after Trump’s election, there were always going to major hurdles to stride over if Trump’s original strong proclivity for a U.S.-Russia capitalist superpower alliance was to be implemented. Trump’s administration is, in effect, an alliance of hard line right wingers who favour closer ties with Russia – like himself, chief strategist Steve Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions – and more mainstream figures from the right wing of the Republican Party who support a more antagonistic line. So, the pro-Russia hard right wingers will not always get their way. In the end, the direction that the U.S. ruling class chooses will depend in good part on what the decisive sections of their class think of Russia’s capability to become a significant imperialist rival to the U.S. If they assess that Russia can at best play second fiddle to the imperialist powers they will be far more open to an alliance with Russia in order to use its military might for their own purposes. In other words, they would be quite prepared to accept and nurture a Russia that would play a role similar to what the Turkish ruling class has played up to now – as an ambitious regional power largely enforcing Western imperialist interests while angling to get its own pieces of the stolen pie for itself. According to this analysis, the U.S. would still expect to have some occasional sharp disagreements with Russia but overall relations would be kept strong – as has been the case with Turkey up until now. On the other hand, if they decide that Russia could in the future emerge as an independent, rival predatory power, they will be far more inclined to push for aggressive containment of Russia.
However, there is additionally an ideological aspect to the debate within the U.S. ruling class. Putin, because of his government’s hard line anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies, its brutal attacks on the LGBTI community and the fact that it, like the Trump regime, has outright fascists in it, is a hero to far right groups throughout the West. Prominent far right politicians from Pauline Hanson to France’s Marine Le Pen have sung Putin’s praises as have most of the outright fascist, white supremacist groups in the U.S., Australia and Europe. All these groups also see in the possibility of a U.S. and European alliance with Russia the possibility of a grand, “white peoples of the world,” racial supremacist alliance. All this is why it is the extreme right wing of the Trump administration that is most in favour of strong ties with Russia whom they see as a force for spreading right-wing, white European-centric “values.”
Other than for dissension within his own regime, there are other hurdles that Trump would have to overcome to implement his original perspective for a partnership with Russia. One key hurdle is the probe that has been launched into alleged links between his presidential campaign and Russia and allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election. It is no secret that Russia wanted Trump to win the election. Russian state television was pretty open about backing Trump just as they and Putin are pretty open about backing France’s Le Pen. However, all capitalist powers interfere with each others elections and the U.S. is by far the biggest culprit. Not only will the U.S. mainstream media bombard a country with propaganda supporting their favoured outcome but the U.S. has used funding of favoured political parties and NGOs, training of activists and plenty of really dirty tricks to swing elections. We cannot know if Russia used even the lowest level, dirty tricks to help Trump. However, if they did, in the context of things, while it means something … it does not mean much at all! For all elections in capitalist countries are profoundly unfair! They are shaped by the fact that it is the wealthy capitalists who own the media and disproportionately have the resources to fund political advertising, lobbyists, meeting venue hire and full-time activists. Forget Russian hacking, neither Trump nor Clinton would have even been in the running for president if they did not each have hundreds of millions in political funding from wealthy capitalists (in Trump’s case also including from his own fortune gained from cruelly exploiting workers) and the backing of Murdoch’s Fox media in Trump’s case and CNN, NBC, New York Times etc in Clinton’s case. That is why for us Marxist-Leninists: all elected presidents in capitalist America are not “legitimate”! The idea that some may be “legitimate” and others “illegitimate” is a whitewash of the fundamentally anti-working class nature of even the “cleanest” elections in any capitalist country.
What’s important to understand here in terms of U.S.-Russia ties is that the probe into the Trump campaign’s alleged links with Russia is not only about Democrats and mainstream conservatives trying to undermine their hard-right rivals but also, partly, about that faction of the U.S. exploiting class that wants an antagonistic line towards Russia trying to pressure the new Administration into bending to that line. And this tactic does work. For the moment, the Trump regime feels pressure to be seen to be not too close to Russia. Probably, a minor subsidiary reason for his air strike on Russia’s Syria ally is to be seen to be tough on Russia. Indeed, any ongoing plans that the Trump’s far-right co-thinkers have to forge an alliance with Russia will depend on the probe not showing any too serious links between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia and even then they will have to wait for the political impact of any probe revelations to fade away. If the probe does “conclude” that there was significant collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government – whether that “conclusion” is actually true or not (!) – then this would likely kill off for a lengthy period any attempt by pro-Russia elements in the Trump regime to forge an alliance with Russia … if not kill off the Trump presidency itself!
In the event that the pro-Russia types can both win the day within the Trump regime and ride their way through the “Russian collusion” probe, they will have to find a way to mesh the interests of U.S. imperialism and those of the wanna-be-imperialist Russian ruling class. In Syria, the interests of the two powers clearly clash so a broader partnership between the two could only be made by one or the other side making concessions in other areas. However, even on the bigger picture Washington will have a problem in enlisting Moscow for the role it would want it to play: a force that joins in – or at least accepts – counterrevolutionary pressure against socialistic China and acts as a counterweight against America’s West European NATO allies cum economic rivals (especially Germany, the “ally” whom the U.S. was revealed to be spying on). The reason Russia’s capitalist ruling class will be reluctant to do both these things simultaneously boils down to one factor: oil/gas profits! The Russian capitalist class makes an absolute fortune from sending gas exports to both Europe and China. So it would be reluctant to enter an alliance that risks it losing these two sources of fabulous wealth simultaneously. Therefore, Moscow would find it hard to accept the whole of Washington’s program for what it wants Russia to do and would demand major concessions on one of several issues – such as Crimea, the Donbass or, indeed, Syria – for even partially accepting Washington’s broader international agenda.
Even if the U.S. and Russian ruling classes did manage to negotiate the mutual concessions needed for them to forge a partnership, would such an alliance actually last for any length of time or would it fly apart at the first test? This question simply cannot be answered in advance. Certainly, the long-term trend of capitalist powers is to thrash themselves into a frenzied rivalry. The fact that there are only a finite amount of markets, raw materials and sources of labour in the “Third World” that the different imperialist powers (and indeed would-be imperialist powers) are each trying to grab increasing shares for themselves of means that these capitalist powers are inevitably drawn into conflict with each other. This truth stands notwithstanding the efforts of modern day pseudo-socialists to resuscitate the dead, counterfeit “socialist” Karl Kautsky’s theory that capitalist powers could unite as one to amicably exploit the world together – a “theory” which Lenin so fiercely denounced. These latter-day continuators of Kautsky’s line posit that there is just one seamless, homogenous imperialist bloc in the world led by the USA. The truth, however, is that there are actually several discrete, often competing, capitalist powers who, after assessing their own separate predatory interests, have in many cases chosen to be, for the moment, in uneasy alliances with the strongest power, the U.S.A as well as with each other. As Lenin understood, even competing capitalists powers do seek alliances in order to better challenge other capitalist powers … and most significantly right now to more strongly threaten workers states (like, today, the Peoples Republic of China, Cuba and North Korea). So, although a U.S.-Russia alliance is rather unlikely right now it is not completely impossible.
In the, presently unlikely, event that such a U.S.-Russia alliance were to be forged it would have to be negotiated with a deal cut on Syria. Such a deal is then going to end up favouring the interests of one or the other capitalist military superpower or to involve some sort of mid-way compromise. It would be harder for Russia to back down since its intervention has been more direct in Syria and this is its one major area of prominent intervention whereas the U.S. has about half a dozen very high profile theatres where it is directly meddling. For Russia’s capitalist rulers to back down over Syria would, thus, be a big blow to its prestige as a major world power, the pursuit for which is a major motive for its intervention in the first place. However, it is possible that the U.S. and Russia could strike a deal whereby U.S. wishes are satisfied for a new regime that would allow greater economic exploitation of the country by U.S. corporations and a foreign policy more “synchronised” with U.S. “goals” for the region while, at the same time, guaranteeing Russia’s bases in the country, Russian influence in the choice of the new political set up and – most importantly for Moscow – recognising Russia’s role as a major world player that has been dominant in shaping the whole arrangement. A sign that such a deal is not completely impossible was indeed seen in February last year when Russia publicly rebuked Assad for saying that he wanted to re-capture the whole country from the pro-imperialist “Rebels”. Russia’s then UN envoy, the late Vitaly Churkin stated:
“Russia has invested very seriously in this crisis, politically, diplomatically and now also militarily.
“Therefore we would like Assad also to respond to this.”
Russia’s envoy even openly insisted that Assad now had to “follow Russia’s leadership” in resolving the crisis.
Following Trump’s unilateral missile strike, a U.S.-Russia rapprochement over Syria is now considerably less likely than it even was previously. Nevertheless, however improbable the scenario of Russia cutting a deal with the U.S. against Syria’s interests, it is our duty to warn other opponents of the imperialist takeover of Syria of this possibility. For armed with a scientific understanding of the nature of capitalist ruling classes and imbued with Lenin’s understanding that capitalists of more powerful countries are compelled to seek out new spheres of exploitation in the “Third World” in order to stave off economic crises at home, Marxist-Leninists – in contrast to Syrian nationalists or nominally anti-imperialist, Western liberals – are uniquely able to foresee both the full range of possibilities and to know what is, indeed, impossible (like a capitalist power acting out of benevolence when it makes a major intervention abroad). And if no one does anti-imperialist activists a favour and patiently explains to them – however uncomfortable they might be to hear it – the possibility that Russia in the future could cut a deal with the U.S. that stabs Syrian independence in the back, then these activists will be taken by surprise, demoralised and hence paralysed if such a scenario did indeed play out.
The Potential Anti-Imperialist Force is the Working Class
Guided by our Marxist-Leninist class analysis, Trotskyist Platform, even while stating that we should not be, at this time, opposing the Russian intervention in Syria and should indeed be, at the moment, happy it is taking place, opposes any illusions that capitalist Russia – or indeed any other capitalist power – can be the champion of anti-imperialism. The one world power that opponents of imperialism should be appealing to is the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). This is because, unlike the U.S.A, Australia and Russia, the PRC has a socialistic system. Although the PRC workers state is bureaucratically deformed and although China’s leadership has allowed too large a capitalist private sector into her economy, it is state-owned enterprises – based on collective ownership by all the PRC population – that still dominate the key sectors of the PRC economy. That means that although there will be the odd private sector capitalist intruding with greedy, selfish motives, any PRC intervention in Syria – or any other country – has, on the whole, no decisive material basis for a predatory, thieving agenda. This is why at actions against imperialist intervention in Syria, Trotskyist Platform has raised, among other slogans, appeals like the following: “Peoples Republic of China: Do Your Socialistic Duty and Stand Still More Strongly Against Western Imperialist Diplomatic and Military Intervention in Syria!”
China has provided some economic and minor military supplies to Syria in the face of the imperialist assault on her. It has also joined Russia in vetoing some Western-sponsored UN resolutions aimed at greasing the skids for imperialist-imposed regime change. Yet, China failed to condemn Trump’s recent missile strikes on Syria. Instead, China only made a neutral-sounding call to solve problems through negotiation. This reflects the Chinese government’s national-centred, ultimately suicidal strategy of trying to appease imperialism – a policy which it, in vain, hopes will entice the capitalist powers to pull back from attacking China’s building of socialism in her own country. Those within the Chinese leadership who most want to appease imperialism are, in general, those that want to allow greater openings for capitalism within China. On the other hand, there are many within China, including activists within the ruling Communist Party of China, who want a firm anti-imperialist policy as part of their commitment to fighting for socialism. The struggle for socialistic China to adopt an internationalist – and thus anti-imperialist – policy on Syria and other questions is, therefore, part of the fight to build a PRC government that will campaign for the revolutionary victory of the working class over capitalism abroad and will oversee a decisive weakening of the insurgent capitalist private sector at home.
While appealing to Red China, the main work here of opponents of imperialist attacks on Syria must be to mobilise the working class in opposition to the U.S./Australian intervention in the Middle East. It is possible to win politicised sections of the working class to this perspective because the imperialist intervention in Syria and Iraq is bad for working class people and bad for other oppressed groups in Australia including Aboriginal people and embattled Muslim and other targeted coloured communities. This predatory intervention abroad is pumping up the capitalist rulers to, at home, even more viciously attack workers’ rights, Aboriginal people and embattled minorities. Thus, the Middle East intervention is only good for Australia’s capitalist exploiting class. So let’s fight for workers action to demand: U.S., Australian, French, British, German and all imperialists: Get out of Syria and Iraq! No to military intervention! No to funding of “Rebel” Proxies! No to diplomatic meddling! Defend Syria against imperialist-imposed regime change!
On 7 April 2017, the world’s biggest killing machine went into overdrive. The U.S. unleashed a barrage of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against a Syrian airbase. The strike killed nine civilians – including four children. The right-wing Turnbull government could not wait to proclaim that it “strongly supports the swift and just response of the United States.” Meanwhile, the ALP Opposition was no better, calling the U.S. attack “appropriate and proportionate.”
The U.S. claims that its missile strike was retaliation for an alleged chemical attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s Idlib Province which they have pinned on Syria’s Assad government. U.S. president Trump claims that he was motivated to attack Syria by concern for children killed in the alleged attack. What a load of rubbish! For the U.S., Australian and other imperialist rulers, the masses in the ex-colonies are completely expendable in their drive to secure control of natural resources, markets and spheres of exploitation. Due to their barbaric willingness to disregard dangers to civilian lives in their war on ISIS, a March 17 airstrike by the U.S./French/British/Australian Coalition killed over 200 civilians in the residential Jadidah neighborhood of the western part of the Iraqi city of Mosul. Meanwhile, the racist Trump regime has shown how much concern they have for the people of the Arab and Muslim world by attempting to ban people from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S. and by stopping all refugees from the war in Syria. Trump’s offensive diatribes against Muslims, Mexicans and other non-white people has incited a terrifying increase in white supremacist attacks throughout North America – including the 29 January massacre of six people at a Quebec City mosque by a fascist Trump supporter. Here in Australia, the Turnbull regime, with the support of the ALP, shows its “concern” for the well-being of children from the Middle East by imprisoning dozens of them in hell-hole detention centres in Australia and Nauru and hundreds more in community detention centres. Meanwhile, Australian regimes of various stripes oversee a racist “child protection” system that has cruelly ripped hundreds of Aboriginal children from their families in an ongoing stolen generations outrage. Continue reading Defend Syria against U.S./Australian Imperialism & Their “Rebel” Proxies!→
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
6th September 2016: Determined supporters of socialistic rule in China rallied this evening on the steps at the entrance to Sydney Town Hall. In this demonstration called at short notice, participants hailed the gains of China’s 1949 anticapitalist revolution and opposed the U.S. and Australian-backed anti-communist Chinese exile groups seeking to promote capitalist restoration in China.
The 1949 Chinese Revolution was one of the most momentous events in humanity’s entire history. The long-suffering Chinese masses overthrew their exploiters and took power. Tens of millions of downtrodden people participated in this heroic struggle. They achieved victory after a bitter three year civil war. On one side of the war stood the oppressed tenant farmers, workers, working-class women and idealistic students. They were organized by the Communist Party of China (CPC) which was led by Mao Ze Dong. On the other side were the brutal landlords and capitalists. These oppressor classes were served by the Kuomintang (KMT) government of Chiang Kai-Shek. The KMT was heavily armed, trained and advised by the U.S. regime. But still they lost to the Communist-led revolutionaries.
The 1949 anti-capitalist revolution freed the peasants from the tyranny of the landlords, made headway in liberating workers from capitalist exploitation and freed the Chinese people from humiliating subjugation by imperial powers. The revolution greatly uplifted women’s status from the horrific reality they faced under the previous Kuomintang regime – when many women were subjected to forced marriage and the barbaric practice of Continue reading Long Live China’s 1949 Anticapitalist Revolution!→