“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
UNLEASH INDUSTRIAL ACTION TO DEMAND JOBS FOR ALL! CAPITALIST “DEMOCRACY” IS A SHAM: ONLY WORKERS UNITED WITH ALL OF THE OPRESSED CAN BRING ABOUT REAL CHANGE
Above: The Handover or Phony Hope Shakes the Hand of Blatant Bigotry. A moment that ought to finally dispel anyone’s lingering illusion that capitalist democracy can ever be reformed into a system that operates in the interests of the working class. Obama prepares to calmly hand the administration of the U.S. capitalist state over to Trump just as George W. Bush did for him eight years earlier. The teetering edifice of the capitalist state requires both left and right pillars to keep it from completely collapsing beneath the dead weight of its own contradictions.
November 9 – Hard right-wing candidate Donald Trump – a billionaire capitalist exploiter and extreme racist and misogynist – will become the next president of the U.S.A. In yesterday’s election, he defeated the candidate supported by the mainstream of the American capitalist class, Hillary Clinton.
Like most far-right demagogues (including Hitler), Trump poses as a “rebel” and “anti-establishment” figure. Actually, he is a tycoon who is very much part of the capitalist ruling class and a key part of his economic program is big tax cuts for the rich. His main beef with the mainstream of the racist establishment is that they are not openly racist and economically nationalist enough for his liking. His blatant racism serves to protect the capitalist establishment by dividing the masses and diverting their economic frustrations and insecurity onto minorities and other groups in society who are made into scapegoats for the mass inequalities that capitalism inevitably creates. Similarly, his protectionism diverts anger about job losses onto overseas workers, thus shielding the capitalist exploiters in the U.S. from any blame and making the masses think that they have a common interest with their own exploiters in protecting American business.
Eight years ago when Obama was first elected, Trotskyist Platform actually predicted that the inevitable failure of a small-l liberal led regime to improve the lives of the masses could well lead to the eventual takeover of hard right forces in America (and, indeed, in his language Obama was the most liberal-sounding U.S. president in decades). Here is an excerpt from the article we wrote upon Obama first taking office:
That the Obama electoral triumph, if anything, dulled workers’ class consciousness means that even the present shift away from the conservative right wing is fragile. Without an understanding that it is the capitalist profiteers who are responsible for unemployment, recession and decay the masses will be vulnerable to right wing demagogy when they see that the new Administration is no more able to satisfy their aspirations than the previous one. The conservatives are waiting in the wing. And they will be able to mobilise right wing activists from amongst the all too many bigoted elements who were horrified that a black person should become President. Hence, there is a real danger that the rise of the liberal Obama could turn out to be just a prelude to a right-wing regime more frightening than Bush’s – perhaps led by a Sarah Palin-like figure. While the left rest on their illusory laurels, the frighteningly fascist right are now surely mobilising their forces, stirred up like a wasps’ nest ready to strike!
Only by mobilising their own power to squeeze concessions out of the exploiters can the working class begin to address the needs of the American masses and stop the re-emergence of the right. The working class can through industrial action force companies to avoid shedding jobs. And its power can be mobilised in a campaign to demand free health care for all. In all such struggles of the American workers movement, black workers will be at the forefront. These workers will join together the multiracial workers’ movement with the ghetto poor in the fight for black liberation.
Although Trump’s views and agenda are certainly fascistic, fascism has not yet triumphed in the U.S (nor does it currently hold sway in any other country). Fascism is not just a government of people with a really right-wing agenda but involves the mass mobilisation of the middle class and some of the unemployed (and even politically backward workers) to violently smash all workers’ organisations – like independent trade unions and left-wing parties – and institute a capitalist regime which dispenses with the formalities of parliamentary “democracy.” Such a regime can only be instituted by physically defeating an inevitable degree of resistance from the politically conscious, working class masses. Nevertheless, Trump’s triumph will greatly encourage fascist outfits in the U.S. and will spur the development of fascist militias. American blacks, First Peoples, Hispanics, Asians, gays, women seeking abortion and leftists will face ever more violent attacks.
Regardless of Trump’s particular policies, the normal workings of the capitalist boom and bust cycles mean that in some four to twelve months there will be an economic downturn in the U.S.A and a consequent rise in the unemployment rate. Given the chaotic state of major capitalist economies, this could turn out to be another serious global economic crisis. In that context, mass struggle led by conscious working class and anti-racist forces could weaken the right-wing regime and undermine support for it. However, in the absence of such struggle, the increased economic insecurity could further fuel the flames of fascism.
Trump’s ascendancy will also embolden far-right and fascist forces here in Australia. Hard-right Liberal politician Cory Bernardi as well as the LNP MP George Christensen openly backed Trump. And Trump’s victory was hailed by the fascistic senator Pauline Hanson of One Nation infamy. Indeed, at a fascist rally in the northern Melbourne suburb of Eltham last weekend against a refugee centre, some of the fascist scum were wearing Trump T-shirts.
Trump’s rise will not only boost organised far-right forces but will also incite violent tendencies amongst garden-variety rednecks in Australia. The latter are people who may not be politically active in an extreme right-wing movement but are, nevertheless, simply filled with racial hatred. A couple of months ago, one such redneck murdered 14-year-old Aboriginal youth, Elijah Doughty, near the Western Australia town of Kalgoorlie. Then late last month, Indian-origin bus driver, Manmeet Alisher was cruelly murdered by being set alight with a fire bomb by a man of white Anglo-Saxon appearance, Anthony O’Donohue. O’Donohue, formerly an accountant, was known to harbour fascistic, crackpot conspiracy theories against trade unions. Although the media and cops have done their best to cover up the racist nature of this Brisbane murder the victim’s family are sure that it was motivated by racism. Several people with origins from the Indian subcontinent have told Trotskyist Platform comrades the same thing. They pointed out that the Indian man was specifically singled out. One man of Indian background, in explaining how Manmeet’s killing was a racist murder, told us that while living in the same multi-cultural Brisbane suburb where the murder took place, Moorooka, he had been attacked by racists and once had to literally run for his life to escape from a white racist who was threatening him.
All this underscores the need to build, here in Australia just as much as in other capitalist countries, a mass mobilisation of trade unionists, Aboriginal people, non-white “ethnic” people and all anti-racists to drive the fascist filth off the streets. This is an urgent necessity of self-defence for all the intended victims of the fascists. Although self-defence action against fascist groups will not directly stop the daily and incessant racist attacks and abuse from the innumerable garden-variety rednecks scattered throughout this country, by landing blows against organised fascists we can send a message to the garden-variety racists out there that they had better pull their heads in. These racists must learn that the organised and united multiracial working class has both the will and the power to stand up and defend anyone who is vulnerable to their racist, cowardly attacks.
No to Divisive Protectionism: For a Class Struggle Program of Jobs For All!
Trump’s victory will also encourage various forces here to more rabidly push for protectionism. In fact, economic nationalism was one of Trump’s main points of attraction for the U.S. masses, especially in the Mid-West rust belt. To be sure, when the media reports that working class people in the Mid-West were supporting Trump this can be a bit misleading since, in actual fact, Trump still did not do that well in cities. What they mean by “working class” is people with a lower income rather than in terms of their actual relationship to the means of production. Trump’s support came not so much from currently employed industrial workers as it did from laid-off workers now trying to hustle a living as self-employed contractors or small businessmen or those now in insecure, non-union casual jobs or, perhaps, still unemployed or forced into early retirement. Unionised workers who are brought together at the point of production and united together in unions are, overall, less susceptible to right-wing demagogy than isolated self-employed and unemployed people. And, though it is true that even a portion of unionised workers did vote for Trump, analysis of exit polls actually revealed that the higher the income, the more likely you were to vote for Trump.
We need to firmly oppose economic nationalism here not only because it fuels racism but also because it directly undermines the fight to build actual struggle against the greedy bosses at home. However, we can only successfully oppose protectionism if we counterpose to it a class struggle program of jobs for all – that is, by highlighting the demand that profitable enterprises be forced to increase hiring at the cost of their own profits and then linking this demand to the fight for the ultimate confiscation of the means of production from the capitalist class by the working class. Trotskyist Platform has been emphasising opposition against any form of protectionism and promoting a class struggle program of jobs for all but we will intensify this work by fighting to build more actions promoting this essential perspective.
Unfortunately, much of the Left either themselves embrace economic nationalism – while trying to rid it of it of its openly racist aspects – or just try their best to ignore it. However, any leftist force that capitulates to economic nationalism is an obstacle to the fight for workers’ rights whether it happens to call itself socialist, Trotskyist, Marxist-Leninist, anarchist or any other kind of ist. The protectionist ideology of the pro-Democrats, American union bureaucracy has pushed a section of American unionised workers – and many laid off industrial workers – into the arms of far-right populism. The economic nationalist slogans of the current, pro-ALP Australian union leadership should also not be allowed to push Australian workers into the filthy arms of Hanson’s One Nation and its ilk who, after all, are the most consistent nationalists of all. Challenging the economic nationalist ideology that is currently dominant in the Australian workers movement is key to unleashing a class struggle fightback to defend our unions, protect workers rights and win jobs for everyone.
Implications for the Leninist Program on International Questions
On international policy, Trump has not disguised the fact that he is going to push an even more openly hostile stance towards socialistic China. He wants to draw capitalist Russia into this task by building an alliance with Russia that would bring the world’s two most powerful military powers into a capitalist super alliance. Part of the aim of this perspective is also to weaken the U.S.A’s European NATO allies cum imperialist economic rivals. Additionally, there is ideological affinity between the hard right wing in the U.S. and the Putin government. Putin, as well as being a hero to right-wing , “Third Way” (i.e. “neither socialism nor capitalism”) conspiracy theory types is also a hero to fascist groups throughout the West (the Australian Defence League here, for example, has openly hailed him) as well as to more mainstream right-wing forces (like racist, Islamophobic senator Jacqui Lambi) because of his government’s hard line anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies as well as his homophobia.
However, whether Trump and the Far Right’s proclivities for an alliance with Russia will be implemented remains to be seen. Trump’s regime will be, in effect, an alliance of hard line right wingers like himself and more mainstream figures from the right wing of the Republican Party. The latter are less inclined to an alliance with Russia as they believe the U.S. is strong enough not to share its spoils with any emerging power and do not want to allow a new player into the imperialist club. Furthermore, Putin himself would probably play hard to get with Trump since he knows the U.S is a weakening empire. He would also not want Russia to play second fiddle to the U.S. too much and would hold out for as many concessions as possible. Furthermore, the Russian bourgeoisie may be hesitant to be pulled in too brazenly into an anti-China alliance since, despite their hostility to socialism (the Russian government from Putin down were, after all, active in the counterrevolution that destroyed the USSR and brought capitalist class rule back to Russia) they stand to make a fortune from selling oil and natural gas to neighbouring China which has few of these resources itself.
Nevertheless, a U.S.-Russia capitalist super alliance is certainly quite possible and if it does transpire this may affect the position that communist internationalists should take towards events in Syria. Whatever effect a Trump presidency has on U.S.-Russia relations, one thing is pretty certain: the Trump ascendancy will see an intensification of open U.S. hostility to the Chinese workers state. So, despite the bureaucratic deformations and capitalist incursions into China – and we must remember that nearly 60% of her economy is controlled and nearly all of her economy’s commanding heights (that is, the heavy industries, finance, transport, telecommunications etc) are fully owned by the Chinese workers state, a bigger slice of the economic pie than that enjoyed by the Soviet Russian state during Lenin’s time – authentic socialists need to be ready to intensify our struggle to defend socialistic China against imperialist attack and imperialist-backed, anti-communist NGOs.
We live in scary times. The ascendancy of Trump to the U.S. presidency will – in the absence of mass resistance – incite in both the U.S.A and Australia a further escalation of racist attacks on coloured ethnic minorities, Muslims and First Peoples communities. However, we should be aware that the rising of fascistic forces is a sign of the utter decay of capitalism which in its death throes is releasing such noxious fumes. But the system will not die by itself. It needs to be overthrown by the conscious working class-led masses united with all of the oppressed. It is our job to advance the struggle for such a socialist revolution. This is a time when every major capitalist country is seeing the rise of sinister far-right forces: from the U.S.A to Australia to most of Europe to Russia and the Ukraine. In Indonesia a violent racist movement has erupted and targeted the governor of Jakarta purely for his being a member of an ethnic and religious minority. In India a sinister fascistic mass murderer is the prime minister. In fact, the one great socialistic power in the world, Red China, looks rather good by comparison. It is the one large nation where far-right racist forces based on the majority ethnic community are not on the march.
Why, in Australia, must the flower of Aboriginal youth fall victim to murderous, racist rednecks or become prey for a relentlessly systematic kind of brutal “justice” that continues to send young Aboriginal men and women to languish in jail cells or detention centres for years on end or worse? They are victims of the essentially immoral 200 year-old Australian capitalist racket. As are the brave children, women and men who have been held hostage in the Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island hellholes. Can anyone seriously argue that if these asylum seekers came from, say, England or Denmark instead of mainly from the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East that they would be treated in the same heartless manner? In fact, the Australian capitalist state’s border control policy provides tacit official sanction to every act of racist violence and xenophobia perpetrated out there on the streets of Australia.
A mighty, radical shift is needed. Any deluded notion of a middle ground that social democrats might be clinging onto is fast falling away beneath their feet and the pieces being greedily gobbled up by the awaiting, wide open fascistic jaws of your Donald Trumps and Pauline Hansons. Now is not the time for sitting on fences. The fence has already collapsed under the combined weight of too many fat, middle class rumps. Increasingly, humanity is faced with a choice between fascism and communism. Behind fascism stands the capitalist, property-rich ruling class which is willing to unleash its nazi dogs as a last resort to protect its ill gotten gains and its global control of immense human and industrial resources. Behind the prospect of communism stands the organised, international working class which is willing and able to seize control of the world’s business from the tiny minority of capitalist owners in the name of all the people and then commence work towards a collective, humane and socialistic organisation of society. A handful of countries have already – bravely and with sometimes seemingly intolerable sacrifice – embarked on the road to a communist future despite the perpetual harrassment and often bloody resistance put up by the imperialist powers. We workers of Australia must offer our sincere respect, our immense gratitude and, most of all, a comradely – critical if necessary but always helping – hand to these frontier workers states because our futures are inextricably linked. Let’s work hard to advance the struggle for communism here too! Let’s promote a class struggle fight for jobs for all workers! Let’s fight to unite the working class masses right around the world by uncompromisingly standing against both racism and economic nationalism! You’d have to be blind now not to see capitalist democracy for what it really is – a filthy, rich man’s game. But the riches of the world have always really belonged to the working many and not to the exploiting few. The exploiters can choke on the racism, hatred and division they sow. The fruit of our labour is of a different sort altogether. Already the workers of the world have begun to unite in order to form a community of kindness which can embrace all of our common humanity without exception. From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs. Friends, the time to mobilise and to strike back is now.
Five days ago, a 55 year-old white man murdered a 14-year-old Aboriginal youth, Elijah Doughty in Boulder, just south of the Western Australia town of Kalgoorlie. The horrific murder was followed by a racist outpouring by rednecks on social media celebrating the killing and threatening Aboriginal people with murder and rape.
Outrageously, police only charged the killer with manslaughter rather than murder. Hundreds of Aboriginal people responded to this blatant state racism by courageously marching on the courthouse and carrying out staunch acts of defiance against symbols of the racist authorities – including police cars, the courthouse entrance and the heavily armed police who were confronting them. Police responded with typical brutality unleashing their batons against the Aboriginal marchers and making several arrests. Meanwhile, the WA Police Minister and Attorney General have rushed to viciously condemn the brave stand taken by Aboriginal people in Kalgoorlie.
The whole series of events highlights the murderous racist oppression that Aboriginal people face throughout the country.
The trade union movement and all anti-racists must stand by the Aboriginal community of Kalgoorlie – and indeed the whole country – at this critical time. We must condemn the downgraded charge that the killer of Elijah Doughty received and must call for the immediate dropping of all charges against the Aboriginal people arrested for their brave acts of resistance on Tuesday.
Above, December 2005: Hordes of rednecks bash any coloured or other “ethnic” person they could find on Cronulla Beach and surrounding area. Ten years later (Right), it was militant anti-fascists who formed the loudest, most prominent demonstration in the area. The opposite of ten years earlier, it was any racist filth who were present near the Beach who would have felt the most intimidated, at least if they were within the area near the anti-racist march route.
Ten Years On after the Filthy , Violent White Supremacist Riot:
KICK THE RACISTS OUT!
13 December 2015: Ten years ago, hordes of extreme white supremacists and garden-variety rednecks rampaged through the area around Cronulla Beach bashing any non-white person they could find. However yesterday, the loudest, most prominent demonstration in Cronulla was a 150-strong march of anti-racists. They opposed a gathering of extreme white supremacists who ended up having to confine their race-hate event to an isolated park out of sight of most people. Unlike ten years earlier in Cronulla, at least in the vicinity of the anti-racist demonstration, it was more dangerous to be an open racist than a coloured person. The few racist provocateurs who were foolish enough to infiltrate the space occupied by the anti-racists were surrounded and confronted by militant anti-fascists and at least one fascist was dealt with in a decisive fashion. The message for racists watching on television is that you had better be careful about openly acting on your prejudices or getting active with far-right groups because you could meet militant opposition.
Despite weaknesses, and the all too predictable hostility to the action by the capitalist media, the anti-racist mobilisation was overall a partial victory against far-right racists. Nevertheless, the fascist Party For Freedom were still able to get away with holding their racist gathering – an “anti-Halal BBQ.” The racist gathering was three times smaller than the anti-racist mobilisation. Despite being formally banned by the courts from holding a planned rally to celebrate the 2005 Cronulla riot, the event held by the Party For Freedom and their allies was protected by a massive mobilisation of heavily-armed riot police. In facilitating the extreme racists’ gathering, the police adopted heavy-handed tactics towards anti-racist demonstrators. They arrested two anti-racist activists, although neither of the arrestees was charged. One of those arrested was a one-armed Aboriginal activist in his late 50s, who the police had earlier knocked to the ground when he tried to go around the police lines to get at the fascists. This underscores the need for the mobilisation of the working class in the struggle against fascism. It is the social power of the working class that can compel the police to stand aside so that the fascists can be swept off the streets.
Participating in yesterday’s anti-racist action were student activists from Sydney University, anarchists, supporters of Socialist Alternative, Aboriginal activists and Trotskyist Platform supporters. A weakness of the mobilisation was that it was not able to win many newer people into the anti-racist struggle – that is individuals not connected to any of the activists circles involved in organising the demonstration. Furthermore, other than for several Aboriginal activists, the coloured people in our Trotskyist Platform contingent and a handful of other coloured people, there were not that many non-white people taking part in the anti-racist action. The combined effect of the intensely racist and repressive political climate in the wake of the Paris attacks and coloured peoples understandable fear of going to Cronulla in the absence of the guaranteed backing of a mass trade union mobilisation, kept coloured people from Sydney’s southwest largely away from the event.
In the lead up to yesterday’s rally, Trotskyist Platform emphasised the need to bring a large number of working class coloured people into Cronulla as part of a multi-racial action to challenge the defacto exclusion of most working class, coloured people from Cronulla Beach over the last ten years. The need for such an action was plainly obvious yesterday. Before the 2005 racist riot, Cronulla Beach had been Sydney’s most multi-racial beach. However, when we were there yesterday, the area in and around the beach, including major restaurants in the area, were close to 95% white. Furthermore, when our multi-racial contingent got out of our cars in Cronulla to meet up with other anti-racist activists and when we at that stage looked like ordinary beachgoers, we received hostile stares from both people driving past and people looking out of their houses just because coloured people formed a major part of our crowd.
At one point yesterday, a sizeable minority of the anti-racist demonstration flooded onto a part of the beach to make a statement. However, most of the remainder of the rally had not yet been won to an understanding of the necessity of desegregating the beach. Furthermore, there was not a high enough proportion of coloured people in the anti-racist demonstration for its presence on the beach to represent a serious challenge to the defacto exclusion from the area of working class, coloured people from Sydney’s southwest – who the recent ex-mayor of Sutherland Shire and racist rednecks alike refer to as “thugs from Lakemba.” To make an effective stance against the de-facto exclusion of most coloured youth from Cronulla Beach, we need an action in the future that brings in such a large number of working class, coloured people that it exceeds what is considered an acceptable token level by the conservative Shire Council and garden-variety racist locals. Such a “threatening” mobilisation of coloured people from Sydney’s southwest together with white anti-racist activists and the power of the trade union movement would be a powerful statement against both the on-going segregation of Cronulla Beach and the wave of racist attacks that non-white people are facing throughout the country. If the working class movement was to play a major role in such a future mass action that opens up Cronulla Beach to people of all colours, it would boost working class inter-ethnic unity and strengthen the workers movement’s confidence in its own power.
The leaflet that Trotskyist Platform distributed at the 12 December 2015 action can be found here.
Above: Activists establish the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy on its first day, 26 May 2014. At the front of the Bottom Left photo is embassy founder, Jenny Munro.
7 September 2015: There was a feeling of satisfaction amongst activists of the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) as activists packed up the protest camp over the last few days. The RATE struggle had made headway in securing affordable housing for Aboriginal people in Redfern’s historic Block area. After over fifteen months of hard struggle, RATE has won an agreement whereby 62 new houses will be built on the Block to provide accommodation at low cost to Aboriginal people. Prior to the RATE struggle, it was apparent that not only would the provision of affordable housing on the Block be delayed but it would likely not be provided at all. The Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) had removed the last of the Aboriginal residents living on The Block four years ago with the promise that they would be able to come back into affordable accommodation in newly built houses. However, by early last year it was confirmed what Aboriginal people in Redfern had long suspected: the 62 affordable housing dwellings that the AHC had promised to build as part of its Pemulwuy project were to become – at best – an afterthought to its plan for the area to be turned by the developer Deicorp into shops, office space and higher-end commercial housing for students.
RATE was established on 26 May 2014 by Aboriginal women and supporters with its central demand that affordable housing for Aboriginal people on The Block be built prior to any commercial development. Amongst those who set up the Embassy were Aboriginal former Block residents. RATE then quickly inspired support from Aboriginal people and other anti-racist activists angry about not only the lack of affordable housing for Aboriginal people but also the brutal oppression Aboriginal people continued to face in all aspects of their lives from racist police violence to the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal activists from Gamilaraay country in northern NSW and from far away as Queensland and Western Australia came to do stints camping at RATE while RATE was flooded with statements of solidarity from far flung places. In September last year, the morale of RATE supporters was greatly lifted by a visit to the camp by Palm Island, Aboriginal resistance hero Lex Wotton – the leader of the November 2004 uprising on that island that courageously responded to the racist police killing of Aboriginal man Mulrunji Doomadgee and the subsequent police whitewash of the murder. Those involved in overseas indigenous rights struggles from places as far away as Hawaii also visited RATE to offer their support.
On a few of the days when RATE was facing threatened eviction, dozens of students from nearby Sydney University went down to RATE in solidarity. They showed that they refused to be part of plans to turn The Block into accommodation for Sydney University students when that was being done at the expense of affordable housing for Aboriginal people. Especially crucial was the solidarity given to RATE from trade unions. From the early days of RATE, the CFMEU construction union helped with logistics such as providing RATE with a porta-loo. On the first anniversary of RATE on May 26 this year, dozens of MUA members marched down to the RATE site. As they waved union flags they expressed their determination to stand by RATE and support its demands. A joint meeting that day of RATE activists and MUA unionists stated:
Trade unionists and supporters of the Redfern Tent Embassy (RATE) gathered here on May 26 to express our ongoing solidarity with the action being taken by the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy in occupying Aboriginal land at the Block in Redfern to stop a commercial property development planned by Deicorp and the Aboriginal Housing Company.
Aboriginal housing is desperately needed and should be built before any commercial development is allowed to progress.
Many long-term Aboriginal residents of Redfern/Waterloo are currently living in overcrowded, unsuitable state housing, or are homeless, while Aboriginal land is being taken over for commercial development.
Both the Commonwealth and state governments are refusing to release public funds for any Aboriginal-controlled community housing projects anywhere in Australia. This discriminatory policy has to end. Public funding must be allocated immediately for Aboriginal community housing for the Block and across the country.
We call on trade unions, and Unions NSW, to pass similar resolutions and take political and practical steps to ensure that the proposed development does not proceed before the housing demands are met.
By the last weeks of the RATE struggle, the flags of around a dozen different trade unions were flying on the RATE site showing solidarity with the Aboriginal struggle from the organised workers movement.
The strategy of RATE was powerful yet beautifully simple. By camping on the very site that the commercial development on The Block was to take place, RATE ensured that no such development could take place unless either the AHC/developers/government came to an agreement with RATE or the police unleashed violence to forcibly remove RATE. Seeing how RATE activists had refused to be deterred by either severe storms blowing down tents or by police repression or attacks by thugs and, importantly, seeing the statements of solidarity for RATE from trade unions, the government/AHC/developers calculated that they had no choice but to negotiate a settlement with RATE. After steadfastly refusing to provide any support for the development of affordable housing on The Block, the federal Liberal government reluctantly stepped in at the end to provide a $5 million grant as well as organising for a larger bank loan to fund the affordable housing. The deal done between the AHC, the federal government and RATE commits the AHC to building the affordable housing either before or simultaneously with the commercial development. Thus, if the deal is honoured, the core demand of RATE would have been achieved. The Aboriginal activists who led RATE have emphasised the need to be vigilant in order to ensure that the deal is adhered to and that no excuses are made to delay the building of the affordable housing. Furthermore, activists will need to ensure that the AHC does not knock back the Aboriginal people most in need of access to affordable housing in order to have the housing occupied by more affluent Aboriginal people who the AHC knows will be more “acceptable” to the future upper-middle class occupants of the commercial retail and residential development.
Of course, given the level of homelessness that Aboriginal people in inner-city Sydney suffer and the extreme level of racist discrimination that Aboriginal people face when trying to rent privately, there is a need for much more than 62 affordable dwellings on The Block. Ideally the entire re-development of The Block should be to provide low rent public housing for Aboriginal people and associated services. Such a re-development would also have better ensured that The Block was retained as a social and political centre for Aboriginal people. However, the fact is that what will likely now be built on The Block as a result of the RATE struggle is a lot better than what was on the cards prior to this struggle.
A Decades Long War on Aboriginal Housing on The Block by Greedy Developers and Racist Governments
Aboriginal people have been living on The Block in low-rent housing since the early 1970s. This affordable housing had been won through a struggle by Aboriginal militants and the militant Builders Labourers Federation trade union. That struggle which triumphed in early 1973 forced the then Whitlam Labor federal government to provide a grant for Aboriginal people to collectively buy up the area. The Aboriginal housing in the area came to be managed by the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) which was established by the activists who fought for The Block for the sole purpose of providing comfortable and happy low-rent accommodation for Aboriginal people. Despite facing much racist discrimination – including from banks reluctant to do dealings with an Aboriginal organisation – the AHC’s work in its early days ensured that low-rent accommodation came to be provided for up to 300 Aboriginal people on The Block.
However, like most economic or social organisations – whether black, white, “ethnic” or multiracial – that exist in capitalist Australia without a clear anti-capitalist perspective, the AHC became more and more subordinated to the agendas of powerful economic interests. Specifically, the AHC ended up speaking not for the interests of low-income Aboriginal tenants – as it was originally constructed to do – but became a vehicle for the schemes of wealthy capitalist developers and their mates in government. In the eyes of these developers, The Block was prime inner-city real estate which could be turned into a lot of money. And they were determined to lay their grubby hands on it! They wanted to gain access to the land so that they could eject low-income Aboriginal tenants and build high-end commercial housing and shops that would sell for big bucks. Successive NSW state governments, which like all governments in capitalist Australia serve the interest of the corporate exploiting class, have been happy to sing along to the tune of these greedy developers.
Racist governments had an additional motive for wanting to dilute the Aboriginal character of The Block. The Block came to be not only a centre of Aboriginal culture and a meeting place for Aboriginal people from all over Australia but also a centre of Aboriginal political resistance against racist oppression. Over the years, many rallies for Aboriginal land rights and against racist police violence started, finished or passed through The Block. In February 2004, The Block and nearby Lawson Street saw hundreds of Aboriginal youth courageously hold their ground in a nine-hour pitched battle with racist cops. The youth were 100% justifiably responding to provocations by Redfern police who clamped down on the community after racist cops had murdered 17 year-old Aboriginal youth TJ Hickey. Earlier, in May 1981 and then seven months later, 200 Aboriginal people responded to incessant racist police harassment by barricading Eveleigh Street on The Block and bravely responding to the marauding police by throwing projectiles back at them. There have also been numerous smaller versions of such heroic acts of resistance to racist police violence on The Block.
The developers and government’s agenda was greatly facilitated by the AHC’s journey away from its founding spirit as a community organisation set up by militant black activists. One indication of just how far the AHC has travelled was seen in the way that AHC CEO Mick Mundine held a joint press conference with Redfern top cop Luke Freudenstein in February last year to express his support to Redfern police in their condemnation of a large protest march demanding justice for TJ Hickey on the tenth anniversary of TJ’s killing by racist cops.
The AHC’s drift away from its original purpose of serving low-income Aboriginal tenants was the result of the confluence of several currents. One force pushing the AHC away from its stated purpose was simply the pressure of the capitalist “free market.” As an entity that had no stable source of external funding and was meant to operate within the confines of “market principles,” the AHC, as a body without a clear anti-capitalist agenda, inevitably became easy game for whoever had the market power to either promise to deliver housing construction and maintenance at a lower price or on the other hand promised, in exchange for land use rights for commercial development, big money that could be used to subsidise its housing program. In this way, the AHC became associated with and dependent on wealthy capitalist corporations who began to use that influence to set more and more of the AHC’s agenda. Prominent on the AHC’s own website’s list of “Partners” is not only the developer Deicorp but Westpac Bank and the South Sydney Business Chamber. Then there was developers and governments directly influencing the AHC leaders through financial enticements. Some in the Aboriginal community have long suspected this has involved outright bribery of AHC leaders. To be sure, that would hardly be just a problem with the AHC – just look at successive NSW state governments! From developers handing over tens of thousands of dollars in cash to politicians in brown paper bags to business bosses bribing the former premier with an expensive “gift,” the last few years have revealed just a small fraction of the massive corruption that the leaders of this state wallow in. Yet just as the big business bosses can control politicians with more “legal” forms of enticements – like large donations to the respective political parties and invitations to sit in corporate boxes at sporting events – so too can greedy developers and their government cronies bring an organisation like the AHC under its control through more subtle but even more insidious means of buying influence. This could include offering AHC leaders invitations to fancy business/government lunches and functions and seducing AHC leaders into making them feel that they are part of elite circles by allowing them to participate in government/corporate policy discussion sessions.
As the AHC bent to the pressures of the capitalist “free market” and came under the increasing influence of rich corporations and the state government, staunch Aboriginal activists and grassroots tenants who objected to all this were increasingly purged from the organisation and its leadership. This in turn further accelerated the AHC’s path away from its original purpose.
When the pressure of “market imperatives” and corrupting influences was not enough to bring the AHC completely into the developers’/government’s fold, the NSW state government unleashed its “legal” muscle to bring the AHC to heel. Thus, even long after the AHC had sold out its founding principles, the NSW government at first refused to give the AHC planning approval for its Pemulwuy project. The government insisted that there be even less affordable housing for Aboriginal people in a re-developed Block than the AHC had proposed. Indeed, even as Aboriginal people were being squeezed out of The Block, the 1995-2011 NSW ALP government refused, for a whole decade, to give the rebuilding of affordable homes for Aboriginal people planning approval until the AHC agreed to give further priority to the commercial aspects of the Pemulwuy project. To resist such bullying from the government would have taken a campaign of mass protest action. The AHC did very briefly flirt with a diluted version of this idea and even organised a hundreds strong protest rally in Redfern in August 2006 in support of affordable housing for Aboriginal people on The Block. Yet already by then the AHC had strayed way too far into the camp of the enemies of Aboriginal people’s rights to honestly want to sustain such a campaign. What is more, the AHC had by then lost any real credibility with the grass roots Aboriginal people needed to wage such a campaign anyway.
As far back as twenty years ago, the AHC first started in effect implementing the developers’ and government’s plan to drive Aboriginal tenants off The Block. In the mid-1990s, Block residents were enraged when they confirmed that the AHC had drawn up plans to actually abolish all affordable housing for Aboriginal people on The Block and, instead, planned to turn most of the area into commercial office space. Although they later modified this plan, the AHC had already started creating facts on the ground by neglecting repairs on houses so much that tenants could not tolerate it anymore and started leaving The Block “voluntarily”.
Meanwhile, police attacks on Aboriginal people in Redfern assisted the ruling class agenda of driving Aboriginal tenants off The Block. This police violence was not solely about kicking low-income people off from prime real estate. It was also motivated by pure racism – by the racist culture that permeates the police force and which, in turn, arises naturally from the police’s role as the enforcers of an unequal and discriminatory social order based on the dispossession of this country’s first peoples and the exploitation of labour by wealthy business owners. However, the big end of town’s agenda to push black people off prime inner-city real estate gave the police attacks added impetus. Aside from daily bullying of Aboriginal youth, almost every year saw a large-scale police assault on The Block. One of the most brutal such raids took place on 8 February 1990.9 It was on that day, just before 4am, that some 135 cops led by the heavily armed Tactical Response Group (whose functions today are largely performed by the Public Order and Riot Squad) smashed into several homes on The Block with sledgehammers and iron bars. Residents woke up terrified as they saw these men bearing shotguns break into their homes and point weapons at them. The police put guns to women’s heads, roughed up residents and abused people. But after all that the police did not charge anyone with a serious offence like a violent crime or even charges of dealing in drugs or weapons. Of the eight charges that they did bring against people, two were for unpaid fines, one was a more than 7 year old warrant for breach of bail, another a warrant for failing to appear at a court nearly six years earlier and another a warrant for a resident allegedly being drunk on a train close to six years earlier! Additionally, three people were charged with having possession of stolen goods because they could not provide receipts for relatively minor items like a TV, a radio cassette player, an electric shaver and unbelievably a pair of goggles! And for this the local community was terrorised and left traumatised. To put it all into perspective, nearly one and a half times as many police were mobilised to find a couple of allegedly stolen TVs and a pair of goggles on The Block as the 92 police who were put on duty in Cronulla on 11 December 2005 when the police knew full well that the violent, white supremacist riot that subsequently took place there was indeed very likely to happen! Police terror against the Redfern Aboriginal community culminated in the February 2004 killing of 17 year-old TJ Hickey by racist police who rammed his bicycle while he was riding on it and impaled the boy on a steel paling.
The incessant police attacks, the demoralising effect of living in houses where repairs were not being done and the daily discrimination that Aboriginal people faced in employment and every aspect of their lives inevitably led to social problems on The Block. These problems were played up by the capitalist-owned media and seized on by the state government to justify their push to drive Aboriginal tenants out of the area. The combined effect of relentless police attacks, the deterioration of the houses, social problems and the AHC’s push to move tenants off The Block meant that by late 2010 there were just 35 people living on The Block – down from a peak of over 300. To get the last of the tenants to move, the AHC on the one hand threatened higher rents and eviction orders and, on the other hand, promised residents that they would be able to move back once the re-development took place. Residents, however, were sceptical about being able to move back and expected that the 62 new affordable houses would still be way out of their price range. What really enraged former Block residents and supporters of affordable housing for Aboriginal people was when last year AHC CEO, Mick Mundine, claimed that it was not commercially viable to pursue affordable housing on the Block. ‘’That’s on the back burner at the moment,’’ he said. ‘’Our first priority is the commercial build’’ (The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 April 2014). It was this confirmation of the fears of many that led Aboriginal activists to establish RATE.
From 1972 to 2015: The Struggle for Affordable Housing for Aboriginal People on The Block Continues
The enemies of RATE tried everything to defeat the RATE struggle including a series of violent attacks on RATE activists. Family members of a senior AHC employee staged several of these attacks. In one attack last year, at least one of these family members was amongst a group of four men that came to the embassy and assaulted RATE activist, Raymond Munro. Yet when police arrived, it was Raymond Munro and another RATE activist who had come to his defence that the cops arrested and charged with affray. Police only charged two of the actual four attackers. Also last year, another relative of the senior AHC employee invaded the embassy in the dark of night – bearing a piece of wood – and attacked two women including embassy founder Jenny Munro. Enemies of RATE also seemed to have enlisted criminal elements to stage random attacks on RATE activists staffing the embassy or to enter the embassy grounds with the aim of causing fear and disruption. Amongst the most frightening attack was when occupants of a black, flashy four-wheel drive vehicle passed RATE on two separate occasions and hurled flares at the embassy. They aimed to set the tents on fire.
Alongside the attacks by thugs, RATE faced repression from the organs of the capitalist state. The police arrested four key RATE activists during the duration of the struggle – outrageously all resulting from incidents where violent intruders and provocateurs had invaded the embassy grounds. The arrested RATE activists were then set bail conditions banning them from the vicinity of The Block, thus laying bare the police strategy – to strip RATE of its key activists. Amongst those whom the police arrested – and for a period banned from the Block – was RATE leader Jenny Munro.
Meanwhile, in August, the NSW Supreme Court ruled against RATE and ordered its eviction. In doing so the courts stayed true to form, proving once again that like the police, prisons and entire legal/state machinery they are an instrument for the oppression of Aboriginal people and all the exploited and oppressed by the big end of town. Yet despite all that was thrown at RATE and its activists the struggle made a significant advance. Congratulations to all those who joined the struggle. It was the Aboriginal activists in RATE that provided the leadership and the strong drive that was key to success. The Aboriginal activists spearheading the movement deeply understood not only how the lack of affordable housing has forced many Aboriginal people into homelessness but also the importance of saving the Aboriginal character of The Block given its special significance as a historic centre for militant black resistance against racial oppression. Many non-Aboriginal people also supported the RATE struggle. This included people from various non-white “ethnic” communities – who especially identify with the Aboriginal rights struggle because of their own experiences in racist white Australia – as well as committed anti-racist white activists. Special mention here must be made to activists with links to the anarchist Black Rose collective who did a lot of heavy lifting in terms of staffing and protecting the embassy at night. Trotskyist Platform activists also did regular night and graveyard shifts to guard the embassy. Also participating in the struggle were activists from Socialist Alliance and individuals from a wide range of different anti-racist political standpoints. When RATE held rallies – both on as well as outside The Block– still broader layers of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people joined these actions to express their support.
Just like RATE, Aboriginal housing on The Block was first won in a hard fought struggle. That early 1970s struggle faced even more obstacles than RATE did but, at the same time, was bolstered by a higher level of trade union support than the RATE struggle received. The back drop of the original struggle for affordable housing on The Block was the movement of many Aboriginal people from rural areas to the city in search of work. Many found work at the Eveleigh rail yards (at the site of what is now the Australian Technology Park) where they were paid terribly low wages – much lower than other workers. However, due to rampant discrimination by racist bosses, many Aboriginal people could not get work at all. To compound their problems, discrimination by landlords meant Aboriginal people had trouble getting tenancy in rental properties. In the early 1970s some of the homeless Aboriginal people would squat in unoccupied houses owned by absentee landlords in the area that later became known as The Block. They were often arrested and brutalised by local police who imposed a defacto selective curfew on Aboriginal people. Meanwhile, the racist South Sydney Council ran a campaign against those – including a local church – who would offer shelter to homeless Aboriginal people. As a result, in late 1972 black militants and allied anti-racist white people organised a plan to move homeless Aboriginal people into the unoccupied houses in Louis Street in what is now part of The Block. Those houses had been bought up by a greedy developer called Ian Kiernan (who would later founded Clean Up Australia and was awarded an “Australian of the Year” award). Kiernan had evicted all the previous mostly Aboriginal renters and planned to re-develop and gentrify the area with the aim of renting out the new dwellings at higher rates.
Being greedy capitalists, Kiernan and his firm, IBK, of course objected to the Aboriginal squatters. However, the leftist-led Builders Labourers Federation trade union made it clear to him that no work on his development would take place if the Aboriginal people were evicted. Meanwhile, several trade unions organised for work to be done to renovate the homes which were in a poor condition. As one of the former black militants that spearheaded the struggle for the Block, the late Bob Bellear, put it:
“The now exiled State Builders’ Labourers, through Bob Pringle, were called in to erect doors, fix windows etc., while some members of the Plumbers Union fixed taps, toilets and other plumbing facilities required for a more liveable habitation. The electricians turned on the power …”
– “How the Aboriginal Housing Project Was Born”, Bob Bellear, Koori History website
During the struggle, the black militants and their anti-racist white allies faced constant harassment and almost weekly arrests by the police. They were especially targeted by the NSW Police’s hated 21 Division – elite special operations cops (following police reorganisations its functions today are performed by the police’s Public Order and Riot Squad and its Tactical Operations Unit). One of the 21 Division’s favourite tactics was to send in people to cause trouble and then to arrest as many Aboriginal people and their friends as possible in the ensuring raid on “grounds” like swearing, public drunkenness and resisting arrest. Meanwhile, the ALP-led South Sydney Council also did everything possible to oppose the struggle for housing for the homeless Aboriginal people. The racist Council was encouraged by a local community group formed by racist white residents fanatically opposed to the Aboriginal occupants. One night one of these white residents, a security guard, entered the houses where Aboriginal occupants were living and opened fire with live ammunition!
However, despite all this the Aboriginal militants and their BLF union allies stood firm. As it was clear that the Aboriginal struggle was determined to face down any opposition and with the BLF preventing any capitalist development in the area, the Labor federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gordon Bryant, bowed to demands from the Aboriginal militants to provide a grant for Aboriginal people to collectively buy up the area freehold and renovate the houses to use them to provide affordable accommodation for the most needy Aboriginal people. This victory was achieved in April 1973.
Lessons of the Struggles for Affordable Housing on The Block
Affordable housing for Aboriginal people on The Block was won in a period of much working class and other progressive social struggles. The early 1970s was also a time when the U.S. and Australian capitalist rulers were weakened by the defeats they were suffering in their brutal war against the communist workers and peasants of Vietnam. Meanwhile, just five years before The Block was won, capitalist rule in France had its foundations shaken by the militant May 1968 general strike and factory occupations by millions of French workers. A year later, Italy saw similar convulsive struggles that came to be known as the Hot Autumn. Fearful of the threat of socialist revolution that had been posed by the French and Italian events, anxious about the wave of working class and other progressive struggles, weakened by the defeats it was suffering in Vietnam and terrified at the open support for the Vietnamese revolutionaries by a significant number of Australian leftist workers and youth, the Australian capitalist rulers felt the need to make concessions to the masses in order to stave off events that seemed to be heading in a revolutionary direction. Thus, the late 1960s and early 1970s was a period when not only was The Block won but advances were made more broadly in Aboriginal rights, workers’ rights and women’s rights and headway was made in undermining the racist White Australia Policy exclusion of non-white immigrants. Similar gains were won in this period by the working class and downtrodden in Europe and the United States.
Yet by the early 1980s, capitalist rule had stabilised worldwide. We now saw a right-wing period of union-busting and a Cold War anti-communist push against the socialistic USSR and Vietnam. In the mid-1980s, the Hawke Labor government and Victorian and NSW state ALP governments together smashed the BLF union that had been so crucial to winning affordable housing for Aboriginal people on The Block. In the period from 1989-1992, socialistic rule was destroyed in the former USSR and allied East European countries like Hungary and East Germany. The capitalist ruling classes of the world were greatly emboldened by this and felt they could get away with further attacking the rights of the masses at home. The period of the 1980s Cold War and then post-Soviet capitalist triumphalism has seen unions and workers’ rights diminished, the gap between rich and poor widen, Aboriginal rights and organisations undermined, mandatory detention of refugees introduced and the Left weakened. It is in this context that the decades-long campaign by the developers and NSW government to drive Aboriginal tenants off The Block gathered steam.
The world we live in is still affected by the direct and indirect effects of the restoration of capitalism in the former USSR. Yet, in the last several years, we have also seen periods of militant worker and progressive social struggles in Greece, Nepal, Portugal and Spain. Inevitably there will again be a period of a sustained upswing in the class struggle like the late 1960s-early 1970s because the capitalist economic system, which is lurching from one economic crisis to another, leaves the masses no choice but to fight back against the ever greater suffering it imposes on us. However, to be able to open the doors to such an upsurge and, most importantly, to be able to channel it to a decisive victory we should learn the lessons of every struggle of the past. The RATE struggle is especially important in this regard because in a period when most struggles have been defeated or have not been able to make much headway, RATE made gains.
One reason for its success is, obviously, the steely determination of the Aboriginal leaders of RATE and the courage of all who participated in the struggle. Yet, many losing struggles have also had a combination of leaders devoted to the cause and brave activists. Key in the RATE struggle was the fact that the movement’s main strategy was not focussed on appeals to the government or mainstream politicians, legal action or other methods based on trust in one or another institution of the racist rich people’s state. Instead, RATE’s primary focus was to create facts on the ground through mass direct action – that is, by establishing itself at the heart of the area where the commercial development on The Block was to take place so the development could not proceed while the Embassy was still standing. Although the capitalist governments had the power through their cops and courts to physically evict RATE, in the end it calculated that doing so would incite such a firestorm of social protest that it would be better to make concessions. Mainstream politicians would have noted that the many police/legal/thug attacks on RATE had not deterred the movement one bit and realised that any eviction of RATE would have to be a major and violent police operation that would enrage RATE’s many supporters nationwide. They would have been aware of the large size of the protests against the closure of remote Aboriginal communities and have been worried that a brutal attack on RATE would only fuel these protests and increase the authority of the staunch, radical wing of the Aboriginal movement. Furthermore, although the level of union support given to RATE was relatively modest, the social power of the workers movement is so great that its endorsement of RATE was in itself a significant deterrent to the authorities. The ruling class would have been worried that a violent eviction of RATE could have provoked a backlash by sections of the workers movement and they would especially have dreaded the prospect of the CFMEU construction union slapping a ban on the commercial development in the same way as the BLF did in the original 1970s struggle for The Block. Perhaps, most of all, the capitalist rulers would have been very concerned that not only had many workers unions endorsed RATE but that RATE was sending contingents of activists to support an MUA wharfies’ picket line at Port Botany. Most of all, the exploiting class fears steps towards uniting the militancy of the most subjugated sections of the population – like Aboriginal people –with the social power of the organised working class: the enemy knows that this will be a formidable combination.
It is important that the gains won by the RATE struggle not be remembered as a case of “if you bang on about something long enough the politicians do start to listen.” Indeed, the involvement of mainstream politicians with the RATE campaign – even to make themselves look good – had been very minimal. A couple of Greens politicians did, on very rare occasions, pop into RATE but as is typical did not widely publicise their claimed solidarity with RATE and made little effort to make it a national issue. When, at the very end, the federal government eventually came up with funding for affordable housing on The Block, a whole fifteen months after the start of the RATE struggle, Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nick Scullion pretended that he was sympathetic to the RATE struggle and was making the grant out of sympathy for Aboriginal people’s rights. This is the same Nick Scullion that cut off federal funding for remote Aboriginal communities! The truth is that the Liberal and ALP politicians accept the current capitalist order and are mates with the greedy developers. Nick Scullion did not have a sudden change of heart but simply wanted to make himself look good while making a concession that he has been forced into. There is no way that Nick Scullion would have made the concession that he did if activists had simply been making submissions and representations to him without the presence of RATE as a physical obstruction to future commercial development. RATE made headway because it was based on mass, direct action by determined Aboriginal activists and non-Aboriginal anti-racists and because it won trade union support. As RATE leader, Jenny Munro, put it:
“I’m old school. My teachers taught me the principles of our resistance – we never ceded our land to anyone.
“The embassy has demonstrated that for our people, resistance is the only way to go.”
The lessons of the RATE struggle not only has implications for the struggle for Aboriginal rights but also for the broader struggle for affordable rental accommodation and for the entire struggle of the oppressed and exploited. To maximize the chance of being victorious, the struggles of the working class and all of the downtrodden demands a strategy based on mass, direct action and not at all upon reliance on the state institutions and mainstream political parties that serve the capitalist ruling class. In order for struggles waged in this way to achieve major victories against a powerful and ruthless exploiting class – and when the opportunity arises to culminate in the seizure of state power by the oppressed masses – the movements need to be buttressed around the strength of the organised working class. However, for the power of the workers movement to be unleashed, the influence of illusions in a capitalist parliament, divisive “Aussie workers first” nationalism and the loyalty to the capitalist order promoted by the ALP social democrats needs to be purged from the workers movement. We need to turn the workers movement into one that only trusts in its own power united with all the downtrodden, that fights for workers of all races, nations and pay levels to stand together truly as one and which champions the cause of all the downtrodden. Let’s be encouraged by the successes of the RATE struggle to work harder for this goal so that victories for the oppressed will not be rarities but will, instead, become commonplace and part of the long march towards a final revolutionary victory.
Above: In Melbourne, April 2015, fascists (on the left of picture) participating in the ultra-Islamophobic “Reclaim Australia” rally threaten and use violence against anti-racist counter-demonstrators. Fascist forces not only have disgusting views but are people organised to commit violence against Aboriginal people, non-white ethnic communities, leftists and the workers movement. The idea that fascists can be peacefully debated is not a viewpoint based on reality.
WORKING CLASS-BASED MASS DIRECT ACTION vs LIBERAL/SOCIAL-DEMOCRATIC PACIFISM
The first “Reclaim Australia” rallies on 4 April 2015 were the biggest open mobilisations of far-right racists in Australia in a long time. With the notable exception of Melbourne, in most places where they rallied on April 4 the racist extremists outnumbered anti-racist counter-protesters. In Sydney, Australia’s largest and most multiracial city, the April 4 counter-demonstration was particularly weak. Many long-time anti-fascists did not turn up to the anti-racist counter-rally, organised mainly by the Solidarity group, because the rally leadership’s avowed strategy of ruling out any attempt to shut down the white supremacist “Reclaim Australia” mobilisation either positively turned off – or otherwise did not inspire – many staunch anti-fascists.
When the fascists again rallied in cities throughout Australia on the weekend of July 18/19, anti-racists throughout the country were more determined. A somewhat more purposeful intent shown in the building for the July 19 anti-racist counter-action in Sydney – in comparison with the strategy proclaimed for the earlier April 4 Sydney rally – saw anti-racists this time outnumber the extreme right-wing racists by two to one. However, in Queensland the far-right racist rallies again exceeded in numbers the size of the counter-demonstrations. Furthermore, again with the partial exception of Melbourne where a determined picket set up by anti-racist counter-protesters blocked some of the fascists from entering their race-hate rally’s assembly point, the rednecks were still able to hold their actions unimpeded and turn central parts of major cities into de-facto no-go zones for people with non-white skin. Moreover, the July 18/19 “Reclaim” rallies received more mainstream backing than the previous April 4 mobilisation with one sitting government MP speaking at a rally and the police even more blatantly siding with the fascists against anti-racist counter-demonstrators.
In the wake of the fascist danger shown by the 4 April 2015 – and then July 18/19 – “Reclaim” rallies there has been much debate amongst leftists and other anti-racists about how best to counter the far-right offensive. This is not a bad thing. Such debates give an opportunity to clarify the strategy that we need to defeat the threat from extreme racists. The lines of these debates focus on several related questions but a key one is whether the goal of counter-demonstrations should be to simply protest against the views of the far-right racists or, on the other hand, should they also seek to physically stop the fascist mobilisations. Amongst those advocating the former perspective – that is, a continuation of the pacifist strategy that the Sydney 4 April 2015 anti-racist rally was built on – are various small-l liberals including many supporters of the Greens as well as the left groups Socialist Alliance and Solidarity. Strongly defending this outlook is also the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). An article in the CPA’s The Guardian newspaper by Peter Mac, analysing the April 4 racist and anti-racist demonstrations, denounced the Melbourne anti-racist counter-action for being “violent” and continued that:
The likelihood of an eruption of violence was boosted by one group’s declaration that the Reclaim Australia rally provided a golden opportunity to shut it down, that `the neo-Nazis … must be swept off the streets’ and its recommendation to `drive the violent white supremacists out of stolen Aboriginal land!’
As a result during the Melbourne confrontation Reclaim Australia’s chant of `Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi. Oi’ was met with shouts of `Fuck off racists’ by some of the counter demonstrators, accompanied by spitting, punches and bloodshed on both sides.
“Lessons from Reclaim Australia protests”, The Guardian, 22 April 2015
The “one group” that the CPA is here attacking happens to be us – Trotskyist Platform. To properly understand our strategy that the CPA is condemning, one needs to read not just the couple of phrases from our leaflet plucked out by the The Guardian but, at the very least, the entire paragraph which we copy below:
It appears that the organisers of the Sydney anti-racist counter-rally want the event to simply challenge the views of `Reclaim Australia’ and expose its racist nature. That is certainly necessary. However, it is far from adequate. What distinguishes the fascists from mainstream racists is that they have a program of using violence to achieve their aim of a `pure’ whites-only society. These are the same groups that helped incite the notorious 2005 Cronulla Beach white supremacist riot. Their neo-Nazi slogans have helped to foment the wave of violent – and sometimes even murderous – attacks on Indian, Chinese, and most recently, Korean students as well as helping to incite the unceasing redneck violence against Aboriginal people. If these white supremacists get away with openly inciting racist hatred on April 4 it will encourage every garden-variety redneck watching to radicalise their racist stance. If such hate parades continue it will be inevitable that we will see here horrific incidents like that which happened in North Carolina last month when three young Muslim American students were murdered in a racist attack. Furthermore, the organised presence of violent white supremacists in the heart of Sydney – no matter if they are interspersed with less extreme racists who they have sucked into their rally – will intimidate and physically endanger the many Muslim and non-white people visiting the area. That is why the `Reclaim Australia’ action must not only be protested against – it must be shut down! The neo-Nazis pulling the strings in organising `Reclaim Australia’ must be swept off the streets. Let’s drive violent white supremacists out of stolen Aboriginal land!
“Shutdown the ‘Reclaim Australia’ Race Hate Rallies”, Trotskyist Platform leaflet, 28 March 2015
Unfortunately, at this point what was warned against in our leaflet is, for the moment, coming to pass. The white supremacists largely got away with being able to foment their race hate on 4 April 2015 (and indeed on July 18/19) and as a result those unorganised racist bigots sitting at home watching became more radicalised. This has contributed at least in some way to the increase in racist attacks on the streets over the last few months. The one partial exception on April 4 (and also on July 18/19) was Melbourne, where the fascists’ ability to hold their race-hate provocation was at least challenged by the large counter-rally and some of the racists were blocked from joining their counterparts at their rallying point. Yet, sounding completely like small-l liberals rather than the communists that the CPA proudly claims to be a party of, Peter Mac’s article condemns the “spitting, punches and bloodshed on both sides” thereby equating the determined and laudable anti-racist resistance of many Melbourne anti-“Reclaim” demonstrators with the thuggery of neo-Nazis attempting to crush any obstacle to advancing their violent racist objectives.
Lenin’s Strategy for Defeating Fascists
CPA comrades, as avowed supporters of Lenin’s communist program, should consider the attitude of Lenin’s Bolsheviks to the Russian far-right racists of Lenin’s time, the Black Hundreds. Ardent monarchists, the Black Hundreds were most notorious for perpetrating violent attacks on Jewish people – usually with the connivance and often even the active support of the Tsarist authorities. As well as espousing extreme anti-Semitism, these rabid Russian chauvinists also whipped up hatred against Polish people and opposed any recognition of Ukrainians as a distinct nationality. Like today’s fascists in Australia, the Black Hundreds also staged mass, “patriotic” demonstrations to denounce the influence of non-Christian, ethnic minority, leftist and liberal groups. Yet, unlike the CPA’s newspaper that condemns those taking action to physically impede fascist provocations in Melbourne, Lenin instead condemned those liberals and pacifist leftists who denounced as “reckless” the calls to organise mass, militant self-defence against the Black Hundreds. Thus, when in June 1906 the Black Hundreds perpetrated a horrific pogrom against Jewish people in the town of Belostok (sometimes spelt Bialystok) in the western part of the then Russian empire (in today’s Poland), Lenin wrote:
… there are those who, seeing these phenomena of Russian social life, think, and say, that somebody or other is `recklessly’ calling upon the people to resort to `extreme measures’! One must be, not reckless, but a poltroon, politically corrupt, to say such things in the face of events like the burning of the People’s House at Vologda (at the time of the opening of the Duma) or the pogrom in Belostok (after the Duma had been in session a month). A single event like this will have more effect upon the people than millions of appeals. And to talk about `reckless’ appeals is just as hopelessly pedantic and as much a sin of a deadened civic conscience, as to condemn the wild cry for revenge that is going up from the battlefields of Vologda and Belostok.
“The Reaction is Taking to Arms”, V.I. Lenin, June 1906, Collected Works, Progress Publishers
The perspective of Lenin’s Bolsheviks to the Russian fascists of their time was thus very far from that of Peter Mac’s attitude to Australia’s Black Hundreds of today. Thus, while Mac speaks of the need to “persuade” Reclaim participants saying that it would be “a grave mistake to assume that Reclaim supporters are incapable of changing their minds,” Lenin’s attitude to those who were inciting and perpetrating physical attacks on ethnic communities and leftists can be summed up by the following call he made to respond to the Black Hundreds. Lenin called for revolutionaries to:
… at once find out who organises the Black Hundreds and where and how they are organised, and then, without confining themselves to propaganda (which is useful, but inadequate) they must act with armed force, beat up and kill the members of the Black-Hundred gangs, blow up their headquarters, etc., etc.
Tasks of Revolutionary Army Contingents, V.I. Lenin, October 1905, Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers
Although that particular call was written during the height of the 1905 Revolution in Russia when the physical clash between opposing forces was at white heat and thus the specific tactical methods advocated are particular to such a period, the call nevertheless expressed an overall political perspective completely relevant to “normal times”: that the fascists need to be shut down rather than merely debated.
The Capitalist Authorities Are Not Allies in the Struggle against Fascism
Since the CPA stance is representative of that of the whole liberal-pacifist wing of the anti-fascist movement it is worth analysing their strategy further. This strategy is outlined in a favourable assessment that Peter Mac makes of an Adelaide anti-Reclaim protest organiser:
Adelaide pastor Brad Chilcott observed with regard to the public’s impression of events: ‘Your audience is not the racists you’re shouting at, but the people watching at home. … [But] those watching at home … couldn’t tell the difference between the good guys and the bad. Then politicians have to condemn the violence on both sides, rather than [giving] an undiluted message condemning bigotry.
“Lessons from Reclaim Australia protests”, The Guardian, 22 April 2015
So we see that the strategy of the CPA and small-liberals like Chilcott is for anti-racist rallies to be tepid enough to encourage mainstream politicians to condemn bigotry. But it is precisely the policies and statements of the mainstream pro-capitalist politicians that are encouraging the bigots! Barely a week goes by without the right-wing Coalition government heaping a new insult upon Aboriginal and coloured ethnic communities. And barely a week goes by without the ALP Opposition signing onto or otherwise acquiescing to such insults.
How openly the ruling class politicians are contributing to the rise of the fascists was seen when government MP, George Christensen, actually spoke at the 19 July 2015 Reclaim demonstration in Mackay, Queensland. Furthermore, when asked about Christensen’s decision to openly support the event, foreign minister July Bishop refused to make even the faintest condemnation of Christensen or the “Reclaim” movement, deviously claiming that, “I don’t know anything about the organisation. I certainly haven’t been briefed on it.” Even before this outrage, the mainstream politicians had already openly pumped up the “Reclaim Australia” forces. Barely a month after the first set of “Reclaim” rallies, the Senate decided to hold an inquiry into halal certification (under the guise of an inquiry into food certification) thereby giving credence to the looney premise of the “Reclaim” fascists that money paid for halal certification is being used to “finance terrorism.”
Sorry, Mr Chilcott and the CPA: the mainstream politicians are a big part of the problem and are not and cannot in the future be part of the solution! Indeed, especially after the global capitalist recession that commenced in 2008, ruling politicians around the capitalist world have brought far-right forces more and more into the mainstream. They have done this through adoption of their ideas, through sanctioning of them as “legitimate” voices to be addressed and even – in the cases of Switzerland, Latvia and Ukraine – through their inclusion in coalition governments. Here, the same trend is happening and it is driven by, more or less, the same economic reality. As the fall in the prices of iron ore and other commodities (from the exorbitant levels with which Australian mining bosses had previously been ripping off Asian neighbours with) reduces the profits of the Australian capitalist ruling class, they are seeking to make up for this by more viciously exploiting the masses. To enable them to achieve this, the ruling class is seeking to kill off the chance of working class resistance by poisoning mass sentiments with a large dose of nationalism.
Reflecting worry amongst their working class base, a very small number of ALP politicians have spoken out – albeit mostly quite meekly – against the “Reclaim” movement. Yet, even in the highly unlikely event that mainstream politicians were to do a U-turn and formally stand en masse against the fascists that would not do all that much to stop actual violent racist attacks. Any legal measures instituted against the white supremacist thugs would have to be implemented by a police force and court system that has proven itself, time after time, to favour the far-right racists against anti-racists. This was seen all too clearly over the 18/19 July 2015 weekend. In Melbourne, police went all out to ensure that the Reclaim racists and their even more extreme United Patriots Front (UPF) breakaway group could hold their racist-violence manufacturing hate rallies. This included indiscriminately unleashing pepper spray against anti-fascist protesters. Police were so gung-ho about attacking anti-fascists with pepper spray that one of their capsicum spray barrages even hit street medics treating anti-racist protesters who had previously been overcome by the spray as well as these same victims of the spray who were receiving treatment. A widely circulated photograph showing the police high-fiving a UPF fascist (!) at the Melbourne race-hate rally, quite neatly and horribly captured the essence of the police stance.
Yet, an Editorial in the CPA’s The Guardian issue just after the July 18/19 events promoted the police as a force against the rise of the fascists. This Editorial stated:
Police, including NSW deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas, are worried about the proliferation of right-wing racist and white supremacist groups….
“The deputy commissioner is on the right track about incidents taking place overseas and those in Australia seeking to take advantage of them.
The Guardian, 22 July 2015
This same police force and police leadership that the CPA is praising in its Editorial just days before attacked the Sydney anti-“Reclaim” protest on July 19. Even before the official start time for the anti-fascist event was reached, the police physically and aggressively dragged anti-racist protesters away from their planned rally point so that the fascists could rally there unimpeded. The NSW police arrested five anti-racist protesters. Meanwhile, they devoted many resources to organising protective escorts for extreme white supremacist groups entering and leaving the “Reclaim” rally. One group of anarchist, anti-racist protesters was, on the other hand, roughed up by police after they left the anti-racist demonstration with at least one anti-racist being hurled by police against a telephone booth.
To be sure, the CPA Editorial did also make some very good points about how the “leadership of this wave of intolerance can be found at the very `top’ of society, including in Australia’s parliament” – correct arguments that actually undercut the perspective promoted by Brad Chilcott which was lauded in the earlier article by Peter Mac. However, to promote the police as a force against fascism not only flies in the face of police actions against anti-fascists on the 18/19 July 2015 weekend and the whole ongoing history of racist police terror against Aboriginal people but directly contradicts Lenin’s teachings on the nature of the state. Leninists understand that in a capitalist society, the state – which the police, courts, army and prisons are at the core of – consists of armed bodies of people whose job it is to enforce the rule of the capitalist class over the exploited masses. Thus, the capitalist state organs like the police serve the same class as the fascists do. The police do the daily work of maintaining capitalist rule. The fascists back that up by acting to poison working class unity and intimidating staunch anti-capitalists while the ruling class keeps them as an attack dog on a leash ready to be unleashed when serious threats to capitalist rule emerge. That is why not only have the police been siding with the fascists in the standoffs with anti-racists over the last period but in the future the capitalists’ police can never be an ally in the struggle against fascism. Defeating the growing threat from far-right extremists can only be accomplished through mass, direct action on the streets by the organised working class united with coloured ethnic communities, Aboriginal people and all the other intended victims of the fascists.
Learning Lessons from the Past
In basing their anti-fascist strategy on the hope that either mainstream capitalist politicians or the capitalist state organs themselves can be pushed into stopping the fascists, the CPA is aping the disastrous policy of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the period leading up to Hitler’s Nazis’ seizure of power in the early 1930s. Then, as SPD workers and youth began to courageously fight Nazi forces on the streets, the leadership of the SPD, at the time the biggest party based on the German working class, quelled this struggle. They turned the Iron Front for Resistance against Fascism, which the SPD had itself created, into an electoral machine for electing the monarchist capitalist politician Hindenburg whom they hoped would save them from Hitler. The curbing of the struggle to physically stop the fascist forces allowed the Nazis to grow stronger, take physical control of more and more streets and gain much in confidence. Meanwhile, far from saving the SPD from the Nazis, Hindenburg eventually appointed Hitler as chancellor as the mainstream of the ruling class realised that only fascism could save capitalist rule in Germany!
Unfortunately, the German Communist Party (KPD), which had by then degenerated alongside the bureaucratic degeneration (but not destruction) of the Soviet workers state, also followed a bankrupt approach, albeit from more sincere intentions. The KPD first underestimated the danger of the Nazis and, partly in reaction to the very real anti-working class treachery of the SPD, refused to organise united-front actions with the SPD to oppose the Nazi threat to both their organisations. Later, as Hitler’s forces grew stronger, KPD leaders became paralysed and came to see a Nazi triumph as inevitable.
However, Hitler could have been stopped! The murderous beheading of the German workers movement, the Holocaust of Jewish people and the brutality of the Nazi’s war on the USSR could have been prevented! What was required at the time was what the Trotskyist Left Opposition was urgently calling for: a united-front of the working class to physically stop the fascists – something which the most conscious workers felt the need for but which was counterpoised to the reformist capitulations of the SPD leaders and which the zig-zagging KPD could not bring itself to fight for. Understanding that the pacifist SPD leaders would always resist and foot drag on such a strategy and that in the long-run fascism could not be defeated without breaking the rank and file supporters of the social democracy away from their sellout leaders and winning them to allegiance to the communist party – Trotsky (following the program of Lenin’s Bolsheviks) outlined that the basis of united front struggle is not only unity in action but complete political independence of the different components of such a front including full freedom to criticise each other’s programs.
Right now, Australia is not in immediate danger of a Hitler-style takeover. However, the growing fascist forces are already doing harm to workers’ unity and are already perpetrating and inciting the preliminary test-runs of the huge future pogroms that they would like to commit. We need united-front action of the working class right now to physically crush the fascists while they are still crawling out of their eggs.
And that is the point! To tell anti-racists to confine themselves to politely explaining what is wrong with racism in the face of a movement that perpetrates and incites violence is to disarm and damage the anti-racist struggle. It is following the road of the German social democratic leaders who in the lead up to Hitler’s seizure of power were saying that so long as the Nazis do not quit the ground of legality, there is no room for an on the streets fight to physically stop them! That is why as part of the struggle to build a working class-based mass movement to sweep the racist filth off the streets, those activists who understand the need for such a perspective must explain to other anti-fascists why a strategy of seeking to pressure the capitalist authorities to act against the right-wing extremists is, as history itself proves, inevitably doomed to fail.
An African Person Who Studied in Russia Tells His Story: Capitalism Breeds Racism. A First Hand Account of How Russia’s Return to Capitalism Led to An Explosion of Racism.
The unemployment, economic insecurity and inequality of capitalism provides a fertile ground for the growth of racism. Racial prejudices are, in fact, consciously nurtured by the capitalist exploiting class as a way of diverting and dividing the working class masses that they exploit. Here in Australia, the big business-owned media constantly stigmatize Aboriginal people even as this country’s first peoples face racist police violence and daily discrimination in every aspect of their lives. The Liberal/National regime demonizes refugees and the ALP Opposition acquiesces to this. Then the ALP leaders divert workers’ understandable anger at unemployment and fear of losing their jobs into hostility to the presence of immigrant guest workers. Meanwhile, the dog-eat-dog mentality that naturally accompanies an economic system based on cut- throat competition means that everyone is pushed into seeing everyone else as a rival. This, inevitably, leads to divisions within capitalist society developing along racial and religious lines and people from minority ethnicities and religions are, ultimately, victimized.
In short, capitalism breeds racism. The construction of a socialist society will, on the other hand, guarantee that there is no longer a ruling class interested in dividing the masses with racism as well as other means because the very essence of socialism is the ending of the exploitation of the working class masses. Furthermore, a socialist society is based on collective ownership of the economy and economic decisions made for common needs rather than for greedy individual goals. Such a system thus naturally brings people together.
All this is not just theory. It has been proven by history. In its pre-1917 period of capitalist- feudal rule, Russia was an imperialist empire where the non-European peoples of Central Asia and the Caucuses suffered racial discrimination, Jews and Poles faced massacres by fascist gangs called the Black Hundreds and non-Russian nationalities from the Ukrainians to the Georgians to the various Central Asian nationalities faced brutal suppression of their national rights. However, the 1917 October Socialist Revolution in Russia changed all that. The victorious revolutionary workers created their own state, the Soviet Union (USSR) workers state, that over time led to a massive improvement in the status of the Kazakh, Uzbek, Tadzhik, Turkmen, Kirghiz, Georgian, Armenian, Azeri and other peoples of Central Asia and the Caucasus. From the time the communist-led workers took state power, they mobilized to smash the fascist and other anti-Semitic gangs. 
Inspired by the Russian Revolution and incensed at the destruction and poverty that capitalist rule had brought them by the end of the inter-capitalist World War I, the years following the 1917 Revolution saw revolutionary struggles break out in Germany, Hungary, Italy and many other countries. However, the communist parties in these countries were too newly formed to lead these revolutions to a victorious conclusion in the way that Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party (which was later renamed the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) had done. As a result the young Soviet workers state remained isolated and thus faced intense external capitalist military threat and economic blockade much as North Korea faces today. Meanwhile, Russia and the other parts of the USSR were economically devastated by the World War that preceded the revolution and the four years of Civil War that followed it when the Soviet masses heroically defended their revolution against invading armies from fourteen capitalist countries and armies built by the overthrown Russian capitalists. Under these conditions of encirclement and economic scarcity and with the masses exhausted from the years of wars and demoralized by the failure of revolutions abroad, a more right-wing leadership took over administration of the USSR and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This leadership turned its back on the internationalist outlook that was key to the revolution and replaced the workers democracy that followed the revolution with an administration where career-minded bureaucrats were allowed to come to the fore.
However, despite this bureaucratic degeneration that took place in the mid- 1920s, the USSR still remained a workers state based on the socialistic, collectivized economic system that was established after the Russian Revolution. This system not only brought terrific improvements to the education, health and standard of living of the masses but brought much greater racial equality between the majority ethnic Russians and the diverse non-Russian peoples of the USSR. Although the bureaucratic rulers at various times undermined the founding ideals of the USSR by embracing a degree of ethnic Russian-centeredness, from the time the Soviet Union was able to recover from the great sacrifices and untold human and material cost of its great, heroic victory over the sinister, barbaric and uber-racist Nazi threat in World War 2 and then go on to uplift the standard of living of the masses to a decent level by the 1950s, from that time and up until the immediate lead up to the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991-92, the USSR overall truly did live up to its motto of the “Friendship of Peoples”.
Nevertheless, the presence of a bureaucratic administration – with all its accompanying corruption and the fact that ordinary workers were not involved in decision making – prevented the socialistic economy of the USSR from reaching its full potential, something that became more pronounced the closer that the USSR actually came to catching up with the economies of the richest countries. Furthermore, the material privileges of the bureaucracy (as petty as they were compared to the exorbitant wealth of tycoons in capitalist countries) and the suppression of workers democracy depoliticized the masses and weakened their commitment to socialism – even while socialistic rule had greatly improved their lives. All this made the USSR brittle in the face of the gigantic military, economic and political pressures it faced from the capitalist powers who were/are determined to crush any workers state. When a small layer of capitalist counterrevolutionaries backed by Washington, London, Tokyo and Canberra amongst others made its bid for power in the USSR in 1991, the Soviet masses had, in fact, become so depoliticized that most of them did not resist in any effective way at all – even though many were fearful of the consequences of capitalist restoration.
If the establishment of socialistic rule in the former USSR, Yugoslavia, Cuba and China has proved the potential of socialism to eradicate racial oppression and tensions, the 1989-1992 restorations of capitalism in the USSR and East European workers states also proved how it is capitalism that does actually breed racism. Take, for instance, Hungary. In its socialistic period from the late 1940s to 1989, Hungary was known by the many international students from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa who studied there as a place where they were treated with warmth and respect. Although the workers state in Hungary was bureaucratically deformed and the government of the then Hungarian People’s Republic was far from perfect in the treatment of the country’s Indian-origin, Roma minority, Roma in the socialistic period enjoyed access to guaranteed jobs, improved housing and, most crucially, freedom from racist violence. However, following the 1989 capitalist counterrevolution, Hungary changed into an extremely racist society. Today, neo-Nazi skinhead gangs roam Hungary’s streets looking to inflict violence against Roma, Jews and international students. Several Roma have been murdered in pogroms perpetrated by organized fascists and these far-right paramilitaries often descend on neighbourhoods with significant Roma populations to terrorize Roma families with snarling dogs, whips and death threats. These attacks occur with the deliberate non- intervention and often direct connivance of the racist Hungarian police force.  Meanwhile, today decent people around the world are aghast at the extreme brutality of the Hungarian regime in its treatment of refugees fleeing Western-instigated violence in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
Perhaps the most striking example of how capitalism creates racism can be seen by examining the impact of the capitalist counterrevolution that swamped Russia and the rest of the former USSR in 1991-92. We are happy to present below the experiences of comrade El-Hassan who actually lived in Russia through this period – having arrived in Russia during the days of the socialistic USSR and remaining there until seven years after the counterrevolution. As a dark-skinned person of African origin, comrade El-Hassan felt the question of race relations in a very personal way. He described his experiences in a discussion with comrade Samuel Kim, excerpts of which are detailed below:
SamuelKim:El-Hassan when did you exactly first go to Russia and when were you there until?
El-Hassan: Before answering that I just want to say – since this discussion will be written up – that I think Trotskyist Platform is doing very good work in the fight against capitalism, fascism and racism. Trotskyist Platform is not just talking but actually organizing and participating in the struggles.
Now I first came to Russia in 1990.
SamuelKim:That was in the socialistic times, in the times of the USSR.
El Hassan: That’s right. I had been living in Sudan and active organizing with the Sudanese Communist Party. In 1989, I found out that I was just about to get arrested and so I fled to Egypt. There I met my brother who had studied in the USSR. Many people from Africa were given places to study in the USSR. My brother encouraged me to study there and helped me apply for a place. There were many communists from Asia and Africa that studied in the USSR. I was granted a place at Moscow State University where I studied journalism.
I studied there until 1994-95, eventually doing my Masters Degree in journalism. After that I stayed in Russia until 1998 when I came here to Australia.
SamuelKim:So you were in Russia until many years after the 1991-92 capitalist counterrevolution. You saw Russia in both its socialistic days and its capitalist times.
Howwereyoutreatedduring the days of the USSR?
El-Hassan: I was treated very well. All the students, professors and everyone welcomed me and all the other international students. We were very warmly welcomed and respected. I can say that I did not experience any racism at all. There was no racism against anyone.
SamuelKim:Howmuchdid you pay for your studies in the Soviet times?
El-Hassan: I studied for free – I was on scholarship. I also got free board and free food. I did not have to pay rent or any bills. I was given a stipend of 90 Roubles per month. This does not sound like much but things were so cheap then that it was actually a lot. I could save money with that stipend and many of my fellow international students use to send part of their stipend back to their families in their home countries.
SamuelKim:Anothercomradetoldme that international students in the Soviet Union often went to other parts of the USSR on holiday during university vacation. Is that right?
El-Hassan: Yes. We could get very cheap holiday travel. I myself went on many holidays like to Sochi on the Black Sea coast.
SamuelKim:What about student politics then?
El-Hassan: There were student groups involved in solidarity with “Third Word” countries. They showed sympathy with many struggles in Africa and around the world. They were against imperialism.
SamuelKim:What else could you say about life in the days of the Soviet Union?
El-Hassan: There was a rich social life in the USSR. It was great fun. The other important thing is that women had the same status as men then. For example many of the professors at the university were women and women lecturers were amongst my teachers.
SamuelKim:Andwhathappened after the 1991-92 capitalist counterrevolution?
El-Hassan: Everything changed. Nationalism became more and more prominent. People in the streets became more and more hostile to me. Later even some fellow students started being rude to me. You could tell they did not want me there. Unemployment grew quickly. People were angry and confused and they took it out on us. Many Russian people tried to escape their problems by turning to drugs.
Samuel Kim: What was the attitude of people to the capitalist counterrevolution?
El-Hassan: Many people just stood by and watched it happen and went by trying to live life as usual.
SamuelKim:Did your material circumstances change?
El-Hassan: Some of the aspects of the old system remained for a while and things took a while to collapse. But things got a lot harder. I was still able to keep my scholarship until my studies finished. However, the stipend was kept at 90 Roubles even when the prices rose very quickly. The 90 roubles was now worth nothing. You could hardly buy anything with it anymore.
After I finished my studies my scholarship ended. I was not able to get a job as a journalist and when I ran out of my money I had to stay with friends.
SamuelKim:I read that there have been over 1,000 pre-meditated racist murders committed by fascists in Russia in the last ten years. I know that you yourself was physically attacked by Russian white supremacists after the capitalist counterrevolution. Can you describe what happened?
El-Hassan: That happened in 1995 after I finished my studies. Many of my fellow international students had already been attacked by then. I had moved to Voronezh, a city which was about ten to twelve hours by train from Moscow. I was walking along the street when seven neo-Nazi skinheads on the footpath saw me. They started following me and so I walked faster. I knew I was in trouble. I headed towards the bus stop to try and catch a bus away. But they attacked me and I fought back.
Samuel Kim:Did anyone come to help you?
El-Hassan: Yes, several people around came and started shouting at the neo-Nazis to stop. They did not physically intervene but shouted at the skinheads who eventually stopped. I ended up bruised and with a black eye.
SamuelKim:What did you do for work in Russia after you finished your studies?
El-Hassan: There was a lot of unemployment and people in Russia were angry and confused. I became a worker at a store carrying cartons. But all these stores were being bullied by the mafia. The boss where I worked had to pay protection money to the mafia. I think it was something like $700 a month. The mafia threatened that if the store owners did not pay their store would go up in flames. The shop owners all feared that the criminals would carry out their threats. Russia became run by mafia.
SamuelKim:What was life like after you moved to Australia?
El-Hassan: At first I thought that my life would be very good when I got residency in Australia. But my journalism qualifications were not recognized. The racism in Australia has been getting worse and worse and in the last year it has got extremely bad. I told you what happened to me recently. I was taking a passenger [El-Hassan now works as a taxi driver] and suddenly he started threatening me. He said that you Muslims want to kill us so I am going to kill you first. I was in a bad situation as I was driving the taxi and was getting on to the M4. It would have been very dangerous to be in a fight at that moment while driving. I said no I do not want to kill anyone. He then said that if he sees me again he will cut my head off and play football with it just for fun.
As Neo-Nazi Thugs are Emboldened by the Racist Violence of Police & the Brutal Jailers of the Nauru, Christmas & Manus Island Hell Holes…
Crush All the Violent Far Right Racists Through United Mass Action by the Workers Movement, Aboriginal People, Coloured People and the Left
Earlier, over the July 18/19 weekend, some of the most conscious vanguard of the working class had joined thousands of other anti-racists and taken to the streets to hold counter-demonstrations against racist “Reclaim Australia” rallies. The “Reclaim Australia” movement aims to stir up hatred against Muslims. This extreme right wing movement is dominated by neo-Nazis and other white supremacists who seek to fan ignorant racist fears of Muslims and asylum seekers as a way of igniting a wider firestorm of hatred against all people of colour – whether it be people of Middle Eastern origin, South Asians, East Asians, Aboriginal people or Africans
22 September 2015 – With the exception of in Queensland, in every city on July 18/19 where anti-racist counter-demonstrations were held they outnumbered the far-right rallies. The most effective counter-demonstration was the July 18 action in Melbourne where over 1,000 anti-racists dwarfed the 150 or so fascists who made it to successive “Reclaim Australia” and United Patriots Front (an even more extreme splinter from Reclaim) rallies. Most importantly, pickets established by the anti-racists in Melbourne managed to stop several dozen of the far-right thugs from even reaching their rally point. However, a massive mobilisation by the police, who were clearly siding with the fascists, ensured that the white supremacists were still able to hold their racist violence-manufacturing mobilisation. Police indiscriminately unleashed pepper spray on anti-racist protesters with around 100 anti-racists affected. One anti-racist protester had a seizure as a result, two had to be hospitalised and medics sent several activists home after they were suffering the after effects of the pepper spray. As a medic explained, these effects included, “hypothermia-like symptoms of shaking and an inability to normalise body temperature.” Meanwhile, police formed a three-deep line to give the fascists a safe escort out of the area following their mobilisation.
In Sydney, 300 anti-racists took part in a counter-demonstration double the size of the July 19 Reclaim rally. However NSW police went out of their way to facilitate the fascist rally. They provided escorts to the racist Party for Freedom to and from the Reclaim rally and kept the anti-racist counter-demonstration a large distance down the street from the Reclaim provocation. When a group that arrived early to the anti-fascist counter-demonstration attempted to establish their rally site – which was to be at the same place where the white supremacist filth were going to hold their rally – police aggressively pushed the anti-racists back down Martin Place two blocks away from where the extreme racists were going to rally. The police outrageously arrested several anti-racists – at least two of whom were charged including a 57 year-old Aboriginal man. All anti-racists and the workers movement must stand in solidarity with the arrested anti-fascists and demand the dropping of all charges.
No doubt buoyed by the police support that they received, several of the extreme racists attempted to provoke the Sydney anti-racist rally. However, when one of the violent racists tried to infiltrate into the anti-racist demonstration he was suitably dealt with by staunch anti-fascists. A more serious threat emerged when later a group of thugs from the openly Neo-Nazi group Squadron 88, wearing their paramilitary uniform, approached the anti-racist protest from the rear. In Nazi-speak, the “88” in Squadron 88 stands for “Heil Hitler” with the 8 representing the letter “H” the eighth letter of the alphabet. However, it is far from simply their name that makes Squadron 88 a menace. This group of violent racists are known to have gatherings from where they pledge to go out and violently beat a random, vulnerable person from a designated non-white race. Thus, one time they will have an “Asian-bash” day, another time an “Indian-bash” then a “N__ger bash” day etc. However, thanks to the meticulous prior research and quick on the spot thinking of a committed anti-fascist who spotted the Squadron 88 thugs as soon as they approached, some of the people in the anti-racist rally were quickly alerted to the threat. A few dozen staunch anti-fascists amongst the anti-racist rally then moved forward as a group towards the Squadron 88 members and eventually chased them away down Martin Place and around the corner into Pitt Street. Furthermore, one of the violent and racist Squadron 88 thugs was taught a painful lesson. That the anti-fascist delivering the lesson was a coloured person made this all the more satisfying a blow against “white supremacy” and the idiotic Nazi notions of a “white master race.”
Yet by and large, with support from the police, the extreme right-wing forces were able to hold their racist violence-inciting demonstration in Sydney unhindered. The same was the case throughout Australia – and partially the case even in Melbourne. Thus, while it was certainly a good thing and good for the morale of anti-racists to see that their rallies outnumbered those of the far-right, the fact is that the rabid racists will be encouraged by having gotten away with holding their racist provocations largely unhindered. Meanwhile, garden-variety bigots watching on their TV screens at home will have been radicalised by seeing the far-right racists able to openly promote extreme racism on the streets.
It is little surprise then that violent racist attacks and abuse against coloured people have continued in large numbers since the July 18/19 Reclaim rallies and anti-racist counter-demonstrations. Early this morning, the Arabella Restaurant and Bar in King Streets in the Inner West Sydney suburb of Newtown was vandalised in a racist attack. Three days earlier, the message “F— Arabs” had been etched into one of the restaurant’s window panes. The same message had been scrawled onto the restaurant’s back door weeks earlier (Sydney Morning Herald, 22 September 2015). Last week owner and chef, Mohamed Zouhour had also received racist threatening phone calls abusing him as “bloody Lebanese” and demanding: “Move out of the area, you can’t be in Newtown, get out.” That abusive call was part of six months of racist phone calls and racist graffiti against the restaurant. In this morning’s attack, the restaurant front windows were repeatedly bashed with a hammer. Nothing was stolen – the motivation was pure racist hostility. It was the third such physical attack on the restaurant in the last year and a half. Zouhour commented:
“I loved it here, and the locals are great, but this is too much. It’s scary, I’m scared.”
“… I find myself thinking I should take my family and go. I don’t feel protected in this country.”
– Sydney Morning Herald, 22 September 2015
Every ant-racist should make a stand with restaurant owner Zouhour and the workers at the Arabella Restaurant against the racist attacks that they are facing. The disgusting and terrifying attacks on the Arabella Restaurant are, however, just the tip of the iceberg. As a capitalist business owner, Zouhour has the chance of getting relatively more mainstream media and police assistance. Yet, every day working class Aboriginal, Middle Eastern, Asian and African people are getting attacked or abused on the streets, in public transport, in the school playgrounds and at nightspots with little or no official redress… and that’s when racist cops are not the actual perpetrators themselves!
For a Mass Mobilisation of Trade Unionists and Coloured People on the Tenth Anniversary of the Cronulla Riots to Finally Make Cronulla Beach Safe for People of All Colours!
With the different far-right components of Reclaim undergoing bitter factional struggle it is unclear whether the Reclaim racist rallies will continue in their current form. However, it is certain that the extreme right forces in Sydney have not been deterred by the outcome of the contest between the racist Reclaim rallies and the anti-racist counter-demonstrations. Thus, at least two fascist groups – the Party for Freedom and the United Patriots Front – are planning racist actions in Cronulla to celebrate the mid-December tenth anniversary of the horrific white supremacist riot on Cronulla Beach. To their credit some anti-racists are trying to organise a counter-action. Such a counter-action is, indeed, badly needed. Even without fascist groups planning provocations to mark the riot anniversary, the chilling effect of the 2005 racist white riot and the, as yet, lack of a counter-mobilisation powerful enough to make the beach safe for people of all colours has meant that dark-skinned people have largely stayed away from that beach. The racist filth have, in effect, succeeded in ethnically cleansing one of Sydney’s prettiest beach spots – a large beach that, with Cronulla’s rail link, is relatively easy to get to for the burgeoning multiracial population of Western Sydney. In fact, of those visiting Cronulla Beach today, over 95% are white. Reference? That is, a defacto system of apartheid exists on Cronulla Beach. This must be overturned! However, given the growing strength of the fascists, the depth of racist attitudes amongst some Cronulla residents and the overall racist climate, any counter-mobilisation must be large enough to be safe, let alone effective. In particular, a mobilisation needs to have the powerful clout of at least some sections of the organised workers movement behind it – especially given that in a standoff with extreme racists, the police’s strong tendency is to side with the racists.
Given how emboldened racist forces in Cronulla feel in the current political climate, many coloured people may not feel safe meeting up at a rally starting point in Cronulla on the day of the riot anniversary. A possible tactic, then, would be to gather at a multi-racial working class suburb in Sydney’s southwest and then move as a convoy to Cronulla. As we stated in a leaflet that we issued just days after the 2005 riot itself:
“The question of access to Cronulla Beach is not just a question of the right to use a beach. It is about whether non-white people, especially from Sydney’s poorer Western suburbs, can live in any sort of dignity and security in this country. There must be a mass mobilisation of trade unionists of all colours, alongside immigrant-derived youth, Aboriginal people and leftists, to occupy Cronulla Beach and guarantee safe access to it for people of all races. The white supremacist groups that helped instigate Sunday’s atrocity need to be given the same treatment that union militants have long reserved for filthy scabs who try to cross strikers’ picket lines. Drive them out of stolen Aboriginal land! Such firm action against hard-core violent rednecks would intimidate the more garden-variety racists into pulling their heads in.”
“Given the white racist forces seen on Sunday [i.e. on 11 December 2005], a union/immigrant mobilisation would not take place at Cronulla Beach until the forces for such an action had been adequately built up. But these forces need to be urgently strengthened right now through one, or a series of, preparatory demonstrations in the heartlands of Sydney’s multiracial working class – suburbs like Bankstown or Auburn. When our side is sufficiently strong, the decisive union-centred action at Cronulla Beach can be launched possibly via a huge cavalcade from a rallying point in Sydney’s West.”
– Trotskyist Platform leaflet, 15 December 2005
Lessons from the July 19 Anti-Racist Rally in Sydney
In order to effectively organise the upcoming anti-fascist struggles that are needed, anti-racist activists need to seriously examine the lessons of the July 19 anti-Reclaim counter-demonstration in Sydney. Many activists worked tirelessly to promote the action. Yet despite these sincere efforts and despite the current reality that the far-right racists are hated by a large section of the population, the counter-action did not stop the Reclaim provocation. Understandably frustrated by this, some staunch anti-fascists have tended to blame the Socialist Alternative (SAlt) group for having gathered before other anti-racists on the day, saying that this gave the cops the chance to push back the anti-racist demonstration before its full strength had been reached. However, this criticism of SAlt is on this occasion incorrect as well as a bit unfair. The fact is that regardless of whatever tactical methods that could have been employed on the day, there did not exist sufficient enough forces at the July 19 anti-racist demonstration to stop the Reclaim rally in the face of the large police presence defending the fascists.
By lack of forces here is meant not only a question of insufficient numbers – although that is certainly important. To give anti-fascist forces serious clout requires the power of the organised working class movement. Since the trade union movement has social power and with it the ability to wage industrial action that hurts the profits of the big business bosses whom the police ultimately serve, the police are more reluctant to attack a progressive rally with a sizeable union contingent than they would otherwise be. There is, thus, the potential for an anti-fascist mobilisation with a significant workers contingent to simply compel the police to stand aside – for fear of the social and industrial relations consequences of attacking trade union contingents – while the anti-fascist demonstration marches through and routs the extreme racists. This was the case on May 2 in Brisbane last year when about 100 trade union construction workers were at the core of an anti-fascist rally that defeated a planned rally by the white supremacist Australia First Party. Reference: See “Provocation by Violent Racists Crushed in Brisbane” in Trotskyist Platform Issue 17 (http://www.trotskyistplatform.com/?p=600) Unfortunately, on July 19 in Sydney there appeared to be no organised union presence although some proud trade unionists were certainly there as individuals amongst the crowd.
The other factor that is important is not only the size and composition of an anti-fascist rally but the commitment of participants to not only protest against the white supremacist trash but to actually sweep these extreme racists off the streets. Now the July 19 anti-racist rally was largely full of decent, well-meaning people who quite rightly hate racism. Yet it is possible that over half the participants did not understand the need to actually physically stop the fascists from holding their racist, violence-manufacturing demonstration.
Thus, the question that we need to consider in reviewing the lessons of July 19 is not whether SAlt or other groups adopted bad tactics on the day but whether the very strategy that the anti-racist counter-rally was mobilised on actually advanced the cause of building working class-based actions dedicated to sweeping the extreme white supremacists off the streets. It is clear that the official call for the July 19 anti-racist counter-action did not encourage an action that would seek to actually stop the Reclaim rally. The call posed the event as simply a “peaceful” protest against the ideas of the Reclaim movement rather than an action that sought to shut the racist, violence-inciting rally down. This had the effect of guiding those planning on attending onto a certainly well-meaning but, ultimately, counter-productive pacifist path. Of course, such a call would not have affected those anti-fascists who already understand that when the fascists get away with openly rallying it simply spells more racist violence on the streets. However, it would have misled the many decent anti-racists – some attending their very first anti-fascist demonstration – who were unsure whether a pacifist approach or one based on actually stopping the violent racists is most effective. That, in the end, there didn’t in any case exist the forces to the Reclaim rally on the day does not make this misdirecting of participants any less a problem. The fact is that many passionately anti-racist youth are being led on to an ineffective, pacifist path and this weakens future anti-fascist struggles. It is SAlt’s partial responsibility for pushing this pacifist rally call – even while sometimes stating adherence to a more staunch perspective and even while many of their members on the day showed a sincere and gutsy determination to rout the far-right racists. Yet it was far from just SAlt that was responsible for the pacifist call out. The majority of those leading the organising of the antiracist action supported such a call out. The Solidarity group and Socialist Alliance pushed such a perspective even more unambiguously than SAlt and even a minority of the anarchist-minded anti-fascists acquiesced to it (though, to their credit, many of the other anarchists involved tried to argue against it in the lead up to the rally).
So a major lesson has to be learnt on this question. However, an even bigger correction needs to be made to ensure that anti-racist actions are in the future based upon a strategy that puts the mobilisation of the workers movement at its core. It is true that those organising the July 19 anti-Reclaim demonstration did make some sincere efforts to “outreach” to trade unions. However, the various reformist socialist groups largely organising the rally did not make an appeal to workers’ class interests part of the actual rally call. There was nothing in the official rally call enunciating the all-important idea that stopping the extreme racists is a key part of building the unity that the working class so badly needs to fight for its own rights. Making such an appeal is essential in order to enhance the possibility of winning class-conscious workers to joining the anti-racist struggle.
The failure to make a direct appeal to workers’ class interests in the call out for the anti-Reclaim demonstration was not simply an oversight. It was a choice. The appeal was not made because the various reformist socialist groups (and indeed many of the “non-aligned” activists involved as well) who were leading the organising of the rally feared that such an appeal would scare off other potential supporters of the anti-racist demonstration – people such as middle class intellectuals, anti-union small businessmen and establishment-oriented ethnic community groups. Indeed, an open appeal to workers’ class interests would scare off some of these people. But a choice has to be made – either one seeks to build a movement based on the working class or one builds a movement attractive to liberal elements of the capitalist class and pro-establishment middle class.
For those really serious about fighting racist violence the choice to be made is clear cut. It is the working class that has the consistent interest to fight fascism and, as events on July 19 showed, without the social power of the working class it is impossible to defeat extreme racist mobilisations when they have significant police protection and that, unfortunately, is most of the time!
Ensuring that call outs for anti-fascist mobilisations openly appeal to workers’ class interests does not, of course, guarantee that the anti-fascist action will end up attracting powerful trade union contingents. There also needs to be a struggle within the workers movement itself against the nationalism and illusions in the state – ideologies promoted by the ALP current misleaders of the workers movement – that impede a workers’ mobilisation against extreme racists. However, an open appeal to workers’ class interests helps the most politically enlightened trade union activists – who already understand the need to stop the right-wing racists – to be able to convince other workers in their own workplace and/or union into joining the anti-fascist movement. Thus, while it may not always bring instant results, an anti-fascist strategy based on open appeals to the working class helps pave the way for trade union contingents to confidently march into the ranks of the anti-fascist movement. This is what is so badly needed. Therefore, if there is just one lesson that staunch anti-racists should take away from the July 19 events it is this: that the struggle against fascism demands the mobilisation of the working class and such a perspective is only real if one is prepared to make the choice of openly appealing to workers’ class interests at the “cost” of alienating liberal, pro-capitalist establishment forces.
Let’s Not Have a “One Rally Wonder” Perspective.
Ideological Preparation of the Anti-Fascist Movement is a Key Part of the Fight to Crush the Extreme Racists
Given that the forces did not exist on July 19 to shut down the Reclaim racist rally what should determined anti-fascists have been doing on that day. There did need to be work done to repulse isolated physical provocations by fascists – most seriously from the Squadron 88 group that approached from the rear. Yet dealing with these threats only took up a minority of the rally time. What about the rest of the time? Many staunch anti-fascists felt understandably frustrated at the situation and tried to think of tactics that could get the job done and compel the police to stand aside. And, afterwards, some sincere anti-fascists discussed tactics that – in hindsight – they felt could have enabled some defeats to be laid upon the Reclaim mobilisation.
Yet the long and the short of the situation was that our side simply did not have the forces to shut down the Reclaim provocation: both in numbers and composition as well as in psychological preparedness. That, however, does not mean that what one did at the anti-racist rally was of no consequence. Far from it! It is the absolute duty of those anti-fascists who understand the need to physically defeat the threat from the violent racists and who understand the need for an anti-fascist movement that openly appeals to workers’ class interests to bring that understanding to the many other decent people involved in the anti-racist campaigns. Using whatever time was available at the July 19 anti-racist rally to try and promote these perspectives was a key task for anti-fascists on the day – and doubly so given that the forces did not exist to rout the extreme racists then and there.
Any serious anti-fascist activist knows that the struggle against fascism will not end with the July 19 action. Those who only plan to be involved in anti-racist activism for a short but frenzied period (during a certain transitional stage of their lives) would naturally think that it is unimportant what particular strategies are being promoted by placards, banners, speeches, leaflets, newspapers and chants on the day. However, those in it for the long haul should be extremely interested in all these things because they determine whether anti-racist activists are guided towards an effective or an ineffective strategy for the future.
As part of attempting to shape the anti-fascist movement in the direction which we believe gives it the greatest chance of victory, Trotskyist Platform carried a banner at the July 19 Sydney demonstration that read, “A United, Multiracial & Strong Working Class Can Drive the Racists Off Our Streets.” Additionally, as well as helping to defend the anti-racist rally against fascist provocations, our comrades were busy distributing a leaflet that motivated a strategy of united mass action by the workers movement, coloured people and leftists to crush the violent far-right racists. Here is our article copied below:
SHUT DOWN THE JULY 19th RACE-HATE RALLY!
FOR A UNITED MASS ACTION by the WORKERS MOVEMENT, COLOURED PEOPLE & LEFTISTS TO CRUSH THE VIOLENT FAR RIGHT RACISTS
July 12 – Four weeks ago in the U.S.A, a young white supremacist murdered nine black people when he opened fire on worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Reloading his gun five times as he murdered the black church goers, the white supremacist chillingly yelled out, “you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” This racist terrorist had been emboldened by the activities of eighteen known fascist groups operating in South Carolina, including two chapters of the Ku Klux Klan and several openly Neo-Nazi groups.
Unofficial attack dogs of official racism and xenophobia, such violent racist groups are active here in Australia too. Over the last year, these Neo-Nazi forces have grown, egged on by the bi-partisan fear campaign being whipped up against Muslims, the thinly veiled racism of a new set of draconian “anti-terror” laws and, perhaps most tellingly of all, the recent formation of the paramilitary-style Australian Border Force: a new set of black shirted jackboots whose job, as we can surmise from its website, is to patrol and enforce the continuum of the Australian border, both external and internal, in order to produce a “cohesive society” where, presumably, elements that don’t fit into their skewed, racially-charged vision (like asylum seekers and persecuted young Muslim Australians that end up angrily incoherent) are summarily shipped out.
Not surprisingly then, the growth of fascist sentiments has been accompanied by a rising tide of violent, racist assaults. In one of several reported attacks last month – each of which represents hundreds that go unreported – a 21 year-old Middle Eastern refugee was left with serious facial injuries after being attacked outside a youth centre in Wollongong on June After first being racially abused, he was then bashed by two youths who pushed him onto a motorbike. The owner of the motorbike then arrived and joined in the heinous racist assault – punching and kicking the victim. Just four days later on June 8, a 15 year old girl of Asian origin was racially abused and then bashed by an adult while on a train approaching Lidcombe station. The white attacker punched the girl several times in the face and kneed her in the body. Meanwhile, at a park in Lidcombe, two Sudanese boys going to Under 8’s soccer training were disgustingly told by an adult racist bully to get out of the park because they were not welcome there.
Capitalist rule in Australia, a brutal regime constituted by two acts of both explicit and implicit violence – the ongoing genocide of this continent’s first peoples and the White Australia Policy exclusion of neighbouring Asia-Pacific peoples – has created such a racist society. In fact, there are countless garden variety racists who could on a bad day physically lash out against a person with dark or so-called coloured skin. Yet it is also a fact that, especially in country towns, Neo-Nazi and KKK-imitating rednecks have attacked and in several cases actually murdered Aboriginal people –as in Townsville where, in 2003, a known white supremacist murdered a 15 year-old boy, Errol Wyles, by deliberately reversing his car to run over the Aboriginal youth twice. This chilling crime – and the deliberate hit and run murder of Yasman Rae Sturt eight months earlier by a white driver who dragged her with his car 100 metres – are part of a series of horrific hit and run attacks on Aboriginal people and Islanders by racist rednecks in Townsville. Meanwhile, in big cities, fascist gangs going on “Asian-bash,”“Indian-bash” and “African-bash” rampages have committed many barbaric racist attacks. Just as dangerous as the threat of such direct assaults and murders by the fascists are the many more, often unreported, attacks that their violent hate speech incites. These far-right racist extremists need to be crushed! By crushing the organised, ultra-racists we will also be sending a message to the more numerous garden variety bigots that acts of racist violence and abuse from them will not be tolerated!
On July 19, various far-right groups calling themselves “Reclaim Australia” will be holding a rally in the heart of Sydney. The organisers, quite absurdly and with seemingly no sense of irony about the fact that they are standing on stolen Aboriginal land, say that they want to “Reclaim Australia” from Muslims and multi- culturalism. Their slogans will, sadly and inevitably, lead to yet more attacks on Muslims. However, these far right groups which have been busy spreading hate against Aboriginal people, Asians and Africans, see this as but a tactic to whip up violence against all people of colour. Anti-racists and trade unionists are mobilising a counter demonstration to this white supremacist rally. The counter-demonstration is scheduled for 10am – half an hour before the start of the fascist provocation. We add our voice to the many others building the counter-action and urge proud working class people and all the intended targets of the racist thugs – Aboriginal people, Middle Eastern people, Asians, Africans, Muslims, Jews, gays and lesbians and other members of the LGBTI community, feminists and leftists – to join us. We say that what is needed is not simply to protest against the fascists but to shut their racist violence-manufacturing demonstration down. Proud
contingents of trade union members must take the lead. Let’s be there at 10am on Sunday, July 19 at Martin Place between Pitt and Castlereagh Streets to sweep the racist filth off the streets. Let’s emulate the victory that was scored in Brisbane on May 2 last year when over a 100 construction workers (members of the CFMEU, ETU and other unions) were the vanguard of an anti-racist action that drove a neo-Nazi rally right off the streets of Brisbane.
CRUSHING VIOLENT RACIST SCUM IS PART OF BUILDING THE WORKING CLASS UNITY THAT WE SO BADLY NEED
Every day greedy bosses are threatening workers’ hard won rights. To help them do this, corporate thugs and their lapdogs in the governments of Australia are attacking our unions. Meanwhile, Liberal and ALP federal and state regimes alike are slashing public sector jobs and undermining the services that working class people need the most like public housing and public hospitals. To defeat this many-sided offensive, we need our side to be absolutely united across different trades, ethnicities and nations. Indeed, it is only through such unity that any rights have ever been won at all.
The capitalist bosses and their politician mates know this well. That’s why they have been deliberately whipping up racism to divide the ranks of the working class and divert their fire. They have been demonising refugees and Muslims and ever more viciously vilifying and locking up Aboriginal people. Serving the exploiting class in this agenda are several extreme right-wing groups. These outfits, including open Neo-Nazis, don’t simply want to spread prejudice. They actually want to incite and unleash violent racist attacks.
The rabid racist groups are the most extreme enforcers of the current capitalist order. That is hardly surprising. Any real unionist knows that the most racist person in the workplace is almost always anti-union and betrays fellow workers. The cowardly racist is often seen attacking and picking on minorities to pit worker against worker and siding with the boss when workers voice concerns in the workplace. In the same way, far right groups fanatically hate not only non-white people but also leftists who they understand are the most avowed supporters of that force which ultimately stands in the way of their fascist agenda: workers’ unity and the trade unions. The extreme right wingers follow in the footsteps of the Old Guard and New Guard organisations that had big numbers in the 1920s and 1930s and would go around attacking strike pickets and trade union activists.
It is true that the fascists, right now, do not have the strength that they had in the days of the Old and New Guards. However, their Neo-Nazi counterparts in Europe have been breeding at an alarming rate feeding off the huge unemployment and insecurity caused by decaying capitalism and its severe economic crises. Right now, white supremacist outfits are succeeding in whipping up more and more violent racist attacks on coloured individuals. Working class people cannot allow non-white members of our class to be terrorised in this way. We cannot afford to allow people from a non-white background to be so intimidated that they will be unable to undertake the crucial role that they have often played in the struggle for all of our collective rights. We cannot and will not allow Hitler-loving lunatics to divide our side with racism.
However, to date and albeit with a very small number of important exceptions, the leadership of the union movement has not seriously mobilised the workers movement to stop the fascists. This is despite union activists being amongst those at the top of the fascists’ hit list (need anyone be reminded of Anders Breivik’s murder of 69 members of the Norwegian Labour party’s youth league to demonstrate that it is not only the far left that is the political target of these insanely violent neo-Nazis). Instead, the pro-ALP union bureaucrats hope that the state will one day intervene to stop the fascists. However, the key state organs – the police and courts – have inevitably sided with the violent racists during stand-offs with anti-racist demonstrators. In Melbourne on May 31, police not only allowed the violent racist group, United Patriots Front, to march upon (in the end rather unsuccessfully) an anti-racist rally gathered outside Richmond Town Hall but actually escorted the Neo-Nazi-led outfit as they moved threateningly towards the anti-racists. In contrast, when three dozen anti-fascists attempted to march towards a rally of the extreme white supremacist Australia Defence League in July 2011, police would not allow any anti-racists to get within 100 metres of the sinister racist provocation. Meanwhile, after Neo-Nazi Scott Hasenkamp murdered Aboriginal youth Errol Wyles in Townsville in 2003, the courts sentenced the Neo-Nazi murderer to just a 15 month sentence, of which he only served two months in prison! The same pattern exists in all other capitalist countries where significant fascist forces exist. In Greece, it has emerged that members of the armed forces have been training hit squads of the Neo-Nazi, Golden Dawn party. Media reports in Greece have further exposed that the head of the police’s special forces, internal security, organised crimes, firearms and explosives divisions have been assisting Golden Dawn’s criminal activities.
The fact is that the police and judiciary in capitalist countries have far, far more in common with the racist and anti-union, far-right than they do with anti-fascists. Here in Australia, police have perpetrated the outright racist murder or manslaughter of countless young Aboriginal people in custody over the last three decades including Eddie Murray, TJ Hickey, Mulrunji Doomdagee, Kwementyaye Briscoe and Julieka Dhu. The legal system for its part – from coroner’s inquests to royal commissions – has whitewashed each of these racist crimes. The police – backed by the courts – are also notorious for harassing Asian, African, Islander and Middle Eastern youth living in working class suburbs. And the way that police have assaulted union picket lines and the manner in which the ongoing Royal Commission into Unions is squarely attacking the entire union movement is what the far right thugs are inspired by and seek to emulate in a more extreme fashion. In a capitalist society like Australia, the state and its key organs have been built up to maintain the rule of exploitation of the capitalist class over the working class – and that includes enforcing the ruling class’ racist divide-and-conquer tactics. Thus the police, courts, army and prisons serve the same exploiting class as the thugs of the far-right extremist movement. Although the bulk of the Australian ruling class don’t want to right now openly identify with such extremists, the capitalist rulers know that the far right outfits are on their side. The oh-so-civilised corporate elite wash their hands of the crude race-hatred of the far-right extremists as they know that openly associating with it is harmful to their lucrative trade and investments in Asia. Yet secretly they grin at how the far-right bigotry is helping to divide the working class and divert mass opposition away from themselves. Meanwhile, the more far-sighted of the capitalists and their political think-tanks cannot help but realise that the iron fist of the fascists are a vital force to have in reserve should the big con of parliamentary democracy lose its power to keep tricking the masses into submission. That is why so few politicians from any of the pro-capitalist parliamentary parties have been prepared to make even strong verbal denunciations of the “Reclaim Australia” racist movement.
The far-right extremists can only be effectively combated through the united mass action on the streets of all the intended victims of the fascists. Such an anti-fascist movement must be spearheaded by the organised working class – the class with both the interest and the power to stamp out the Neo-Nazi threat. When an anti-fascist mobilisation is, as is frequently the case, confronted by a large police presence defending the violent racists, it is the participation in the anti-racist movement of union contingents that can compel the police to stand aside because the trade union presence signals the threat of retaliatory industrial action should the police attack the anti-Nazi action.
PREPARING ANTI-RACISTS FOR A COUNTER-DEMONSTRATION AGAINST VIOLENT FAR-RIGHT THUGS
There has been much debate amongst leftists and other anti-racists about how best to counter the upcoming far-right mobilisation. Various small-l liberals, including many supporters of the Greens as well as the left groups Solidarity, and Socialist Alliance want a rally that protests against the views of “Reclaim Australia” but rules out, beforehand, any action to shut down the white supremacist mobilisation even if the forces exist to do so. This strategy is wrong. Even if there is a large anti-racist rally that demonstrates widespread community opposition to the “Reclaim Australia” movement, if an attempt to stop the fascists is ruled out then the white supremacists will still be emboldened since, at the end of the day, they will have gotten away with openly fomenting their extreme race hate right in the middle of inner-city Sydney, in the case of the upcoming July 19 rally. Hardened, but presently unorganised, racists watching at home will then in turn be radicalised and encouraged to become active fascists (as some were after the first Sydney “Reclaim” rally on April 4 was not shut down). Hearing media excerpts from nice speeches by participants at the anti-racist rally will make little difference to them – they have been incubated against left wing rhetoric by the venom of the racist ravings of Alan Jones-style shock jocks as well as the barely disguised prejudice of mainstream politicians. Instead, seeing the active white supremacists get away with controlling space in an area in the very heart of Sydney – effectively making a big section of Martin Place a no-go area for coloured people, just like the Cronulla Beach riots sadly did to Cronulla Beach – this is exactly what will embolden them to commit acts of racist violence. To tell anti-racist activists to confine themselves to explaining what is wrong with racism in the face of a movement that perpetrates and incites violence is to disarm and damage the anti-racist struggle. It is following the road of the leaders of the German Social Democratic Party – then and now the biggest party within the German workers movement – who in the lead up to Hitler’s seizure of power were saying that so long as the Nazis do not quit the ground of legality, there is no room for an on the streets struggle to physically stop them!
Unfortunately, this stance is also held by the party which in this country covets the proud title of Lenin and Trotsky’s party which not only led the world’s first successful socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 but whose USSR workers state that they led the creation of inspired the Soviet people to heroically and with great suffering withstand and ultimately crush the greatest fascist behemoth ever arrayed against the multiracial working people of the world, that is the
enormous Nazi army led by the genocidal maniac Adolf Hitler in World War 2. We are, of course, referring to the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) which, in their article “Lessons from Reclaim Australia protests” by Peter Mac in their newspaper The Guardian, decry the April 4 counter-action in Melbourne for being “violent” and denounce statements by an unnamed group (who happen, incidentally, to be us in Trotskyist Platform) that `the neo-Nazis … must be swept off the streets’ and that we must `drive the violent white supremacists out of stolen Aboriginal land!’ The CPA stance is representative of that of the whole liberal-pacifist wing of the anti-fascist movement. For the CPA and the small-l liberals the
model anti-fascist strategy is exemplified by the pacifist April 4 anti-”Reclaim” rally in Adelaide led by the good pastor, Brad Chilcott, and his “non-violent `subtle and symbolic’ strategies”, some of which, somewhat tellingly, he “had to abandon … because of public safety concerns“ (The Guardian, 22 April 2015) It is true that the counter-demonstrators in Adelaide were indeed “peaceful” even though it has to be noted that this Chilcott-led rally was the weakest of all the anti-Reclaim events in the capital cities on April 4 with the anti- racists outnumbered ten to one by the far-right racists. However, that does not mean there was no violence. Far from it! What the CPA did not report (and to be fair they were likely not aware of) is that following the Adelaide April 4 “Reclaim” action, some of the invigorated fascists followed a group of indigenous activists participating in the counter-protest back to their home and assaulted them. Meanwhile, the emboldening of the “Reclaim” participants – and the bigots “watching at home” – by the fact that they were able to get away with openly spewing extreme racist filth in the heart of Adelaide can only lead to more racist violence on the streets.
Fortunately, at planning meetings for the Sydney July 19 anti-racist rally those promoting the pacifist line have been outvoted by others – including Socialist Alternative supporters and anarchists – who rightly argued that the action should seek to undermine the hardcore racist demonstration by taking over the space that the white supremacists plan to gather at prior to the scheduled start of their “Reclaim” rally. However, the official call for the anti-racist action – for example on the Facebook Event page – remains flawed. For one, at the insistence of Socialist Alternative, the call insists that the anti-racist demonstration will be “peaceful.” Of course, it would be wrong to say that our action will be “violent” – it is the far-right who are the creators of racist violence while the police often use violence to attack progressive struggles – like anti-racist actions and union picket lines. But to insist that a counter-demonstration against those who are inciting, threatening and perpetrating violence against coloured people and anti-racists will be “peaceful” is like telling the Palestinian people to be “peaceful” in the face of the Israeli military’s murderous terror. Mainly white, reformist socialist groups may think that they have the luxury of decreeing that an action against violent racists shall be “peaceful,” however socially-aware coloured people know that they have little hope of deciding when or where their reality is going to be peaceful or not. Politically conscious coloured people know that they face the danger at any time of being attacked by rabid racists while on the streets, in public transport or at nightspots – not to mention when in the far more fraught situation of participating in a demonstration against extreme racists!
Today’s issue of Melbourne’s The Age newspaper reported that social media discussions amongst fascists showed that they planned to bring weapons to the Melbourne race-hate rally next weekend. Thus, for anti-“Reclaim” organisers here to lull people who are planning to join the counter-demonstration into a false sense of security that the action will necessarily be “peaceful” is highly irresponsible and potentially catastrophic. It might mean that rally attendees do not take precautions when coming to the rally. Instead of organising to come to the rally in groups with friends as they should, anti-racists may be lulled into thinking it is safe to rock up as an individual wearing anti-racist badges and t-shirts and all – a practice that could set them up to be attacked on their way in by a Neo-Nazi gang (themselves on their way to the same location for the rival mobilisation). When at the rally site itself, participants who, convinced by the rally call that the demonstration will be “peaceful” and having illusions that the police will intervene to protect them should any threat emerge, may decide to stand around in a very geographically dispersed area rather than in a tight pack with their fellow anti-fascists. This could open them up to being picked off by far- right thugs itching to unleash violence against anti-racists.
How this can play out was shown all too brutally at a stand-off between fascists and anti-racists in Melbourne on 18 March 1995. It was then that 37 members of the then most prominent fascist group in Australia, National Action (NA), rallied on the steps of Melbourne’s parliament house. They were protected from 300 anti-racist protesters by a line of police. However, the anti-racists, lulled into thinking that the police would by necessity keep the two sides apart let their guard down. A squad of NA led by their then fuehrer Michael Brander then charged towards a section of the anti-racist crowd. The police line actually opened up to let the fascists through and in the fascist attack that followed one anti-fascist was severely beaten on the head by a thick flagpole carried by the fascists. The NA squad then retreated behind the police line which closed up behind to protect them as swiftly as it had opened up to let them through. The head injuries sustained by the assaulted anti-fascist demonstrator, who had previously been a very active leftist, were so serious that it kept him out of activism for several years.
MASS WORKING CLASS-CENTRED ACTION TO STOP THE FASCISTS
A militant strategy to stop fascism should be guided by the perspective of mass action centred on the working class rather than small gangs of committed anti-fascists attempting to deal blows to the racist thugs in a series of isolated clashes. Currently, some of the most sincere, dedicated and brave anti-fascists lean towards the latter strategy. Sometimes their actions succeed – something which all anti-fascists can only celebrate. However, the Neo-Nazis, obsessed as they are with weapons and combat training, are also capable of clever tactics. Should anti-fascists suffer a defeat in a small scale clash or be arrested by police, this would not only take out from the movement (for some period at least) some of the most committed anti-fascists but news of the setback would be seized on by small-l liberals and reformists to discredit any perspective to physically stop the far-right scum.
There is, however, a bigger problem with the specialised anti-fascist, commando- like group perspective even if the participants are fortunate enough to suffer no serious defeats. That problem is that this strategy sidesteps the working class masses whose most politically conscious layers may not even be aware that the clashes are taking place. This perspective does not seek to mobilise the working class masses but rather to substitute for the masses the heroism of the anti-fascist activists. Yet it is the working class masses that have the power to consistently deal defeats to the fascists in open confrontations – as occurred on May 2 last year in Brisbane. And although it is a blow to a Neo-Nazi to be taught a lesson by a small anti-fascist gang while walking on a street or on their way home, it is far more demoralising for the fascists – and those bigots watching at home on their TV sets – to see themselves being trounced in the open by a large crowd spearheaded by the muscle of the organised workers movement. However, those focussed on attempting to deal blows to the extreme racist thugs through small- group actions must believe, in various kinds of ways, that the working class is currently too backward to mobilise against fascism or that it takes too long to build up such mass worker mobilisations or that they themselves are personally too isolated from the workers movement to help mobilise working class-based anti-fascist struggle. Thus, these determined anti-fascists end up believing that they must forge ahead of the politically advanced layers of the working class and launch their own actions separately from any section of the masses. In effect they believe they must act as a kind of vanguard of anti-fascist action – although most of them would hate such a self-description.
In the context of a working class-centred mass movement to stop the far-right fanatics, some degree of “black ops” activities against the Neo-Nazis can play a useful supplementary role. However, right now all our energies must be devoted to building up the mass anti-fascist movement. If the very serious anti-fascists currently focussed on the hardcore, small anti-fascist group perspective were to instead immerse themselves in the workers movement and use their considerable energies and talents to winning their fellow workers to an internationalist program – a program that necessarily includes mass action to crush fascism – the anti-fascist struggle would receive a decent boost. The activists involved would have to make the leap from being the vanguard of militant anti-fascist action to being a different type of vanguard – one that does not believe it is better than the masses and rather than seeking to forge ahead of the masses seeks to bring the best layers of the masses with the This perspective will require the activists involved to clarify their own outlook into a very precise revolutionary, internationalist program as they will be stepping into an intense battle with Laborite social democracy for the hearts and minds of the workers. It will require them to undertake work that is more tedious, more patient and far less glamorous than the perspective of small group confrontations with the fascists. Nevertheless, especially now that the far-right forces have grown in Australia so much and are increasingly receiving open support from some sections of the mainstream establishment, it is only the working class that has the clout to decisively crush the fascists.
FOR A UNITED, INTERNATIONALIST & STRONG WORKING CLASS THAT WILL SMASH FASCISM FOR GOOD
Mobilising the working class against the far-right threat is not simply a matter of contacting union officials. Organisers of most anti-fascist actions have always attempted to do this. Nor is it simply a matter of distributing anti-fascist rally leaflets to rank and file union members at worksites although this is certainly essential work. To be effective in mobilising the working class, rally calls must openly appeal to the interests that workers have in opposing the extreme racists. Unfortunately, the official call for the Sydney July 19 anti-racist action does not make such an appeal to the class interests of workers. Anti-fascists often recoil from such a call even
though they nominally accept the importance of the workers movement to the anti-fascist struggle. They fear that open appeals to workers class interests will put off some middle-class liberal anti-racists and sympathetic, trendy café owners (who want to be seen as progressive but don’t like unions because they fear that the workers that they exploit might one day join one!) But if appealing to workers’ class interests offends such layers, so be it! It is the working class and not small-l liberals and “small business” bosses that is the strategic force that will defeat fascism.
Encouragingly, a section of anti-fascist activists seem to be increasingly understanding this point. One stream of anarchists have issued a powerful poster building for the July 19 mobilisation, signed “Anti-Fascist Action,” that in calling to “Shutdown Reclaim Australia” clearly appeals to workers’ class interests in the fight to “Smash Fascists!” and “Drive Them Off Our Streets.” The poster explained that the fascists’ “hateful ideology is an attempt to divide the working class and help the bosses and landlords.”
Appealing to workers class interests is one part of the struggle to mobilise the working class against fascism. The second crucial part is the political struggle that internationalist-minded workers need to wage within their workplaces and unions against nationalist sentiments within the workers movement itself. Right now the CFMEU construction union is waging a divisive nationalist campaign raising fears that local workers will lose out because Chinese companies investing in large projects under the China Australia Free Trade Agreement may be able to bring in Chinese workers. To be sure the social democratic nationalism of the CFMEU bureaucrats is not the same as the violent racism of the fascists. The CFMEU is, after all, the union whose members were at the forefront of the powerful action in May last year that trounced the fascist Australia First Party in Brisbane. However, the economic nationalism of the pro-ALP union leadership does feed into the mainstream nationalist climate that nurtures the far-right extremists. Furthermore, by promoting in more moderate form the local worker versus overseas worker rivalry that the far-right forces spew in extreme form, the union bureaucracy is to some degree legitimising the far-right and thus diluting workers’ inherent hostility to the fascists.
Instead of the divisive and ultimately losing strategy of setting local workers up against their overseas counterparts, our unions must fight to unite all workers in the fight for improved conditions and more jobs for all workers. The fight for jobs means first and foremost an industrial action-based struggle to stop the greedy Australian capitalist bosses from retrenching workers to boost their profits. Yet bowing to the anti-union laws and chained to a strategy of relying on parliament to affect progressive change, it is precisely militant industrial action that the present union officialdom recoils from. And the more the social democratic, current union officials step back from class struggle, the more they are left with having to advance economic nationalism as the “solution” to unemployment. The struggle to purge the union movement of poisonous economic nationalism must go hand in hand with a fight to unleash the power of the working class against attacks on workers’ jobs and conditions. To fight for such a perspective an internationalist, revolutionary current within the unions must be built to challenge the failed policies of the current Laborite leadership. The growth in influence of such class-struggle union caucuses would see the union movement start to unleash its power against unemployment and casualization and thus begin to cut the ground from under the fascists. A revolutionary current within the unions, linked to a multi-racial revolutionary workers party, would also seek to unify the workers movement across racial lines by fighting to mobilise it to support Aboriginal resistance to the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities, to ensure victory for the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy struggle, to free the refugees and to revoke the racist anti-terror laws. In this way, by starting to dig out the racist soil that this society is built on, working class anti-racist actions like these will necessarily start to uproot the fascist filth from the putrid ground in which they are allowed to otherwise fester and grow.
Yet as today’s despicable acceptance of anti-working class austerity by the left- wing Syriza government in Greece proves, as long as the capitalist class still hold state power then the conditions of unemployment, inequality, poverty and insecurity can never be decisively swept away. No matter how left-wing or radical the
government sitting in parliament is. Only the overthrow of capitalist rule through workers’ revolution and the establishment of a collectivised economy on a worldwide scale can ensure that fascism is finally consigned to where it truly belongs – the dustbin of history.
HUMANITY’S FUTURE: FASCISM OR COMMUNISM
To see how capitalist economy nurtures fascism it is enough to note that in Australia a large part of the working age population are either unemployed or working far less hours than they want to or else in insecure casual jobs or worried about being retrenched. The far-right seeks to appeal to these people by offering blatantly false but simplistic analysis blaming immigrants and overseas producers for their plight. However, although unemployed and underemployed people make up some of the personnel of Neo-Nazi gangs, the main social base of the far-right are the most reactionary sections of the middle class as well as smaller scale capitalist business owners. The far-right groups aim to recruit insecure, self–employed service providers and tradies buffeted by the wild fluctuations of the capitalist “free-market” by insinuating that competition from migrants and overseas producers are undermining their businesses. Those capitalist business owners whose businesses are struggling are also open to such demagogy. That is why it is in the crisis-ridden capitalist economies of Europe where the fascists are most alarmingly gaining strength and most openly getting the backing from sizeable chunks of the big capitalists.
In capitalist society, both the middle class self-employed and capitalist small business owners are ground down by capitalist banks and big landlords as well as the tyranny of big corporate business. They are fearful of being dragged down – often back down – into the working Middle class individuals can either be won to siding with the working class against the capitalists that oppress them or, alternatively, will follow the capitalists in their push to ever more exploit the working class. Fascism is, in the main, a movement of middle class individuals fanatically mobilised against the working class whom they fear being dragged down into and whose class struggles they fear will either challenge their relatively privileged position or will challenge them in their roles as henchmen (managers, foreman, security guards etc) for the capitalists. Fear of coloured people, LGBTI people and the “other” in general naturally goes hand in hand with fear of the workers movement and its powerful, multi-racial character.
Although most of the Australian fascists revere Hitler, many of them realise that since Australia was on the opposite side to the Nazis in the bloody imperialist squabble that was World War II (with the big exception of the Soviet workers state’s heroic resistance against Nazi invasion), it does not sit well with Aussie nationalist mythology and militarism to outwardly shown any allegiance to Nazism. Today, with the mainstream pro-capitalist parties stirring up fear of Muslim people, the far-right see a chance to push their broader agenda using anti-Islam as a battering ram. They promote the notion that Australia is being taken over by Islam and Sharia Law as well as other cultures and needs to be “reclaimed” by white people. This is, of course, ridiculous. It is the Aboriginal people whose land was stolen and culture decimated – not by people coming to the country seeking to contribute to society as part of making their own lives better as today’s migrants do – but by murdering, brutal colonial conquerors. As for the notion that non-white people have taken over the economy (and there is no reason that white people should control the economy anyway!) it is worth noting that of Australia’s 50 richest people, just two, that is a measly 4% are coloured.
With just 2.2% of Australians being Muslims the idea that Sharia Law could be imposed in Australia is also complete bonkers. In fact, the real threat to secularism is from Christian fundamentalists. Not a single advocate of Sharia Law holds any elected position in state or federal parliament. In contrast, in NSW the balance of power is held by the Christian fundamentalist zealot, Fred Nile. Nile wants mothers confined to the home so much that earlier this year he railed against child care centres as “day orphanages.” Nile and his Christian Democratic Party denounces homosexuality, opposes the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, opposes giving parents the chance to allow their children to opt out of scripture classes at school and fanatically opposes women’s right to abortion. The first, non-state, terrorist murder in Australia this century was perpetrated by a far-right, Christian anti-abortion bigot, Peter Knight who in July 2001 shot dead an employee at an East Melbourne abortion clinic in what he planned would be a massacre of all the staff and patients at the clinic. Today, members of the Right to Life movement that Knight was part of as well as other cowardly, Christian-based bigots continue to harass women seeking abortions outside clinics.
Although the current main focus of the far-right is against Muslims, the ultimate main target of fascist agitation and pogroms will be Asians. Fascism is built on fear and after the white capitalist ruling class “dealt” with the “threat” from Aboriginal people by committing genocide and completely dispossessing this country’s first peoples, the main theme of racist White Australia xenophobia has been the fear of Asians – especially Chinese people. This is the fear that immigration from the populous masses of Australia’s Asian neighbours will dilute the relatively privileged economic position of resource rich and sparsely populated Australia or even threaten white domination of this country. Thus, alongside brutal prejudice against Aboriginal people, anti-Asian xenophobia has dominated Australian racism from the 1861 anti-Chinese violence on the Lambing Flats goldfield to the anti-Chinese laws of the late 1800s to the formal introduction of the White Australia Policy in 1901 and right up to today’s anti-China hysteria.
Already, the most prominent fascist parties, the Party for Freedom and the Australia First Party, devote much of their attention to opposing Asians and the Peoples Republic of China. Last month, the Party for Freedom held a rally outside the Chinese embassy opposing Chinese nationals buying real estate and blaming them for exorbitant house prices. Yet the facts show that Chinese investors spent approximately just 2% of all the money spent on purchasing residential property in Australia and most of this was spent on developing new dwellings. Indeed, for all the hype, official figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade show that despite having 20% of the world’s population, investment in all areas from China makes up only 1.3% of the total stock of foreign investment in Australia – 20 times less than that from the U.S.A (http://dfat.gov.au/trade/topics/investment/Pages/which-countries-invest-in-australia.aspx). Indeed, Chinese investment in Australia is nearly matched by Australian investment in China. China does not even make the top five of foreign investors in Australia and even tiny Switzerland and the Netherlands have more investments here!
There is, however, no agitation here against foreign investment from the big, white investing countries: the U.S., Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland (nor should there be, in fact). It is bleeding obvious then that the hysterical far-right opposition to Chinese investment and the media hype directed against it is based on racist bigotry.
However, there is another aspect to the anti-China crusade. Singapore is also an ethnic Chinese majority country and investment in Australia from Singapore is almost twice that from mainland China. Why then do we not see agitation against investment into Australia by Singapore? Because Singapore is a capitalist country while the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has a socialistic system administered by a Communist party. Hostility to the PRC from both the mainstream of the ruling class and from the far-right fanatics thus combines racism with anti-communism. That is why much of the mainstream opposition to Chinese investment is focussed on the fact that most of it is from state-owned companies. Although the wavering bureaucracy that administers China has treacherously allowed a fair deal of capitalism to penetrate the PRC, in the PRC socialistic state-owned enterprises continue to dominate all the key sectors of the Chinese economy (unlike in capitalist Australia where public enterprises have only ever played a supplementary role to support a system which is based on wealthy private individuals owning the bulk of the economy).
It is worth noting that the white supremacist Party for Freedom has recruited hardline anti-communist Chinese individuals from the Falun Gong group. There is, of course, a similarity between the fascist agenda of the Party for Freedom and the ideology of the ultra-right Falun Gong group with its fascistic belief in racial purity, its disgusting notion that people of mixed race are inferior and its virulent homophobia. However, what mostly allows the white supremacists to grit their teeth and allow ethnic Chinese members into their party is their shared, extreme hostility to Red China. Fascists see communism as the greatest obstacle to their agenda. That is why the Reclaim Australia breakaway, the United Patriots Front, made its first action (on May 31 in Melbourne) a “rally against communism.
Should the fascists continue to grow, they will offer themselves up to the ruling class as the force that can stand up to Communist China just as Hitler advertised himself as the force that could destroy the USSR. And just as it took Hitler to attempt to realise the capitalist dream of wiping out the USSR, it may well take a fascist regime in the U.S. and Australia to crush the workers movements in these countries savagely enough to allow the ruling classes in these countries to launch what would necessarily be an extremely bloody war on Red China. That anyone could countenance such a catastrophic war seems insane. However, the fascists are not sane. Furthermore, even today the mainstream of the U.S. and Australian ruling classes are seeking to put military pressure on China and to begin to make war preparations, which is why there is the U.S. “pivot to Asia” and why U.S. troops are being stationed in Darwin. This drive to conflict with socialistic China is driven by the very logic of capitalism. As capitalism bounces from one economic crisis to another, the capitalist rulers fear the masses in their own countries seeing any example of workers’ rule – even one like in China that is, admittedly, bureaucratically deformed and weakened by capitalist intrusion.
Furthermore, the only way for capitalists to avert their economic crises is to open up new areas of the world to capitalist exploitation (or else to grab existing neo- colonies from their fellow, imperialist rivals). However, one in five people in the world live in a country, China, where the U.S., Australian and other capitalists’ “right” to exploit is severely restricted. Being a country with a per capita GDP several times lower than Australia (due to the resource poor country being burdened by enforced backwardness from its days of colonial subjugation which it only began to catch up from after the 1949 anti-capitalist revolution), wages in China are necessarily lower than in Australia. However, wages in China are much higher than what they would be should China have been capitalist. Thus, Chinese wages are the second highest of the developing countries in Asia. The relatively better conditions of Chinese workers relative to capitalist societies with similar per capita GDP is especially evident if one considers the high social wage Chinese workers receive – including cheap public transport, free cultural facilities and extensive low-rent public housing. Of course, in a huge and complicated country one could also find many a horror story of exploitation of workers in the private sector – especially light manufacturing industries in the Southeast region bordering Hong Kong which are dominated by foreign, private investment. However, that is increasingly becoming old news. In 2008, the PRC enacted a pro- worker Labour Law that gave workers rights unheard of for workers in Australia (such as a guarantee that long-time employees within five years of retirement cannot be retrenched for any reason). Meanwhile, a government-supported unionisation drive has seen the rate of trade union membership in China balloon. China has the fastest growing workers’ wages in the world – wages there have grown by an average of close to 12% per year over the last few years, well above the rate of growth of GDP in China. Many Western manufacturing corporations like Nike and Adidas have completely abandoned their operations in China for lower wage countries even though the infrastructure in China is much better. So, the only way left for Western capitalists to turn the world’s most populous country into the huge sweatshop for exploitation that they want and, indeed, need it to be in order to relieve the crises in their own economies – is through smashing socialistic rule in China. Far-right forces are promoting themselves as the hardcore anti-communists who can get this job done.
As the socio-political climate in Australia lurches towards one that could see new, terrifying, Cronulla-style mass racist riots, it is worth dwelling on the fact that the fascists – the most radical defenders of the current racist and exploitative social order – see communism as their main political enemy. This is because communism – a society based on collective ownership of the economy where each would contribute according to their ability and receive according to their need – would see the creation of a society where exploitation of human by human would be non-existent and discrimination on the basis of race and gender would be things of the past. Such a society, where the eventual dissipation of all class differences would also see the state itself start to wither away, would bring out the very best in humanity. It would enable all humans to live in friendship, enjoying themselves as they pick out what they want from a rich smorgasbord of cultures.
Increasingly, we are faced with the choice of either fighting for this kind of communism or being plunged into the abyss of fascist-ruled capitalism that will bring yet more racist violence, hatred, oppression of workers and catastrophic wars. The first step in the fight for a communist future is the overthrow of capitalist state power and the construction of worker states. These states would protect the newly established socialist system from the counterrevolutionary efforts of the overthrown exploiters and guide the former middle class to shake off the selfish, capitalistic spirit that they were haunted with from the previous times and, instead embrace the collectivist values of the new epoch. However, to accomplish the revolutionary seizure of state power is not an easy thing. The working class must first be trained both ideologically and practically in a series of partial struggles. An important part of this training involves the working class gaining confidence in its own power through flexing its muscles while unchaining itself from any political ties to capitalist institutions and pro-capitalist political parties. A great way to flex those muscles is to mobilise its own power – united with Aboriginal people, coloured ethnic communities and other anti-racists – to shut down the looming, far right threat. Then, using the confidence we gain from such struggles, we can launch a badly needed counter-offensive against all the greedy, exploiting bosses.