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Australasian Spartacist No. 193

Summer 2005/06

Capitalist Rulers Whip Up Murderous White Racist Riot in Cronulla

Mobilise Unions and Minorities Against Racist Attacks!

Reprinted below is a leaflet issued by the Spartacist League and Spartacus Youth Club following the 11 December white racist riot in the Sydney beachside suburb of Cronulla. On 18 December a demonstration of about 1,500, organised by the Laborite National Union of Students, assembled at Sydney Town Hall in protest against the Cronulla riot. Significantly, and following earlier protest statements by the Maritime and Teachers’ unions, the crowd included small groups of unionists and the “Your Rights at Work” union truck provided a podium for speakers. These were further evidence of anti-racist anger within the union movement. However, the rally organisers showed their commitment to “law and order” with a call for “Three cheers for [Labor state premier] Iemma!” The keynote speaker was former Aboriginal rights activist and now Labor MP Linda Burney, whose ALP government just days earlier had passed draconian legislation allowing police to lock down whole suburbs. This is aimed against minorities, particularly immigrants and Aborigines, and ultimately the organised working class.

We bitterly note that only 13 days after this rally Labor’s new police powers were used against a housing estate of about 5,000 predominantly Aboriginal residents in the rural New South Wales city of Dubbo. In sweltering heat on New Year’s Eve Aborigines vented their justified outrage following yet another cop bashing of an Aboriginal youth. A lockdown was imposed which gave the racist cops free rein to search residents, their homes and vehicles.

Revolutionaries oppose the illusion sown by reformists that the capitalist state administered by Labor can be pressured to act against racist terror. Instead we seek to mobilise the real anger at the base of the multiracial unions in independent class-struggle action, at the head of oppressed minorities, against the racist capitalist system and the fascist gangs it spawns.

* * *

DECEMBER 18—On Sunday 11 December a racist mob of up to 5,000 overwhelmingly white youth, including significant numbers of fascists, mobilised at the Sydney beach suburb of Cronulla. Draped in the Australian flag and singing “Waltzing Matilda,” this beer-sodden crowd rampaged through the streets carrying out chilling pogromist attacks against anyone of non-white complexion. Pelting cans and bottles at people and chanting “Kill the w-gs” and “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,” they chased down and cornered terrified individuals, bashing several who were lucky to escape with their lives. Such was their frenzy and murderous intent that they attacked ambulancemen trying to assist injured victims and even cops who got in their way. Increasingly emboldened fascist outfits such as Australia First, the Patriotic Youth League and Blood and Honour, who pose a deadly threat to immigrants, Aborigines, gays and ultimately the organised working class, were deeply involved in fomenting and building this racist riot.

The white racists and fascists who carried out this celebration of “Aussie pride” took their cue from the very top in Australian society. Following the reported beating of lifeguards at Cronulla a week before, allegedly by Arabs responding to racist epithets, Howard confidant and radio shock jock, Alan Jones, began whipping up a racist frenzy, including by airing the vile SMS rallying call for mob violence. Rupert Murdoch’s mass circulation Daily Telegraph fuelled the fire with headlines like: “Fight for Cronulla” and “Lines drawn on the beach sand.” This was on top of the ever-escalating decade-long campaign by the NSW ALP government to criminalise Sydney’s Arab population, particularly Lebanese youth. And topping this off has been the ruling class “war on terror” which targets first and foremost, alongside the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, all Muslims, and Arab and Asian populations in Australia.

This racist eruption was whipped up by the capitalist rulers in order to divide the working class at a time when the bosses are pushing through their biggest attack on unions and working conditions for decades. However, decent working people from all backgrounds are horrified by the white racist attacks. Today as an elementary act of self-defence it is desperately necessary that the multiracial working class be mobilised in defence of minorities on the streets and to crush the fascists whose program is murderous racist terror.

In the absence of a fight by the organised working class against such racist terror, the justified anger of some youth of immigrant background was vented in some indefensible retaliatory acts, including indiscriminately attacking individuals and wrecking cars. A church hall in Auburn has been torched. Seizing on such actions, the NSW government rushed through draconian new police powers to lock down whole suburbs, to search people and cars, and to confiscate cars. Penalties for the crimes of “riot” and “affray” have been dramatically increased along with removing the presumption of bail. Exposing their reactionary agenda, the bourgeois media and politicians talk almost exclusively about the “problem” of “Lebanese youth” while burying the white racist rampage on Sunday. The “lock down” powers target Arab or other immigrant and working class suburbs. Pickets and protesters who defend themselves from scabs or police attack could see themselves facing 15 years jail, and without the right to bail!

Following their success in Cronulla and this green light from the bourgeoisie, the fascists have grown in confidence. Anti-Arab attacks have broken out in virtually every capital city in Australia and a repeat of Cronulla has been threatened from Perth to the Gold Coast.

Down With Liberal/ALP Racist State Repression

Having done everything possible to encourage the lynch-mob mentality seen at Cronulla, the racist prime minister, John Howard, and equally bigoted “opposition” leader, Kim Beazley, refused to label the Cronulla riot as racist. Instead Howard described the murderous attempted pogrom as “just incredibly bad behaviour” (Age, 16 December) while Beazley ranted about “the rule of law” and “core Australian values” (Sydney Morning Herald, 14 December). Justifying the pogromist mob Howard proclaimed: “We should never lose sight of the fact that primarily what happened was a group of people broke the law the previous weekend when they assaulted two lifesavers...” (Sydney Morning Herald, 15 December). The ALP NSW premier Iemma declared that new laws were necessary to battle “Middle Eastern thugs” and recalled parliament to ram through the new police powers which will be directed in the first instance against youth of immigrant background. And, giving the racists and fascists exactly what they want, thousands of police have been mobilised this weekend to effectively prevent non-white youth going to Cronulla and other beachside suburbs.

Alongside vicious attacks on unions, Aborigines and women, for years the Liberal/Labor parties have whipped up and intensified anti-immigrant hysteria. Based on defence of Australian capitalism, White Australia racism and nationalism is the natural bond between the Liberal/National Party coalition and the Labor Party. It was the Hawke/Keating federal ALP government that introduced mandatory detention for refugees in the early 1990s and then denied social security to new immigrants. Since then, they have backed virtually every anti-immigrant measure by the Coalition as they vied to win over the considerable electoral base of Pauline Hanson’s fascistic One Nation party. Spurred on by the gutter Murdoch press and under the guise of the “war on drugs” and “gun crime,” the Carr Labor government established no less than five police strike forces from 1999 to 2004 targeting the embattled Asian and Arab people throughout southwestern Sydney.

Indeed the violence against minorities in Cronulla is the logical extension of the ongoing violence carried out by the state, from the racist police who regularly target youth for harassment and who attacked heavily immigrant anti-war student protests in 2003, to the growing army of ASIO spies who carry out surveillance of immigrant neighbourhoods. In October 2003 the Labor premier of NSW, Bob Carr, responded to shootings reportedly involving Lebanese people by declaring, “Obey the law of Australia, or ship out of Australia. We’re not going to see, step by step, our civilisation dragged back to medieval standards of revenge cycles” (Daily Telegraph, 16 October 2003). Announcing the recent beefing up of police powers, including yet another police strike force, Iemma and Police Commissioner Ken Moroney have condemned the violence as “un-Australian.” To the contrary, the white racism on display in Cronulla was very much a part of White Australian capitalism, which was founded on bloody genocidal wars against the Aborigines and exclusion of non-white people and today means cop killings of Aborigines and the incarceration of refugees in concentration camps.

Break With Laborism: For a Class-Struggle Fight!

In this brutal society where the magnates of capital are reaping record profits while almost one in four people live in poverty, the bosses engender racist divisions in order to drive down the conditions of all. Incessant in their drive for increased profits and lower overheads, the capitalists have further trashed jobs, childcare, public housing, transport, education and healthcare. In this situation of generalised social rot there is a lot of anger and desperation, which can go in different directions including spawning race hate and fascist bands. What is necessary to turn things around is some racially integrated working-class struggle. Unifying workers in struggle will cut against the bosses’ divide-and-rule schemes.

There are plenty of workers itching to take on the bosses. This was quite palpable on 15 November when more than half a million workers from many different ethnicities rallied in cities throughout the country against the government’s vicious anti-union attacks. However, the pro-capitalist ACTU leaders are deeply opposed to launching a militant fight against the bosses’ anti-working-class assaults. For instance they have no intention of organising a fight for jobs for all at union wages. Politically supporting the ALP, these labour lieutenants of capital play the role of channelling working-class unrest and justified hatred of the bourgeoisie into deadly class collaboration under the capitalist system. Today this is expressed in the impotent and deeply nationalist “community” campaign they are pushing to defend “the Australian way of life,” thus feeding the despair and racism out of which fascist outfits grow. Instead of a leadership which uses nationalism to tie the workers and oppressed to the ruling class, we need a revolutionary leadership that mobilises the working class to use its social power to fight in its own interests, which are irreconcilably counterposed to the interests of the bourgeoisie and capitalist governments. Break with the ALP! For an internationalist revolutionary workers party which is a tribune of all the people.

Concretely, Unions NSW have embraced the bosses’ reactionary agenda by facilitating the Police Association’s demands for more “resources.” That the peak union body in NSW should push the cops’ demands is an outrage and insult to those like the Morris McMahon picketers or Redfern Aborigines who have had to defend themselves against these violent, racist thugs. The Police Association is not a union and no one should be under any illusion that police will protect minority communities from racist attack, least of all Near Eastern people, who have been under constant and escalating state harassment ever since the first Gulf War in 1991. Indeed one of the abiding childhood memories of many youth of Near Eastern parentage would be the vicious NSW police attack on the Sydney Arabic Day Carnival in 1993.

The cops are special bodies of armed men whose job it is to defend the interests and private property of the capitalist rulers against the interests of the exploited working class. They are not “workers in uniform” as the union tops and some left groups like the Socialist Party (SP) claim, but the armed enforcers of capitalist repression. As part of the necessary fight to make the unions weapons of struggle, the cops, security guards and prison screws must be driven out of the unions! They have no place in the workers movement!

Labor-loyal reformist left groups such as SP, Socialist Alternative (SAlt) and the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) have produced statements on the racist riot in Cronulla. While buried in their statements, the ISO and SP at least acknowledge that the NSW ALP government has acted oppressively at times. SAlt however, cannot even bring themselves to mention the ALP. But whatever their occasional criticism of the ALP, the reality is that these groups habitually call on the working class to vote ALP either directly or through preferences including during every racist ALP election campaign.

For Multiracial Union Defence to Crush Fascists in the Egg

Today the small fascist gangs are growing, spawned by the racist climate of “anti-terror” state reaction. History shows that when the fascists come into their own is in periods of acute social crisis, when bourgeois democracy is no longer sufficient to contain working-class militancy. In the meantime the ruling class holds the fascists in check while generally turning a blind eye to their terror. At times the state will also utilise them to do some of their dirty work. NSW fuehrer of Australia First, Jim Saleam, who was imprisoned in 1991 for a shotgun attack on the Sydney home of the African National Congress representative, has boasted that when he was in the Nazi party in 1974 Special Branch approached him to break into the Queensland University Students’ Union and steal documents.

Importantly the New South Wales Teachers Federation and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) have condemned the white racist violence in Cronulla. However it is necessary to turn these words of condemnation into union actions. Instead the MUA “call[s] on all levels of Government and community organisations to take a stand and work to eradicate these racist sentiments from our society” (Statement by the Sydney Branch Executive, 12 December). Such appeals to capitalist governments only serve to legitimise the state, which is the key source of racist terror under capitalism. The unions must realise that the “lockdown a suburb” laws will be used to prevent mass union picket-line mobilisations like those in the 1998 Patrick’s waterfront lockout where thousands of workers assembled to defend the MUA at places like Port Botany, Webb Dock and Fremantle.

The hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers facing racist attacks are not just victims. They form a key component of the multiracial working class, which has the social power and class interest to combat racist divisions and push back the bosses’ attacks. A fighting unity of oppressed minorities with the social power of the heavily multiracial trade unions needs to be forged in struggle and completely independent of the capitalist state. What is needed are organised racially integrated workers defence guards, drawn from responsible union men and women, mobilised in places such as Cronulla as a show of force. A few weekends of multiracial workers contingents patrolling the Cronulla beach area would teach the white fascist scum a lesson should they dare raise their heads. It would also ensure that anyone, of any colour or background, could take a swim and enjoy the sun. Such a perspective for independent proletarian defence of immigrant rights demands a political fight within the unions to break with Laborite nationalism and loyalty to the capitalist state.

During racist riots in the midst of World War II in the U.S. city of Detroit, which left 26 blacks murdered, the then-revolutionary Trotskyists of the Socialist Workers Party proclaimed:

“The hoodlums and hooligans who are today assailing the Negroes are training themselves for other acts of violence. Tomorrow or the day after they can be unleashed by the Fords, Wilsons and Chryslers as storm troops and strike- breakers against the unions themselves. Workers, take warning! This is how fascist gangs were formed and fascism arose in Europe and crushed the labor movement. Do not permit them to take root here.... Flying squadrons of union militants should stand ready to protect the rights of their Negro fellow workers menaced by the mobs.”

Militant, 3 July 1943

Earlier this year the fascists of the Patriotic Youth League mobilised outside the offices of the CFMEU construction union, complaining that the union was “importing foreign workers.” They were rightly dispersed by angry unionists, including from the MUA. We Trotskyists of the Spartacist League and Spartacus Youth Club stand for united working-class struggle against capitalist rule. Racist terror must be met with working-class justice. United actions mobilising the power of the organised working class and minority organisations must be brought to bear to smash fascist terror. Such a course demands a political fight to split the working-class base of the ALP from the racist pro-capitalist tops. Forging an internationalist proletarian revolutionary party is the key to building a society where racism no longer exists. For that to be achieved we need to overturn the whole capitalist system through workers revolution.


Australasian Spartacist No. 193

ASP 193

Summer 2005/06


Capitalist Rulers Whip Up Murderous White Racist Riot in Cronulla

Mobilise Unions and Minorities Against Racist Attacks!


"War on Terror" Targets Everyone

For Class Struggle to Bust "Anti-Terror" and Anti-Union Offensive!

U.S./Australian Troops Out of Iraq/Afghanistan Now!


Down With Racist Cop Terror!

Ghetto Youth Upheavals Sweep France


Elizabeth King Robertson




From Berlin to Moscow

The ICL's Fight Against Capitalist Counterrevolution

For New October Revolutions!