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Australasian Spartacist No. 210

Spring 2010

For a Multiracial Revolutionary Workers Party!

"White Australia" Elections: Racism, Austerity, Repression

We Said: No Vote to Labor! No Vote to Bourgeois Greens!

SEPTEMBER 7—After less than three years in office the ALP ignominiously lost its huge parliamentary majority at the 21 August federal elections and has only just managed to cobble together a minority government. With the elections resulting in a “hung” parliament (the first in seventy years), the usual charade of parliamentary democracy was reduced to the spectacle of the next government being decided by and beholden to three rural, ex-National Party “independents,” Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Bob Katter—aptly described by the British Guardian as “kooky kingmakers.” After two weeks of “negotiations,” they finally announced their decision with two of the three backing Labor.

Labor had already worked to shore up their prospects by securing a deal with the bourgeois Greens, who gained seats after disenchanted Labor voters turned to their climate change policies and chimera of a kinder, gentler capitalism. The Greens’ guarantee not to block supply means they will ensure funding for myriad reactionary actions of the incoming Gillard government. Labor also bought the support of Tasmanian “independent,” and former intelligence analyst and military officer, Andrew Wilkie with the offer of $350 million for the Royal Hobart Hospital and two extra personal staff. Regardless of all the horse-trading, the one certainty over the last two weeks was that whether the Labor Party under Gillard or the Liberals led by royalist, Catholic Abbott formed government, they would enforce racist reaction and anti-working-class austerity.

The recent elections showed significant alienation from the bourgeois parliamentary hoopla. Almost six percent of voters turned in informal ballots, the highest percentage in 26 years; a further eight percent of those registered did not even bother to vote—despite the threat of fines under Australia’s deeply anti-democratic compulsory voting laws. This disaffection occurs alongside worries over the economy. With a burgeoning financial crisis in Europe, and the U.S. economy poised to slip back into recession, the bourgeoisie is nervous that Australia’s “two-speed” economy could quickly unravel. While the mining sector continues to boom, doubling its profits in the June quarter (largely on the back of mineral sales to the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state), this is not the case in the rest of the economy.

With significant debt already accrued under the global crisis, the capitalists are concerned over the uncertain economic future. This is what underlies all the talk about the need for “stability” in government and “budget responsibility,” code for enforcing capitalist austerity through union-busting attacks, sackings in the public sector and the slashing of welfare. A 23 August Australian Financial Review editorial bluntly stated, “this [a minority government] is the worst possible outcome for stable government and the unpopular economic reforms required to reinforce the Australian economy against another global recession.”

Far from waging the necessary class-struggle fight in defence of the unions and jobs, against capitalist decay of public hospitals and transport, and for the rights of Aborigines and immigrants facing savage racism, the union tops either got out the vote for Labor to deliver more of the same or, as in the case of some disgruntled “left” elements, supported the capitalist Greens. The Victorian branches of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and CFMEU construction union both backed the Greens. The protectionist ETU also supported “independents” such as the notorious redneck Katter, who has called for a 15 percent tariff wall and a ban on banana imports from the Philippines! In turn, Katter, along with Oakeshott and Windsor, publicly backed a recent ETU report opposing a free-trade agreement with China and calling for greater protection of local industries. It is precisely around such economic nationalism that the “left” union tops and the reformists join hands with the bourgeois Greens and right-wing yahoos like Katter. The Communist Party (CP) described the three bourgeois “independents” as “conservative on some issues and progressive on others” going on to favourably report that Katter “opposes competition policy, ‘free markets’ and cuts to trade protection” (Guardian, 1 September).

The protectionist poison spewed forth by the likes of the ETU is based on the lie that Australian workers have a common interest with their bosses in opposing “foreign” competition. This targets workers in other countries as the enemy instead of the Australian capitalist rulers. It also serves to divide the working class at home in the face of the bosses’ attacks, while simultaneously fuelling the bipartisan war on immigrants and refugees. While major sections of the bourgeoisie worry that overt protectionism is bad for business, protectionism in fact dovetails with the historic fear and hatred of the Australian imperialist rulers towards the revolutionary potential of the super-exploited Asian masses. The Laborite trade-union misleaders are the active proponents of protectionist views within the workers movement, including when it intersects deep-seated anti-Communism by targeting China. In this they are supported by the rabidly anti-Communist bourgeois Greens leader, Bob Brown.

The vile chauvinism of the Laborites underscores the necessity of forging an internationalist class-struggle leadership within the unions, linked to a revolutionary Marxist party. As part of the broader struggle against the exploitative capitalist system such a leadership would fight to mobilise the social power of the working class, including its strategic immigrant component, in the struggle for jobs for all and full union rights. It would stand in defence of oppressed minorities, such as the Indonesian fishermen and Afghan asylum-seekers who protested their outrageous months-long incarceration in the Darwin internment camp last week, and those from the Kurdish Association who were targeted in a racist “anti-terror” dragnet in the lead-up to the elections.

The reformist left are elated by the swing to the bourgeois Greens. Socialist Alternative (SAlt) gushed “the Greens have seen a massive boost to their vote––a clear indication that significant numbers of people are looking for a left-wing alternative” (Socialist Alternative, September 2010). Not to be outdone, the CP simply grovelled that “The Greens are to be congratulated on their excellent campaign, and on their principled approach and progressive platform” (Guardian, 1 September). This is only trumped by Socialist Alliance (SA) who breathlessly announced “‘Greenslide’ a shift to the left” and underscored their parliamentary cretinism by calling for “a grassroots campaign for democratic reform of the electoral system” (Socialist Alliance website, 24 August).

Predictably SA’s drivel ends up back on the doorstep of the Labor Party as they advised the Greens to “make an offer to support a minority ALP government...because clearly a Liberal-National government would be a greater evil.” Their unprincipled call for a vote to the capitalist Greens in the election in order to pressure Labor, who they hoped above all to have in government, was in fact the line of most of the Laborite fake left. Post the election, the staunchly Labor-loyal SAlt could hardly hide their dismay at “Labor’s devastating election result.” Lamenting “Labor’s right-wing policies to blame for this debacle” and fearing Labor might be thrown from office, SAlt offered only more empty “fightback” rhetoric that does not so much as mention the need for socialist revolution.

Marxists understand that bourgeois parliamentary elections are a charade to trick the working class and oppressed into thinking they have a say in running the country. In fact they merely decide which party will oppress them in the interests of the bourgeois order. For decades, under both Labor and Liberal parties, working people have been savagely ground down to fill the coffers of the profit-gouging financiers and industrialists. Unlike the reformist left who perpetuate the parliamentary circus that masks this reality, we communists fight to bring to the working class the understanding that it must expropriate the oppressive capitalist exploiters through victorious workers revolution.

Only the overthrow of capitalism on a world scale and the creation of an internationally planned socialist economy, leading to a tremendous leap in the productive forces, can provide the material basis, including decent housing, free quality healthcare and education, to enable all to reach their full potential. To achieve this goal requires the reforging of a communist Fourth International, built of authentic communist parties around the globe, to render the proletariat conscious of its historic revolutionary task in the struggle against the capitalist exploiters. This is the task to which the International Communist League is committed.

The following leaflet was issued on 5 August in the lead-up to the federal elections.

* * *

For the working class and oppressed, the only thing on offer in the upcoming Australian federal election is more capitalist austerity and reaction. Julia Gillard’s Labor Party (ALP) and Tony Abbott’s reactionary Liberal/National Coalition race to sell themselves to the bosses in a farcical campaign where even the bourgeoisie bemoans the lack of differences. The run-up to the election has been marked by a xenophobic anti-immigrant “population debate” as each party strives to outdo the other in demonising refugees. Both support hardline “border security,” as part of “anti-terror” repression at home, and the blood-drenched imperialist occupation of Afghanistan. Above all, both parties are committed to anti-union attacks and to fleecing workers and the poor to pay for the deficit racked up by the ALP government as it worked overtime to save capitalism in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown.

In 2007 working people voted in droves for the ALP against the then-Howard government and its hated WorkChoices. While many hoped Labor would ameliorate living and working conditions, we Marxists told the truth that the ALP was just as committed to serving the bosses’ interests. The Rudd/Gillard ALP government retained the core of Howard’s anti-union laws while expanding the use of the witchhunting Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). Under Labor, there has been a massive redistribution of wealth from the working class to the capitalists alongside rising homelessness, double-digit youth unemployment, escalating living costs and a nightmarish health system. Labor has overseen the unrelenting oppression of Aborigines, including the cop/military occupation of communities in the Northern Territory, imposing “quarantining” of welfare payments which they now seek to extend across the country; it has enforced mandatory detention of “illegal” immigrants and deported hundreds. This has fomented all manner of bigotry and racist and fascist reaction on the streets. Australian cops/military out of Aboriginal communities now! Close the detention camps! No deportations! Full citizenship rights for all!

As for Gillard being the first woman PM, she has helped lead a government that has presided over the grinding oppression of women, graphically expressed in the fact that women on average earn almost 18 percent less than men and lack access to decent paid maternity leave and affordable childcare. From allowing a “conscience” vote on abortion issues, to upholding the outrageous ban on gay marriage, the capitalist Labor government is clearly an enemy of women and the oppressed. Fighting for women’s liberation through socialist revolution, Marxists stand for free abortion and contraception on demand linked to a program of free, quality health care for all. These are vital necessities for working women and the working class as a whole, along with fully paid maternity and paternity leave and free 24-hour childcare at work and in the community.

One of Julia Gillard’s first priorities as prime minister was to pledge her full support to the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan and her commitment to the U.S. alliance. Under the umbrella of this alliance the ALP has maintained the neocolonial military occupations of East Timor and the Solomon Islands. These occupations are designed to shore up U.S./Australia military control in the region and ensure a smooth flow of profits for the Australian imperialists from fabulously resource-rich areas such as Papua New Guinea and the Timor Sea. Not least, the U.S./Australia alliance militarily targets the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state as the imperialists seek to promote capitalist counterrevolution and a return to the untrammelled imperialist exploitation which existed prior to the 1949 Revolution. We stand for the unconditional military defence of the Chinese, North Korean, Vietnamese and Cuban deformed workers states and fight for proletarian political revolutions to oust the Stalinist misleaders whose bureaucratic mismanagement and appeasement of imperialism paves the way for capitalist restoration. We Trotskyists say: Down with the U.S./Australia alliance! Australian, UN, all imperialist troops get out of Afghanistan! U.S. military bases out of Australia! Australian troops and cops get out of East Timor and the Solomons!

As implacable opponents of Australian capitalism we say: No vote to the racist anti-working-class ALP! It stands openly committed to more anti-union attacks and strong state repression at home and bloody imperialist militarism abroad. The working masses need a party that fights in its own class interests; a party dedicated to the task of fighting for international socialist revolution to overthrow the bankrupt capitalist order.

Labor Lieutenants of Capital

Nothing better illustrates who really calls the shots in capitalist Australia, and the utter subservience of the ALP to the masters of industry and finance, than the backroom coup that ousted the former prime minister, Kevin Rudd. Failing to consult with the mining magnates on
his Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT), Rudd’s days were numbered when he refused to back down in the face of their multi-million dollar campaign against it. Already elements of the bourgeoisie were expressing frustration with his failure to deliver on promised “productivity and infrastructure developments needed to lock in the China boom” (Australian, 19 July). Responding to the demands of the profit-gouging mining bosses, and plummeting opinion polls generated by their campaign, ALP powerbrokers (including union leaders) rolled Rudd, installing Julia Gillard in his place on 24 June. Duly sworn in as the new PM, Gillard quickly junked Rudd’s RSPT and struck a new reduced tax deal with BHP-Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata.

Promising vicious union-busting for those who don’t toe the line, Gillard was soon painting her government as a latter-day Hawke regime of “consultation” and “consensus.” The ALP under Bob Hawke came to power in 1983 as U.S. imperialism’s loyal ally in anti-Soviet Cold War II while pledging to use its “special relationship” with the unions to bolster the bosses’ profits by holding down wages. Hawke backed every imperialist provocation against the Soviet degenerated workers state and smashed any union that stepped outside the straitjacket of the class-collaborationist ALP/ACTU Accord.

The toadying Laborite trade-union tops rushed to endorse Gillard’s accession despite the fact that, as minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and architect of the “Fair Work” system, she went out of her way to denounce union “thuggery” and threaten unions, including promising strikebreaking against the teachers unions and backing the ABCC and its ASIO-style powers against the CFMEU construction union. The ACTU is pulling out all stops to re-elect Labor just as they did in 2007. Then, the union tops pumped millions of dollars in union dues into an anti-WorkChoices campaign that diverted potential class-struggle opposition, which could have trashed Howard’s anti-union laws, into the “safe” channels of bourgeois parliamentarism and loyalty to the state.

With the onset of the global economic crisis, these same pro-capitalist misleaders colluded with the bosses, telling workers to sacrifice in the “national interest” (i.e., for the bosses’ profits) while pushing reactionary protectionist poison in the vile tradition of White Australia (see “Recession Australia: Unemployment, Racism, Militarism,” Australasian Spartacist No. 205, Winter 2009). In lining workers up behind the bosses, whether supporting tariff-protected industry or aiding the government’s war on immigrants and refugees, the Laborite bureaucrats undermine the class unity of the multiracial Australian working class and divide them from their class brothers and sisters in Asia.

“White Australia” racism and protectionism, along with subordinating unions to the capitalist state, have always been the bedrock of the ALP and the Laborite reformism pushed by the union misleaders. The ALP is a bourgeois workers party—thoroughly pro-capitalist in its leadership and program while having organic ties to the working class through the trade unions. While the union bureaucrats do their best to keep a clamp on class struggle, pressure from the base, for example against the bosses’ speedups and layoffs, forces them at times to call strikes and other actions. Witness the 24-hour stoppage by maritime workers in July following the crushing to death on Melbourne’s Appleton Dock of yet another wharfie, and the large protests in defence of CFMEU building worker, Ark Tribe, facing a jail term for refusing to attend a compulsory ABCC interrogation. Drop the charges against Ark Tribe! Down with the ABCC and all union-busting!

A precondition for successful struggle is mobilising the working class independently of all wings of the capitalist class and its state. Contrary to the myth pushed by the union tops, there is no common interest between the working class and the bosses, whose profits are derived from the exploitation of labour. An internationalist revolutionary workers party will be built by splitting the working-class base of the ALP from the pro-capitalist leadership centrally through the fight to replace the social-democratic union misleaders with a class-struggle, revolutionary leadership of the unions. This means a fight to break workers politically from Laborism to a class-struggle perspective, championing the rights of immigrants, Aborigines, women and all the oppressed.

Pseudo-Socialists Champion Capitalist Greens

While most union misleaders are pushing for a Labor victory, some union tops, such as in the Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union, channel workers’ disgruntlement with the ALP into support for the capitalist Greens. In unison with them, many self-described socialist groups are also championing the Greens while at the same time giving shamefaced support to the ALP. Socialist Alliance (SA) call to “Vote Socialist and Greens” while directing preferences to the ALP. While Socialist Alternative (SAlt) headline a 9 July statement, “Federal election 2010: this is no choice!” these Laborite anti-communists nonetheless choose to advocate “giving a first preference vote to either Labor, the Greens or others who are genuinely left-wing, like socialist candidates, and putting the Liberals last.”

While SAlt at times can be critical of the Greens, nevertheless, like all the reformists, they prettify the program and bury the class character of this party. Unlike the ALP, a bourgeois workers party, the Greens are simply a capitalist party. They give unalloyed backing to the Australian capitalist state and have long pushed for a “sustainable population,” code words used to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria. Based on small-“l” liberal elements of the petty bourgeoisie, the Greens sometimes pose as friends of workers, minorities and the oppressed. As such they play a role in preserving illusions in parliamentary capitalism. For socialists to call for a vote to a capitalist party is unprincipled and outright class betrayal. No vote to the capitalist Greens! No vote to candidates, such as SA, who promote the Greens and the ALP!

We say there is (to our knowledge) no party standing in these elections that offers workers the opportunity to vote in their own class interests, however crudely, against the capitalist rulers. This includes the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), who are standing multiple candidates and claim to be “in opposition to the entire official political establishment—Labor, Liberal and the Greens” (SEP 2010 Election Statement). We warn that for years the dubious SEP acted as paid press agents of bloody Middle Eastern regimes, and despicably fingered Iraqi Communists to the brutal Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein (see “On Baghdad, and Bagmen,” Australasian Spartacist No. 138, September/October 1990).

Today these political bandits label the trade unions “reactionary” and call for workers to rebel “against and break with these corrupt organisations,” declaring they “in no way represent the working class” (Statement of Principles, January 2010). In wilfully conflating the trade unions—the economic defence organisations of the working class—with their misleaders, the SEP line up behind the bosses’ anti-union attacks while providing a ready-made apologia for strikebreaking. Scabbing on workers’ struggles is not new for these “socialists.” In 1986 as the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) was being targeted for destruction by the Hawke Labor government, a supporter of the Socialist Labour League (precursor of the SEP) daily crossed BLF picket lines at the Footscray pool in Melbourne while another signed the scab contract to bust the BLF!

For International Workers Revolution!

The fake socialists like SAlt and SA push the lie that, with enough pressure from the masses, the capitalist state can be reformed to serve the interests of the oppressed. Thus groups like Socialist Alternative blather about “building fighting movements in the workplaces, on campuses and on the streets,” while their overriding concern is for a Labor government and the Greens winning the balance of power in the Senate.

Whichever party is in power under capitalism, it serves to administer capitalism on behalf of the capitalist class. In the words of Russian revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin: “To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament—such is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism...” (State and Revolution, 1917). This does not mean that Marxists oppose participating in elections. Communists may at times offer critical support to parties within the workers movement—for example when such a party draws a class line against the bourgeoisie—in order to show workers who have illusions in them that, once in power, they will defend the interests of the capitalists and not the workers. Communists may also themselves stand candidates and, if elected, participate in bourgeois parliaments in order to use this institution as a rostrum for revolutionary agitation.

However just as it is unprincipled for socialists to give political support to any capitalist party or politician, it is completely unprincipled to stand for and assume executive office or gain control of a bourgeois legislature or municipal council, either independently or in coalition. To assume such a position necessarily means enforcing the bourgeois order against the struggles of working people and the oppressed. (See “Marxist Principles and Electoral Tactics,” Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 61, Spring 2009.) As Lenin explained, the capitalist state, which consists at its core of armed bodies of men—the police, military and their auxiliaries, exists to defend the private property and rule of the capitalist class. Workers and the oppressed cannot simply lay hold of the state machinery and wield it for their own purpose. It must be smashed through socialist revolution and replaced by a workers state.

The current world economic crisis is further powerful confirmation of the Marxist analysis of capitalist society and the need for socialist revolution to do away with the boom-bust cycle of capitalism, itself the root cause of exploitation and oppression. With millions already thrown out of work, the burden of today’s crisis is being heaped onto the working class, with vicious government austerity measures sparking large protests across Europe. What is necessary is socialist revolution to lay the basis for rationally planned economies based on production for need, not profit for a handful of super-rich exploiters, and for a qualitative development of the productive forces, opening the way to eliminating poverty, scarcity and want and to the creation of an egalitarian socialist society.

The destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92 has led to a deep, though uneven, retrogression in proletarian consciousness internationally, with most politically conscious workers by and large no longer identifying their struggles with the goal of socialism. In contrast to the opponents of revolutionary Marxism, who have imbibed the capitalist myth of the “death of communism,” we seek to build an internationalist revolutionary workers party modelled on the Bolshevik party of Lenin and Trotsky, which led the working class to power in the 1917 Russian Revolution. Such a party will be committed to organising the working class independently of the capitalist rulers and for internationalist class-struggle solidarity with the working masses of the Asia-Pacific region. It will act as tribune of all the people and take up the fight against every expression of capitalist injustice and tyranny in the struggle to sweep away the capitalist system through victorious workers revolution. For a workers republic of Australia, part of a socialist Asia!


Australasian Spartacist No. 210

ASP 210

Spring 2010


For a Multiracial Revolutionary Workers Party!

"White Australia" Elections: Racism, Austerity, Repression

We Said: No Vote to Labor! No Vote to Bourgeois Greens!


For Proletarian Internationalism, Not Appeals to Imperialism!

Defend the Palestinians Against Zionist State Terror!

On Boycotts, Disinvestment and Sanctions


Wotton Paroled - Down With Political Gag Order!


Honour the Memory of Leon Trotsky!


Polanski Wins, Witchhunters Lose


Militant Strike Wave in China

For Class-Struggle Leadership!

Defend the Chinese Bureaucratically Deformed Workers State!

For Proletarian Political Revolution!



Down With Government War on Maoists, Tribal Peoples!

Only Workers Revolution Can Liberate the Indian Masses