Australasian Spartacist No. 226
Anti-Muslim "War on Terror" Repression Emboldens Fascist Menace
For a Class-Struggle Fight Against Racist Capitalism!
For Union/Minority Mobilisations to Stop the Fascists!
The capitalist rulers’ relentless “war on terror” repression, bloody militarism in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, and vicious persecution of refugees is fueling a reactionary social climate in which all manner of bigoted and fascist scum have become emboldened. In a recent provocation, on 31 May, the fascist United Patriots Front (UPF) attempted to rally in the inner-city Melbourne suburb of Richmond to foment anti-Muslim, xenophobic hatred and rail against “Communist traitors.”
The UPF formed out of a split from the vile “Reclaim Australia” (RA) movement following RA’s nation-wide anti-Muslim mobilisations on 4 April. A provocation against and threat to Muslims as well as other minorities and the entire left and labour movement, the RA rallies were a magnet for everything from racist rednecks and Christian fundamentalists to fascistic elements, to outright fascist forces such as the Australia First Party (AFP) and its multiple spinoffs including the Australian Defence League (ADL). It was a good thing that these rallies were met with counter-protests, including in Melbourne where up to 1-2,000 left and anti-racist forces disrupted the RA action.
Aiming for “retaliation” on 31 May, the UPF rallied at Richmond Town Hall, a site chosen because the local council includes Stephen Jolly, a cadre of the reformist Socialist Party (SP), which heavily built the April counter-action in Melbourne. Gathering first in a nearby park to spew their filth, the 50 or so fascist thugs marched on the town hall, shepherded by the cops. There they were outnumbered by angry protesters, including supporters of the Spartacist League. Prevented from accessing the town hall steps, the fascists finally skulked away under the protection of the police.
UPF founder Shermon Burgess (“The Great Aussie Patriot”) was also an instigator of the RA movement. In 2005 he took part in the white racist Cronulla riots and has advocated replicating such attacks. For years, as a member of the ADL, Burgess and a small band of followers held tiny rallies against immigration and Islam. In 2014, the ADL reportedly threatened to bomb mosques and kill a Muslim leader. Coming off the Richmond events, the UPF has called on “all patriots” to join an RA rally on 18 July at Melbourne’s Parliament House in order to “smash the left.” Backed by the AFP and other sinister forces, more RA rallies are planned for other cities the next day.
The fascists are race-hate terrorists who seek to recruit to their deadly program of racist violence on the streets, of genocide and ultimately the destruction of the left, trade unions and all working-class organisations. They are held in reserve by the capitalist class, to be unleashed in times of crisis as shock troops against the working class. As Leon Trotsky wrote in “What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat” (27 January 1932), printed in The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany (Pathfinder, 1971):
“At the moment that the ‘normal’ police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium—the turn of the fascist regime arrives. Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie, and bands of the declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat; all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.”
Where fascists succeed in smashing the workers movement on behalf of the capitalists, as in Germany in the 1930s, the result is a bonapartist bourgeois regime with sections of the fascists absorbed into the state apparatus.
While some call to ignore them and/or appeal to the capitalist state to intervene, we look to the independent mobilisation of the multiethnic proletariat to crush the fascists while they are small. A small glimpse of what is required occurred in Brisbane on 2 May last year when a protest of 10-14 fascists, including the leader of Golden Dawn in Australia, were forced to abandon their intended march when faced with 150-200 angry anti-fascist protesters. What gave the counter-demonstration its decisive weight was the sizable presence of CFMEU construction unionists.
The crucial task of sweeping the fascist gangs from the streets requires a program for mass united-front mobilisations centred on the organised workers movement and uniting behind them all the fascists’ intended victims, including immigrants, Aborigines, Muslims, Jews and gays. The enormous social power of the proletariat lies in its numbers, organisation and, above all, the fact that its labour makes the wheels of profit turn. Mobilised at the head of all the oppressed, it is able to deal the fascists a decisive blow and lead the struggle against the decaying capitalist system in which they breed.
Bi-Partisan Anti-Muslim Witchhunt
The context for the stepped-up bi-partisan “anti-terror” and anti-immigrant fury, whipping up chauvinism across the country, is the floundering economy. With revenue falling as a result of plummeting iron ore and coal export prices, and with the destruction of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs, the federal Liberal/National Coalition government and Coalition and Labor state governments are seeking to drive down wages while slashing spending on social services. Some six percent of the population (more than one million) live in chronic long-term poverty while homelessness is rife. The vastly understated official jobless rate is around six percent and youth unemployment is more than double that. Schemes such as “work for the dole” create growing numbers of working poor, which the bosses use as a “reserve army” of labour to drive down the pay and conditions of all.
To divert discontent over economic insecurity, misery and social decay, the bosses and their governments incite racism, scapegoating vulnerable minorities such as refugees for the ills of their exploitative system. Capitalist rulers around the world have launched vicious attacks against immigrants and minorities to keep the working class divided as they attack trade-union rights, working conditions and wages, and welfare. In the wake of the heinous murders carried out in January by Islamic fundamentalists against Charlie Hebdo staff and Jewish shoppers in Paris, the French rulers fueled a “national unity” campaign in order to promote its “war on terrorism” and reinforce the police and military apparatus of French imperialism. Across Europe, governments, far-right and fascist groups have made hay in the climate of racist frenzy.
Last year, backed by the ALP “Opposition,” the Abbott government announced Australia’s participation in a renewed U.S.-led imperialist war in Iraq that has further inflamed religious and ethnic hatreds in the region with tens of thousands slaughtered in communal violence. Shoring up support at home for its militarism, the government stoked patriotic fervour with an escalating crusade against so-called home-grown jihadis, targeting the Muslim minority. This served to dissipate widespread anger over the savage federal budget of the then flailing and unpopular Abbott regime. Large, nationwide protests against the budget measures quickly shrivelled as the union tops and small “l” liberals became paralysed by the anti-Muslim fear campaign.
As we wrote in “U.S./Australia Out of Iraq, Syria!” (ASp No. 224, Spring 2014), the overall message from government and bourgeois media has been to isolate and intimidate anyone who doesn’t embrace nationalist flag-waving. Fear-mongering reached fever pitch in mid-December when the state and media seized on the Sydney “Lindt Café siege” by a deranged individual to ramp up anti-Muslim hysteria and abuse. Heavily armed police raids on Muslim communities and arrests of mainly young men on trumped-up charges are now commonplace. Predictably yet another alleged “terror plot” hit the headlines in April during the orgy of chauvinist flag-waving around ANZAC day and the centenary celebrations of the failed British/Australian imperialist invasion at Gallipoli. Riding the wave of patriotism, RA forces mobilised against meetings organised by the misnamed Socialist Equality Party (SEP) entitled “Anzac Day, the glorification of militarism and the drive to World War III.” Responding to RA’s threats to “gatecrash the meeting” and calls for “the traitors to be deported,” Burwood City Council rescinded the SEP’s room booking while Sydney University denied them a room. We condemn this censorship while in no way supporting the bankrupt politics of the SEP.
Alongside dispatching military forces to Iraq, the federal government has also rammed through yet another tranche of “anti-terror” laws, further bolstering state power and stripping away the rights of all. In April, parliament passed “metadata retention” laws giving more than 20 “law enforcement” agencies unhindered access to the metadata of the population’s electronic communications. In further moves towards a creeping police state, the Abbott government has introduced sweeping legislation aimed at automatically stripping dual nationals of their Australian citizenship, including if “intelligence” determines they are “fighting for, or being in the service of, a declared terrorist organisation,” or they have acted “inconsistent with their allegiance to Australia” by engaging in “terrorist” conduct. Meanwhile some states are looking at imposing curfews, internet bans and “deradicalisation programs” on youth deemed to be “falling under the sway of jihadist recruiters.” We implacably oppose the government’s “war on terror,” in reality a war of terror by the state against Muslims in the first instance, but whose draconian measures are ultimately aimed at the working class. We say: Australian and all imperialist military out of the Middle East! Down with the government’s “anti-terror” laws! Release those detained!
Nationalist Laborite Union Tops and Reformist Shadows
Racism is integral to the workings of capitalism, a system in which the bourgeoisie, a tiny minority who own the banks, industry and mines, exploit the labour of the working class, the many, for private profit. Capitalism rules through the power of capital, its state monopoly of the means of violence and its control of social institutions. Alongside the cops, military, courts and prisons, which form the armed fist of the capitalist state, the institutions of the church and family are fundamental props for capitalism, helping to maintain the dominance of bourgeois ideology among the oppressed. Nationalism and reliance on the capitalist state penetrate into the organisations of the workers, centrally through the agency of the “labour lieutenants of capital”—the parasitic social-democratic trade-union bureaucracies.
Recently it was reported that the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) Executive, no doubt under pressure from their multiethnic base, passed a 12 June motion relating to Reclaim Australia and other anti-Muslim movements. The motion pledged VTHC affiliates would:
“ work alongside groups and organisations representing our many faiths and communities to counter those that oppose multiculturalism and in particular those individuals and groups that are currently fostering anti-Muslim sentiment.”
It would be a very good thing if the union tops mobilised their ranks in struggle against the fascists. However, the VTHC motion pledges not an independent class-struggle fight against racist terror but promotes the Laborite myth that racial harmony can be achieved under capitalism. Lauding bourgeois multiculturalism, its rhetoric serves to hide the grim racist reality of this capitalist society. It is no surprise then that the VTHC welcomed the grotesque reaffiliation of the Police Association (PA) to Trades Hall after a three year absence. In April the VTHC secretary, Luke Hilakari, trumpeted the PA’s imminent return, declaring, “We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Police Association as it seeks to advance the pay and conditions of police (Age, 9 April). This is a class betrayal. The cops and prison guards are not workers and their organisations are not unions. Their role is to enforce capitalist rule through repressing the struggles of the working class and oppressed. This is demonstrated time and again, from the vicious attacks on Grocon construction workers in Melbourne in 2012, to defence of the fascists against anti-racist protesters on 31 May in Richmond. Our demand for cops and screws out of the unions is in stark contrast to the reformist left who either ignore the question or, like the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), embrace these armed thugs as union brothers (see ASp No. 214, Spring 2011). The SP and their counterparts in the Committee for a Workers’ International contend that the police are “workers in uniform.”
For the reformist left, political combat against the sellout union tops is anathema. Against the recent fascist activity in Melbourne, two coalitions have been formed: SP’s No Room for Racism, and the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF) that includes Socialist Alternative (SAlt) and most other reformist groups. SP’s talk of “working class unity” or CARF’s “understanding” of the need for “wider mobilisation in the labour movement” has nothing to do with waging the necessary political struggle against the bureaucratic misleaders. With their fatuous and self-satisfied line that the fascists “will always lose in Melbourne,” the reformists alibi the TU tops, who undermine the unity and integrity of the multiethnic working class and shackle workers to their own capitalist rulers.
Some sections of the union bureaucracy (including “left” elements) have been aggressively campaigning against the hiring of overseas 457 Visa guest workers demanding, for example, “Local workers for local jobs.” Such chauvinism is part and parcel of the protectionist and economic nationalist outlook of the pro-capitalist union misleaders. Protectionism means protecting the profits of Australian bosses and lining workers up behind the capitalist rulers against “foreign” rivals and overseas workers. It feeds the reactionary climate and sows divisions amongst the working class. It is not overseas workers that cause unemployment but the capitalist class and their irrational system!
In 2012 SAlt praised a Perth union rally that was dominated by Australia-first protectionism. The following year SAlt cadre, Jerome Small, reporting on his time on a reactionary picket against overseas guest workers at a Werribee sewerage treatment construction project in Melbourne, cynically lamented the unions’ “mistaken” focus on “jobs for Australians.” As for the SP, their parent organisation in Britain was up to its neck in the campaign for reactionary strikes in 2009 demanding “British jobs for British workers.” They had a member on the strike committee and authored its key demands while whitewashing its chauvinist character! These strikes pitted British workers against foreign workers and were actively supported by the fascist British National Party, who churned out racist garbage including that British workers were losing out to foreigners. (See “Down With Reactionary Strikes Against Foreign Workers!” Workers Vanguard No. 930, 13 February 2009.)
Reformist Reliance on Capitalist State
The 31 May UPF provocation in Richmond coincided with a Melbourne city forum, “Uniting against Islamophobia,” co-hosted by SP’s Stephen Jolly and the Islamic Council of Victoria. Seeking to build a cross-class coalition to fight the “far right,” on 19 May Jolly told Facebook readers that the fascist rally was “simply an attempt to undermine and distract from this important organising event . If you want to stand up to racism and fascism, join me at this forum and join the campaign against far-right racist groups.” Criminally Jolly advised, “let’s not get diverted by a handful of neo-Nazi skinheads.” If Jolly’s program had held sway on 31 May, the UPF would have been allowed to goosestep in Richmond unchallenged. Having sought to demobilise the counter-protest, it takes some chutzpah for SP to later declare, “Anti-racists claim important victory over far-right.”
Whatever their occasional criticisms of Labor, reformist groups such as SP, SAlt, Solidarity and Socialist Alliance (SA) amnesty Laborite treachery with their “fight the right” rhetoric. Today, SA call for a “bigger and broader campaign” to “turn back the current racist attacks by both governments and the far right” while Solidarity responded to RA’s April rallies by declaring, “Most importantly, to keep the right on the run, we have to keep up the fight against Abbott ” (Solidarity Online, 7 April). In Australia, “fight the right” opportunism invariably results in support to the Labor Party, however backhandedly. In the last federal elections Solidarity, SAlt and SA treacherously called to vote for the bourgeois Greens in order to pressure the “lesser evil” ALP who they hoped above all else to have in government. The ALP is a bourgeois workers party, with a pro-capitalist leadership and program while based on the trade unions. In government the ALP administers capitalism for the racist Australian ruling class. Both in and out of government the Labor Party has created fertile soil in which the fascists can grow, embracing Australia’s bloody military adventures abroad, repressive “war on terror” and vindictive attacks on Aboriginal people and refugees.
It’s no surprise that Solidarity calls for “bigger anti-racist protests supported by unions, Greens and Labor Party members.” As in Britain and elsewhere, the Cliffites’ “anti-fascist” strategy is based on building popular-front coalitions (tying working-class organisations to bourgeois forces) to appeal to the “democratic” capitalist state to deal with the fascists. Venting about the cops’ protection of the fascists on 31 May, SAlt’s Red Flag editor, Ben Hillier, gave voice to the reformist program of looking to the capitalist state (preferably administered by Labor) to ban the fascists: “The Labor state government is responsible for the police force. How this assistance to swastika-emblazoned thugs was allowed is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the Labor police minister lets central command act as it chooses when fascists mobilise. If so, it’s another blight on the ALP” (redflag.org.au, 31 May). One of the most grotesque examples of reliance on the capitalist state comes from the CPA, who stated that in Melbourne on 4 April “a counter-demonstration resulted in violence that was only curbed by police intervention.” Preaching liberal-pacifist non-violent action, the CPA chastised those who declared that “the neo-Nazis must be swept off the Streets.” This reminds one of SA’s wretched history when, in 1997 as the Democratic Socialist Party, they polemicised against mobilisations to shut down a “bookshop” opened by National Action fascists in the integrated working-class Melbourne suburb of Fawkner.
The abject Laborite politics of the reformist left has allowed the political bandits of the SEP to posture as orthodox Marxists, condemning the “pseudo-left organisations” for “attempting to divert the working class discontent back into the parliamentary framework” (“Australian ‘No to racism rallies’ silent on Labor and union role,” 7 April). In line with having written off the trade unions as no longer working-class organisations the SEP blame the unions as a whole for helping to create the reactionary climate. By equating the mass economic defence organisations of the working class with their pro-capitalist leadership the SEP renounce the necessary political struggle against the union bureaucrats every bit as much as the reformist left. Falling into line behind the bosses’ relentless anti-union crusade, it is little wonder that the SEP article offers no concrete demands in defence of Muslims and no program to fight against the racist attacks.
For Revolutionary Leadership
Trade unions cannot substitute for a revolutionary party, whose intervention is required to transform them into fighting instruments against the capitalists. Through the intervention of a Marxist party, in the course of struggle, the most advanced layers of the working class can be won from Laborite nationalism, class collaboration and reliance on the capitalist state, to a revolutionary program that would infuse the class with the understanding of its historic task: the seizure of state power through a thoroughgoing socialist revolution and the establishment of a collectivised, planned economy under workers rule.
The proletariat needs a leadership that stands on the principle of class independence from the capitalist rulers and their parties, and seeks to mobilise workers not only in struggle against attacks on unions, jobs and conditions but to take up the broader political struggle against the capitalist rulers. This includes defending minorities under attack, championing the rights of Aboriginal people and immigrants. Opposing the bosses’ despicable war on refugees, such a leadership would demand closure of the brutal detention centres and full citizenship rights for all those who have made it here.
Special measures are needed to organise the unorganised into the unions and to champion the rights of those forced into contract and casual employment—disproportionately youth, women and immigrants. To fight lay-offs workers need the weapons of the class struggle, such as occupations and mass pickets, raising the demand for a shorter work week with no loss in pay to spread the available work around. Trade-union control of hiring and training would undercut the bosses’ attempts to manipulate hiring in order to divide workers along ethnic and religious lines, or screen out union militants.
Such struggles will draw into the unions new and powerful sources of fighting strength and forge a living bridge to proletarian struggles overseas. The fight for jobs is equivalent to the fight against social decay and the devastation of the proletariat. A class-struggle leadership would fight for a massive program of public works, with workers paid at full union wages, to replace the rundown schools, hospitals, roads and public transport systems and provide decent housing for all. Linking the fight for jobs with the demand for free quality healthcare, childcare, education and public transport would galvanise broad sectors of the proletariat and oppressed in struggle against the bosses’ attacks.
These demands will not be granted by the capitalist rulers but point to the need for socialist revolution and the establishment of a society run by the working class. Achieving this goal requires forging a proletarian, revolutionary and internationalist party like the Bolshevik Party led by Russian revolutionaries V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky. A Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard party will act as a tribune of the people, taking up the fight against every manifestation of capitalist oppression as part of leading the working class to sweep away the brutal rule of capitalism. This is the only road to building a global classless, egalitarian, communist society based on abundance, where all will be able to live free of tyranny and where “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” will be realised in life. For a workers republic of Australia, part of a Socialist Asia!