Documents in: Bahasa Indonesia Deutsch Español Français Italiano Japanese Polski Português Russian Chinese Tagalog
International Communist League
Home Spartacist, theoretical and documentary repository of the ICL, incorporating Women & Revolution Workers Vanguard, biweekly organ of the Spartacist League/U.S. Periodicals and directory of the sections of the ICL ICL Declaration of Principles in multiple languages Other literature of the ICL ICL events

Subscribe to Australasian Spartacist

View archives

Printable version of this article

Australasian Spartacist No. 192

Spring 2005

Liberals/ALP Escalate Racist Attacks

Defend Aboriginal People—Mobilise Union Power!

Drop the Charges! Free Palm Island and Redfern Aboriginal Militants!

The following presentation, here edited and expanded, was given by Spartacist League supporter Nel at a Sydney SL forum in defence of Palm Island and Redfern Aboriginal militants on 18 June. Subsequently, Redfern defendant Mavis Stanley was released from jail. Denied bail after her arrest, she had already spent 17 months incarcerated while awaiting trial. We also note that since this talk was given Bob Carr resigned as premier of New South Wales and was replaced by Morris Iemma.

In this talk I’m not observing the taboos against naming deceased people held by many Indigenous people in the Centre and Top End especially. This talk is full of the names of martyrs and others who have died.

The eruption in Redfern on 15 February 2004 followed a series of cop provocations after the death of 17-year-old Aboriginal youth TJ Hickey. He didn’t die by accident. Residents at a Redfern public meeting reported that while being chased by police, TJ’s bike was struck by a cop car, throwing him onto a steel fence where he was impaled. The cops then wrenched the youth off the fence, making him bleed badly. They searched him, reportedly pinning him to the ground with their boots. It was up to a witness to call for an ambulance. Then, after he died, cops cruised The Block where people were grieving, spewing racist epithets. By evening, when the police began forming up in military-style phalanxes in full riot gear at the end of the street, people were furious and in fear for their lives.

What followed wasn’t a riot, as Carr and his police thugs say, but a determined, well-organised and heroic stand by Aboriginal youth and their supporters defending their community against racist cop attack. Over 35 people were hunted down and arrested over the explosive events. Those arrested faced multiple serious charges including riot and affray. Some were hit with heavy sentences. Many were cruelly denied bail and kept in detention until their trial. This includes Mavis Stanley who is still in jail and goes to court on 18 July. The police continue to trawl the Redfern area making arrests and children are still being taken away at an alarming rate. The Stolen Generations aren’t a feature of the past.

Police Terror on Palm Island

That was February. Then last November on Palm Island, northeast of Townsville in North Queensland, 36-year-old Mulrunji Doomadgee was savagely killed by police in the local lockup, having been arrested for singing “Who let the dogs out” in the street! Well the dogs sure did come out. It takes a lot of force to tear a person’s liver in two. But that’s what happened to Mulrunji within hours of his arrest. An explosion of rage and grief by the people at Palm Island followed. Hundreds torched the island’s police station, police residences and courthouse—institutions of racist capitalist state repression.

The Beattie state Labor government immediately flew in 80 Tactical Response Group cops. Armed with semi-automatic weapons and in full battle gear, they terrorised the island population, kicking down doors, making summary arrests and holding children at gunpoint. Indigenous man Lex Wotton was arrested by four carloads of police, who shot him with a taser while he stood with his hands up, guns trained on him. The cops raged through his house and many others. Two pregnant women went into labour prematurely, terrified by the police raids. We Spartacists weren’t the only ones who made a comparison between the gun-wielding cops on Palm Island and the actions of the Australian imperialist troops in Iraq. Today many Aboriginal militants from Palm are under draconian vindictive bail conditions and facing severe punishment by the racist capitalist state.

State terror and harassment are also very familiar to the Redfern Aboriginal community. When I worked at a local school 10 or 15 years ago I regularly saw children from The Block who’d been traumatised by brutal raids by police, breaking down doors in the dead of night supposedly searching for “criminals.” People said you had to have a receipt to prove you’d bought your kettle, otherwise it was kept as “stolen goods.” In 1988 after one such raid we held a spirited demo at nearby Sydney Uni calling for “Mass Labour/Black Mobilisations to Stop Racist Terror!”

I was told cops killed a child down there during a raid in the 1990s. The toddler died after a copper stood on the child’s head while rampaging through a house. Leading up to the 2000 Olympics, attempts to force Aborigines out of The Block became intense as developers and landlords increased their efforts to gain control of the valuable land. Residents told me children kidnapped by police were beaten and left naked in distant suburbs or taken to Alexandria Park and terrorised as cops played Russian roulette.

For a Class-Struggle Fight for Aboriginal Rights

The oppressed and marginalised Aboriginal people should not be left to fight alone against racist state terror! We seek to mobilise the social power of the integrated, organised labour movement, independent of the capitalist state, to consistently champion Aboriginal rights. We say there should be union/black/minority mobilisations to defend the heroic Aboriginal militants of Redfern and Palm. Such actions would demand: Free all the Redfern and Palm prisoners now, including those imprisoned on remand or on crippling bail conditions! Drop all the charges!

Following the events in Redfern, while the newspapers were full of racist hysteria, we produced and distributed our leaflet “Solidarise with Militant Aboriginal Youth Against Racist Cop Terror! Defend Redfern Aborigines—Mobilise Union Power!” We also held forums in defence of the militants. In Melbourne we had to wage a fight to hold our meeting at Trades Hall. At the behest of the Police Association, grotesquely an “affiliate” to the Victorian Trades Hall, the then-Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) Secretary, Leigh Hubbard, ordered Trades Hall to cancel our room bookings.

We put out a statement against the cop attempts to silence our defence of Aboriginal militants and took the issue to the left and workers movement. In particular we sought out union officials who had earlier walked out of a VTHC meeting in protest over an ACTU-brokered motion condemning union support for so-called “criminal” and “violent” behaviour. These unionists correctly saw the ACTU motion as an attempt to strangle defence of union activists such as Craig Johnston, who was jailed for defending striking workers. We pointed out that it is the same police who assault Aborigines who attack workers’ picket lines, like at the Morris McMahon factory at Arncliffe last year, and made the point that cops and screws, whose job is to enforce capitalist repression, have no place in the workers movement. The fight to make the unions weapons of struggle will include driving the agents of the state out of the workers movement.

To their credit these officials responded to our fight against the sinister police provocations and pressure was successfully brought to bear on the VTHC leaders. In winning back our room, we beat back a concerted campaign by right-wing labour “leaders” in alliance with the cops and successfully asserted the right of socialists and all others who would defend Aborigines to hold our public events. It was a victory not only for Aboriginal people but for the working class as a whole. As we said in our leaflet, the interests of Aborigines, immigrants, minorities and those of the working people will go forward together or they will fall back separately. An injury to one is an injury to all! But these union leaders would only go so far. We note bitterly that such “left” Laborite union officials have not even sent statements, let alone mobilised their members, to protest the witchhunting of Redfern militants by the Carr Labor government.

Despite this, the fight for union mobilisations against racist terror is not a utopian fantasy. Some of you will be old enough to remember the killing of Aboriginal worker David Gundy in 1989. Completely innocent of any crime, Gundy was gunned down in his home by racist cops. In response, hundreds of construction workers downed tools and joined a protest by Aboriginal people and their supporters. The workers formed a defensive perimeter around the demo and faced off the assembled cops who would have loved nothing more than to attack the demonstrators. The social power the working class is able to wield by withdrawing its labour and stopping the bosses’ profits is crucial. This is exemplified in a small way by current CFMEU construction union bans which have stalled attempts by greedy developers to take over the Aboriginal Settlement and associated housing in Chippendale.

Some History of Union Defence of Aborigines

In fact there’s an interesting and important history of defence of Aboriginal people in the New South Wales Builders Labourers Federation (NSWBLF). Some of this history is told in the Bergmanns’ book, Green Bans, Red Union. They quote a motion from the BLF’s 1965 federal conference:

“We call on the Federal and State Governments to grant full citizenship rights to the aboriginal people. All discrimination against aborigines should be a crime in law. Further, we call on Governments to give special compensate them for past injustices and to rapidly help them to take full advantage of citizenship.... The pertinent points that require special support from our Union are: The restoration of Aboriginal lands; granting of land titles; preservation of Aboriginal communities; development of Aboriginal industries such as co-operatives; improved living and working standards, including equal pay rates; provision of all community and social services on reserves, provision of special education facilities; legislative reforms to give Aboriginal people equal electoral rights; provision of proper housing; prevention of any further alienation of Aboriginal lands without the agreement of the people and with full compensations.”

—Meredith and Verity Bergmann, Green Bans, Red Union—Environmental Activism & the New South Wales Builders Labourers’ Federation (1998)

This was two years before Aboriginal people won the right to even be counted in the census. While the motion looks to the capitalist state to defend Aboriginal rights, and therefore remains within the framework of reformist parliamentarism, the union’s willingness to champion the cause of the oppressed represented a significant break from “White Australia” Laborism. Importantly it also wasn’t just words.

During the 1966 Gurindji strike at Wave Hill in the Northern Territory, fund-raising efforts by the NSWBLF were strong and Aboriginal leaders from the Northern Territory were warmly welcomed on many building sites in New South Wales. This strike by Aboriginal stockmen followed the land claim by Yolngu people from Arnhem Land against the Nabalco mining company. They presented their famous bark petitions to parliament in 1963. In 1967, the BLF federal council carried another motion, which also called for “extensive government-funded schemes, administered without discrimination, ‘to train the Aboriginal people in trades, professional and all other types of work, with proper homes and child recreational facilities being made available’.”

In 1973 the BLF collected money from builders labourers in support of 2,000 striking cotton chippers, mostly black, in Wee Waa in outback New South Wales. They earned a flat rate of $46 per week for a ten-hour workday in appalling conditions. Arthur Murray, an Indigenous worker, was one of the strike leaders. He and his family were later punished beyond endurance by the killing of his son Eddie at police hands in Wee Waa prison in 1981. No charge was laid against the cops. In their long search for justice, Eddie Murray’s remains were exhumed in the 1990s. But the whitewash of his killing remained in spite of this painful act by his family.

Union Muscle Built The Block

The earlier solidarity by the BLF with Aboriginal struggles laid the basis for union action in Redfern in late 1972. In response to a request from Aboriginal residents the BLF and Plumbers’ Union put a black ban on work on Aboriginal housing targeted for demolition and redevelopment in the area now known as The Block. Union support also extended to houses in nearby Chippendale, which were occupied by Aborigines. This union action was key to the success of Aboriginal resistance to the developers and was a powerful example of working-class defence of Aboriginal people. Early the next year the Whitlam Labor government felt compelled to buy the houses and grant the area to the black community, thus also making possible one of the first successful Aboriginal land rights claims.

But later, in the 1980s, the federal ALP government of Bob Hawke, backed by the Victorian State Labor government of John Cain, smashed the BLF in the service of capitalist austerity. Despite a strong desire on the part of building workers to fight, the BLF leadership pushed a defeatist strategy in the face of Labor’s attacks and refused to mobilise for the necessary industry-wide strikes and mass pickets. They isolated union militants while attempting to stop the ALP’s union-busting deregistration through court injunctions. The smashing of the BLF, and later the pilots’ union, were signatures of the Hawke/Keating years, as was the horrendous escalation of killings of Aborigines in police lockups and on the streets.

But getting back to the 1970s. The Aboriginal-run Community Housing Scheme, which was set up on The Block provided low-rental accommodation. Aboriginal builders labourers were among the workers employed on construction and renovation work including a gym and cultural centre, a preschool and a health clinic. An elected co-op committee managed the whole project and a corner store provided cheap food. Of course the state and landlords have tried to destroy The Block ever since. Its residents have lived under constant police surveillance, including today from the nearby high-rise TNT Towers. Last November, the Carr Labor government announced that at least seven floors of the towers had been “secured” and were being used for “police purposes.” Meanwhile many houses have been demolished and residents driven out. If you want proof that reforms wrested from the bosses’ tight fists aren’t enough, then The Block’s it! The deep inequality of this society cannot be redressed through reforms because you cannot have a radical redistribution of wealth in a system based on private ownership of the means of production.

To construct a different type of society, where decent jobs, free quality education, healthcare, decent housing, good public transport are provided for all, requires a proletarian revolution and the establishment of a planned collectivised economy. Vital to politically arming the working masses to be able to take on the racist capitalist rulers and win, is the fight for uncompromising working-class defence of the Aboriginal people. Mobilised around a revolutionary program, proletarian-centred actions would include the struggle to enforce equal access to public and private amenities. They would demand jobs for all and equal wages, and for massive health, housing and education programs to begin to redress the dispossession and oppression of Aboriginal people.

No Reliance on the Capitalist State

The Redfern militants who didn’t want a cop invasion of The Block knew full well what it meant when the police mobilise. They had every right to defend themselves and showed enormous courage and tenacity in doing so, against the cop assault. What is needed is working-class support independent of the capitalist state, not appeals to the state to investigate its own atrocities. This leads nowhere but to whitewashes and cover-ups. For instance, in response to the escalation of state killings of Aborigines in the 1980s under federal Labor, the reformist left along with bourgeois liberals campaigned for a Royal Commission into black deaths in custody. We warned against this at the time and sure enough in all 99 cases that came before the Commission, the cops were exonerated.

After the killing of TJ last year, the reformists of Socialist Alliance joined the calls for an inquiry into his death. This is bullshit! Such appeals foster illusions in the main force for anti-working-class racist oppression—the capitalist state—that at its core consists of the cops, military, courts and prisons. This society is divided into two main hostile classes with counterposed interests: workers who must sell their labour power to survive and the property owning capitalists to whom their labour power must be sold. The capitalist state was created and exists to enforce the rule of the tiny minority of capitalists through the exploitation and subjugation of the majority. Thus it follows that any inquiry set up by the state to investigate itself can only serve the interests of the capitalists against the working class and oppressed.

There have been different variations on appealing to the state. In Brisbane on 1 December some of the Murri community put forward a call for the United Nations to send an investigative team to examine evidence at Palm Island. But the UN is a den of imperialist thieves and their victims and will not help Aboriginal people. For example, under the UN in 1993, U.S. helicopter gunships, supposedly in Somalia to provide aid, massacred hundreds of black people in the capital Mogadishu.

A leftist group, the Freedom Socialist Party, has called for civilian review of the cops. Such a call pushes the deadly illusion that the police, the armed fist of the capitalist state, can be directed by the community to serve the interests of workers and the oppressed. It can only serve to legitimise the bourgeois state. Likewise, government-sponsored community policing of areas like The Block would be used to cover for racist repression and is but another means by which some Aborigines become complicit in the oppression of their own people. The examples of this are numerous: the Native Police who hunted down Aboriginal people during the killing times (which in some states lasted into the 1930s) or the mob on Howard’s National Indigenous Council or Mick Mundine who has welcomed cop raids on The Block. The state cannot be reformed, but must be dismantled through victorious workers revolution.

Make the Unions Weapons of Struggle!

The key obstacle to unleashing the power of the integrated working class in defence of themselves and all the oppressed is the current pro-capitalist Laborite leadership of the unions. These misleaders subordinate workers to the bosses’ capitalist state including by pushing racism and nationalism to the ranks, often peddling poisonous anti-Asian protectionism with the lie of a “partnership” between workers and their bosses in Australia. The ruling class uses racism to divide and paralyse the working class, to kill effective worker struggle against capitalist rule.

A vivid example of the pernicious role of the union bureaucrats was their response to the 19 August 1996 storming of parliament house in Canberra. Workers at this demonstration came to the defence of Aborigines whose contingent was attacked by police. It was a fierce protest, pushing up against the doors like human battering rams, some workers climbing in through a window, running the gauntlet of cops on the other side. They hoisted the red Soviet flag and the Aboriginal flag over the coat of arms on the roof! An exciting day.

The ACTU tops not only refused to defend their members but also joined the ensuing government violence-baiting witchhunt, dobbing in militants to the state. In doing so they acted to cut off the hand that reached out from the organised working class to the Aborigines. Such treachery laid the basis for today’s silence from the union tops on defence of the Redfern and Palm Island Aboriginal militants. Along with Craig Johnston, these militants have been the most important class-war political prisoners in this country for more than a decade.

As Russian Revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin explained there can’t be a successful workers revolution unless the current misleaders of the working class are exposed, discredited and ousted. Building a class-struggle leadership of the unions, which is linked to a revolutionary party, demands a sharp struggle against racist Laborism in the workers movement. A vital part of this struggle will be fighting to mobilise organised labour in defence of the especially oppressed people in the population, such as Aborigines.

Red History in the Deep North

In April, as part of the SL’s annual subscription drive, a team including myself made a trip to Townsville in Northern Queensland, less than one hundred kilometres from Palm Island. Townsville, which has a population of over 100,000 in the greater area, is today a launching place and training area for the Australian military and has long been a hotbed of redneck racism and suffocating social reaction.

But it is important to know that the history of North Queensland is not one of seamless racist reaction. It also has a significant internationalist Communist and leftist history. Most of this information is from Diane Menghetti’s book The Red North. During World War I, the ALP split over the issue of conscription. Among the Laborite anti-conscriptionists, some were pro-war (these were mostly parliamentary ALPers allied with the Catholic Church). However, the anti-war anti-conscriptionists included members of the International Workers of the World (IWW) who were intransigent anti-racist fighters embracing workers of all nationalities and races, and the Russian Association, which was formed by political refugees from Russian Tsarism.

Russians, who worked at smelters and meatworks in the area, dominated the Cairns chapter of the IWW, founded in 1915, and links were formed with Australian-born militants during the anti-conscription campaign. Some North Queensland Russians, such as F.A. Sergayeff, who became a member of the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks, returned to Russia to help build the Revolution in 1917. They regularly sent news back to Queensland supporters on the progress of the Revolution. In 1925 Russian families in the region each donated the huge sum of £50 (up to one third of their total annual income) to buy, with U.S. comrades, a tractor for a Soviet collective farm! By then two thirds of Russian families in Townsville had joined the Australian Communist Party, even though they had little English.

After WWI ended, the Russian Association joined with other left and labour organisations in a series of demonstrations in Brisbane against the imperialists’ counterrevolutionary military invasion of the Soviet Union. Frequently involving several thousand people, these protests usually concluded with three cheers for the Bolsheviks and the red flag, often in the face of violent nationalist counter-demonstrations and state repression. At a demo in March 1919 people were arrested and charged with unfurling the red flag—that was a jailable offence. At least 15 people including four Russian nationals were imprisoned. The Russian Association’s chairman was deported.

The Queensland Communist Group published Australia’s first Communist newspaper in 1920. By 1923 the ALP expelled all known Communists and the newly formed Australian Communist Party had a secret membership list. When comrades visited Townsville in 1993, we sold a subscription to the son of an Aboriginal mother and a Russian Association father. Links to this red past are still living there, as is the history of racist oppression experienced by the different nationalities that worked the Queensland sugar fields during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Chinese originally built the sugar industry, but their businesses and other property were taken from them in a period of racist hysteria at the time of the adoption of the White Australia policy. Pacific Islanders, who had been kidnapped from places like the Solomons to work as slave labour on the sugar fields, were later also expelled under the White Australia policy. Then Italians, some of them trade unionists, leftists and anti-fascist fighters, who took over working the industry were rounded up and interned in camps during WWII. These examples illustrate that oppressed Aborigines, immigrants and workers share a common enemy in the racist capitalist rulers. This remains very true today and, with the capitalist rulers jacking up racist reaction and anti-union attacks, fascist groups are increasingly emboldened.

Fascist Terror in Townsville

While in Townsville we went to Happy Valley, a cluster of shelters on the edge of town. A hot, dusty piece of land, poor like many Aboriginal communities, but in some ways better off than others—they have electricity there now. I’m not sure if they have running water. There we met Dawn who’s from Palm and cousin-sister to Mulrunji Doomadgee’s de facto wife, now widow. While rocking and weeping, she told us about him.

Dawn took us to meet the apparent matriarch of Happy Valley. Sitting in the roofed shelter she’s made home, this woman told us about the Ku Klux Klansmen who sit in cars on the road at the entrance to the settlement. They don’t drive into the community any more after Happy Valley residents bravely defended themselves one night. When dogs bark at night she yells “They’re here! Get up!” and the residents come out to fight.

On 4 May 2001, her 21-year-old son—two months out of jail, his first child just born—was bundled into a car by fascists. It was the last time she saw him alive. He was found sitting up “hanged” on a nearby football field. This young man liked to box and wore a single crepe bandage wrapped around his hand. His mother suspects he was strangled with it. Despite four years of demanding it, she has never been given access to the autopsy report. The young man wasn’t depressed, he was happy about the birth of his baby girl. He’d stated emphatically his opposition to suicide. But the state called it suicide. The day of her son’s funeral, skinheads tried to pull her into a car at the local shops. She ran into traffic to get away.

In Townsville, just as in Redfern when TJ was killed, cars are instruments of killing. Townsville youth Errol Wyles Junior was killed last year when a car was deliberately reversed over him and his friends repeatedly. His family are still campaigning for justice. We heard about a young woman, Yasman Rae Sturt, who was probably killed the same way in 2003. These stories give a glimpse of the ongoing brutal racist reality and torture perpetrated against Aboriginal people under Australian capitalism. Some solid independently organised union defence of Aboriginal communities (like Happy Valley) to teach the fascist scum a lesson, would strike a blow not only for Aborigines but for the multiracial working class as a whole.

Capitalist Theft and Repression: Stolen Wages and the Aboriginal Protection Acts

Yvonne Butler is an instigator and sustainer of the Stolen Wages campaign to retrieve literally hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid wages, stolen from Aboriginal workers last century. Researcher Dr Rosalind Kidd has documented how from 1919 Aborigines on missions worked solely for rations; those not on missions had their wages taken by the government “in trust.” In 1985 seven Palm Island workers began an action in the Human Rights Commission to reclaim their wages. After the Queensland government lost the case in 1996, it initially refused to pay compensation of $7,000 to each of six workers. Then in 2000, the miserly Queensland state Labor government made $25 million available to pay Aboriginal workers but refused to include mission workers—a major component of Queensland Aboriginal workers before the mid-70s—in the payout!

Since then the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Legal Service Secretariat has collected testimony from over 2,000 people to act against the government for unpaid wages, misused trust funds, unpaid child endowment, workers’ compensation and deceased estates. Added to this history, there are cases today where Aboriginal families are forced to pay “outstanding debts” of earlier times. It was recently reported that Aboriginal Olympic athlete Cathy Freeman’s family was forced to pay a $1,000 outstanding fee for her great grandmother’s pauper’s grave before they could bury a young family member in Townsville. Cathy’s great grandmother worked all her life, but the minimal cost of her grave was never paid by the government “protector” who stole her wages 50 years ago. Now, grieving over the death of yet another young Indigenous woman, the family had to pay the original cost plus massive interest!

In 2002 the Beattie Labor government offered a miserable $55.6 million as settlement for all claims of Aboriginal workers, with $4,000 offered to some and $2,000 to others. Out of 20,000 claimants, only 7,600 people—mainly those who don’t expect to live much longer—have claimed this money. Yvonne, who qualified for the compensation, justly describes the government offer as an insult. While many have campaigned tirelessly and there have been some union protests, what’s necessary is broad union mobilisations and strike actions to demand full reparations with interest for stolen wages, benefits and other misappropriated funds!

The SL also supports any attempts by Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders to claw back land which has been stolen from them and to get whatever financial compensation they can from the tight-fisted ruling class. But there can be no real justice under racist capitalism and neither is it possible to return to the old ways of life, not least because the vibrant pre-European culture has been irreparably damaged under centuries of systematic racist attacks. Redressing the grievances of more than two hundred years of brutal oppression is something that only a revolutionary workers state will address. As we explain in our 1998 programmatic statement, For a Workers Republic of Australia, Part of a Socialist Asia!, “Elementary justice—not only for the dispossessed Aboriginal people, but for all the exploited and oppressed—demands not some limited, ultimately reversible, concessions in the bosses’ courts but the expropriation of industry and agriculture through proletarian revolution.”

Theft of land, of wages and entitlements, as well as of children, are all part of the systematic White Australia state subjugation of Aboriginal people as was the violent suppression of Aboriginal opposition. Up to 20,000 Aborigines died in direct military conflict fighting against white colonial invasion. Yvonne Butler describes the Aboriginal Protection Act—still operating in the 1970s—as Queensland’s version of slavery and describes herself as a runaway slave. “We were conditioned to believe we didn’t have any rights to make even the simplest desicions for ourselves,” Yvonne said. “My life was controlled by police.” In working as a domestic servant, Yvonne was given $2 a week, until she ran away in 1968. Staying away from social gatherings for years, Yvonne said “I was scared the police would find me” (Cairns Post, 16 April).

There were three such Queensland Acts: 1897, 1965 and 1971. They condemned most people of Aboriginal descent to be virtual prisoners on reserves or church-run missions. Those not on reserves were forbidden contact with family who were. Health, housing, employment, marriage, care of children, all were subject to the mission-keeper or reserve manager. The power to remove people to or from reserves and the stealing of wages earned were central to the Act, destroying many lives. Today, Palm Island is a classic product of the Act.

While some laws have changed, racist oppression and intense social degradation remain. Aborigines are systematically denied decent healthcare, education, housing and employment and are imprisoned at a rate far above the national average. Through various government policies—“smooth the dying pillow” (the ideology of the later killing times), “assimilation,” the co-option of “self-determination” and the hoax of “reconciliation”—Aboriginal people have been expected to reconcile themselves to a life of relentless immiseration under the iron heel of capitalist state repression.

Today the federal government is on a heightened ideological offensive in which, obscenely, Aboriginal people are supposed to blame themselves for their oppression. The Howard Liberal/National coalition, with the help of so-called Aboriginal leaders like Noel Pearson, have been promulgating the patronising and racist myth that Aboriginal people need state intervention to combat the social pathologies that develop from systematic racist oppression and deprivation. The government is also on the warpath against Aboriginal organisations. They aim to silence even the most minimal pretence of an independent Aboriginal voice. Thus despite its loyal service to capitalist governments ATSIC has been axed, with the backing of the ALP.

The ongoing campaign against Aborigines is also part of the government’s attempts to foment white Australian “national pride” and dovetails with the current racist “war on terror” which the government is using to constrict the democratic rights of everyone.

Patriotic jingoism and reactionary laws serve as ideological and legislative preparation for further attacks against the working class at home, like the recent anti-union legislation, and to line up the population in support of predatory military expeditions abroad. Today the bloody Australian imperialists are part of the murderous U.S. occupation of Iraq and have headed up colonial interventions in impoverished places like East Timor and the Solomon Islands. The cruel oppression meted out to Aboriginal people at home is indicative of what the peoples of East Timor and Pacific island neocolonies like Papua New Guinea and Fiji have endured under Australian imperialism.

A fight must be waged within the workers movement to combine class-struggle opposition to attacks on workers with the struggle against racist oppression at home and imperialist marauding abroad. We demand: Australian imperialist troops/cops out of the Pacific, Southeast Asia and Iraq now! We stand for asylum rights for all refugees and full citizenship rights for all immigrants. For a class-struggle fight for Aboriginal rights!

Build a Workers Party—Tribune of the People

It will take a socialist revolution to destroy capitalism and open the road to a fundamentally different kind of system. And there is no shortage of people who have a real interest in building a socialist society: students fed up with exorbitant fees; youth facing unemployment, trapped in repressive family situations, or fearful of becoming cannon fodder in imperialist war; immigrants with relatives and friends languishing in detention camps and facing deportation; disabled and injured workers denied decent healthcare; mothers unable to get childcare; women stuck in violent or unhappy marriages through economic dependence; the growing numbers of homeless people begging on the streets.

But the only power the bosses are bound to respect is that of the working class in struggle. By withdrawing their labour, the organised working class can not only push back the capitalist attacks, easing immediate survival under capitalism, they can shut the whole system down. Organised at the head of all the oppressed, the working class has the capacity and interest to take power through socialist revolution and begin to organise the building of a new society! The key to working-class revolution in this country will be to win the proletariat to consistently and forthrightly take up the defence of all the oppressed. This will require breaking workers from Laborite nationalism and loyalty to the capitalist state. As Russian revolutionary leader Lenin and his Bolsheviks proved, it requires the construction of a vanguard party, cohered around and fighting for a revolutionary, proletarian and internationalist program to lead the working class to victory.

In a small but powerful example of the kind of struggle a revolutionary party would wage, in 1993 we initiated a successful, integrated action by building and other unionists with Aborigines and students which broke a racist ban on Aborigines drinking at the Student Prince Hotel, then operating near Sydney Uni. We fight to weld the social power of the working class to the just anger of the oppressed as part of fighting for proletarian revolution to sweep away capitalism. For a workers republic of Australia, part of a socialist Asia! We fight for a communist world in which the diversity of human cultures will not be an excuse for division, contempt and violence, but a source of pleasure and enrichment. If you want that too, you should join us.

Australian Spartacist No. 192

ASP 192

Spring 2005


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

Down With "War on Terror" Government Repression!


Following Criminal London Terror Bombings:

Down With U.S./British Imperialist Occupation of Iraq!

Defend Muslims Against Labour's Racist Witchhunt!

Statement of the Spartacist League/Britain


Liberals/ALP Escalate Racist Attacks

Defend Aboriginal People—Mobilise Union Power!

Drop the Charges! Free Palm Island and Redfern Aboriginal Militants!


Editor Defects

"Trotskyist Platform": Opportunism in Action


Churches, Charities and CIA Cash

Social Forum Con Game