Australasian Spartacist No. 200
We Said: No Vote to Labor or Bourgeois Greens!
Rudd’s ALP Rules for Racist Australian Imperialism
Break With Laborism! We Need a Revolutionary Internationalist Workers Party!
DECEMBER 9—After more than eleven years in power the vicious, anti-working-class Liberal/National Coalition government was swept from office at the 24 November federal elections, with the execrable Howard becoming only the second Australian prime minister to lose his own seat. Faced with escalating attacks on working conditions under the union-busting WorkChoices legislation, slashing of welfare particularly targeting single mothers, and crumbling health, education and transport services, working people and the oppressed voted in droves for the Labor Party (ALP). However, despite hopes among many that a Rudd ALP government will ameliorate living and working conditions, make no mistake that Labor is as committed as its predecessor to serving the bosses’ interests.
On 26 November, Murdoch’s Australian editorialised, “For all the assumptions of a bright new era that are being foisted on Mr Rudd by the green Left, and the desire for a return to the 1950s expressed by class-warriors in the union movement, the prime minister-elect has given us every indication that he will deliver more of the same economic management strategies the previous government gave us.” Projecting itself as a “modern” party of technocrats and “economic conservatives,” Rudd’s ALP promised the bosses that they, not the Coalition, best understood the needs of 21st century capitalist economy and would, for example, address the growing frustration of big business over the Howard regime’s neglect of key communication, transport and port facilities.
More importantly, faced with a disgruntled working class, sectors of the ruling class see benefits in having a Labor government at the helm. The Australian advised, “After 11½ years of a Coalition government, Labor may be better able to move the welfare reform agenda forward to break inter-generational dependency. Just as Mr Rudd may be the one to rebuild community trust in the need for workplace reform” (Australian, 27 November).
On election eve, Rudd again declared solidarity strikes verboten under the threat of state repression. Days later he quashed appeals by Unions NSW leader, John Robertson, to retrospectively abolish the Howard government’s system of non-union individual work contracts, Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs). For all the ALP’s talk about ripping up WorkChoices, not only will existing AWAs be upheld, in some cases up to five years after the elections, but the Labor government has projected its own form of individual contracts under common law. Labor is now preparing a “razor gang” to slash the public service.
Rudd’s claim that he’ll govern for “all Australians” and will “put aside the old battles
between business and unions” harks back to the Accord era of the nationalist union-busting Hawke/Keating regimes. In his abhorrence of union militants, hostility to working-class struggle and pious Christian views, Rudd is also reminiscent of the reactionary former British Labour prime minister, Tony Blair.
Rudd has recommitted the federal ALP government to the police/military occupation of Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, with new Indigenous affairs minister, Jenny Macklin, threatening to extend it to the states. Their stated intention to retain a limited version of the permit system on Aboriginal lands is partly aimed at placating opposition within Aboriginal communities and disquiet within the ALP. The ALP will continue racist immigration policies such as the brutal mandatory detention of refugees, a scheme set up by the last federal Labor government. One of their first acts in government was to declare that they would deport 16 Indonesians detained some weeks ago. The ALP is also wedded to the “war on terror” which particularly targets dark-skinned, Asian and Muslim people. During his election campaign, Rudd despicably fuelled a mounting racist campaign against the construction of an Islamic school in the southwest Sydney suburb of Camden, declaring ALP opposition on “planning grounds.”
While Labor claims it will pull out combat troops from Iraq by mid-2008 (leaving army trainers, and air and naval personnel in the Persian Gulf indefinitely) it remains gung-ho for the murderous imperialist occupation of Afghanistan. It is also fully committed to an aggressive Australian imperialist military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. On election night, Rudd spoke glowingly of our “great friend and ally the United States,” a sentiment reciprocated by the U.S. president George Bush. As massive benefits flow from the growth of resource exports to China, Rudd’s ALP government staunchly upholds the reactionary U.S./Australia military alliance, historically predicated on racist anti-communism and targeting in particular the Chinese deformed workers state.
Preferences from the Greens helped deliver Labor a significant majority in the lower house. This was assisted by the myriad fake socialists who called for a vote to the bourgeois Greens while above all looking to an ALP victory. To the extent they have any influence, these class traitors bear responsibility for helping bring the Rudd Labor government to power. Having got what they wanted, they now offer more of the same empty fight-back rhetoric to pressure Labor to the left while continuing to enthuse over the capitalist Greens. Thus Socialist Alternative declare “increased support for the Greens was one of the most encouraging outcomes of the election” (Socialist Alternative, December 2007) while the Democratic Socialist Perspective blather that, “progressive movements will have to continue mobilising to push the incoming Rudd Labor government to deliver on its promises” (Green Left Weekly, 28 November).
In part, the large vote to Labor is a product of the wretched campaign by the trade-union misleaders to stifle class struggle against Howard’s WorkChoices, channelling massive working-class opposition into an election campaign for Labor. The conflict between workers’ expectations and the reality of a Rudd Labor government will generate opposition possibly leading to explosions of class and social struggles. In defending the struggles of the working class and oppressed, we seek to win the most advanced layers away from Laborite nationalism and reliance on the state to a revolutionary perspective. It will take the overthrow of the capitalist system through workers revolution to get rid of capitalist exploitation and oppression. Such a task is counterposed to the outlook of pseudo-socialists who politically chain workers to their class enemy by practising parliamentary con-games, supporting capitalist parties like the Greens in order to supposedly pressure the pro-capitalist ALP tops.
The Spartacist League, Australian section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) forthrightly declared before the elections “No Vote to ALP! No Vote to Bourgeois Greens!” We are determined to build a multiracial, internationalist, revolutionary workers party, committed to leading the proletariat in sweeping away this rotting capitalist system through socialist revolution.
We reprint below, in slightly adapted form, a 16 November Spartacist League/ Australia statement on the elections.
* * *
It is little wonder that millions of working people are eager to see the widely-hated Howard Liberal/National Coalition government swept from office at the 24 November federal elections. While the capitalist bosses reap record profits in a booming economy, workers face relentless attacks on union rights, wages and conditions, the slashing of welfare, and crumbling transport, school and hospital systems. Under mounting anti-union laws and “anti-terror” legislation, unionists, immigrants, Muslims, Aborigines and leftists have faced violent state repression. Meanwhile, the Howard government is steadfastly committed to the blood-drenched U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.
Despite some posturing over Iraq and the anti-union WorkChoices laws, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) “opposition,” led by Kevin Rudd, is just as committed to waging war on workers and the oppressed. While most of the pro-capitalist, Laborite union misleaders nevertheless push for a Labor victory, some unions, including the Victorian electricians and firefighters unions, are campaigning for the bourgeois Greens in these elections, mainly on the basis of their stated opposition to WorkChoices. Tailing these union tops, and highlighting their own political bankruptcy, many self-described socialist groups are also treacherously championing a vote to the Greens as a means to apply pressure against the very right-wing Labor Party, which they nevertheless hope to have in government. Thus the International Socialists (ISO) declare, “We need to vote out the Howard government” and “send a powerful message of protest to the Labor Party,” trumpeting “All unions should back the Greens” (Socialist Worker, 5 November).
In a similar vein, Socialist Alternative (SAlt) while calling to “Kick Howard Out!” demands “Everybody on the left, every union activist, everyone who hates war and racism needs to vote Green in protest against Labor’s right-wing agenda” (Socialist Alternative, November 2007). Declaring that a Labor victory would be “a huge boost,” the Democratic Socialist Perspective-led Socialist Alliance (SA), call to vote SA then Greens. All these reformists prettify the program of the Greens and bury its class character. The Greens are a capitalist party based on small-“l” liberal elements of the petty bourgeoisie who seek a kinder, gentler capitalist system. Sometimes posing as a friend of workers, minorities and the oppressed, they play a role in preserving illusions in capitalism. For socialists to call for a vote to a capitalist party is outright class betrayal.
It is also class treachery for socialists to call for a vote to the ALP in these elections. Unlike the Greens, the ALP is, to use Lenin’s words, a bourgeois workers party—thoroughly pro-capitalist in its leadership and program while having organic ties to the working class through the trade unions. There are times when communists can offer critical support in an election to parties within the workers movement. For instance, if a reformist or bourgeois workers party draws a class line against the bourgeoisie, then Marxists might offer critical support as a tactic in order to show workers with illusions in that party that, once in power, it will defend the interests of the capitalists and not the workers. However, the ALP today offers the working class no opportunity whatsoever to vote in their own class interests. It stands openly committed to delivering more anti-union attacks, strong state repression and militarism. We say: No vote to the racist anti-working-class ALP! No vote to the capitalist Greens! No vote to candidates who promote the Greens and ALP, such as SA and the Socialist Party (SP)! For a revolutionary workers party to lead a class-struggle fight against racist capitalism!
“War on Terror,” War on Workers
It’s not the first time reformists such as the DSP-led Socialist Alliance, SAlt, ISO and SP have called for a vote to the Greens. For these reformists, the class independence of the proletariat is of no consequence as they consistently seek to tie workers to their class enemy and sow illusions in the capitalist state. The state—consisting at its core of the cops, courts, prisons and army—exists to enforce capitalist class rule against the interests of the working class and oppressed.
The imperialists around the world seized on the criminal 2001 World Trade Center attack to ramp up strong-state powers in the name of “war on terror.” In late 2005, Howard orchestrated highly publicised “anti-terror” raids in order to justify ramming through further draconian legislation—which Labor supported before even viewing it! Two years later, 22 Muslim men caught up in the raids continue to languish in state Labor-run maximum security prisons in Goulburn, Lithgow and Geelong without being convicted of any crime! Free all the detainees from Guantánamo, to Iraq, to Australia! Down with racist “war on terror” government repression!
While initially targeting Asian and Arab minorities, the “anti-terror” legislation shreds the democratic rights of all and is ultimately aimed against the entire working class. Elements of the Howard government’s anti-union laws have been patterned on the “anti-terror” laws. For example, the witchhunting Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has ASIO-style powers to spy on, secretly interrogate and prosecute militant workers. Now getting a taste of the treatment meted out to imprisoned refugees and framed-up alleged terrorists, Western Australian construction unionists are currently before the bosses’ courts for the “crime” of striking in defence of their sacked union delegate. Defend the unions! Down with the ABCC and all government union busting!
Savage union-busting attacks have gone hand-in-hand with racist terror against Aboriginal people and refugees. Northern Territory Aboriginal communities are now subject to a military and cop occupation as police killings across the country continue on the streets and in the lockups. Indigenous Palm Island community activist, Lex Wotton, faces serious charges following justified protests sparked by the police killing of Mulrunji Doomadgee. Drop the charges against Lex Wotton now! While government ministers rail against African refugees, giving a green light to racist and fascist terror on the streets, so-called “illegal” immigrants and refugees face mandatory detention in brutal concentration camps. A recent example is the outrageous treatment of Vietnamese immigrant Tony Tran, ripped away from his wife and child, and incarcerated for five years. The working class must unleash its social power in order to defend not only itself but all those targeted by capitalist injustice. Police/military out of Aboriginal communities! Close the detention camps! No deportations! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants! For union-based actions against the racist “anti-terror” and anti-union laws!
Today’s reactionary climate is a direct product of capitalist counterrevolutions in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state in 1991-92 was an historic defeat for the international proletariat, throwing back political consciousness around the world, albeit unevenly, such that today few workers identify their struggles with the fight for socialism. Counterrevolution also removed the primary military and political counterweight to rampant imperialist pillage across the globe, in the process increasing imperialist rivalries. Reinforcing their counterrevolutionary alliance with the U.S., the Australian ruling class has escalated militarism abroad while unleashing an offensive against workers and minorities at home. Those fake socialists, such as the ISO, SAlt, the DSP and SP, who lined up with their own bourgeoisie in cheering on capitalist counterrevolution share, to the extent they had any influence, responsibility for the reactionary consequences.
Reformist “Left” Embrace Anti-China Greens
The reformist left’s brazen electoral support to the Greens follows years of working together in popular-front coalitions formed to keep mass protests against the barbarous imperialist invasion of Iraq in 2003 within bourgeois limits. Through the likes of the “Stop the War” coalition, the DSP, ISO and SAlt and other fake socialists have promoted Greens, Democrats and elements in the ALP who posture against the war. Key demands of these coalitions, like “bring the troops home,” are tailored to be acceptable to the appetites of Greens and pro-capitalist ALP leaders who have been in the forefront of pushing for a greater role for Australian imperialism in the Asia-Pacific. This includes targeting the bureaucratically deformed workers states of North Korea and China for capitalist counterrevolution. At the same time, the ALP also want combat troops withdrawn from Iraq so that the Australian military can play a greater role in the imperialists’ bloody terror in Afghanistan.
While the boom in mineral exports to China lines the pockets of mining giants, the Australian government works with the U.S. imperialists to tighten the military chain around China. Extending from South Korea to central Asia, this includes increased militarisation of Australia’s north, including U.S. air and spy bases. The Australian rulers’ current involvement in the U.S. “missile defence systems” is directed at removing China’s ability to deter an imperialist nuclear first strike.
This, along with the 2006 Australia-Japan anti-China security pact, is part of the imperialists’ long-term goal of capitalist counterrevolution in China, to overturn the gains of the 1949 Chinese Revolution, which smashed the state power of the Chinese bourgeoisie and landlords and ripped the country out of the clutches of the imperialists. Just as we defended the Soviet Union and Eastern European deformed workers states, we stand for the unconditional military defence of the gains of the Chinese, North Korean, Vietnamese and Cuban Revolutions, including their possession and testing of nuclear weapons. At the same time we fight for a proletarian political revolution to oust the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracies replacing them with a regime of workers soviets based on a program of revolutionary internationalism.
The fake left, by contrast, treacherously push the lie that China is capitalist. Laborite to the core, these “leftists” share the outlook of the nationalist union misleaders they tail, who have waged a years-long, China-bashing, protectionist campaign. This is particularly pernicious in that it serves to line the workers up behind their capitalist rulers against the deformed workers state. In 1999, the Laborite left similarly backed the chauvinist union tops as they rallied for Australian imperialism’s occupation of tiny East Timor. At that time, virtually all of them, with the DSP in the vanguard, enthusiastically marched in demonstrations behind the ALP parliamentary and union misleaders screaming for “peacekeeping” troops to “save” East Timor. In contrast we have consistently opposed the Australian imperialist military. Just as in 1999, today we demand Australian imperialist troops get out of East Timor!
Giving the lie to the reformists’ current purported “opposition” to the Australian military in East Timor is their support to the Greens, who in turn support the military occupations of both East Timor and the Solomons! Likewise they embrace the rabid anti-communism of the Greens, who champion every anti-China provocation, starting with the CIA-favoured Dalai Lama. At a rally last April outside Howard’s Kirribilli residence, the Refugee Action Coalition, including one of the state-capitalist splinter groups, Solidarity, appealed to a future Labor government of “White Australia” capitalist “democracy” and provided a platform for the bourgeois Greens and the counterrevolutionary Falun Gong sect and “Free China” types to vituperate against China.
In a recent leaflet, the “Stop the War” coalition admits “An incoming Labor Government will support the War on Terror” and that the ALP is equally committed to militarisation. They nevertheless abjectly advise that “Electing Rudd will only be the beginning of the fight to cut off Australia’s support for US policy in the Middle East.” This Laborite “lesser-evilism” promotes reliance on bourgeois parliamentarism and the hoary social-democratic myth that social and economic justice, even stopping imperialist war, can be won through a change of capitalist government.
The blood-drenched horrors of the U.S. and Australian imperialist occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Australian imperialist plunder in the Asia-Pacific region cannot be eliminated through “regime change” in Canberra, or Washington for that matter. Militarism is an expression of the system of capitalist imperialism, in which the ruling classes of the richest capitalist countries ruthlessly compete for new markets and ever greater resources and sources of cheap labour in neocolonial countries. The various imperialist bourgeoisies enforce their neocolonial looting, and protect spheres of exploitation, through the deadly coercive power of their state. It is an elementary principle for Marxists to uncompromisingly oppose the imperialist depredations of their “own” ruling class. An end to imperialist war will only come about through the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system internationally. We say: For class-struggle opposition to the Australian capitalist rulers at home! Not one person, not one cent for the Australian imperialist military! Down with the counterrevolutionary U.S./Australia alliance! U.S. military and spy bases out now! Defend China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba! Australian troops/cops get out of Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomons!
Break with Laborism! We Need a Revolutionary Leadership!
The ALP acts to divert workers struggles into parliamentarism and loyalty to the state. When in power, as it is today in all states and territories, the ALP administers the capitalist system for the bosses. Founded on “White Australia” racism, the ALP has supported every war waged by Australian imperialism and was enlisted by the bourgeoisie to run the country during two interimperialist world wars. The Labor Party has a long history of suppressing militant worker struggles, from sending the military against the great 1949 miners strike to the Hawke/Keating government’s busting of the militant Builders Labourers Federation in the mid 1980s. It was thirteen years of union-busting ALP rule which laid the groundwork for Howard’s anti-union attacks.
The Laborite union misleaders are a pro-capitalist bureaucratic layer atop the unions, bought off by the crumbs from Australian imperialism’s exploitation abroad. Sometimes under pressure from their worker base they are impelled to call strikes and other actions to defend workers against the capitalist rulers’ attacks. Witness the recent struggle for better pay and conditions by Victorian nurses. Overall, however, they act to police the working class for the bosses and are the main mechanism for transmitting bourgeois consciousness into the working class. Today, along with ALP politicians who earlier vowed to “rip up” the anti-union laws, the union tops have acted to head off the sort of class-struggle strike actions that can make these laws worthless scraps of paper. Over the last period, these Laborite traitors have responded to working-class anger by calling a series of mass rallies to allow workers to let off steam. Pushing nationalist protectionism and reliance on the courts (particularly Arbitration), the union tops have simultaneously channeled millions of dollars of union members’ dues into the campaign for an ALP victory in marginal electorates.
When sections of the bourgeoisie signaled they could accept a Rudd government providing it maintained the core of Howard’s anti-union assault, the ALP went into overdrive. They quickly pledged to maintain tough restrictions on strikes and on access to worksites by union officials. Labor has also pledged to retain the ABCC, which targets the militant construction union, describing it as a “strong ‘cop on the beat’.” This was followed by a purge of militant-talking unionists from the ALP such as Victorian Electrical Trades Union leader Dean Mighell. Now the ALP is committed to maintaining individual contracts, the cornerstone of the government’s anti-union attacks, until at least 2010!
There is plenty of anger and hostility to the government’s union-busting attacks. On 26 September in Melbourne, thousands of workers struck to attend a 20,000-strong rally against the anti-union laws. Alongside the recent nurses’ strike, there has also been the threat of national strike action by postal workers. Disgruntlement with the ALP was summed up by a banner at a nurses mass meeting in Melbourne which in part read, “Brumby [state Labor Premier] Howard: what’s the difference
Indeed, the ALP is an obstacle to advancing the interests of the proletariat. The working class needs a party that stands on an internationalist, revolutionary, proletarian program. Such a party will be built through a political struggle against Laborism. This means splitting the working-class base of the ALP from its pro-bourgeois leadership, centrally through the fight for a revolutionary class-struggle leadership of the unions.
Such a leadership linked to a revolutionary party would actively mobilise, in demonstrations and strike actions, against acts of racist terror perpetrated against immigrants, Aborigines and all the oppressed. In contrast to union leaders who preach protectionist poison and xenophobia against “guest workers” this leadership would act to defend the rights of all workers, including through organising them into the unions and fighting for full union wages and conditions and full citizenship rights for all who have made it here, including access to social services. Against the double oppression of working women, it would fight for free 24-hour childcare, paid maternity leave and for free abortion on demand. It would fight for union hiring halls with union programs to recruit and train those historically discriminated against. Against unemployment, including the mass of hidden unemployed, it would take up the fight for a shorter workweek with no loss in pay to spread the available work around. It would energetically seek to organise non-unionised workers while opposing sackings. In opposition to craftist divisions, such a leadership would fight for maximum working-class unity, for industrial unions.
Ultimately, however, for the working class to secure jobs for all at decent wages, free education and health care and decent housing for all, requires a socialist revolution. This in turn, requires transforming the political consciousness of the working class from a class in itself to a class for itself, conscious of its historic role in sweeping away the whole rotting capitalist system. The indispensable instrument to lead such a struggle is a Leninist vanguard party. It is only under workers rule—the dictatorship of the proletariat—and the establishment of a collectivised planned economy that production will be for human need and not for profit. The working class with its hands on the levers of production and organised in the factories, mines, telecommunications and transportation systems, has the social power and objective interest to overthrow the capitalist system. It will take the international extension of proletarian class rule to lay the material basis for the rational expansion of production and elimination of scarcity, allowing for an unprecedented development of human freedom and learning in all spheres. For a workers republic of Australia, part of a socialist Asia!