|Issue No 109||31 August 2001|
Letters to the Editor
Unite Against Racism
Disgracefully, shamefully and immorally, we are refusing entry to 438 mainly Afghani asylum seekers. All this is part of the Campaign to Re-Elect the PM.
And the ALP's response? To agree with the Government. The fools. Having let loose the dogs of racism, the ALP will be unable to restrain them. Once you accept attacks on "others", all "outsiders" are at risk.
This racism against refugees will escalate to racism against those already in Australia who are "different" - be they different cultures, different skin colours, different languages. Aborigines will be the first target but recent immigrants, especially those from Asia and the Middle East, will also suffer at the hands of the rednecks. Anti-semitism will become more open and aggressive.
Then there will be an onslaught against those with "different" sexual orientations. And of course those with different politics - socialists, communists, anarchists and trade unionists - will become another target.
Trade unions are particularly under threat. Racism weakens the working class's ability to defend itself. First it actually pits worker against worker in the workplace, making it harder for workers to unite against the bosses. Second racism is an ideological tool that glues the working class to nationalism and the bosses' system. The ideology expressed in the aphorism that "we are all Australians together" becomes a more powerful glue when the unwritten message is that we are one nation, one people standing strong against "outsiders".
This ideological and divisive component of racism creates a climate where the bosses will be tempted to launch assaults on jobs, wages and conditions, using racism as part of the argument to divide workers. The fight against racism is the fight for jobs and conditions.
The social gains of the last thirty years - abortion rights, women in the workplace, childcare - will suffer greater attacks as the reactionaries become more emboldened over their success on refugees.
Shame, Labor, shame for what you have done.
And what political benefit is there for Beazley in supporting Howard? None.
The ALP won't win the racist vote. Worse, Labor will alienate their anti-racist members and supporters. Some of those people at least will now look to support political groups like Socialist Alliance and the Greens against the new Hansonites in the ALP.
You don't fight racism by capitulating to it. The way to respond to wedge politics is to stand on your principle, not sell out to it.
To understand the hypocrisy of both the government and the ALP, there may well soon be a "flood" of refugees into Australia. But they will be white, rich, English speaking Zimbabwean farmers. And they will come by plane - in many cases their own.
Will we turn them back? No. Government members have already expressed support for allowing white Zimbabwean farmers into Australia.
This difference in treatment is racism. It infects our society. The Australian nation was built on genocide and nurtured on racism. The support for the Government's actions by large numbers of talkback radio callers shows that we have not escaped our history - we are just repeating it.
For that reason, and given the historic failure of Labor on this issue, it is incumbent on the left in all its various guises to unite against the racist threat within.
In particular the trade unions cannot stand idly by. The danger is great. All trade unionists must unite to fight against this evil and anti-working class ideology. It only benefits the bosses if we are divided along irrelevant lines like the colour of our skin. We must organise in our unions against racism. And we must organise politically, outside the hansonite ALP.
In the 1960s the majority of Australians supported the war against the Vietnamese. The left built a massive campaign against that criminal war and Australian society changed its mind. We can do the same today.
Let the refugees land.
John Passant- John Passant is a Canberra writer and member of the newly formed Socialist Alliance. Socialist Alliance will run candidates in the forthcoming federal election.
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