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  Issue No 109 Official Organ of LaborNet 31 August 2001  

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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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*   Issue 109 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: Union Power
Electrical Trades Union state secretary Bernie Riordan surveys the union movement's troubled relationship with Labor.
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*  International: Spreading the Word
Veronica Apap profiles Kamal Fadel and the battle he is fighting for the independence of his homeland of West Sahara.
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*  E-Change: Training for a Wired Workforce
Education is the entry point into the new economy; but the system still reflects an industrial age view of the world.
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*  Unions: AWU Defends Millennium Train Workers
Mark Hearn looks at how a group of Newcastle workers are setting a new standard in the railways.
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*  Politics: Chatting with Enemies of the State
Brazils MST is the largest and most radical social movement in the Americas. The CFMEU´s Phil Davey drops in for a chat.
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*  History: Struggle and Inspiration
Rowan Cahill argues that it is only through understanding history that we can make sense of the present plight of workers.
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*  Technology: A World Without Microsoft
Heather Sharp argues that all technologies involve political choices and moral values. Computer software is no exception, and it is Bill Gates' choices that dominate.
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*  Review: Let There Be Rock
Kid Rock and Beer Bong, Australia’s Oldest Rock Fans review the week’s music and political events from the safety of the bar stool.
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*  Satire: Tampa refugees ask to go home: "It's less inhumane than Australia"
The 460 asylum seekers on board the Tampa freight vessel have demanded to be taken back to their oppressive homelands, which they now realise aren’t nearly as hostile as Australia.
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News
»  The Meaning of Working Life – The Answer is 7.1!
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»  Unions Stand Up for National Soul
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»  MUA Salvages Some Pride
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»  Common Law Report Plea – Make It Public
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»  Maintenance Contract 'Could Put Lives at Risk'
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»  Tax Office's GST Scam - 10 Per Cent Off!
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»  Della Moves on Pay Slip Concerns
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»  Authorities Scotch Bra-Burning
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»  Manusafe Decision Faces Appeal
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»  Orange Finally Saved from Closure
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»  Award Win For Telco Workers
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»  Abbott Clears Way for Lower Wages
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»  SDA Defeats 'Obscene' Westfield Parking Fees
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»  Labor Calls On Abbott To Abide By Convention
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»  Nurses Highlight Staff Shortages
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»  Keystone Cops At Wonderland Protest
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»  Call for Change in Award Increases
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»  Green Tin Box Values Gone At Commonwealth
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»  Dance for Independence
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»  Get Ready to Wobble
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»  Activist Notebook
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»  STOP PRESS: ITF says PM Tampa action illegal
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Columns
»  The Soapbox
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»  The Locker Room
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»  Trades Hall
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»  Tool Shed
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Letters to the editor
»  Unite Against Racism
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»  WorkCover Impact
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»  Improving the Debate
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»  Botsman's Satire
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»  MUA - Take a Bow!
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»  Economic Predators
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»  Email and the Waterfront Dispuite
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