[Marxism] Saturday's socialist speakout

En Passant with John Passant en.passant at bigpond.com
Fri Mar 30 19:36:11 MDT 2012

A Parliamentary Committee in Australia has recommended that refugees be detained for a maximum of 90 days. At the moment asylum seekers can spend years in detention. 

If the security body, ASIO, gives an adverse security report, they will rot there indefinitely.

They of course have committed no crime and these detention centres are really concentration camps and breeding grounds for mental illness.

Unless the Greens initiate and lead a mass campaign on the streets for refugees nothing will happen because Labor and the Liberals are committed to brutalising asylum seekers for what they think is electoral gain.

In Bradford in England George Galloway, a former Labour MP expelled for his opposition to the Iraq invasion, handsomely won a by-election there.  Galloway ran on an anti-austerity and anti-war campaign and attacked Labour for its complicity in both.

He romped in. The swing against Labour was over 36 percent. Galloway, standing for Respect, beat the Labour candidate Imran Hussain by 18,341 votes to 8,201. The Liberal Democrats, the partners in austerity with the Tories, lost their deposit.

This is a great victory for the left in England. While there were specific factors involved, the fact remains that someone opposing unemployment, austerity and war won a traditional Labour seat. the anger against Labour and the Tories has been given a left wing voice. 

Given unemployment and austerity are not yet the currency of the realm in Australia, although war is, the left is very unlikely to be able to replicate this result in the short term in Australia.

And of course election to parliament is not the be all and end all. It is the struggle on the streets and in the workplaces that determines whether workers will be victorious in their fight to defend jobs, living standards and stop the massacres in Afghanistan.

But Galloway in Parliament now has the opportunity to build that resistance on the streets and in the workplaces in the UK.

We might expect similar results across Europe as the battle against austerity intensifies. In Greece for example 40% of voters support the various far left parties, according to recent polls.

The swing against Labor in Queensland was 16 percent, but clearly it is on the nose, having received just 26% of primary votes. The swing went to the conservatives, the LNP, and to Bob Katter's Australia Party with its populist appeal and support from some unions.

The left in Australia doesn't have a figure like Galloway. For  a start no substantial ALP figure has been expelled because they all support the war in Afghanistan, attacking aborigines through the Northern Territory intervention, scapegoating refugees, restricting the right to strike, fining workers for industrial action, cutting funding to public transport, health and education and doing little on climate change.

But we do have small left wing groups here. The biggest is Socialist Alternative, of which I am a member. It is committed to intervening in struggles where possible and mobilising its members in support of such struggles where it can.

To me the task of the left in Australia is as always to try to relate to the underlying anger that is there among workers with Labor's sell outs and attacks.

Socialist Alternative is too small to lead major class struggles, but we are involved in important campaigns like Equal Love, BDS against apartheid Israel and the refugee action groups as well as being active in our won unions. We were heavily involved in the Baiada picket line to help them win that fight.

And our forthcoming  Conference over Easter in Melbourne - Marxism 2012: revolution in the air - is the left wing conference of the year. With speakers like Malalai Joya, John Pilger, Gary Foley and Mamdouh Habib (to name a few of the 70 or so speaking) it is a must attend for all on the left.

The task as I see it is to build Socialist Alternative so the left has a strong voice in Australia and a commitment to socialism from below and can help build the fight back against the attacks of the bosses and their Labor lackeys in Parliament, against job losses, against war and for better wages and conditions. 

En Passant with John Passant  

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