Turn the racists back, not refugees
Australian Opposition leader Tony Abbott wants to turn refugee boats back out to sea.
As Abbott points out this was also the position that now Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd adopted in the last days before the federal election in 2007.
The Liberals are desperate and with a bit of refugee bashing they hope to re-connect with the backward elements of the working class who support being tough on asylum seekers.
This is essentially the same strategy of a less desperate Government, but somewhat disguised.
In fact Rudd has tried to turn one boat back.
He rang the Indonesian President to get him to intercept the Merak before it reached Australian waters. 254 people remain on the boat, anchored off an Indonesian port.
One refugee has died. Kevin Rudd has blood on his hands.
Indonesia will never again intercept boats heading for Australia.
The Australian customs boat the Oceanic Viking picked up 78 asylum seekers in international waters and took them to Indonesia.
The 78 refused to disembark. The UNHCR fast tracked their processing and all 78 were found to be genuine refugees.
The alternative? They could have and should have been bought to Australia and processed quickly (in the community, not in detention centres.)
Instead of kowtowing to reactionary elements in Australia Kevin Rudd could make the case that we should accept all asylum seekers without locking them up, and fast track our own approvals processes in hot spots near Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka and the like.
In having that discussion Rudd could follow Malcolm Fraser who took the argument for accepting Vietnamese refugees to the Australian people and won the debate.
Rudd won’t do a Fraser because politicians in advanced capitalist countries today want to distract us from the real enemy - our own bourgeoisie and its rapacious drive for profit and more profit.
For some workers our alienation in the productive process is somehow psychologically alleviated by attacking the poor and the defenceless, people like refugees (and aborigines.)
Bashing asylum seekers divides workers and distracts us from the reality of the situation. It is not refugees who sack us or pay us low wage or treat us like rubbish. It is bosses.
Abbott’s call, like Rudd’s, is unworkable. It is also the antithesis of the supposed Catholicism that Tony Abbott professes. (The same general criticism applies to Anglican Kevin Rudd too, by the way.)
As long as workers are attracted to the Liberals and Labor on the basis of crude (or not so crude) anti-refugee racism the bosses will be able to undermine and on occasions openly attack our living standards with seeming impunity.
And of course supporting the architects of Workchoices or Workchoices Lite on this basis just opens the way for the Government of either conservative persuasion to continue the onslaught of the last 26 years on our living standards.
Australian society needs a strong left, not one wedded to the Labor Party, to defend asylum seekers and refugees.
To win the battle for refugees we must win the battle for the hearts of the working class by defending workers’ jobs and conditions and their freedoms, to organise, to speak out, to strike.
A strong unified and action oriented left has the potential to focus the underlying anger with the system, and in doing that drive the racists back under their rocks.
I need hardly add such a left does not exist in Australia, yet.