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John Passant

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April 2011
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Tear down your detention centres, Julia Gillard

Pepper spray, horse charges and a truncheon attack. Our crime? Wanting to put ribbons on the first fence at Maribyrnong detention centre concentration camp.

It was a clear message on this fake day celebrating democracy that Labor Party Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her Liberal acolyte Ted Baillieu want to repress dissent.

Attacking protesters for wanting to tell asylum seekers that some Australians do support them is part of the universality of agreement that the neoliberalism of both parties demands and is imposing.

The rank display of chauvinism that is ANZAC day and the faux democratic flag in which the majority of the nation wraps itself are part of that process.

The wider agenda of the bourgeoisie is to control and confine dissent. The convergence of the major parties around neoliberal and anti-working  class policies and the class quietude paradoxically create a greater need to suppress any who protest and disagree.

The lesson of societies in which social democracy doesn’t or can’t control the working class either industrially or politically or both is that the working class can slip the leash. It happened in France in 1968 when student protests sparked the biggest mass strike in history, a strike which challenged the rule of capital.

It happened partly in South Africa when the apartheid regime could not, unsurprisingly, control the black working class and strikes destroyed the political but not the social system.

It is happening to some extent in Britain where the Labor Party is having difficulty in controlling the students and their fightback against the Tories. Now unions there are passing motions calling for a general strike.

It happened in Wisconsin when rank and file unionists slipped the Democratic leash (and I know they are not social democrats but perform some sort of controlling role over unions in conjunction with the union leadership) and occupied the Capitol Building for 17 days.

It happened in Egypt when workers organised themselves and strikes from 2006  for better pay. Their strikes and participation as workers in the democracy demonstrations in February helped bring down the dictatorship.

In Europe by way of contrast the social democratic political and union leadership has played a treacherous role, giving outlet through general strikes for the anger workers feel but ending thsoe strieks before they can really threaten the flow of profits to the bosses and defeat the austerity packages.

In Australia 30 years of class collaboration by the trade union leadership have reduced their own power over workers through their timidity.

In 1986 union density was 46 percent of the workforce. This fell to 19 percent in 2007 and was at 20 percent in 2010, the first rise in 20 years.

1982 to 1996 were the Accord years, the years of the agreement between the union leadership, left and right, to collaborate with capital and its agents, the Hawke and Keating Labor Governments.

These are the years union leaders concentrated power in their own hands, destroyed rank and file organisation and eschewed industrial action. It is no accident not only that faced with this inaction workers didn’t join or left their unions; the bosses reaped the rewards too. The share of national product going to the bosses is now near its highest since records were kept and the share going to labour its lowest ever recorded.

The collapse in action is stark. In 1987 there were 1519 industrial disputes. This had fallen to 135 in 2007, the lowest ever.  In 2009 there were only 89,300 workers involved in strikes. Last year that figure was even lower – 54,800.

The ruling class fears that the anger might burst forth, from any dispute. So they must control if not intimidate protesters over any issue. Refugees is a particularly sensitive one since it highlights the unanimity of racist thought that unites Labor and the Liberals, and any challenge to that unanimity might open the floodgates of difference and dissent, and god forbid, spill over to the industrial arena. 

So Victorian cops intimidated the protesters with pepper spray, two that I saw, including a photographer; horses, six by my count, holding back the crowd and charging from time to time into the front row; and a truncheon wielding cop on horseback attacking a group of protesters.

‘Do not protest. These refugees are ours to do as we will.’ And they do. Labor Government thugs dragged a seventeen year old Iranian from his bed overnight and have possibly deported him to Iraq.

“You cannot challenge our power. How dare you challenge our power. Refugees are not human and neither are you.”

 Like Mubarak, Ben Ali, Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad, to name a few, in philosophy if not yet to the same degree, attacking peaceful demonstrators is legitimate to defend the established order of Labor and the Liberals.

But the state violence against demonstrators is at this stage minor compared to the violence against asylum seekers. These are people who have committed no crime and whose only goal is justice.

Refugees are the real ANZACS with their determination, commitment and struggle to win democracy and freedom.

Julia Gillard, tear down your detention centres.



Comment from Calligula
Time April 26, 2011 at 11:18 pm

I don’t see what your problem is, John.
A while ago, in town, I met these two Afghanis.

They were both young and achingly handsome.
Both about 18/19 years old, both as immortal as anyone can be at that age and so completely, obviously in love.

And worse than that, they had found this little puppy.
Here they were in town with this brand-new puppy.
Even their puppy matched them,
Clean of eye, intelligent and curious and just as handsome as his new parents.

This is the sort of thing that makes for riots.
Jealousy, greed – the overweening desire to hate, then harm – something beyond possession.

I saw them again a few months later.
The puppy had grown into a rambunctious overfed ball of – dog.
If the term spit and polish could be applied to a mutt – then it would have to be applied to that pooch.

Then our Afghani lady was gloriously pregnant.

Don’t know who they are because it is impossible to intrude on such a bubble of introspection.

By now they are the complete family with a child of a year old or so.

And they are our future.
They are my future.
And, by God I shall defend their place here and our future.

Yep, we need the clan of Iskandar.

Give people like these the opportunity to assist their people into this society and there will be no problem for we need new leaders of decency and merit in this society.