‘Turning back the boats’ means attacking the Tent Embassy and all it stands for
Posted by John, January 31st, 2012 - under Aboriginal Embassy, Aborigines, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, Julia Gillard, Racism, Repression, Resistance, Tent Embassy, Tony Abbott, Turn back the boats.
Tony ‘Mr Magoo’ Abbott promised again to stop the boats in what some have laughingly called a headland speech. Political platitudes about expansionary austerity and feelgood nonsense about working together won’t address the fundamental problems of Australian capitalism.
Only smashing unions and driving down wages, increasing the working week, making us work harder and harder, deliberately increasing unemployment and overseeing a mass devalorisation of capital (whether imposed from outside or undertaken deliberately by government) has a chance to do that, but at an horrific social cost, and only if we workers let them.
Expansionary austerity – the lie that by cutting back on government the ‘free’ market can expand and grow – will need scapegoats to divert attention away from its brutality. The few thousand asylum seekers fleeing war (often of the West’s making), brutal governments (sometimes of the West’s making) and oppression will be and are one obvious target.
Abbott’s recent reaffirmation of an old Coalition policy to ‘Turn back the boats’ shows he understands the need for scapegoats all too well in the coming years when he and his market ideologues (just like their Labor Party market ideologue twins) are in power.
There is a duality to Australian racism – the fear of the non-white from distant lands and the fear of the non-white within.
As a colonial settler state Australia was founded on the genocide and dispossession of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
The brutality of action against them required a brutality of ideology to match – terra nullius, inferiority, bringing civilisation and other catch words hiding the reality of the theft of their land and their death and destruction both physically and over time as a people.
This white superiority joined up a century later with an emerging working class recognising itself as a class and fighting against the ravages of depression.
The defeat of that class in struggle saw it turn to the political arena and establish the Labor Party to win reforms through Parliament.
That party became the standard bearer of White Australia, a concept which finds support even today among large sections of Australian society, about one quarter.
The nation that was formed in 1901 was built on the genocide of its original inhabitants, protectionism, a formalised state intervention into wage setting and labour disputes called Conciliation and Arbitration and the White Australia policy.
That genocide and white Australia hang heavy in the psyche of the national symbols and institutions.
The reaction of most of the capitalist media to a peaceful Tent Embassy demonstration outside the Lobby restaurant describing it as a riot, violent and the like, and the vociferous response of the armchair racists to condemn their own false images of black people protesting, shows that racism in Australia is endemic and systemic.
So when Tony Abbott promises to turn back refugee boats he is playing to the crimson thread of racism running through the veins of many Australians. It will be politically popular because both parties of capital – Labor and the Liberals – have been singing the same tune for the last 20 years against refugees.
It will also become handy when the global economic crisis hits Australia and the failures of capitalism becomes clearer to many. Far better for capital to blame refugees, Muslims or Aborigines for all the problems of the world than the system itself and divert attention away from its brutal ‘cures’.
But racism knows no boundaries. Dark skinned men and women from Australia are just as much the enemy to the racists as dark skinned men and women from Asia or Africa or the Middle east.
And the race card is already in play in Australia. The failure to address the life expectancy gap, the chronic poverty, the deaths in custody of Aborigines – all paint a grim picture of a people whose oppression is all pervasive.
The bipartisan Northern Territory intervention, with its institutionalised racism through exemption from the Racial Discrimination Act and its paternalism of whites saving blacks, shows the future for race relations in Australia – a future of ongoing land theft, of more and more dispossession, of more and more poverty, of more and more oppression and repression.
No amount of a once a year week long visits by Tony Abbott helping remote communities is going to change that. It will be a cover for oppression and repression.
Band aids don’t cure cancer. They don’t even ease the pain. Circuses for the starving don’t end the hunger.
The demonstration on Invasion Day shows that some Aborigines want to fight back, want to resist the oppression of the capitalist system that makes profits for the billionaires off stolen land.
So too do the demonstrations for refugees and against their inhuman treatment in our concentration camps show a willingness to fight for justice.
The duality of racism in Australia means that when Abbott inflames racist tensions by attacking refugees he lays the groundwork for more and more brutal attacks on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters, including the Tent Embassy.
Abbott in power may not attack the Tent Embassy directly, but ‘moving on’ from it means airbrushing it and the reasons for its existence – land theft and genocide – out of history and intensifying the attacks on all Aborigines.
The more the Embassy becomes an effective symbol of resistance, and the more that resistance deepens and spreads, the more it will be under attack, subtly at first but in the end brutally if needed.
The fight against racism must be the fight for refugees, for aborigines and their sovereignty, land rights and a treaty.
To defend the Tent Embassy, to stay rooted in the present that it represents and highlights, rather than move on we need to fight racism in all its forms.
That means defending refugees, defending the Tent Embassy and making demonstrations for freedom and justice bigger and better, dogging Abbott and Gillard wherever they go and challenging the very system that produces the sickness in society that is the racism of capitalism.