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John Passant

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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)



Sport, racism and Australian society

A proud and defiant Nicky Winmar twenty years ago

Twenty years ago Collingwood supporters hurled racist abuse at Aboriginal St Kilda player Nicky Winmar.  Winmar responded by lifting his shirt and pointing proudly and defiantly at his skin.

On Saturday a Collingwood supporter, a 13 year old girl, called Aboriginal Swans player Adam Goodes an ape. Video from the game shows another Collingwood fan in foul racist mouth against Goodes throughout the game.

This is not a Collingwood problem. Nor is it just an Australian Football League problem.

The National Rugby League, with  Pacific Islanders making up 30 percent of its players  and Aborigines 11 percent, has had racist outburst after racist outburst, including from commentators in for example off mike incidents and in representative football training.

The problem is not just football and its supporters. They are a microcosm of society, albeit  a more charged and emotional microcosm of alienation expressing itself in shouting and breast beating and a sense of belonging that society in production or consumption often does not and cannot create or mirror, except in periods of heightened class struggle.

It is the lack of class struggle today – strike levels are about one percent of what they were in the late 1960s and certain periods in the 1970s – and the dominance of dog eat dog societal relations which creates the conditions for racism to thrive. A more precarious workforce, without a heightened level of class struggle and hence sense of unity and community among all races, can see sections of the working class express the racism of the bosses more overtly than the bosses themselves.

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 in the 1890s 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. They are the lived reality not just for the dispossessed but for the ruling class dispossessors.

Marches for recognition and other pap do not address these fundamental issues. Band aids don’t cure cancer. They don’t even ease the pain. A treaty and recognition of prior sovereignty, self-determination, land rights and paying the rent will, to some extent.

Racism thrives in a racist society. The failure to recognise Australia as a racist society is part of the problem.

The race card is already in play in Australia. The failure to address the life expectancy gap of Aboriginal people, the chronic poverty, the deaths in custody – 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.

When Tony Abbott promised to turn back refugee boats he was extending Labor’s anti-refugee themes. The Labor government for example last week excised Australia from the migration zone which means effectively denying asylum seekers any rights under the Geneva Convention on refugees.

Both sides are playing to the crimson thread of racism running through the veins of alienated working class Australians.  Both parties of capital – Labor and the Liberals – have been singing the same tune for the last 20 years against refugees.

In its rabid attacks on 457 visa ‘abuses’ the Labor Government has tried to  ‘me too’ and wedge the Liberals on racism by linking the 457 issue to ‘Aussie jobs’. In fact the 457 scheme is an abuse. Workers should be free to cross borders in search of better jobs, pay and conditions.

This xenophobia and racism 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 and Aborigines for all the problems of the world than the system itself and by doing so divert attention away from capitalism’s brutal ‘cures’ to its systemic economic problems.

Racism knows no boundaries. Dark skinned men and women from Asia or Africa or the Middle East  are just as much the enemy to the racists and their manipulators, the ruling class, as dark skinned men and women from Australia.

Reconciliation rounds in football raise awareness of the issues. They don’t address them let alone solve them.

The rise of capitalism institutionalised racism and its brutal arrival on these shores in 1788 gave it its particular form in Australia, with its impact and effect flowing right down to today.  Only overthrowing the current system can abolish the racism inherent in society, racism that breaks out regularly in football.

That doesn’t mean waiting for the revolution. It means fighting racism in all its forms here and now.

It means defending refugees, defending Aborigines, defending 457 visa workers 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.

It means supporting workers who have come here from across the globe who are in struggle and challenging the rule of capital.  And it means building an organisation that links the various oppressions that arise to their underlying cause – capitalism. That is what Socialist Alternative is trying to do. Join with us in the fight for a world free of racism.

Addendum: I wrote this when I was a member of Socialist Alternative. The reasons for resigning from it are outlined in my 17 December 2013 resignation letter here. On 10 March 2015 I joined Solidarity, a small socialism from below group in the International Socialist and state capitalist tendency. I believe with its openness and commitment to debate and discussion and its commitment to working in campaigns and protests to win those campaigns and protests it will be part of the future development of a revolutionary socialist group in Australia with real roots in the working class.



Comment from Jolly
Time May 27, 2013 at 10:08 am

Question one must ask? Why does Australia have one of the highest bleached blonds (ie bottle blonds) per capita in the western world? There is a saying that gets passed on amongst peers in Dip Ed circles that girls should bleach their hair before going for any teaching- job interview. Don’t know the accuracy of this advice but apparently that school principles prefer to hire blonds!! Hmmm. Every anchorperson in the media is a bleached blond; just look at our morning and day-time shows. Where in the media do we get to see an Asian, Indian, Aboriginal, African, and non-Caucasian face (minus the ABC)?
You sound outraged about racism, John, but I sincerely think your outrage is meaningless. Our country. as you say, was born out of racism. We are a racist nation. Racism is most pronounced in the poorer suburbs all over Australia. It is hidden in the most affluent suburbs; they are sophisticated enough to hide it. Whereas our simpletons let it all hang out…. yell, scream, rant and rave anywhere and everywhere. Racism is often passed on from parents to kids and becomes a generational disease that is really incurable. One may have access to education and consequently good jobs and income but these cannot cure us of this affliction. Racism is found in the soul of Australia. Nothin’ you or I can do about it. mate!!

Comment from Kay
Time May 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm


Racism is definitely not confined to Australia! Nor is Australia the most racist country by a long shot! Racism is probably hard-wired in human beings everywhere – that’s how it seems, anyway. Travel the world and you will see what I mean.