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John Passant

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Keep socialist blog En Passant going - donate now
If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
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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)



From detention centres to concentration camps

This is a letter I sent to the Canberra Times in response to a contributor criticising me for calling Australia’s detention centres concentration camps.


Alan Garnet says my description of Australia’s ‘detention’ centres as concentration camps ‘denigrates the victims and survivors of the concentration camps of World War II.’ (Letters 29 April.) That is not the case. The comparison doesn’t denigrate the victims of the Nazis – quite the opposite. Anyone who condemns the concentration camps must also condemn Australia’s detention centres.

Second I made no reference to World War II. I referred to concentration camps.

A concentration removes innocent people from civil society, denies them their ability to take any action and isolates and dehumanises them while a government decides what to do with them. It concentrates a group of people in one place where the state can exercise total control over them. In that respect what the Australian government is doing to refugees is not all that different to any other concentration camp in the past, be it the early days of Nazi Germany or the late 19th and early 20th century examples of British, US and Spanish concentration camps in the Boer War, the Philippines, or Cuba, on to the American internment of Japanese during WW2 or the many other examples of concentration camps throughout history.

The frontier wars in Australia and the ongoing genocide against Aboriginal people to establish capitalism here saw many Aboriginal people driven off their land and herded into what we would now recognise as concentration camps.

If Garnet had bothered to check any history of concentration camps he would know that they existed long before World War II. The best known but, as I mention above, not the only non-Nazi example, is of the British during the Boer War who rounded up women, children and old men to isolate the guerrillas. Nearly 30,000 of them, mainly children, died in the camps. Some historians believe that the Nazis used the Boer War camps as the model for their concentration camps.

Even a cursory look at the history of the camps the Nazis set up, something Garnet is apparently incapable of, shows the slippery slope from detention to concentration. Hitler won office through a democratic and constitutional process. His first concentration camps in the weeks after his ascension to power imprisoned communists, then socialists and trade unionists. He wanted to, and if his program of restoring German profit rates was to be successful, had to, smash the organised working class, i.e. the left.

It was from these first anti-left concentration camps that the final solution grew.  There is a distinction in Holocaust studies between concentration camps and death camps, of which there were six.

Pastor Neimoller’s poem ‘First they came for ‘ might be useful in helping Garnet understand the process of historical development.

Finally, and before I am dismissed once again without justification as some ‘loony leftie’ whom ‘respectable’ society can ignore, let me add that I am not alone in describing Australia’s refugee detention centres as concentration camps. Internationally respected Sydney University historian, Professor John Keane, for example, describes Manus Island and Nauru as concentration camps.

I suggest the next time Garnet wants to accuse me of being facile and odious and uses the Holocaust to hide the reality of our own brutal internment regimes, he at least attempts some historical analysis rather than attacking me as he does from a position of profound ignorance and intentional historical amnesia. I urge Garnet to recognise the historical reality. Australia’s detention centres are concentration camps.