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John Passant

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Of course Julia Gillard is a racist

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition was right when he said that Julia Gillard was a racist and is implementing racist policies.

The Labor government locks up people with dark skins who speak ‘funny’ languages for the ‘crime’ of fleeing war, genocide, oppression, rape and murder. This is often war, genocide, oppression, rape and murder this Labor Government contributes to directly or supports.

Not only that, to ‘stop the boats’ this Government is doing a deal with Malaysia to send 800 asylum seekers to the hellholes of refugee camps in that country.  This is a deliberate strategy. The government wants Malaysia to treat them badly to force refugees to go elsewhere, anywhere but Australia. 

Why? Because this government thinks, just as Tony Abbott thinks, that there are votes in ‘stopping the boats’. With Labor at historic lows in the polls, Julia Gillard, or Madam 27 percent, is looking for a measure to break out of the looming electoral oblivion.   

The Malaysian solution was going to be that circuit breaker. What does it matter to her that Afghans, or Iraqis or Tamils from Sri Lanka will get tortured in Malaysia, that children will be further traumatised? She has votes to win, or at least to retain.

Historically Labor has been a party of racism.  From the white Australia policy to the ongoing genocide against aboriginal people, Labor has been at the forefront of attacks on non-whites.

That changed somewhat in the 1970s and the 1980s with the removal of the White Australia policy and the opening up of the migration program to people from around the globe. This approach was bipartisan. Malcolm Fraser for example threw the door open for Vietnamese refugees.  

In 1992 Paul Keating introduced mandatory detention for asylum seekers in an attempt to shore up the racist working class vote and divert attention away from his neoliberal policies which transferred wealth from labour to capital. It worked in the short term but helped lay the foundations for the Howard ascendancy by making his racist ideas respectable.

In 2011 Gillard has proposed outsourcing the torture of refugees to Malaysia  in an attempt to keep some of the racist working class vote and divert attention away for her neoliberal policies which are transferring wealth from labour to capital.

The phrase detention camp is a misnomer. These are concentration camps. The camps were first developed by the Spanish in 1896 in Cuba, and expanded by the British during the Boer war.  Hitler gave them a new and even more shocking dimension.

Mandatory detention has set in train an ever worsening response to refugees. Labor could have shown leadership on this by explaining to working people why the tiny trickle of refugees coming to Australia – less than 5000 in 2009-10 for god’s sake – are to be welcomed and supported, not vilified.

Labor could have argued that the real enemy sits in the boardrooms of Sydney and Melbourne, and London and New York, not the poor frightened and persecuted refugees in Villawood or Maribyrnong.

Labor could have explained why mandatory detention is an abomination and they are, as the thousands of demonstrators today across the country demanded, going to abandon it and institute community care for asylum seekers instead.

Instead Gillard has attempted to wedge the racist Opposition on refugees from the right, that is by being more racist. She has failed.

Gillard is not just a racist.  She is homophobic, draping herself in the reactionary flag of marriage being between a man and a woman. This is an attempt to hide neoliberal policies and appeal to the perceived conservative working class in the Western suburbs of Sydney and elsewhere.

This of course is also the same Julia Gillard who has not supported equal pay for equal work for female workers, the same Julia Gillard who supports the racist Northern Territory invasion and the same Julia Gillard who supports the apartheid state of Israel.

All this ongoing Labor Party rightward shift has done is make Tony Abbott, the man of reaction, and his policies, look reasonable. Every ALP attempt to wedge the Liberals with Labor racism or Labor homophobia or Labor neoliberal economic policy further legitimises Abbott and the Coalition.

No wonder support for Labor is at 27 percent, the lowest in over 40 years.

The time is now to build a socialist alternative to Labor to challenge the neoliberalism, racism and homophobia of both major parties.



Comment from Steve
Time June 20, 2011 at 12:16 am

I don’t think she is rascist, nor do I think Abbott is rascist. Rather I think they are just playing political games to win votes.

Also I think we should use the word concentration camps with care, over 6 million jews were butchered in those camps; christmas island is not on any level equivalent.

The sad thing about this whole debate is that we gloss over the real issues like: what are we doing as a nation to help the 10.5 million refugees worldwide?

I’ve put a little bit of research into this and you can check it out on my blog:

Comment from John
Time June 20, 2011 at 8:53 am

Steve, do you think they are just playing at being racists? I think pandering to the crimson thread of racism in Australian society is itself racist.

Comment from Dr_Tad
Time June 20, 2011 at 1:28 pm

This is not a useful argument, John, because it both leads to impossible-to-settle arguments about what’s going on in Gillard’s head and inadvertently minimises the monstrosity of what she is doing. Rather than being political it falls is moralistic (not that moral outrage at her actions is a bad thing — it just that Marxists should go beyond that first step).

What is certain is that Gillard, her government and the state are purposely appealing to nationalism and race as part of a more general strategy to deflect attention from the real causes of real problems in Australian society. They are trying to channel quite rational feelings of social insecurity — driven by the effects of over three decades of ruling class attacks — into insecurity towards foreign arrivals of a particular kind.

That they choose these tropes is a matter of historical contingency: Such themes have worked for the elites previously and it’s just a matter of updating them for the modern era. Naturally these are laced together with all kinds of nasty imperialist ideologies.

Whether Gillard is personally racist (or homophobic or whatever) is really irrelevant. The point is how the political class and the state use race (and other divisions) to shore up their position. The important thing about my proposition is that it lays blame on the elite and not on individuals (usually identified as working-class in the popular imagination) who may get caught up in what the state is doing. The character of their “racism” is entirely different to what the state can do. In fact, perhaps overlooked by the Left in these debates, the state can make racial divisions into reality by discriminating legally between different groups of people.

The worst part of your post is where you say “Historically Labor has been a party of racism.” But it has also been many other things, including a party that has taken up anti-racist struggles and policies, and it is in those contradictions that the explanation for its political hegemony within the working class resides. Just pointing out its many crimes has clearly not been enough to break its hold over the last 120 years.

Comment from John
Time June 20, 2011 at 9:16 pm

I wasn’t arguing about what was going on in her head but what she was doing. Racist policy equals a racist. And I thought I made it pretty clear this was about disguising the neoliberal policies she is implementing.

Comment from Dr_Tad
Time June 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm

But why call her a racist when that has clear connotations about what’s going on in her head in its general usage in our society? It’s just argument by moral exhortation.

Comment from John
Time June 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm

I would have thought, Dr_Tad, that such an approach might have some reasonance with some sections of the subalterns. I don’t see any moral exhortation in it but maybe there is. So what?

Comment from Shockadelic
Time June 21, 2011 at 8:08 pm

I think you’ll find White Australia had bipartisan political support.
And unlike multiculturalism, popular support as well.

Comment from John
Time June 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm

That is true Shockadelic. The conservatives were part of the White Australia support group, but for different material reasons to the ALP.