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John Passant

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January 2012



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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)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Turn back the bigots – a reprise

I wrote this in May 2010. It still resonates with me, and I thought in light of Tony Abbott’s comments about turning back the boats the other day that it is worth republishing. I have made a few slight changes.



Attacking refugees has a long and dishonorable history in class society.

Turning back the boats is an important part of social control and resonates with some sections of the working class – especially non-unionised workers. Enforced refugees from their own humanity attempt to regain their humanity through joining with the bosses in demonising others.  

There is a lot of precedent for this disgusting turn back the boats approach. For example before the Second World War, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

The sudden flood of [Jewish] emigrants created a major refugee crisis. President Franklin D. Roosevelt convened a conference in Evian, France, in July 1938. Despite the participation of delegates from 32 countries, including the United States, Great Britain, France, Canada, and Australia, only the Dominican Republic agreed to accept additional refugees. The plight of German-Jewish refugees, persecuted at home and unwanted abroad, is also illustrated by the voyage of the “St. Louis.”

In 1939 the US turned back the boat the St Louis. Estimates are that about a quarter of the refugees later died at Hitler’s hands. The boat left Europe in May 1939 with over 900 passengers on board, most of them Jews fleeing the Nazis.  Many paid a corrupt Cuban official in Germany for entry visas to Cuba. 

When the boat arrived in Cuban waters the Cuban Government refused to allow most of the refugees to disembark. So the boat headed to the land of the free. You know the one. It has inscribed on its Statue of Liberty the following words:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

The US would not allow the Jewish refugees into America. Apparently they weren’t huddled or wretched enough. I can imagine the reasons for rejecting Jewish refugees from the Nazis.

Taking the St Louis refugees might open the floodgates. America won’t be able to handle the extra people. We don’t want queue jumpers, or economic refugees. America is full. There are too many people. They’ll take jobs.

And there might be terrorists among them.

OK, maybe not that last one exactly, but I can imagine something along the following lines – there might be communists or socialists among them.

This is unlikely since tickets on the St Louis were expensive and in any event the Nazis had imprisoned or killed most of the left’s leaders in the early years of their rule in the concentration camps.

Any lie would do to keep the refugees out.

The St Louis sailed back to Europe and the Jews on board found sanctuary of sorts in 4 European countries.  France, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium granted them temporary asylum.

Then Hitler invaded Western Europe. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates in a video of the story that 250 of the St Louis refugees died at the hands of the Nazis.

Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott continue a grand tradition.

At the Evian Conference the Australian representative T H White, the Minister for Trade and Customs in the Lyons Government, said ‘that as we have no racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one.’

It is an approach whose undercurrents inform the debate today and in the recent past.  Howard’s immigration policies were all predicated on a strong Australian capitalism rejecting those fleeing the destruction imperialism unleashes, and appealing to the ’crimson thread’ of racism that defines it.

Gillard’s actions in demonising people smugglers (nudge nudge wink wink), in talking about being tough on asylum seekers, in fighting for the Malaysian non-solution, show her true intent – to bash refugees for political gain.

Now Tony Abbott is promising to turn the boats back (as he also did in 2010.) Gillard Labor hasn’t yet said it will do that. It just locks up asylum seekers and sends some refugees back to poverty, rape and sometimes death. Others it imprisons indefinitely on the say so of the bunch of spooks in ASIO, people who really do see threats in their own shadows.

Politicians on both sides of the capitalist divide think there are votes in bashing refugees. And so, as the number of refugees fleeing poverty and war in places like Sri Lanka, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq increases, (or so it appears,) Gillard Labor toughens its stance against refugees and by doing that gives credence to Abbott and his turn back the boats mantra of inhumanity.

The arguments about repelling refugees are something that flows from the very way capitalist production works, with competing blocs of capital organised in nation states, even in a globalised world. 

In fact globalisation makes a strong home state for capital, one prepared to extend its rule militarily as well as economically, even more important than ever.

It also reinforces the alienation we experience from each other through the theft of the products of our labour, and the effect this produces of fear of the other. Politicians from Labor and the Opposition play to that fear.

But the very act of socialising production creates the class capable of destroying borders and allowing labour to flow around the world as freely as capital does today.

The disgusting treatment of refugees under Labor and the Liberals won’t change unless there is a major shift to the left in Australian politics.

That can only come about through mass struggles from below over wages, jobs and conditions. This then opens the space for political developments like support for refugees, an end to war and for the democratisation of society.

However most people still see change coming about through Parliament.  Many will support the Greens as being to the left of Labor.

The Greens are not left wing. They are middle class, moving rapidly to the right and in fact as part of that middle ground strategy have not built one mass movement in recent years. They have substituted bums on seats for mass action in the streets. 

That leaves Labor and the Liberals. What an electoral  choice –  a choice between the cane toad and the cockroach to lead the country.

The real alternative, and the way to defend refugees, to pull the troops out of Afghanistan, to improve people’s lives, is struggle. Struggles around jobs, wages, conditions, safety; around equal love; for refugees; against environmental destruction.

But these economic and social struggles also have to become political ones, united around a common understanding that at its most basic it is capitalism that is the problem and socialism – the democratic organisation of production to satisfy human need – that is the solution.

That means over time building a party that supports and can lead working class and social struggles that ultimately tear down the rotten, corrupt and racist society that capitlaism builds and perpetuates.



Pingback from Turn back the bigots – a reprise | via: En Passant » #Auspol « The Left Hack
Time January 23, 2012 at 11:16 am

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