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Issue #1661      October 22, 2014

Taking Issue by Sepehr Samiei

Australia and the War on Terror

Not so long ago Australia enjoyed a relatively a peaceful society where diverse and different cultures and ethnicities coexisted in harmony. Today, however, signs and symptoms of increasing cultural clashes and racism are perceptible. Although these sentiments are disproportionately exaggerated by mainstream media, still it is clear that some ethnicities do not enjoy the same placid life they had within Australian society about a year ago. What triggered this change? Where did this change start and how far is it going to go? What other important changes could pertain to this awakening social cleavage and what impacts might ensue?

Geographically, Australia is apart from the rest of the world. But economically it is tightly mingled and fused within a globalised economic system. This fusion into the global economy is the source of its social diversity. However, because of its geographic segregation from the rest of the world, it has become a haven for many who were tired of ethnic discriminations, conflicts and wars.

Traditionally Australia was one of the leading nations in the class struggle. The Australian working class was strengthened with its unions pushing for social equality and a greater “share of the pie” for the workers. Australians enjoyed an elaborate range of regulations by law protecting them against the absolute poverty inherent in the capitalist mode of production.

Being fused into the global economy, Australia’s economy, too, suffered from the global falling rate of profit. The neo-liberal economic model, which started to prevail globally about three decades ago, has reached a point where its intrinsic contradictions are seriously hampering the continuous growth upon which it thrives. This global and structural delinquency left the Labor Party administration in an impasse. The Labor party’s welfare-state policies were effective as long as the cogs of capitalism rotated in full motion. With the first sneeze of capitalism, the battlements of Labor’s redistribution policies began to tremble. It was then the opposition’s turn to take the wheel and denude the realities of the ruling system.

With the election of the Liberal Party’s coalition in the last parliamentary elections, public appeasement policies were officially abandoned. The capitalist economy was slumped into a position where only two options were left; either to embrace a plummeting growth rate or to increase pressure on the working class to stabilise growth rates and thus keep Australia attractive to capitalists for their investments. The former option is equivalent to a death warrant to the entire system of capitalism, as capitalism thrives on continuous growth. Given the global climate and dominance of neo-liberalism within the system of capitalism, the latter option is the only choice left. But middle class people and workers, care about neither capitalism nor these political frays and debates. At this stage, ordinary Australians are no more willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of capitalism than they are to bring about Communism.

The mainstream media is one of the most effective means for the ruling class to forge public support whenever and wherever needs arise. Since the Liberal Party’s neo-conservative government took office, as it started its onslaught on public services and Medicare, there have been several protests building up all around Australia. None of these protests were covered diligently by the mainstream media. This of course is because the privately owned media is analogous to a knife which can never cut its own handle. Another example of a media boycott is the Israeli military campaign in Gaza which again was followed by numerous protests in Australia with very brief and sterile coverage in mainstream media. These are all indicative of the ability and power of the media to divert public attention.

But let us take a look at another news stream which could also have been deemed as harmful, but was deliberately trumpeted with conspicuous titles and vociferous reports. The same stream has ignited social instability and activated the previously inactive social cleavage between ethnicities and religious groups. First there was an outbreak of sensational news about horrifying decapitations carried out by Islamic State terrorists (as if such grisly acts are not business as usual in one of the countries with which Australia has very good relations i.e. Saudi Arabia). Then there was news about some Australian citizens who had travelled to the Middle East and participated in that campaign of beheadings, again totally omitting the fact that not long ago these terrorists were depicted as pro-democracy revolutionaries by the same media!

This campaign of fear-mongering was immediately appreciated by the prime minister and it was not long before it was announced that Australia had joined the “international coalition” against IS. Suddenly a massive anti-terror operation was carried out which was claimed to have thwarted an imminent terrorist attack. Train stations and public transport, one of the few public places which are still under government control, began to incessantly announce alert messages and ask people to be vigilant of an imminent terrorist threat. Previously peaceful and serene Australian society turned into a besieged town awaiting herds of barbarian bandits rattling towards it with blazing swords swirling above their heads!

Left parties, unions, anti-war liberals and other opposition groups were given two options here. Either side with the government and accept this “Global War against Terrorism”, or criticise this folly and express reprehension. The former would further bolster the government’s position in carrying out its other policies; but if they rebuked the government, they would be accused of being complicit with terrorists. Thenceforth, anyone who criticised the new political agenda (i.e. abolishing Medicare, eliminating education subsidies and privatisation, cutting public spending) would be labelled as terrorist, coward, traitor, etc. The reactionaries would be raised and saluted as patriots, heroes, progressives, pro-democratic. The government was prepared for social unrest.

Bourgeois democracy has been effective and persuasive because of its perceived openness and flexibility. The ruling class practised all of its rights on the free press, political parties and lobbies to protect its own interests. We have to wait and see if Australian workers will also use their rights of assembly, unionisation, strikes and demonstrations to protect their class interests. As Marx said: “Between equal rights force decides”.

Next article – Celebrating the past – looking to the future

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