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Issue #1772      April 5, 2017

Editorial

On political correctness

The appeal of the corporate rich to the public to accept greater sacrifices is accompanied by a sharp increase in the use of racism as a weapon to divide and rule. Racism stigmatises those being exploited and divides the working class. It serves as a diversion from other issues, foments racial prejudice and bourgeois nationalism and helps make economic exploitation more palatable.

Widespread insecurity and hardship provide an audience for the proponents of these theories who are allowed to speak and publish in the name of “freedom of speech.” People looking for the reasons for the growing problems they face are force-fed the simplistic demagogy of racism in order to make it harder for them to find the real answers – which are to be found within the system of capitalism itself.

“Political correctness” – public opposition to racism – is to be done away with in favour of “democratic debate” – promoting racism as one of two legitimate positions in a debate and so making prejudice and discrimination legitimate and respectable.

Democratic rights and freedom of speech are not absolutes. Every society is entitled to protect itself from those who set one racial group against another, who advocate racial superiority and incitement to war. So every democratic society must restrict the rights of those who practice racial vilification, or incite others to discriminatory acts and racial violence.

“Political correctness” is associated with those who speak out against racism and bigotry, who defend multiculturalism and the rights of First Nations people. This assault is being extended trade union rights and women’s right to choose. The current federal government is giving cover for the statements and actions of various MPs and is accommodating and by extension promoting fascist groups.

Democratic rights and freedom of speech in Australia are one-sided. The corporate owners of the mass media are able to speak each day in loud, invasive voices. After all, democratic rights are strictly limited while the economy is in the hands of employers who determine who does and doesn’t have a job.

The struggle is on to defend what has been won and to extend the rights of those who are under attack, in particular the poor and voiceless. What was and is required is not more debate about racism but more debate on how to get rid of it.

Power play

The South Australian government’s decision to “go it alone” in determining the source and delivery of the state’s energy supply, was met with derision by the Turnbull government, which pronounced it the responsibility of the Commonwealth to control supply of electricity based on a centralised system and national grid. This is primarily to preserve and protect the profits of fossil fuel generators: in defence of King Coal.

This position contradicts the federal government’s position in regard to federal-state relations. Readers will recall then Treasurer Joe Hockey delivering in his 2014 budget an $80 billion was cut from federal funding to the states for health and education. Hockey informed the states that they could “sink or swim” and that they were now, as far as the government was concerned, “sovereign entities.”

The federal government was going to jettison Federation, hailing back to the time when Australia was a collection of British colonies, which later formed the federation of states.

Historian Manning Clark wrote in his History of Australia that “the moves towards federation were the product of neither popular hunger for independence nor of any widespread determination that Australians should claim responsibility for making their own history.”

The basis for federation grew along with the growth of the economy and the development of communications. It was no longer acceptable that tariff barriers, which impeded open trade, should exist between the various states. This was also the beginnings of an Australian national sentiment.

The constitution was drafted and remains in place today with few amendments. It was put to the people of the separate states in two referenda in 1898 and 1899 and carried, thereby, creating the legal basis for federation that took place on January 1, 1901.

Federation was an inevitable and progressive step forward. The defeat of referenda for a republic shows, however, that much remains to be done to achieve full independence.

Next article – Press freedom under attack

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