SEP meetings discuss the political crisis in Australia and internationally

The Socialist Equality Party held public meetings last Sunday in the Sydney inner-city suburb of Redfern and the southern Brisbane suburb of Beenleigh as part of its 2013 federal election campaign. The meetings focused on the new revolutionary upsurge in Egypt, the crisis of the Australian Labor government, the witchhunt against US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden and the social assault on the working class.

At Redfern, the SEP’s two Senate candidates for New South Wales, national secretary Nick Beams and International Youth and Students for Social Equality member Zac Hambides addressed an audience of workers, students and retirees.

Hambides reviewed the Obama administration’s escalating international campaign to silence Snowden, the former US National Security Agency contractor who exposed the US government’s vast domestic and global surveillance program. Obama’s government has charged Snowden with espionage, revoked his passport and pressured governments around the globe not to grant him political asylum.

The speaker said the unprecedented grounding of Bolivia’s presidential jet last week, orchestrated by Washington and its European allies, because Snowden might be on board, was “an act of international lawlessness and thuggery”.

Hambides pointed to the political gulf between the genuinely democratic sentiments of those attending the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Gettysburg in the US last week and the Obama administration’s deepening assault on basic democratic rights. He urged workers and youth to take up the defence of Snowden, explaining that the International Committee of the Fourth International was the only political organisation fighting to do so.

Nick Beams, the main speaker, said the re-emergence of revolutionary struggles in Egypt and the eruption of mass protests in Turkey and Brazil were the outcome of global processes. These events, he said, “represent the opening of a new period of social revolution—characterised above all by the forcible entry of the masses into the historical process.”

Beams reviewed the international political ramifications of the global financial crisis. “The decade leading up to the global 2008 crash not only brought forward the mounting crisis of US capitalism, it also resulted in another major economic transformation: the expansion of China,” he said. This development, the speaker continued, resulted in a strategic foreign policy reorientation by the Obama administration—the pivot to Asia—in order to confront China.

“The claim that Australia was somehow isolated or insulated from these global processes has been shattered,” Beams said. This was the context for the unprecedented reinstallation of Kevin Rudd as prime minister. “Labor faced not just losing government but organisational and political collapse at the next election,” he explained, with “far-reaching implications for the stability of capitalist rule”.

Beams explained: “The Labor Party, you will often hear it said, and especially by the pseudo-left forces, is a ‘lesser evil’, compared to the Liberals. Such notions are false to the core. The Labor Party is the chief instrument for the rule of the capitalist class because it is the central mechanism for the suppression of the working class.”

“This is demonstrated by the historical record,” Beams said, and reviewed Labor’s role in every crisis during the twentieth century—from WWI, the Great Depression, WWII and the immediate post-war period, to the early 1970s. “It was the Hawke-Keating Labor government during the 1980s that carried out the industry restructuring, cuts to industry and attacks on jobs and working conditions.”

The deep-seated working class hostility to Gillard, Beams said, “is just the initial, immediate expression of a deeper process—the anger felt by millions toward the entire political establishment—and anticipates social and political struggles that are to come—against war, economic devastation and dictatorship.”

Beams warned that no matter how deep-seated the anger of the working class, the central question facing the working class was the resolution of the crisis of revolutionary leadership. “The movement of the masses provides the steam power that moves the locomotive of history, Trotsky once explained, but without the piston box to direct that energy it is dissipated,” he explained.

“The overthrow of the old capitalist order is a conscious operation and that requires the building of a revolutionary party, the world party of socialist revolution,” Beams emphasised. The purpose of the SEP’s election campaign was to take forward this task, he said, and urged those in attendance to participate in the campaign and join the party.

Questions and discussion centred on Edward Snowden, the role of the army in Egypt and how the SEP would develop independent factory and community organisations of the working class.

In response to a question about what would happen after the federal election and how the working class should prepare, Beams explained: “Whatever party comes to power after the election, it will be a government of crisis. The events that have produced this situation are the result of global developments—the crisis in the US, the drive to war by the US, the austerity measures that have to be carried out by every government—so this election is not going to see a return to a so-called normal parliamentary regime. We are going to see all sorts of crises and attacks on the working class, which our party is preparing for, and will intervene in.”

The SEP meeting in Beenleigh was held near the Teys/Cargill meat plant where workers been confronted with a demand for pay cuts of around 20 percent.

Mike Head, Senate candidate for Queensland, spoke on the historical and global implications of the outright wage-cutting taking place, not only in the meat industry, but also the General Motors Holden car plants, warning that it marked a new stage in the social assault on the working class since the 2008 financial crash.

Peter Symonds, the national editor of the WSWS and an SEP Senate candidate for Western Australia, reviewed the crisis of the Labor Party and the entire political establishment and outlined the danger of war, driven by the efforts of the Obama administration to confront China and maintain global US dominance by military means.

Among the questions, a member of the audience said she had concerns about the reference in the SEP’s election statement to the unions’ denunciation of “foreign workers” that was rekindling the foul traditions of Labor’s White Australia policy.

Head explained the fundamental importance of the SEP’s fight for the unity of the international working class, as the only social force that could overturn the capitalist profit system. Global corporations—whether General Motors, Ford or Teys/Cargill—could only be fought by a unified struggle of the global working class. The entire conception behind the Labor Party’s White Australia policy of establishing a “working man’s paradise” within an insulated nation-state and regulated economy, had completely collapsed with the globalisation of production.

The speaker emphasised that, as part of the struggle to unify the international working class, the SEP unconditionally defended the rights of refugees and the democratic right of every person to live and work in any country of their choice, with full citizenship rights. He pointed out that the anti-asylum seeker propaganda of all the parliamentary parties and the media sought to divert attention from the assault on the jobs and social conditions of the working class and the dangers of war and dictatorship, generated by the profit system itself.

Collections at the two meetings raised almost $3,000 for the SEP’s election fund. Audience members stayed behind for informal discussion and a number signed up to participate in the party’s election campaign.

Authorised by Nick Beams, 113/55 Flemington Rd, North Melbourne VIC 3051

The authors also recommend:

Young workers and students voice concerns at Redfern meeting
[9 July 2013]