Why you should boycott Australia Day



The National Australia Day Council describes Australia Day as “a day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation,” and a “day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the generations to come”.

But for many January 26 is no date to celebrate, and to fully understand why, we must recognise the price of this “great nation’s” achievements over the past 229 years.

The 26th of January 2017 will mark 229 years since the British invaded what is now known as Australia. It was on this date in 1788 that Captain Arthur Phillip raised the Union Jack for the first time in Sydney Cove, symbolising British occupation.

When Australia was invaded, British colonisers declared this continent terra nullius: “nobody’s land”; a law which describes territory that has never been subject to the sovereignty of any state. Terra Nullius was granted despite the land already being occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations for over 60, 000 years.

Despite acts of resistance, Australia was brutally colonised as British settlers stole Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land and enacted massacres through state policy.

The Frontier Wars spanned the first 140 years of colonisation. When the invasion commenced, there were approximately 750,000 people living in 350 distinct nations on the Australian landmass. By 1900, only 93,200 Indigenous people survived. At least twenty thousand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were killed or murdered in untold battles and massacres from Hobart to the Kimberley. Approximately two and half thousand invaders were killed as Aboriginal people resisted extermination.

Throughout the twentieth century, the Australian state continued to dehumanise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and commit acts of genocide under new laws. A policy called ‘Smooth the Dying Pillow’ allowed indiscriminate killings well into the 1930’s under the assumption that what was left of the Aboriginal population would die out. [1]

In 1901 the Australian state introduced ‘the White Australia policy’, making Anglocentric whiteness the ultimate marker of citizenship. This meant Indigenous Australians could not vote, own property, receive wages for work, travel, or receive legal representation [2]. Prior to the 1967 Referendum, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were viewed as ‘sub-human’ and weren’t counted as citizens for the census, but rather were categorised as part of the national flora and fauna.

Until 1970 Aboriginal workers were for all intents and purposes enslaved. They sold their labour power to white men but were denied access to their wages which were often stolen by the state [3].

To those who think colonisation and structural racism are a thing of the past, or that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to ‘get over it’, take a look at recent statistics:

Despite a formal apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008, the Australian state continues to dehumanise Aboriginal peoples through institutionalised racism and state violence. 60 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are taken from their families every month, making the number of removals higher now than during the Stolen Generations period. 48% of juveniles in detention are Aboriginal, and like Dylan Voller, many experience physical abuse and trauma.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are massively over represented in Australia’s criminal justice system. Though only representing 3% of the total population, more than 28% of Australia’s prison population are Aboriginal. In the Northern Territory, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners make up 86% of the prison population.

Between 2000 and 2007 there were 701 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in police custody. The recent release of CCTV footage at the time of Ms Dhu’s death highlight the disregard for her welfare and right to medical treatment.

This year the continued forced closures of Aboriginal communities is creating higher rates of homelessness and poverty for those affected. The removals also sever an intrinsic connection to country known to be important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.

Day of Mourning, Invasion Day, Survival Day

In 1938, on the 150th Australia Day celebrations, the first ‘Day of Mourning Protest’ was held. Activists marched silently through the streets and held a conference for equal rights and citizenship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. ‘Australia Day’ has since been rejected and renamed by many as either ‘Invasion Day’ which mourns the invasion of British colonisers, or ‘Survival Day’ which recognises the continued survival of First Nations people.

How does this position you?

If you are a non-Indigenous person living in Australia, regardless of your family history or the colour of your skin, you directly benefit from the dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Any privileges you enjoy living in this country come at the expense of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“To different degrees every colonizer is privileged, at least comparatively so, ultimately to the detriment of the colonized…this can be read by the relation of each group’s concrete economic and psychological position within the colonial society.” [4]

Celebrating Australia Day, a day which rejoices in the European invasion, is only appealing to those who do not know, or those who do not care, about Australia’s black history. It is absurd and insensitive to hold a day of patriotic celebration on a day that marks the beginning of the genocide and dispossession of the owners of this land.

Having a choice to celebrate Australia Day is a marker of settler privilege. As a non-Indigenous person living on stolen land, I acknowledge my privilege and choose to reject this day. I am not proud and I will not celebrate.

The National Australia Day Council recognises this day as a day to recommit to making Australia better for generations to come. Celebrating this day however, no matter the pretense, eradicates history and identity.

The recent lamb advert shows a fictitious Australia that is founded on both multiculturalism and nationalism, but pointedly leaves out the brutal massacres of Indigenous peoples and the dispossession of land and culture. Many Australians see this ad as a step towards inclusivity, but it is just another platform for the whitewashing of Australian history.

Celebrating more ‘inclusively’ on the day by not calling your event an ‘Australia Day Party’ or making a quick acknowledgement of country is not enough. Though these gestures recognise the extreme inappropriateness of holding a celebration on this day, they do little to raise the issues of continued oppression of Indigenous Australians or call for treaty.

I ask you to join me in completely boycotting this day. Instead, show solidarity and stand alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and demand justice.

What can you do?

As a non-Indigenous ally to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, I propose the following strategies to show your solidarity:

Educate yourself and other non-Indigenous people. Learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, the colonisation of Australia, the Frontier Wars, and the ongoing struggle for self-determination.

Explain to your friends and family why you won’t be celebrating Australia Day this year and ask them to join you. Lessen the burden on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to do this educating.

When possible, listen to and respect the stories and opinions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. If you have questions, ask them, but recognise that you are not entitled to this education. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may not want to do this labour. It is not their responsibility to educate you.

Don’t interrupt or whitesplain racism. If you get called out for problematic behaviour or language don’t get defensive, listen. Acknowledge what happened and apologise, if needed, for any harm caused. Move forward and use this experience to help others learn too.

Attend a Survival or Invasion Day event in solidarity. Respect that the terms of the event are at the discretion of the organisers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in attendance.



Invasion Day Callout – 9am @ Aboriginal Embassy




Invasion Day march – 11.00am @ Parliament Steps


Share The Spirit Festival 2017 – 11am @ Treasury Gardens


Belgrave Survival Day “Learn Local Culture – 12pm Borthwick Park



New South Wales

Invasion Day Protest: Change the Date!!! – 9.30am @ Ballina


Yabun – 10am @ Victoria Park


Invasion Day rally – 11am @ The Block, Redfern




Survival Day Walk – 7.30am @ Mabo Monument Victoria Bridge


Invasion Day March – 10am @ Parliament House


Survival Day Townsville 2017 – 11am @ Perfume Gardens



South Australia

Survival Day 2017 – 11am @ Semaphore Foreshore


Invasion Day Resistance & Mourning Shave (Kaurna Country) – 6pm @ Elder Park



Western Australia

Invasion Day Rally – 1pm @ Perth



We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land that we organise on, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nations, and pay our respects to elders both past and present, and also extend that respect to any Aboriginal people reading this article. We also acknowledge that this land was stolen and that sovereignty was never ceded.



[1] Foley, G. (1999). Whiteness and Blackness in the struggle for self-determination

[2] Moreton-Robinson, A. (2004). Whiteness, epistemology & Indigenous representation. In Morton-Robinson, A. (Ed.). Whitening Race: Essays in social and cultural criticism.

[3] Korf, J. (2016). Stolen Wages. <www.CreativeSpirits.info>

[4] (Memmi, A. (1965). The colonizer and the colonized. p77, 79

Some Reflections on Reclaim Australia, July 18th

The following is written by a member of Anarchist Affinity and an active Antifascist.

It seems obvious that the main conflict and debate that is raging in the immediate aftermath of the latest round of Reclaim Australia isn’t even about the fascists, but about the police, though the two are linked. Many people are shocked by the level of violence and aggression displayed by the police, and plenty of people are condemning those on the left for physical confrontation as much as they are the fascists. I think both of these views are mistaken.

For a start let’s deal with the police. It’s important that our media explains that the cops aren’t on our side-  but let’s not pretend to be surprised either. Many people see the police through the traditional liberal lens- that they exist to protect society from crime.  For the many people who copped pepper spray, saw the police pepper spray medics, took random punches to the face and received cursory “fuck offs” from the police yesterday, that notion is not going to gell particularly well with their feelings at the moment. Marxist or Anarchist theory will point out to you that the police exist to protect private property and the state, and little else.

Yesterday was one of the more open ‘iron fist under the velvet glove’ moments we’ve had in Australia in a while. Certainly the most since I’ve been an activist. Believing that cops exist to protect you probably means that you’re from a somewhat privileged background whereby the police are more friendly/less violent towards you. Try asking some of the blackfellas from Redfern why they don’t like cops; or the Grocon workers who have had their pickets smashed by riot cops because they went on strike to defend safe workplace conditions. The police are the armed protection of a stratified class society, and when they defend and facilitate fascist rallies based on the liberal ‘free speech laws’, what they’re doing is defending movements (i.e the racist fascists) who’s growth will smash working class and civil rights. There are numerous reports of racism within the Australian police force, and countless black deaths in custody that no one has ever been charged for; the Australian police are not in any way exceptional, their acts of oppression and racism are similar to that of the police forces in other nations.  Control and oppression just come with the role. The psychology of police can be debated by other people, I don’t doubt that there are police who genuinely take the job thinking of the ‘positive’ social roles, but that’s not inherently what the role of the police force is. That is why people use slogans like ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards). Not because they’re so ignorant to think every individual police person is necessarily an absolute bastard. Part of building a revolutionary movement will mean, at some stage, confronting and dismantling the police institution and replacing it with something that’s actually democratic. With something that responds to working class needs whilst maintaining the few positive social roles they do have and destroying the rest.

So, the police pulling pepper spray was ‘in response to violence from the left’, apparently. Maybe this is true, I certainly saw some of it. But I sure as hell will not condemn anyone for it*, especially when known nazi squads deliberately wandered into our crowd provoking a fight. Violence should never be a first resort or even an ideology, and by the same token neither should non-violence.  They are simply strategies employed for political purposes. We are not living in a fantasy world, where everyone is going to ‘respect’ everyone else and just stand around in the streets and have a big debate over cupcakes or tea or something. I had friends there yesterday whose rage I think was/is entirely justified; whose family members have been racially abused and attacked for years. Of course they were going to be really fucking angry. Yesterday they wanted to defend their themselves and their communities, and what they faced was an active racist and fascist movement on the streets, with the police backing them up. You can only take so much abuse before you fight back.

Some reading of the history of fascism will point out to you that fascist politics is entirely about physical domination of the streets and their opponents. Hitlers ‘Blackshirts’, Mussolinis ‘Brownshirts’, the National Front etc. We are dealing with much more than our local fundamentalist anti-abortion Catholics here. Reclaim, the United Patriots Front and their fellows on the far-right aim to use their cries of ‘free speech’ and  their ‘politically acceptable’ rallies to start building political space and a movement that will grow to allow them to dominate. At times the first call of response has been violent confrontation – we know the anarchists and communists of 1930s Germany had to employ street fighting as a tactic, and maybe if our liberal friends had supported them Hitler may not have won. The Battle of Cable Street is another classic example. Red Action in the 80’s UK forced the Nationalist movements to retreat in ways that were extremely successful.

“Only one thing could have broken our movement – if the adversary had understood its principle and from the first day had smashed with extreme brutality the nucleus of our new movement.” – Adolf Hitler, 1933 Nuremberg Nazi Party rally.

*I was pepper sprayed twice yesterday, the first time was because I was attempting to pull away a fascist who had a) punched a friend in the face and b) attempted to choke another. At that stage, he hadn’t been attacked by the left. Then the cops attempted to arrest me. It was quite clear to me and everyone else yesterday that we weren’t the ones, and never were going to be the ones to be protected. Thanks again to the comrades who pulled me out of that situation.



Lessons from Broadmeadows and Villawood


Viewed against the backdrop of a campaign which has been largely stagnant since the Howard years, it is worth taking some heart from recent actions outside the Villawood and Broadmeadows detention centres. Not because these actions represent any radical shift in the tactics employed by the refugee movement, or because activists were able to do any more than delay the forced relocations. It’s not even because enough attention was drawn to the plight of those being removed to Christmas Island that it forced any sort of political reckoning on the subject of Fortress Australia. Single actions are rarely definitive in the context of broader social movements, but we should nevertheless greet the energy of these responses with a measure of cautious optimism. I say cautious because these actions have also highlighted long-term problems within “The Refugee Campaign™” that demand our urgent attention.
Continue reading Lessons from Broadmeadows and Villawood

Slackbastard on Fortress Australia


Andy Fleming is a Melbourne based writer, anarchist and creator of the prominent antifascist blog Slackbastard. We sat down with Andy to talk about nationalism, borders and the political functions of mandatory detention.

I want to discuss mandatory detention, but I want to dig below the usual moral repugnance and discuss a few means and ends. I once had an experience with some University of Sydney Labor Club kids who simply would not believe that it was the ALP in 1992 who built much of the infrastructure of the contemporary border regime. Whilst I found the ignorance quite shocking at the time, I now wonder if it was at least partially informed by their inability to comprehend why Labor would have felt it necessary to introduce mandatory detention. Was it prescient political triangulation, pre-empting the rise of Hanson/Howard rhetoric, or is this too simplistic? What other functions does mandatory detention serve?

At the time, the Minister responsible, Gerry Hand, stated that:

“I believe it is crucial that all persons who come to Australia without prior authorisation not be released into the community. Their release would undermine the Government’s strategy for determining their refugee claims or entry claims. Indeed, I believe it is vital to Australia that this be prevented as far as possible. The Government is determined that a clear signal be sent that migration to Australia may not be achieved by simply arriving in this country and expecting to be allowed into the community.”

As I understand it, the precise reasons why Labor elected to establish the system when it did remain a little obscure. That is, critics questioned the need for such a system to be established at all, and noted that there appeared to be no pressing reason to do so. To more fully answer the question would require an examination of Labor thinking on the matter at the time: something I’ve not explored myself. I suspect that the answer may be found by locating the policy within a broader framework; that is, the transformation of Labor party politics under the Hawke-Keating (1983-1996) governments. In this regard, I think there is both continuity and disjunction with previous policy. Otherwise, I believe state controls over transnational labour movement and capital flows play a key role in arriving at a better understanding of Australian government policy during this period. In which context, Angela Mitropoulos’s essay on ‘The Exhaustion of Australian Social Democracy’ is I think a useful treatment.

Transnational labour and capital is a crucial part of this discussion, but this is something you hear almost nothing of in the contemporary refugee campaign. Why do you think that is? Does the scapegoating of refugees and asylum seekers merely provide political cover for the expansion of policies that exploit migrant labour and depress wages? Can you sketch out the connection between the two?

To begin with, I’d suggest that many if not most of those involved in ‘the contemporary refugee campaign’ – a concept which requires some unpacking – are motivated by humanitarian concerns rather than, say, mobilised on the basis of an analysis of the capital/labour distinction and its application in a local (Australian) context. In other words, with some exceptions, most attention is being given to that category of persons known as asylum seekers or refugees, and to activities which seek to support their efforts to settle in Australia.

The distinction between the ‘good’ refugee and the ‘bad’ refugee (or migrant worker) is often expressed in economic terms: those fleeing persecution in another country have nominal rights to do so while those seeking to migrate to Australia simply in order to improve their economic or social status are regarded as illegitimate. Determinations regarding the nature of cross-border movement of labour – and thus the shape of the local labour market – are the result of calculations made by government and state. The international legal treaties to which the Australian state is a party provide a framework for these determinations; often ignored in practice, and subject to international condemnation as a result – to little, if any obvious effect. The chief task of the state is to control these population flows in the interests of the elite institutions which dominate the economy.

I’m not convinced that the scapegoating of refugees and asylum seekers is simply about providing political cover for attacks upon working conditions: here a distinction should be made between support and function. To begin with, it seems to me that this kind of scapegoating relies for its effectiveness – its popular appeal – upon long-standing racist tropes and xenophobic sentiment. Popular support for the policy of mandatory detention and the construction of a Fortress Australia is just as often expressed in non-economic or ‘cultural’ terms and it’s these concerns which seem to generate the most excitement among supporters, while the actual function of such policies are broader and more extensive.

Punitive forms of state discipline – such as welfare quarantining or extended waiting times for access to social security programs – are programs that are ‘piloted’ on already oppressed and marginalised groups (e.g. the introduction of the ‘basics card’ in Indigenous communities) a long time before they are rolled out to the broader population. Is it fair to argue that a normalisation of the prison system, particularly the component of it under for-profit control, is also an intended consequence of the spectacle of mandatory detention? What else might fall into this category?

‘The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.’ ~ Dostoevsky, The House of the Dead

It’s certainly the case that punitive policies of this sort are invariably imposed upon, at first, the most marginalised populations – for obvious reasons. The same may be said of the industry which has developed around ‘border protection’, though in this case the Australian state is pioneering managerial
techniques which are then exported and developed in international as opposed to domestic markets.

The privatisation of the prison industry dates from roughly the same time as the introduction of mandatory detention under Labor (in 1992) and may be regarded as forming one part of a broader social transformation often referred to as ‘neoliberalism’. An account of the development of neoliberalism in Australia and elsewhere in the world, rooted by some in popular challenges to austerity in the so-called Third World in the 1960s and 1970s, is a larger topic. In any case, the privatisation/ corporatisation of prison systems has obvious benefits to the state. Not the least of which is rendering conditions (and the systemic abuses) inside prisons that much more obscure to the general public. As defence, the state often invokes some concept of “efficiency”; a loaded term which, like many others in popular discourse, requires translation into English before being of any use. Broadly speaking, these and similar measures are governed by institutional political and economic considerations; of creating entrenched and systematic forms of social control which are both effective and, as far as possible, profitable, with the social costs being borne by the general population.

There is, to my mind, a close link between Australia’s unreconciled colonial identity and the resonance of anti-immigrant rhetoric with ‘ordinary’ Australians. Though the language has changed from the language of the white Australia policy (we now deploy the navy to turn boats back out of apparent concern for the lives of the people aboard), access to Australia and Australian-ness is as zealously defended as ever. How do we, especially those of us who continue to benefit from the privileges inherent in ‘being’ Australian, begin to challenge these myths?

It’s likely the case that popular anxieties over immigration are informed by some lurking sense of historical injustice. That is, the Australian nation is understood as being an especially precarious ‘imagined community’, one whose foundation is the theft and murder of non-Whites (Indigenous peoples) by Whites (British Empire), whose geographical situation is Asia, not Europe, and which is subject to continual attacks upon its sovereignty by both outsiders and domestic elements. A brief survey of both far right literature and important segments of the popular media on the subject reveals a good deal of evidence to support this thesis. As to how to combat such ideas and practices, I think Ken Knabb provides a useful (if somewhat lengthy) guide in the following:

“It’s often said that a stateless society might work if everyone were angels, but due to the perversity of human nature some hierarchy is necessary to keep people in line. It would be truer to say that if everyone were angels the present system might work tolerably well (bureaucrats would function honestly, capitalists would refrain from socially harmful ventures even if they were profitable). It is precisely because people are not angels that it’s necessary to eliminate the setup that enables some of them to become very efficient devils. Lock a hundred people in a small room with only one air hole and they will claw each other to death to get to it. Let them out and they may manifest a rather different nature. As one of the May 1968 graffiti put it, “Man is neither Rousseau’s noble savage nor the Church’s depraved sinner. He is violent when oppressed, gentle when free.”

Others contend that, whatever the ultimate causes may be, people are now so screwed up that they need to be psychologically or spiritually healed before they can even conceive of creating a liberated society. In his later years Wilhelm Reich came to feel that an “emotional plague” was so firmly embedded in the population that it would take generations of healthily raised children before people would become capable of a libertarian social transformation; and that meanwhile one should avoid confronting the system head-on since this would stir up a hornet’s nest of ignorant popular reaction.

Irrational popular tendencies do sometimes call for discretion. But powerful though they may be, they are not irresistible forces. They contain their own contradictions. Clinging to some absolute authority is not necessarily a sign of faith in authority; it may be a desperate attempt to overcome one’s increasing doubts (the convulsive tightening of a slipping grip). People who join gangs or reactionary groups, or who get caught up in religious cults or patriotic hysteria, are also seeking a sense of liberation, connection, purpose, participation, empowerment. As Reich himself showed, fascism gives a particularly vigorous and dramatic expression to these basic aspirations, which is why it often has a deeper appeal than the vacillations, compromises and hypocrisies of liberalism and leftism.

In the long run the only way to defeat reaction is to present more forthright expressions of these aspirations, and more authentic opportunities to fulfil them. When basic issues are forced into the open, irrationalities that flourished under the cover of psychological repression tend to be weakened, like disease germs exposed to sunlight and fresh air. In any case, even if we don’t prevail, there is at least some satisfaction in fighting for what we really believe, rather than being defeated in a posture of hesitancy and hypocrisy.

Andy writes about politics for outlets such as New Matilda and Overland. He also keeps a close watch on the ‘master race’ on his blog http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com

Interview with Kojo Barbah from South London Anti-Fascists and the Anti-Raids Network


Kojo Barbah is a London based activist and a founding member of South London Anti-Fascists. He is also a member of the direct action migrant solidarity organisation the Anti-Raids Network.

Maybe we can begin by discussing the origins of South London Anti-Fascists (SLAF). Though London is a city with a long, continuous and quite notorious history of anti-fascist organising, SLAF only came to my attention last year, in the wake of the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich on May 22nd. How and when did the group come together? Was the decision to reactivate the group out of mere necessity, in response to far-right attempts to capitalise on Rigby’s death, or were there other factors?

South London Anti-Fascists were originally formed by trade unionists in 2008, namely Battersea and Wandsworth Trade Union Council and Croydon Trade Union Council. It was in reaction to the London Mayor and Assembly elections, which returned the highest proportional vote for the fascist British National Party (5%) in London and guaranteed them a seat in the Assembly. The vote, though overall still small, was acutely concentrated in Barking and Dagenham, poor deindustrialised North East London suburbs where the BNP were made the official local council opposition with 12 elected councillors. In South London, Morden was also a flashpoint for far-right activity. In 2009, the BNP’s membership was leaked and though some people on it were never fully paid up fascists there was a sizeable number in this area, including a small scaffolding business run by a fascist which still operates today. Our view was that the far right were gaining ground in traditional working class areas and the privatisation agenda pursued by Labour had abandoned and alienated working class interests. We were lucky to have a paid organiser to support our efforts. The far-right needed to be tackled using a diversity of tactics and the divided efforts of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) (predominantly SWP) and Searchlight/Hope Not Hate (HNH) were clearly not working.

Antifa at this time was at a low point as the BNP had moved away (though never completely abandoned) from street confrontation to wearing suits and appearing like professional politicians. Also, there were stories of Antifa attempting to blow up cars belonging to the wrong people and getting sent down for it. SLAF worked initially as a collective where HNH, UAF and autonomous antifascists could work together to organise against local threats and support individuals and communities who were targeted or concerned about local activity. We dwindled in activity as the threat of the BNP receded after 2010. The EDL emerged as a new threat and the UK Independence Party, though marginal, were in the background. I was the chair and my political orientation was changing too. I moved from a democratic socialist orientation to a more social anarchist position. During our down period, I read a lot more!

Lee Rigby’s death definitely prompted a reactivation. I personally got a lot of calls asking what should be organised as the then leader of the EDL, Tommy Robinson, was coming to Woolwich. We were disorganised and too small in number to respond so initially we had to watch him on TV unopposed. A meeting was called by a prominent local anarchist a day later and I suggested using the SLAF banner as it happened in our patch. We made a callout to confront the EDL outside Downing Street and have started to hold regular meetings ever since.

Organised antifascists like Anti-Fascist Action (1985-1990’s) and the contemporary Anti-Fascist Network have stressed, alongside the necessity of counter mobilisation and confrontation on the streets, the importance of ‘filling the political vacuum’. This type of counter analysis generally consists of a class-struggle critique of capitalism, but often extends to critiques of the state, political liberalism and nationalism. SLAF seems to take this responsibility very seriously, and argues persuasively that struggles against all other forms of oppression (ubiquitous police harassment and violence inflicted upon communities of colour through policies like the Met Police’s ‘Stop and SEARCH’; the targeting of sex workers in Soho; ‘raids’ by the UK Border Force targeting migrant workers and asylum seekers to name but a few) are also antifascist activities. Can you elaborate on this connection?

There isn’t unanimity in our group on this, we have Trotskyists and some who avoid political labels but this is the majority view.

Anti-fascism, bluntly, is stopping fascists from growing either in number or in confidence at the very least. At the maximum it is dismantling their capacity to be effective. Liberal antifascists believe antifascists are bad because they are illiberal and pay only lip service to parliamentary democracy. We oppose fascists because they seek our complete domination by exterminating working class power.

When we reformed, we wanted to express our beliefs about the nature of fascism and the state. Fascism is the ultimate expression of capitalism’s need to control and subordinate human activity to its logic and authority. The state is its most effective tool. When societies are failed by capital, the preferred solution is state repression. However in liberal democracies, unlike military dictatorships, repression cannot be nakedly deployed, apologetics are utilised to explain the contradiction of affirming human rights and the exercising of sub-human treatment. The law is the crystallisation of this – the targeting of minorities, whether it is asylum seekers, cultural groups or sex workers is the State practicing and perfecting its power to oppress. The more we allow this to happen, the better the police get at wielding it, the more polished politicians are at arguing for dehumanisation, and the more efficient media outlets are in convincing the public. We oppose state repression because it is antithesis of our power, which is our solidarity. We want to bring together the full spectrum of our human expression against state oppression. Capital, through the state, wants to divide and categorise us into economic utilities and human resources.

Fascism is capitalism unrestrained by historical appeals to morality or universal rights. The popular appeal of this doesn’t happen overnight, but is a culture that can take decades, or in times of crisis, a few years to develop and become entrenched. If we do not resist state oppression then we allow the tools of our destruction to sharpen and be ready to put into fascist control.

In an excellent piece published on the SLAF blog in May, you identify the predominance of ‘populist’ anti-immigrant rhetoric in the run-up to the European elections as a reason ‘antifascism is necessary but insufficient’, adding ‘in our analysis, the state is a much bigger threat and generator of popular racism’ (than UKIP, BNP etc). This is an observation with great relevance in the Australian context, where social justice campaigns often ignore structural issues, instead focusing on appeals to politicians, commentators and the state to be nicer, more compassionate and less racist. Given Australia’s role as a global pioneer of mandatory detention of asylum seekers, and the fact that much of this infrastructure was built by the Australian Labor Party, this too seems insufficient. How does SLAF identify the role of the state in creating, exploiting and perpetuating racism? Any thoughts about organising outside of borders and against the

Australia’s legacy of white supremacy is an outpost of British imperialism. The policy of White Australia may have been publicly restrained by the British but it was tacitly endorsed and clearly financed. In managing a global empire, Britain has learned to be less explicit about its racial hierarchy but it is clearly a deeply embedded part of British culture.

We as a group have not theorised how the state has created racism, but the works of Walter Rodney, Theodore W. Allen and bell hooks would illuminate here. I believe that racism was an imperialist construct invented to justify enslavement, genocide and subjugation of darker skinned peoples and their cultures. It is necessary for imperial capitalist accumulation to continue and allay moral qualms about inhuman treatment. If they are not human, went the theory, then it was justified.

It also helped and still does help the ruling elite manage class relations. Nationalism and whiteness create a powerful collective identity that politicians use to generate a sense of pride and superiority amongst the white working class. Invoking whiteness, however subtly, signals that to be white is to be associated with being the dominator not the dominated, to be part of the history of Kings and Queens not the enslaved and impoverished, and that they are heirs to the pioneers of democracy and modernity and not savagery and barbarism. This is a myth of course, but it is said or inferred so often that it is widely believed. Even if racial myths based on biology have waned, they have transferred seamlessly into cultural myths. These ideas underlie why immigration controls are popular. They refer to the mortal danger that their biology or now culture may be irreparably damaged by the contamination of foreign bodies.

These myths aid class relations for the ruling class in another way, as they can form powerful associations to aid labour discipline. The welfare scrounger is the class equivalent of the asylum seeker. In other words, a pariah, a human to legitimately loathed. The stereotypical connotations of being Black, that is to be lazy, unable to organise your own affairs, scheming, preferring base pleasures to self-improvement and lacking a “decent” disposition provides a basis for reducing state social subsidy and weakening the power of organised labour. Racism and class hatred are interrelated, it is difficult to deploy one without making reference to the other. In breaking down these myths, we require socialisation, solidarity and struggle. Racial myths have been largely destroyed by the act of racialised people fighting to be recognised as human and white working class people living and working with racialised people and accepting that reality.

South London Anti-Fascists is part of the UK wide Anti-Fascist Network and the London based Anti Raids Network.


Anti-Fascist Network

South London Anti-Fascists

Anti Raids Network

London Black Revolutionaries

Movement For Justice

Unity Centre Glasgow

Attacks on Higher Education


The current Liberal government’s changes to higher education reflect a neoliberal agenda, in that they are attempting to change the entire way that higher education is thought of and organised in a ‘prosperous’ society like Australia. They are positing a series of radical right-wing reforms that aim to create a market of universities, this will create a class divide, largely excluding the working class.

To put it simplistically, the previous model worked in the way that once a previous student earned enough, they could pay back their loans and pay tax which would pay for the next generation, then that generation would pay for the next through their taxes and then it would be paid back, and so on. While this system still involved debt and an assumption that all people who have a degree will earn more, it was superior to what is suggested through the new system. This new system will create an even worse debt burden for students.

However, it is not impossible for education to be free under capitalism. It should be an expectation that the government make higher education free. There are any number of fields where excessive government spending are prevalent; the military budget is an example. Or the excessive funding of the Australian Ballet School. The next obvious answer is tax on the ruling class and corporations. The suggested new, de-regulated system assumes that people attend university purely to earn more money in their careers. This neoliberal conception of the individual pursuit of education is at odds with reality, as people attend university for various reasons. It also ignores all the manifold forms of oppression that affect outcomes for students, placing all blame, and pressure around failing or succeeding upon the individual.

If it is assumed that students only study to earn more, degrees that lead to higher earning potential will be prioritised and those which do not will decrease in quality or be cut altogether. We have already seen the kind of choices made by universities with this in mind, what has been devalued, defunded and threatened to be cut has been units such as gender studies and indigenous studies. This is not a coincidence. It is obvious that the system this government is working towards is one where all universities are private companies with no funding from the government that compete with each other in a market system. De-regulation of fees is just the thin edge of the wedge. Supporters of this have, and will, continue to argue that this will bring prices down, however, the reality is that our university system will divide along class lines. Currently Australian universities are of a high standard in world terms, once deregulated, there will be a divide between “good” universities and “cheap” universities. The quality of education will decrease at these “cheap” universities, yet the quality will not necessarily increase at the “good” universities. This is where the class divide will exist.

As we have seen in recent years, all universities will cut costs by mistreating staff; they will further casualise positions, keep wages at a minimum and attack working conditions. This divide been “good”, expensive universities and their “cheap” counterparts will create a further class divide where only the rich will be able to afford the “good” education. In contrast, the social mobility of those from low and middle-income families will continue to be wrecked. The most alarming part of this plan for higher education is CSP places for private institutions, it is clear that this government want to make private and currently public universities part of the same market. This is more than likely to create what they call in the UK “cashpoint” colleges, rather than improving the quality of education for the most people. These “cashpoint” colleges take public money and abuse the loan system in place to use students like ATMs; the result being empty classrooms in some universities and over-crowded ones in others. As once students have taken out loans to attend university it is only in the university’s interest to keep them so long as they are getting fees: there is little incentive for students close to burning out to continue. Thus, these institutions value courses that will make money over providing a quality, well-rounded education. The current model that is being pursued by the Liberal party, is to take us as far down the market route as the American university education system. We do not want neoliberal education in Australia. We are all well aware from the American system, the cost of higher education in America stops people from attending a quality university, or going to university at all.

We reject that this is the best model, that Pyne idealises as the best model for Australian higher education. At the moment, according to analysis by the National Tertiary Education Union, a medicine degree costs the ridiculous sum of $60,000, however with deregulation and interest rates, it could cost up to $200,000. It is hard to work exactly how much a degree will cost as it will be up to the discretion of each university, but it guaranteed to be to the detriment of university students and staff.

This new model will reinforce the growing disparity between Group of Eight universities, and other tertiary institutions. Universities such as those in the Go8 can more readily capitalise on a prestigious reputation and will outpace other universities in a price gap, narrowing the options low-income students have as prices diverge. This, in turn, will cause inequality between universities, not only in what is available to students, but also in funding to these universities – universities with higher fees will be better funded, however, better resources cannot be promised, as universities will consider themselves more of a company, therefore their concern will be in profit not education quality.

There is also a less publicised aspect on the issue of privatising education in Australia, that is how women will be affected with these changes. Due to the socialisation of gender in relation to work, women currently dominate total enrolments in the humanities compared to other degrees such as engineering and the sciences. As outlined above, the systemic undermining of less profitable degrees such as the humanities will lead to the disproportionate decrease in women who attend university. Plus, as total debt increases with time, this will negatively effect women, who are more likely to take time off work due family commitments (also due to socialisation), which will increase the amount and amount of time to pay off their debts.

The move to this explicitly neoliberal mode of tertiary education may fall under the radar of many Australians: this is because changes to student loans are expected, going by international trends, the main concern is the privatisation of education. We can see that there is an underlying agenda to move to a model which exacerbates unequal opportunities for a broad range of students, particularly those who come from low income, rural, indigenous backgrounds and international students (who are already treated as “cashpoints” and forced to live in poverty). Education needs to be preserved as an opportunity for all. Education should be free for all.

Rallies, ‘Black Bloc’ and the Meaning of Direct Action

By Sean M


Over the last couple of months we have witnessed an unprecedented wave of large demonstrations. Across Australia people have risen in opposition to the current administration’s escalation of attacks on worker’s rights and conditions, erosions of living standards and civil liberties.

Oxford educated arch-bigot Tony Abbott has managed to mobilise and unite angry trade unionists and students, those without work, single mothers, and Indigenous Australians. All are demanding a better future and environment for ourselves and future generations.

Recently up to 10,000 people from across all walks of life demonstrated in Sydney against the federal budget, which is about handing over more wealth and power to Tony Abbott’s friends in big business. This push is no surprise given the natural tendencies of austerity capitalism and the weak nature of the left and wider trade union movement who are unable thus far too amount any effective opposition and instead pin their hopes on the Labour Party, who will continue with the same class war when in power.

Anarchists visible from all stripes also took part in the march, a large section of whom instead of engaging and interacting with the rest of the march decided to isolate themselves through radical posing as a version of the ‘black bloc.’

While it is important to minimise the ability of the state to gather intelligence and maximise anonymity there is always a time and a place for this, especially whenever there is an opportunity for confrontation and moving beyond the ritual of marching from A-B. In this case it was a wrong move. From a practical and security point of view, a handful dressing in black often hinders rather than helps this anonymity. It enables the police and intelligence services to quickly identify and isolate perceived ‘trouble-makers’, instead of blending in with the rest of the march.

However, this balance of power only becomes a problem when a handful turns into hundreds. Black Bloc is a tactic, not something to be fetishised, and key in any understanding of any tactic, including a sit-down, is to know how it does and doesn’t work. For example, the difference between attempting to blockade a detention centre or during a picket line which has a clear objective and potentially empowering result, as compared to a pointless sit-down in the middle of the road.

The complete weakness and isolation of the anarchist scene was further highlighted whenever there was an attempted ‘sit-down’ by up to 20 people which was shunned by the rest of the marches. When asked what was the point of this ‘sit-down’, I was told that basically we need to do something – in other words action for the sake of it. It is this lack of political maturity without prior planning and an end goal that highlights the chaotic and individualistic nature of anarchism in the city. At the end of the march when people began to leave there was a minor stand off between over a dozen anarchists and the police as they began to force people off the road as some shouted ‘police brutality’ and a ‘police state.’
No surprises then as passers-by looked on with bewilderment and blind indifference. The anarchist movement in Sydney and elsewhere needs to seriously reflect on where it is going and what type of movement it wants to build. Militant street confrontation and workplace resistance will not be built through a handful of ‘black bloc’ers but through organising where we live, work and study with a clear strategy and interacting with wider mass movements and the wider class rather than isolating ourselves. Alternatives such as Sydney Solidarity Network represent an important step in fostering and spreading anarchist ideas of collective direct action though building confidence and solidarity because there are no short cuts to social change.

But what is direct action?

From the black bloc ‘having a go’, to going on marches, from smashing up a McDonalds, to attending a picket, from throwing bricks, to going to fundraising concerts for single issue campaigns – all of these activities have had the term ‘direct action’ applied to them.

Direct action has been confused with actions that are probably best termed as ‘symbolic’ – and which are, on many occasions, ineffective. A lot of the confusion has been due to the media terming anything that they regard as outside the perimeters of ‘normal protest’ as ‘direct action’ – however, some confusion is down to activists themselves confusing the terms. Many activists, for example, regard protests such as the G8 summit as direct action, but these types of protests, even if they are successful in shutting down the event, remain merely symbolic.

Direct action has also become a by-word for violence, to the extent that much of the anti-war and anti-globalisation movement talk specifically about NVDA – Non-Violent Direct Action. That’s not to say that people engaged in direct action shouldn’t defend themselves or that violence is never acceptable – simply that this view of direct action is partial and not an accurate representation.

Direct action is a rejection of the notion that working-class people are powerless to change their conditions. Improvements to our lives are not handed down benevolently from above – they must be fought for. For libertarian communists direct action is more than an effective means of defence or even of going on the offensive and changing something for the better. Direct action is, for the working-class:

“A continuous schooling for their powers of resistance, showing them every day that every least right has to be won by unceasing struggle against the system”. (Rudolf Rocker)

Direct action is an essential preparation for the free socialist society that we strive to create. Through engaging in direct action, even when we made mistakes, we have the opportunity to learn from experience that there is no need to leave things to ‘experts,’ professional politicians or even activists. We should have learnt by now that that course offers us nothing but disempowerment, betrayal and broken promises, and results in a pervading sense of powerlessness. And yet we are far from powerless!

Direct action teaches us to control our own struggles while building a culture of resistance that links with others in struggles. Solidarity and mutual aid find real expression and as our confidence grows so too does our ability to change the world. It is needed now more than ever, and we also need a campaign which opposes all cuts and fees, which is controlled by its members and participants, which is ready & willing to promote direct action and is willing to fight. Such a campaign must be geared towards escalating the struggle to the point of a general strike – anything else is likely to fail, and we cannot afford to fail.

But where can we find an alternative?

First, it is crucial to build an anarchist political organisation, with a clear agenda: mobilising and educating the working class, building counter-power, and fighting the class enemy.

We need to move beyond theoretics and leaflets titled ‘anarchism is awesome’ to building a social movement that is relevant to everyday lives and rooted in self organisation, collective organisation; confident to take it to the bosses and acting as a genuine threat to the status quo.

Where to next for the anarchist movement in Sydney?

An Irish anarchist and migrant worker in Sydney, Sean M. reflects on the recent Sydney anarchist bookfair, the anarchist movement more broadly and the relevance of the platform in terms of building a popular movement.

‘At a time when the intensity of the ruling class attack on our living standards, on our wages and conditions, on free speech and assembly, are increasing at a frightening pace, Australian anarchism must heed the wake-up call. Either it undergoes a renaissance, with the possible emergence of grass roots struggle and relates to that struggle, or it consigns itself to continued irrelevance.’

The recent Sydney anarchist bookfair highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses of the ‘movement.’ For the curious the event offered a rare opportunity to listen to Anarchists political analysis of how society is and how it could be and what struggles we are involved in. For the committed it provided a useful space to network, share ideas and experiences. As someone who has lived and worked in Australia for three years what struck me is that apart from the talk on the revolutionary impact of global anarchism there and the usual anti-capitalist rhetoric there was very little debate as to where the anarchist ‘movement’ is going in Sydney and across Australia.

We know that, in order to get there, it will be necessary to tear down capitalism and the state and all other forms of oppression. Our struggle for a self- managed free and equal society throws up many areas of controversy and debate. One of these has always been, and always will be, how do we get build a mass movement that moves from the margins to a threat to the status quo and is not just about personal liberation but liberation in all it forms? How do we organise for change? What is our composition and support base? I believe the anarchist platform may open up some of these contradictions if we are ever to build a collective movement that provides a voice for the voiceless in our society.

Over Eighty years have passed since the publication in the pages of the Russian anarchist monthly Delo Truda of the Organisational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft), but the question of anarchist organisation remains an open one even today, a question which sparks off ferocious debates with frightening ease.

Yet in reality it is a question which has long been solved: either we accept the need for anarchists to come together in their own specific organisations so as to allow greater unity and strength with which to face the struggles; or we don’t accept it, and are happy to remain part of the world of “chaotic“ anarchism which rejects such a need for one reason or another, considering it pointless or dangerous, or which accepts it, but choose anarchist unity in name, where the various hues of anarchism come together under an umbrella organisation without any serious political unity or strategies. Although in the city there are many anarchists involved in a range of struggles from the workplace to tacking gender inequality to environmental campaigns to supporting refugees, I am struck as to how we seem to run from one action to the next without any serious consideration given to as to how we join the existing diverse jots together in terms building a serious political praxis and movement that can link all these struggles with a long term vision.

Continue reading Where to next for the anarchist movement in Sydney?

Deaths in Custody – Thirty years and still no justice

WARNING: This post contains names and images of deceased persons, as well as videos depicting violence and racism by the police.

Eddie Murray (1960 – 1981), NOT FORGOTTEN.

John Patt (1966 – 1983), NOT FORGOTTEN.

Charlie Michaels (1953 – 1984), NOT FORGOTTEN.

Robert Walker (1959 – 1984), NOT FORGOTTEN.

Have you ever heard screams in the middle of
the night,
Or the sobbings of a stir-crazy prisoner,
Echo over and over again in the darkness –
Threatening to draw you into its madness?

Have you ever rolled up into a human ball
And prayed for sleep to come?
Have you ever laid awake for hours
Waiting for morning to mark yet another day of
being alone?

If you’ve ever experienced even one of these,
Then bow your head and thank God.
For it’s a strange thing indeed –
This rehabilitation system!

Robert Walker

Tony King (1953 – 1985), NOT FORGOTTEN.

Lloyd Boney (1959 – 1987), NOT FORGOTTEN.

David Gundy (1989), NOT FORGOTTEN.

Daniel Yock (1975 – 1993), NOT FORGOTTEN.

Colleen Richman (1953 -1994), NOT FORGOTTEN.

TJ Hickey (1987 – 2004), NOT FORGOTTEN.

Mulrunji Doomadgee (1968 – 2004), NOT FORGOTTEN.

Mr Ward (1968 – 2008), NOT FORGOTTEN.

Mr Briscoe (1984 – 2012), NOT FORGOTTEN.

This is list is far far far far from exhaustive.


Irish migrant’s view of asylum debate in Australia

“This casual racism is something I have particularly noticed on the job and among family in terms of hostility to ‘asylum seekers’ and general fear of the other.”

By a WSM comrade presently living in Australia. Originally published at WSM.ie. Update: In case there is any confusion, Kieran just cross posted this, he is not a WSM comrade living in Australia!

we-decide-who-comes-cartoonAn Irish anarchist living in Melbourne, Australia gives his perspective on the ‘asylum seeker’ debate there leading up to the forthcoming elections. He argues Irish workers should be standing in solidarity with the most marginalised and dispossesed in our society. In the words of one Aboriginal activist; ‘ “As people who know what it’s like to be invaded by boat people we are in a better position to judge how the current boat people should be treated. Where the original boat people who took our country were armed to the teeth and bent on conquest, asylum seekers in 2012 are unarmed and seeking sanctuary.”

If there is one thing our barbaric corrupt political class have in common from Ireland to Australia is the need when to keep us divided through the carrot and the stick. There weapon of choice is often whipping up of division, scapegoating of minorities and fear of the ‘other’. In the case of Australia, which I have learnt to well since arriving on these shores, it is the spectre of ‘boat people’ or asylum seekers which dominates the mainstream political discourse in terms of the forthcoming elections. Basically two shades of the same political establishment seek to outgun each other to see who can offer the cruelest form treatment for men, women and children fleeing persecution, hunger and oppression.

You don’t need to dig deep beneath the surface to expose this racist and state sponsored terrorism which has tragically resulted in at least 1376 refugees drowning while trying to reach Australia since 1998. Behind every statistic lies an individual story and a family tragedy. Behind the hysteria of ‘queue jumpers’ and ‘crime influx’, the reality is Australia takes less that 1% of the world’s refugees, people often fleeing conflicts and military occupations created by western imperialism such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the vast majority of refugees there is no queue to join, especially when you are offered the choice of life and death.

In effort to ‘stop the boats’, both the Labour and coalition party policy believes asylum seekers should be ‘processed’ – illegally detained – in detention camps being built in Papua New Guinea who have been bribed and bullied by the Australian government. Until now people have been detained in some of the most isolated islands in the world at Christmas Island, the small island of Nauru and Manus Island. They are detained in crowded and shocking conditions where rape, torture and suicide are rife, conditions that have been condemned by international human rights groups and the UN. A former security officer on Manus Island said; ‘I’ve never seen human being so destitute, so helpless and hopeless. In Australia, the facility couldn’t even serve as a dog kennel…I felt ashamed to be Australian.’ (1)

In an attempt to outgun the Labour Party and its ‘PNG Solution’, Tony Abbot, Catholic fundamentalist educated at Oxford and leader of the opposition claims he will completely stop permanent residency and use the Navy to stop the boats. In this he is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Thatcherite John Howard.

Drawing parallels between the past and present and use of the race card investigative journalist John Pilger correctly points out ‘In Australia race is all but genetically inscribed, as in apartheid South Africa. The federation of the Australia states in 1901 was founded on racial exclusion, white Australia policy and a dread of non-existent ‘hordes’ from as far away as Russia. A 1940s policy of ‘populate or perish’ produced vibrant multiculturalism- yet a crude, often unconscious racism remains extraordinary current in Australian society and is exploited by a political elite with an enduring colonial mentality and obsequiousness to western ‘interests.’ (2)

This casual racism is something I have particularly noticed on the job and among family in terms of hostility to ‘asylum seekers’ and general fear of the other. While like any ‘community’, the Irish- Australian community is not one monolithic identity, I was struck, but to some extent not surprised, that many first and second generation have quietly assimilated into the colonial context of Australia. All too eager to fly the flag on Invasion Day on the 26 January while forgetting the similar circumstances which forced hundreds of people to flee Ireland due to oppression and poverty which continues to this very day in the form of economic migrants.

The irony of ‘boat people’ and how the tables have been turned has not been lost by some Aboriginal groups who welcome refugees. “As people who know what it’s like to be invaded by boat people, we are in a better position to judge how the current boat people should be treated. Where the original boat people who took our country were armed to the teeth and bent on conquest, asylum seekers in 2012 are unarmed and seeking sanctuary”. Michael Mansell from the Aboriginal Provisional Government goes on “The ancestors of Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbot most likely came by boat. It is certain they never sought Aboriginal permission to enter our shores.”(3)

The other side of the story is an active refugee support movement that has gained some traction in recent months in terms of organising and mobilising, as well the eruption of riots and burning down of some camps.

Without forging real solidarity and having these discussions with your workmates and neighbours empathy and compassion can only sustain a movement for so long. In the face of largely indifference from the wider population and a colonial mentality from the political class, a class based movement must come to the forefront placing the needs and interests of people escaping persecution. While billions continue to spend on military conquests, border security and detention centres that could be better spent of alleviating poverty, job cuts and healthcare we see the interests of the profit come before people. Until we remove this cancer, refuge will always be one option and for many their only hope. In this regard Irish workers should clearly know what side of the fence they stand on.

link for more info: http://www.refugeeaction.org.au/