Australia’s largest city of Sydney has seen days of racist violence on its streets and beaches. Tensions on the North Cronulla Beach escalated earlier this month after a lifesaver was allegedly assaulted by an 18-year-old man of Lebanese descent.
After a text message was circulated by locals about 5,000 people rallied against so-called “Lebanese gangs” last weekend. Racists slogans were chanted on this demonstration. There are also some indications that small far-right groups attempted to capitalise on the situation.
Sections of this rally then attacked immigrants and Muslims, who had been accused of harassing beach-goers. Since then incidents have been reported in a number of Sydney’s eastern suburbs and four churches in Sydney’s southwest have also been attacked.
Whilst many have attempted to write off these riots as tensions between young “Anglo” and “ethnic” Australians these events are in fact an indication of the social tensions that exist within Australian society. As a result of the neo-liberal policies pursued by both Liberal and Labor governments the outer suburbs of Sydney feature high levels of poverty and youth unemployment. The choice for working class youth is a lack of training opportunities, low paid casual jobs or the massive costs of fees for higher education.
Responsibility for the riots lies squarely with both the federal and state governments. On top of their anti-working class economic policies both Liberal and Labor governments have created a climate of nationalism and racism shown in the appalling treatment of refugees and the attacks on the Muslim community through the ‘anti-terror’ laws. This has been helped along by their mouth pieces in the mainstream media.
In response to the violence state Labor Premier Morris Lemma has called an emergency session of the New South Wales Parliament for this week to pass a series of laws that will allow police lockdowns in areas throughout the city. These laws will further attack civil liberties and compliment Howard’s ‘anti- terror laws’.
The riots are a setback for working class unity and the struggle against the Howard government and the capitalist system. Capitalism lies at the heart of the problems faced by both Muslim and white youth in Australia. The effects of this are made worse by the absence of any real opposition to the government in the form of a mass workers party.
The Socialist Party will continue to fight for both working class unity against the neo-liberal and racist attacks of both Liberal and Labor governments and for the establishment of a new mass party of the working class.
By Anthony Main