This year’s Invasion Day rally in Melbourne was an inspiring beginning to what will hopefully be a new period of fierce struggle for Aboriginal rights. Organised by the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR), a newly formed activist group of young Aboriginal people, the 2015 rally was not only bigger, but also far bolder than previous years.
Several young people from WAR addressed a crowd of more than a thousand people from the steps of Parliament. They spoke of the ongoing racist treatment of Aboriginal people by governments across Australia and the need to fight for political change. The crowd was boosted by the optimism and passion of these young leaders.
The demonstration marched from Parliament towards the official Australia Day parade. When they met people simply pushed past the police and into the government organised event. The Invasion Day demonstration occupied every intersection along the parade route in protest.
The Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who attended the rally no doubt left feeling hopeful. The large turnout of Aboriginal youth, a key factor of the event’s success, was thanks in large part to the building efforts of WAR.
WAR activist Meriki Onus summed up the fighting spirit of the organisation and its orientation towards youth in a recent interview. ‘We are young and ready to fight for everything our ancestors had taken from them. We want to inform our people and inspire them, particularly our youth, to take part in the anti-colonial struggle, because that’s the only way.’
WAR cite Malcolm X and Pearl Gibbs as inspirations, and model their publication Black Nations Rising on the Black Panther Intercommunal News Service. The first issue of Black Nations Rising focuses on land rights, international solidarity between First Peoples and the domination of Aboriginal and Australian politics by mining interests, among other important topics.
The anti-capitalist themes and tone of the WAR activists’ speeches on Invasion Day and in their publication is very welcome. The Black Panthers were Black Nationalists but they were also socialists. This was why the US Government saw them as such a danger and it was their key strength. The Panthers’ politics, encapsulated in their ten-point programme, was a real threat to the domination of politics by capitalist interests.
The government uses racist policies to force Aboriginal people off valuable land, but also to divide Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. For example, the use of Aboriginal workers as indentured labour on low or no wages, drives down wages across the board and sows division and resentment between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. This is not just a historical example: after the Northern Territory Intervention thousands of Aboriginal people are no longer paid equally for their work.
Capitalist governments hope that ordinary people will fight each other for scraps rather than put the blame where it really belongs. Both the major parties are complicit in this.
The recent eviction of Aboriginal residents by property developers from the Block in Sydney demonstrates that even in the cities these issues are not resolved. A programme of class unity fighting for jobs, homes and services for all would help link together the struggles of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and could win concrete gains.
WAR is absolutely right to focus on how mining and other capitalist interests determine Government policy in Australia. It is clear that the fight for land rights and self-determination cannot be successful within the current profit driven system of private ownership. Only a society built on genuine democracy and collective ownership – a socialist society – can ensure Aboriginal self-determination and end the destruction of land for profit.
By Chris Dite