Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Sydney Riots: Capitalism is the root cause of racism

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Socialist Party statement on the Sydney race clashes

What is the root cause of the racist explosions in Sydney and what is the socialist strategy to deal with it?

John Howard (like Bush and Blair) has used lies such as ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and has whipped up racist feeling against Muslims to generate support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. In 2001, he fermented racist feelings against refugees to win the federal election.

Even after Sunday’s events in Sydney, Howard sent out coded messages, ‘condemning violence’ but declaring: “Look, I would never condemn people for being proud of the Australian flag” – presumably even if they use it to assault people.

Howard’s approach is entirely consistent with the historical approach of Australian capitalism. Settlement was based on the attempted annihilation of indigenous people. Later, capitalism introduced super-exploited Chinese and Kanaky labour to try and drive down the wages of the well organised white workers.

The White Australia Policy was used to divide workers, offering extra crumbs off the cake for Anglo workers (via arbitration) and the racist exclusion of non-Anglo workers for almost a century.

Sunday was a modern indication of the extreme social tensions and inherent racism that still exists in Australia, all bred by capitalism for their own interests. Far-right grouplets like Australia First swim in this putrid sewer and egg it on. The media hypocrisy is stunning as days before the explosion the Sydney Daily Telegraph screamed: “Fight for Cronulla: we want our beach back”.

Racial tensions have been deliberately stoked up by politicians, the mass media and the likes of Australia First (only the degrees are different) to scapegoat ethnic groups and divert attention away from social equality and working class unity.

Today (as in the past with the Wobblies and Communists) the response must be to link the fight against racism to the need to end the system that breeds it.

Muslim youth in Australia are up to six times more likely to be unemployed that other youth. Millions of young workers today are likely to be trapped in casual jobs for life, never getting a sickie or holiday pay and totally vulnerable to the whim of the boss. Whole suburbs like Lakemba and Cronulla and Maroubra lack recreational facilities and have high youth unemployment. The beach is the only free activity and that partially explains the turf wars over its use. A similar situation exists throughout the country.

Alienated youth, with no alternative explanation to their situation or way out through united struggle, will create their own communities and subcultures to survive. Many also turn to drug and alcohol abuse to dull their existence. France first, now Sydney show what can then happen. The form the reaction takes (nationalism, religion) is only paint on the body of dissatisfaction.

As always the response of right-wing politicians is repression. The NSW ALP government have rushed though obscene anti-democratic laws with the full backing of the Liberal opposition, introducing ‘lockdown zones’ and 15 years jail for rioting and 10 years for affray!

The Socialist Party, like the militant unions, links the fight against racism to the fight for real and secure jobs for workers, for a 35 hour week without loss in pay to share out available work, for free education from child care to university and for a massive expansion of public transport and free recreational facilities. Joint struggle by workers of all backgrounds for such demands and against the attacks of Howard undermines the ideas of racism.

As Malcolm X put it in the 1960s: “You can’t have capitalism without racism”. We call on you, and every consistent anti-racist, to join with us in the Socialist Party to fight racism and also fight the system that breeds it.


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