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Australasian Spartacist No. 229

Winter 2016

Heroic Struggle Derailed by ALP/ACTU Tops, Left Flunkeys

The 1966 Wave Hill Aboriginal Stockmen's Strike

For a Class-Struggle Fight for Aboriginal Rights!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the courageous Aboriginal stockmen’s strike at the Wave Hill cattle station in the Northern Territory (NT). On 23 August 1966, head stockman Vincent Lingiari led 200 workers out on strike against the appalling conditions under which they were forced to live and work. They walked off with their families to a nearby welfare settlement and later set up camp at Daguragu (also known as Wattie Creek). This strike by Aboriginal workers for equal pay and conditions, and protesting the abusive treatment of Aboriginal women, provided an opportunity for class-struggle unity between Indigenous and white workers. Alongside the fight to extract improved conditions from the profit-bloated cattle companies and their government backers, this strike could have sparked broader labour struggles to draw Aboriginal workers into the organised labour movement and for full access to jobs, decent education, health and housing.

We have always referred to union support for the Wave Hill strike as a positive example of proletarian defence of Aboriginal rights. Indeed the strike prompted strong financial and other support from the ranks of powerful industrial unions across Australia. However the struggle was derailed by the Laborite trade-union misleaders and their left reformist Communist Party of Australia (CPA) flunkeys who did not organise to shut down production and for broad-based industrial action. The CPA helped initiate the strike and had strong influence among the Aboriginal stockmen and within the labour movement. However, they were unwilling to mobilise the necessary class struggle as this would have meant a political fight against the Laborite misleaders of the workers movement. Instead of a proletarian-centred struggle that could have challenged the racist capitalist status quo, the CPA allowed the strike to dissipate and helped to divert it into a land rights campaign.

A defining feature of Australian capitalism has always been its savage repression of Aboriginal people. With their lands taken by bloody force, the Indigenous population were then shoved off to the fringes of society to suffer hideous, all-sided racist oppression and terror. The British colonisers almost obliterated the Aboriginal people, leaving the shattered remnants of different clans who continue to be viciously oppressed today. We support any attempts by Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders to claw back some of the land stolen from them and get whatever financial compensation they can. In those locations where Aboriginal peoples have a land base we defend whatever measure of political autonomy they are able to wrest from governments, including the right to govern their land and control its resources.

After more than two hundred years of sustained racist barbarism, today it is clear that the only “future” on offer for Aboriginal people under capitalism is a perpetuation of the crimes of the past. As we explain in our programmatic statement, For a Workers Republic of Australia, Part of a Socialist Asia! (1998), elementary justice for Aboriginal people demands not some limited, ultimately reversible, concessions in the bosses’ courts but the expropriation of industry and agriculture through workers revolution.

There is a fundamental class divide in this society. On one side are the capitalists, the tiny layer that owns the banks, mines and industry. On the other side is the working class, which makes the wheels of industry turn. It is workers’ social power to stop the flow of profits that must be unleashed in defence of Aboriginal rights. The Wave Hill stockmen’s strike covered massive territory, crossed racial lines with its solidarity, and was broadly popular amongst workers. The ban by the meatworkers’ union on handling carcasses from the Vestey Group, who owned the Wave Hill station, points to the type of concrete industrial struggle that was necessary to win. A class-struggle leadership within the unions would have fought to bring striking Aboriginal workers into union membership and helped organise actions across the industry. It would have fought to bring out stockmen at other stations, and for bans and stoppages at meatworks and on the waterfront, to bring the racist, profit-gouging cattle barons to their knees. Such an outcome would have been a huge victory for workers in general and Aboriginal people in particular, striking a powerful blow against “White Australia” capitalism and opening up wider possibilities for struggle.

Exploitation and Protest in the North

Important historical research has uncovered much about the bloody frontier European “settlement” of Australia. This has been branded the “black armband” view of history by some right-wing defenders of the bourgeois order. They seek to deny that “White Australia” capitalism was founded on the historic near-genocide, uprooting and dispossession of Aboriginal clans. They deny that, ever since, the ruling class has treated those who survived with racist contempt. Settlers wanting land for cattle and sheep grazing drove the Aboriginal people off their land. The 19th and early 20th centuries were marked by hideous massacres. Justifying this attempted destruction of a people, Aborigines were declared a doomed race and policies were put in place to try to make that happen. From 1937, “Assimilation” of Aborigines became the official policy of all state governments. Aboriginal people of mixed descent were to be “made the same” as white people through forced assimilation. Those considered “full bloods” were to be isolated on reserves to eventually die out.

The northern cattle export industry began to grow in the 1880s. The government encouraged pastoralists to use Aboriginal people within areas they leased as more or less free labour. On horseback, Aboriginal riders were highly skilled and could muster cattle in the rough terrain of country they knew intimately. They proved to be the backbone of the northern cattle industry. After World War II, beef exports accumulated huge profits for the pastoral companies. Vesteys, a British-based conglomerate, was one of the largest. It held leases across vast areas. Pastoralists leased land from the government at exceptionally low cost and were exempt from paying Aboriginal employees if they claimed to undertake a “duty of care” to their family dependants. Old-age pensions and maternity allowances, which Aboriginal people only became entitled to receive at the end of the 1950s, were paid to mission and station managers. Women and children were used as servants on the stations, abused with virtual impunity by white station staff. As a result, Aboriginal communities lived in dire conditions, bound to employers by institutionalised poverty.

Across the country, Aboriginal lives were strictly controlled by state and federal laws. Outside the southern states of New South Wales and Victoria, Aboriginal people did not even have legal guardianship of their children. Mothers lived in fear their children would be snatched by welfare or cops, particularly if the father was thought to be white. In Queensland and the NT, which was and still is a federally-administered territory, Aboriginal people were compelled to seek permission to marry, handle money, or own property. Only after WWII were some who had served in the army rewarded by being allowed to vote in federal elections. Others were only given the vote in 1962, while no Aboriginal person was counted in the population census until 1967. Most government regulations excluded Aboriginal workers from Industrial Awards that set out legally enforceable minimum wages and conditions.

For decades, Labor Party and trade-union officialdom willingly accepted state and federal governments relegating Aboriginal workers to near slave-labour conditions. The Australian Labor Party’s (ALP) origins lie in explicit rejection of class struggle following the defeat of the 1890s strike wave. The ALP represented the parliamentary embodiment of the conservative pro-capitalist politics of the white union bureaucracy. From its inception, the ALP espoused the White Australia Policy, opposing immigration of non-whites and supporting the expulsion of thousands of Chinese and Pacific islanders. Unions jealously guarded trade and craft distinctions to limit competition for jobs from unskilled workers, youth and women. This had its reflection in the exclusion of Aboriginal and non-white immigrant workers from unions.

The North Australian Workers Union (NAWU) was the NT’s largest and most influential union. It did not struggle to organise Aboriginal workers until 1947, during a period when CPA supporters had leadership. While “communist” in name, the CPA in fact was loyal to the nationalist Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. This parasitic caste had usurped political power from the Soviet working class following a political counterrevolution beginning in 1923-24. With its dogma of building “socialism in one country,” the Soviet bureaucracy accommodated imperialism and betrayed revolutionary struggles around the world. Supporting the line from Moscow, the Stalinist CPA cohered around a reformist program.

Despite its reformism, CPA influence had begun to grow dramatically in the 1930s. It successfully organised among the unemployed and was able to unionise downtrodden layers of the working class on waterfronts, building sites and in numerous other industries. It was during this period that the CPA also took up the cause of Aboriginal rights, pursuing this arena of work over subsequent decades. Under CPA leadership, the NAWU supported strikes by Aboriginal workers and backed a campaign for Aboriginal equality. While control of the NAWU returned to ALP right-wingers during the anti-Soviet Cold War of the 1950s, the CPA retained influence on the Darwin waterfront. In the early 1960s, the CPA established the NT Council for Aboriginal Rights (NTCAR) to challenge racist segregation. It had a majority Aboriginal membership. NTCAR carried out actions to bust anti-Aboriginal bans in pubs and theatres, protested instances of police and welfare department abuse, and investigated wage grievances.

Aboriginal Workers Take Strike Action

By the mid-1960s, a period of intensifying social and class struggle had opened up in Australia. Unfolding social revolution in Vietnam sparked massive protests in the cities against the Vietnam War and conscription. Combined with powerful proletarian actions, this ignited youth and other layers to take up broader struggles. Cracks began to appear in the conservative pillars of Australian capitalist society. Women took up the fight for equal pay, job opportunities and abortion rights. A fight for Aboriginal rights gained traction amongst trade-union and leftist militants.

In 1965, under pressure from NTCAR Aboriginal militants in Darwin, the NAWU finally applied to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to delete a clause which excluded Aboriginal pastoral workers from the NT cattle industry Award. At this time, cattle stations were not legally required to pay Aboriginal pastoral workers, classified as “wards” of the state, any more than £3.3.3 per week. White drovers received five times as much.

Like other courts of law, Arbitration (today rebadged as the Fair Work Commission) is an arm of the bosses’ state and acts in the bosses’ interests. The Aboriginal stockmen’s case proved this yet again. In March 1966, the Commission agreed to remove the clause but deferred implementation until 1 December 1968 in order to give the wealthy pastoralists “an opportunity to consider the future of their aboriginal employees and to make arrangements for their replacement by white labour if necessary.” Even then, equal wages only had to be paid to those who were deemed capable of a standard day’s work and provision was made for low payment to “slow workers.” Domestic workers—mainly Aboriginal women—were not covered by any award and were granted nothing.

Dexter Daniels, an NTCAR member and NAWU Aboriginal organiser, was determined to build major strike action in response to the Commission’s ruling. Clearly only a tiny percentage of Aboriginal stockmen would get equal wages at the end of the three-year waiting period. Others would either be sacked or declared “slow workers.” Already the prospect of mustering by helicopter was being considered in the industry. Laborite NAWU secretary Paddy Carroll eventually agreed to a protest strike at Newcastle Waters, a small cattle station south of Katherine. He was opposed to striking at more than one station. On 1 May 1966, Newcastle Waters stockmen, organised by Lupgna Giari (also known as Captain Major), went on strike demanding equal wages and conditions with whites.

At that time, Frank Hardy, a well-known Communist Party supporter and talented writer and publicist, entered the fray. While an open critic of the party, Hardy was in close contact with the CPA leadership. In The Unlucky Australians (1968), his personal account of the 1966 strike, Hardy wrote that from talking with Darwin CPA members:

“… I had gathered that the NAWU was a Right-wing led Union and would not extend the aboriginal strike; Paddy Carroll, the Union’s Secretary, called the shots; strike funds coming from the South were sufficient to feed only the Newcastle Waters strikers; Dexter Daniels, the aboriginal Union organizer, was fed up and talking of leaving his job; Newcastle Waters was a small and unimportant station; strikes should have begun on big stations owned by companies like Vesteys....”

When Hardy met Dexter Daniels, Daniels reiterated what he had told the union: “The only hope my people have is to fight. The right way is to strike on more stations.... They are just waiting for me to come.” Daniels had taken leave from the NAWU in order to “help my people.” He demanded of the union leaders, “Why don’t you let my people fight?”

Hardy discussed the possibility of extending the strike with CPAer George Gibbs. Gibbs doubted Dexter Daniels could do it. Bowing to the NAWU’s Laborite leadership, he declared, “[Daniels] would have to do what Carroll told him.” Casually noting that the striking stockmen were not in the union, Gibbs later opined:

“‘The Aborigines need to act for themselves as much as possible. It’s no use white well-wishers just helping them, doing things for them, calling them out on strike then feeding them. They must be given the opportunity to fight for themselves, to organise, handle funds and form their own committees.’”

The Aboriginal stockmen were fellow workers struggling for equality! This was not a separate fight but one in which the entire working class had a stake. A revolutionary leadership of some weight within and outside the unions would have organised workers’ industrial actions to aid it. Already a cabal of shotgun-wielding station managers, courts, ASIO spies and others were mobilising against any serious strike action. It would take united class action to prevail.

Such a class-struggle perspective would have necessarily produced conflict with the pro-capitalist ACTU and Laborite union bureaucrats. However the CPA leadership was committed to “trade-union unity” at the top with the Labor-loyal bureaucracy. This meant playing by the rules of the industrial relations system imposed by the state that Labor aspired to run in government. Instead of preparing for class struggle, the Laborite NAWU leaders were looking to negotiations with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), pastoral bosses and the government in Sydney on 3 August. These talks eventually led to the ACTU agreeing to a wretched deal put forward by the government and bosses for unequal wages, which Paddy Carroll recommended the NAWU accept. The NAWU Executive rightly rejected the sell-out agreement.

Meanwhile Daniels, along with another NTCAR member, Clancy Roberts, and Darwin wharfie Nick Pagonis, travelled to the larger cattle stations at Wave Hill and Victoria River Downs to call the workers out. The Wave Hill stockmen led by Vincent Lingiari joined the strike. The NAWU was informed by telegram that the Wave Hill strike had begun. Carroll was not happy, but agreed to organise a union-funded trip to Wave Hill with supplies.

Although heavily dependent on Aboriginal labour, Vesteys’ arrogant response was to sack the stockmen rather than pay award wages. The strike leaders knew they must extend the strike to other stations.
In September the strike spread to Mt Sanford and Helen’s Springs stations. Victory would require choking off Vestey Group operations through pulling out other stations and wider union solidarity actions. Frank Hardy and CPA supporters began to mobilise for financial backing from the unions.

In October 1966, Actors’ Equity (now part of the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance) officially sponsored Dexter Daniels and Lupgna Giari on a speaking tour of southern cities to address workers and the public. Workers downed tools to hear the stockmen’s first-hand accounts of extreme exploitation and degradation at the hands of the beef barons. The Waterside Workers Federation (now part of the maritime union) donated thousands of dollars to the strike fund, while building workers in Sydney, miners in Wollongong and meatworkers, seamen and wharfies in Queensland all began a levy on their pay for the striking stockmen. Numerous other unions also contributed financial aid. This impressive groundswell of solidarity and respect for the Aboriginal strikers should have been translated into solid class actions capable of forcing Vesteys and its government backers to capitulate.

There was a hiatus from October 1966 to March 1967 during the wet season, when Aboriginal workers were usually “laid off” by the stations and expected to fend for themselves. It was considered that the conflict would resume after that. Hardy quotes Dexter Daniels during the southern speaking tour: “If the pastoralists don’t pay up before Christmas, after the wet season we will call more stations out.” Inspired by the outpouring of solidarity from unionists, Lupgna Giari declared, “If the Aborigines don’t get proper money before next muster I gotta…talk to all them stockmen. They gotta walkoff and come to camp with us at Newcastle Water. That only way.” In early 1967 some strikers accepted work on two smaller stations that made a better pay offer. The CPA-influenced NTCAR talked of bringing out all Aboriginal pastoral workers to completely paralyse the cattle industry sometime in April, but in the end nothing happened. From April to October, during the dry season, unions continued sending financial and other aid to the striking stockmen. However, in the absence of broader struggle, some demoralisation set in. There was less talk of winning equal wages and more of demanding the government return some of the lands seized from them a few generations ago.

Hardy’s account of the strike at various times points to his and, behind that, the CPA’s role in shifting the struggle into a campaign for land rights. During the crucial early period of the strike, Hardy writes:

“A great worrier at any time, I began to be plagued by doubt. The Gurindji were on strike for wages—that was the basis for the support they were getting. The land tenure idea was a pipe dream in which I had no right to encourage them.”

But that is what he did. Following the wet season in March-April 1967, which was a pivotal time when the CPA should have been struggling to shut down production on the stations, Hardy was helping the Gurindji draft a petition to the governor-general for the excision of 600-700 square miles at Wave Hill and Victoria River Downs. This petition was rejected. In July 1968, federal Cabinet also rejected further lobbying for the granting of a piddling eight-and-a-half square miles of land in the Daguragu area. With success of the strike becoming a dim prospect, the stockmen set about establishing their own station on the land they occupied. However, separate can never be equal under capitalism. Despite their experience in the industry, the Aboriginal stockmen did not have the equipment, contacts or especially the capital to compete with the major beef exporters and their cattle station ended in failure.

The CPA and the Aboriginal Question—Some History

In the 1930s, the CPA’s program on the Aboriginal question included the call for equal wages, ending all forms of forced labour and abolishing the Aboriginal protection boards. Over the years, they opposed both compulsory assimilation and enforced segregation. That said, their 1930s demand for independent Aboriginal republics in central, northern and north-west Australia and their subsequent 1967 program, Full Human Rights for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, which included talk of “self-determination” for Aboriginal people, reflected a misconception that Aboriginal people constituted a nation.

In fact Aboriginal societies were pre-national, involving many clans and different language groups, possessing in varying degrees a common cultural heritage. For Marxists, self-determination means the right to national independence. It was the development of capitalism which drove the formation of the nation-state in its modern sense. What is decisive is contiguous mutual economic exchange continued over a period of time, which develops into a coherent political economy. The possibility of the independent development of Indigenous people into a modern nation was brutally and bloodily foreclosed by the British colonisers.

Despite their non-Marxist approach to the national question and their deep reformism, the CPA did show some semblance of a grappling with the special questions posed by Aboriginal oppression. They took up Aboriginal struggles, energetically exposing the vicious government oppression and persecution of Indigenous people to a broad working-class audience.

World War II had a big impact on Aborigines in northern Australia, who were drawn into paid work as a result of labour shortages. Wartime work brought the formerly strictly segregated Aboriginal people together with socialist-minded unionists and soldiers. Many of these encounters were eye-opening for both parties. Through their work, the CPA attracted Aboriginal members, who became capable, committed cadre.

The first important strike by Aboriginal workers broke out in May 1946 on the sheep stations of the Pilbara in north-western Australia. The workers had wanted to strike earlier, but the CPA held them back so as not to affect the Australian imperialist “war effort.” The CPA backed the wartime Labor government, helping to restrain class struggle and prevent strikes. In line with the Moscow Stalinists, the CPA threw its support behind the “Allies” in the interimperialist slaughter of World War II. Siding with the imperialist forces to the end, they published a racist anti-Japanese “cartoon” that celebrated the criminal A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In contrast Trotskyists opposed all the imperialist combatants while standing for the unconditional military defence of the Soviet Union. Despite its Stalinist degeneration, the USSR was still a workers state where capitalist and landlord exploitation had been overthrown.

After the Pilbara strike began, Don McLeod, a white CPA activist, and two Aboriginal leaders were thrown into jail for organising the strikers. The Aboriginal strikers marched on the jail and McLeod was freed. The CPA organised support committees for the Pilbara strike in Perth. But it was when the CPA-influenced Western Australian branch of the Seamen’s Union refused to handle wool from the struck stations in June 1949 that concessions were quickly won. This did not come easily. The leadership of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) directed members to break the seamen’s bans. But, rejecting their leaders’ treachery, AWU unionists refused to scab and solidarised with the Seamen’s Union and the Aboriginal workers. By late July, the Seamen’s Union declared that the Department of Native Affairs had agreed to improved wages and conditions for the striking workers. In October, the CPA’s Tribune reported that all Aboriginal men remaining in jail for “enticing natives” from stations had been released.

The CPA attracted to its ranks not only worker militants but intellectuals in a country that despised both. During the 1950s, the party was almost driven underground. As the Cold War anti-communist climate wore on, the CPA lost members but managed to remain influential in some key unions. Over time it became less and less distinguishable from the Laborite bureaucracy. In the early 1960s, it lost a substantial chunk of cadre who switched allegiance to Beijing. Activity outside the unions became focused on building myriad front groups for “peace” and civil rights. After the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968 the CPA split again. A pro-Moscow minority formed the Socialist Party in 1971. With a dwindling and aging membership, the majority broke from Moscow and embraced “Eurocommunism,” environmentalism and New Left identity politics.

Enter Gough Whitlam’s Labor Government

In 1972, with jackal Australian imperialism, alongside its U.S. ally, embroiled in a losing war against the Vietnamese Revolution, the Liberal/Country Party government was tossed from office and the Labor Party elected. The new prime minister, Gough Whitlam, was sharply aware that “White Australia” impeded Australian business interests, not least with Japan, the growing imperialist economic powerhouse in the region. Aiming to project a more tolerant and multiracial society to promote Australian imperialism’s interests, Whitlam helped end the ALP’s embrace of “White Australia.” The federal government assumed national responsibility for Aboriginal health, education and welfare, and the first land rights legislation was drafted. Three years later, in August 1975, Whitlam poured a symbolic “handful of sand” into the palms of Vincent Lingiari. Vesteys had agreed to give up some of their lease to the Gurindji people. Just months later, the Labor government was sacked by the governor-general, Sir John Kerr, provoking an angry response from workers on a mass scale (See “Class Struggle and the 1975 Sacking of the Whitlam Government,” ASp No. 225, Autumn 2015). Whitlam had seen fit to appoint Kerr as governor-general. Nine years earlier, Kerr had been lawyering for the bosses in the Arbitration Commission against equal pay for Aboriginal workers!

During the early days of the Whitlam government, many workers were euphoric, and reformists such as the CPA pumped illusions in reforming racist Australian capitalism. Brian Manning, a Darwin waterfront unionist and Communist Party organiser who was centrally involved with the Wave Hill strike, noted in 2002, “With the election of the Whitlam government major policy changes saw the introduction of consultative organisations in the NT. The NTCAR became redundant.” The “consultative organisations” referred to by Manning were government-run bodies such as the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee to which Aboriginal and other militants were co-opted by the Labor government.

Since Whitlam’s time, the Wave Hill strike and walk-off has been celebrated by liberals, reformists and many Aboriginal people as purely a land rights struggle. Today, the liberal bourgeoisie has sought to appropriate Vincent Lingiari and the Gurindji struggle. In 2001 the Lingiari Foundation was formed to promote Indigenous leadership and reconciliation. “Reconciliation” was the brainchild of former Labor prime minister Paul Keating. It aimed to cover up the ALP government’s knifing of land rights following the 1992 Mabo decision and the soaring Aboriginal deaths in custody under the Hawke/Keating governments. For the bourgeoisie, reconciliation means they are absolved of their past and present crimes while Aboriginal people are supposed to resign themselves to the all-sided racist oppression that comes with capitalist rule. Every social index confirms that Aboriginal people continue to suffer horrendous deprivation and face deadly state terror.

We Need a Revolutionary Workers Party

In 2006, just five years after the Lingiari Foundation was set up, one of the three surviving elders who took part in the Wave Hill strike, 78-year-old Julama Limbunya, was found dead in the outback, a victim of brutal state neglect. Limbunya had been dumped at a remote NT airstrip after being released from hospital. Still suffering from pneumonia, almost blind and barely able to walk, he was left to die in broiling heat without food or water.

The Liberal/National Coalition government of John Howard began a police/military Intervention into NT Aboriginal communities in 2007. This shattered any semblance of self-government remote Aboriginal communities may have enjoyed, bringing down police terror across northern Australia. As well as being a naked land grab in the service of wealthy mining magnates, the Intervention also saw the overturn of the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act in order to reimpose “special treatment” on outback Aboriginal people. Their pitifully ill-serviced homes were raided by cops searching for forbidden alcohol and “pornography.” Their welfare payments were “quarantined.” Their children, having been denied elementary medical care by the state, were peered at for evidence of sexual activity. Wholesale the menfolk were smeared as “child molesters.” Under the Intervention, thousands of Aboriginal children are once again being snatched from their parents.

The Labor “Opposition” backed Howard’s NT Intervention and continued to prosecute it after winning federal office later in 2007. Early the following year, the new Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, made a hypocritical “Sorry” speech to the “Stolen Generations”—the thousands ripped away from their Aboriginal mothers by state authorities over a period of 150 years. Pointedly Rudd’s apology did not offer any compensation. Its purpose was to sugar-coat the NT Intervention while co-opting liberals and Aboriginal leaders.

The stark fact is that in this capitalist society, whether run by the Tory Liberals or their Labor rivals, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have no chance of a decent future. Indigenous people need access to jobs and union wages and massive education, health and housing programs, including provision of electricity and clean water. This is not rocket science but the bourgeoisie will never provide such necessities. The future of Aboriginal rights lies with the class struggle. Workers’ struggles and those of the Indigenous peoples will either go forward together or fall back separately.

A fighting labour movement would not only use its power to champion Indigenous rights, but also take concrete steps such as union-run recruitment and training programs to break the cycle of chronic Aboriginal unemployment and marginalisation. It must also be mobilised against acts of racist state terror to make it clear that Aboriginal people do not stand alone in their struggles. The Spartacist League demands that whatever rights Indigenous people have extracted, and are able to extract, through agreements be respected. In some cases, Aboriginal land rights may come up against socially useful developments such as railways or oil and gas pipelines. Aboriginal peoples should receive generous compensation for any deprivation of land or disruption of activity, based on completely consensual agreement. Only a workers government, based on a centralised, planned economy that serves human need not profit, will guarantee these conditions.

The fight for Aboriginal rights is a litmus test for those aspiring to lead the working class. A party that does not emblazon defence of the most downtrodden on its banner can never succeed in leading the proletariat against its class enemy. We seek to build a multiracial Leninist-Trotskyist workers party that acts as a tribune of the people. Taking up the fight against all manifestations of capitalist oppression is key to mobilising the most advanced layers of the working class in the struggle for socialist revolution. To open up a future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples requires establishing an egalitarian socialist society. As we state in our programmatic statement:

“Only the destruction of capitalism can hold out the possibility of voluntary integration, on the basis of full equality, for those Aboriginal people who desire it, and the fullest possible autonomy for those who do not, and make it possible to address the special needs created by more than two centuries of injustice and oppression.”

We Marxists of the Spartacist League stand for a class-struggle fight for Aboriginal rights as part of the fight to overthrow this brutal, racist, exploitative system. For a workers republic of Australia, part of a socialist Asia!

Australasian Spartacist No. 229

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