Australasian Spartacist No. 234
Down With Imperialist Anti-China Campaign!
Ugly Racist Outcry Over China's "Influence"
Following months of U.S.-led sabre-rattling and imperialist provocations against North Korea and China, the Australian federal government and sections of the bourgeois media have been whipping up a racist, anti-communist scare campaign against “undue” Chinese influence in Australia and the region. Citing reports of Chinese government interference in Australia’s political affairs, in December the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, proposed new laws against “foreign interference” that radically expand the definition of treason and espionage. If passed, these sinister laws would ban “foreign entities” and non-citizens from donating to political groups (and unions), and establish a witchhunting “foreign agents” registry with jail terms for those who fail to register. The laws are so broad they have provoked widespread condemnation, from industry groups to media organisations. They can also serve to more easily ensnare and criminalise unionists and leftists. They have fed into the distrust and hostility that has been stirred up against the Australian Chinese population and drawn the ire of the Chinese government.
In January, Australia’s Minister of International Development, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, lashed out against the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state—by far the largest and most powerful of the remaining countries where capitalism has been overthrown—denouncing it for “duchessing” the region’s politicians and building “useless buildings” and “roads to nowhere.” The senator’s comments echoed a chorus of right-wing xenophobes who have taken to labelling Chinese investment a “predatory” plan to offer loans, create indebtedness and thereby threaten the sovereignty of countries in the region. According to this fiction, China would gradually displace Australian influence in its own “backyard” and ultimately threaten Australia itself. What particularly irks these reactionary “little Australia” nationalists is that China today is a significant economic and military power that cannot be easily pushed around.
The current outburst of anti-China chauvinism also takes place in the context of Washington’s campaign to blame China for the economic malaise of U.S. capitalism. In late February, president Donald Trump threatened to impose up to U.S.$60 billion in tariffs against some 1,300 Chinese-made imports. Trump’s brazen economic and military belligerence, combined with the Australian government’s own shrill campaign against Chinese interference in the region, has been met with horror by significant sections of the Australian capitalist ruling class. They do not want to be caught in a trade war between their great power ally, the U.S., and their major trading partner, China.
In early March, the Australia China Business Council (ACBC) slammed the federal government’s foreign influence bill, warning that it would damage economic ties between the countries. Mining magnate Andrew Forrest bemoaned that much of the current Australian debate about China “fuels distrust, paranoia and a loss of respect” and demanded it “has to stop.” The refusal by powerful segments of the Australian ruling class to back the outpouring of anti-China bellicosity has somewhat constrained the more open expressions of chauvinism and belligerent militarism, with the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, refusing to endorse Fierravanti-Wells’ comments on China.
Furthermore, some seven weeks after Turnbull’s much-vaunted “100 years of mateship” tour to the U.S., the Australian government is yet to respond to Trump’s very public request that Australia join the U.S. in “freedom of navigation” military provocations against China in the South China Sea. Working in tandem with allies such as Australia and Japan, the ultimate aim behind such “exercises” is to enable a naval blockade of China, closing off shipping lanes and preventing Chinese naval forces from breaking out into the Pacific Ocean. We Trotskyists stand with China in any clashes over the islands and their Chinese installations which constitute a key component of the military defence of China.
While today a wing of the capitalist rulers baulk at the creation of any discord with China, in the event of a military conflict between China and the U.S. there can be no doubt who the Australian bourgeoisie would side with. Sharing the U.S.’s strategic aim for capitalist restoration in China, much of the Australian bourgeoisie however prefer to do this on the economic instalment plan, continuing to enrich themselves through investment in and lucrative trade with China. At the same time they pursue their own predatory neocolonial interests in the region while ensuring that the Australian military continues to play its role as a counterrevolutionary gendarme under the U.S. umbrella.
Defend the Gains of the 1949 Chinese Revolution
In the 19th century, China was carved up and lorded over by competing imperialist powers. This resulted in brutal exploitation for generations of Chinese. The 1949 Revolution changed all this. The peasant-based People’s Liberation Army, led by Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) overthrew the imperialist-backed bourgeois-nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek’s Guomindang. It smashed the capitalist state, sweeping away the rule of the bourgeoisie and landlords, and lifted the heavy yoke of imperialist subjugation from the Chinese masses. This led to the development of a collectivised economy that laid the basis for enormous social progress for the worker and peasant masses, not least women.
However, in contrast to the 1917 Russian Revolution, which was carried out by a class-conscious proletariat guided by the internationalism of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks, the Chinese workers state was deformed from its inception under the rule of the CCP regime. Resting atop the workers state, this nationally narrow, parasitic and bureaucratic caste modelled itself on the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, which had usurped political power from the Soviet proletariat in a political counterrevolution beginning in 1923-24.
Like their Kremlin counterparts before them, successive Chinese regimes have pushed the Stalinist, nationalist dogma of “socialism in one country” or in the words of current Chinese president Xi Jinping, building “Socialism with Chinese characteristics, for a new era.” The corollary of this is their illusory quest for “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism. The pursuit of this anti-Marxist fantasy helps prop up the global bourgeois order. It has consistently undermined the defence of the workers states, not least through the betrayal of proletarian, revolutionary opportunities internationally.
Over time the Stalinist misleaders have invited imperialist investment into the country, given up the state monopoly of foreign trade and instituted far-reaching “market reforms.” Nevertheless, despite these major capitalist inroads, China’s economy as a whole is not organised on the basis of capitalist production for profit. It remains dominated by state-controlled banks and the core of industry is collectivised, an historic gain for the world’s working class that the imperialists strive to overturn.
Since the 1949 Revolution, China has gone from being a backward peasant country to a majority urban one, lifting some 600 million people out of poverty and creating a powerful industrial proletariat. Testifying to the superiority of a collectivised economy over production for profit, China’s economy surged ahead during the world capitalist economic crisis that erupted in 2007-08. Nonetheless, China remains a country of extreme contradictions, with great backwardness and a widening disparity in wealth. A nascent capitalist class now exists on the mainland. Although they have no cohered political leadership, this bourgeois layer increases the danger of internal capitalist counterrevolution. The social contradictions in China are growing and, when they do blow, either capitalist counterrevolution or workers political revolution will be posed.
As Leninist-Trotskyists who fight for world socialist revolution, we stand for the unconditional military defence of China, and the other bureaucratically deformed workers states of North Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba, against imperialist attack and internal capitalist counterrevolution. While we support the Chinese deformed workers state’s right to trade in order to procure what it needs to further its development, we also know that the Stalinists invariably pursue economic advancement in a narrow, nationalistic way.
In contrast, revolutionary Marxists such as Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks recognised that while the workers state might be compelled to strike trade deals and diplomatic agreements with capitalist states, they never confused this with the task of the communist party to lead the struggle for international working-class revolution. The fight to defend and extend the social gains won through the Chinese Revolution requires an additional revolution, a workers political revolution, to sweep away the ruling bureaucracy and establish a genuinely internationalist, communist leadership based on workers and peasants councils. Socialism—a society of material abundance—cannot be built in a single country but requires workers rule internationally, particularly in the most industrially developed countries.
Australian Imperialist Terror in the Region
The campaign against Chinese influence in the region is a racist and anti-communist beat-up—in reality, China’s investment is very small compared with the Japanese and Western imperialist powers. It also takes some chutzpah for an Australian federal minister to denounce the Chinese for building “useless” infrastructure given the role of Australian imperialism in the region. It has been one of unmitigated colonial terror and oppression, from the 19th century kidnapping of Pacific Islanders to work as indentured labour, to colonial terror in PNG (see letter on page 2), to the more recent military incursions in East Timor and the Solomon Islands.
Acting as top cop of the southwest Pacific and junior imperialist partner to the U.S., Australia has been in a blood-drenched, anti-communist military alliance with the U.S. since 1951. Under the ANZUS pact, which particularly targeted the former Soviet degenerated workers state, the U.S. and Australian military slaughtered millions of workers and peasants from Korea to Vietnam to “contain” pro-Communist insurgencies that broke out across Asia following the military defeat of Japanese imperialism in WWII and the unravelling of British and other colonial rule. In 1965-66 Australia’s security forces collaborated with the CIA to help orchestrate an anti-Communist massacre in Indonesia. This bloodbath crushed the Indonesian Communist Party and served to “stabilise” Southeast Asia under the heel of imperialism at the cost of more than a million lives.
Today, under the U.S. alliance, Australia is engaged in its biggest military build-up since World War II. Most of this is naval and much of it will be heavily integrated with U.S. military systems. The U.S. was scheduled to deploy close to 1,600 Marines in Darwin from April, the largest number since the initial agreement for a base was negotiated by the Gillard Labor government in 2011. The highly secretive U.S. Pine Gap spy base, stationed in the Northern Territory, is part of a string of military and intelligence bases that target China extending in an arc from central Asia to South Korea. In late January, Australia backed a new U.S. defence strategy that targets Russia and China as a greater threat to national security than “Islamic terrorism.” As part of our perspective to smash the ANZUS alliance through workers revolution and to defend China we demand: All U.S. bases and Marines out of Australia now! Not one person, not one cent for the Australian imperialist military! Australia get out of the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and the Middle East!
Xenophobic Attacks on Chinese Students
Anti-China fearmongering has targeted local Chinese businessmen, accused of being beholden to the CCP and of seeking to influence local politicians through donations. This led to the resignation of right-wing ALP senator Sam Dastyari last year, long smeared by the government benches and in the media as a stooge of China. The xenophobia being whipped up is having a particularly nasty impact on Chinese students studying in Australia. Last year, the head of ASIO, Duncan Lewis, reportedly warned legislators that “We need to be very conscious of the possibilities of foreign interference in our universities,” adding that this “can go to the behaviour of foreign students [and] of foreign consular staff.” His comments are part of an ongoing crusade against so-called Chinese influence on campuses. This has seen the Australia China Relations Institute at the University of Technology, Sydney as well as the Confucius Institutes—Chinese-government sponsored language and cultural centres on campuses—marked out as “suspect.”
The McCarthyite fiction being peddled is that universities are particularly vulnerable to infiltration by the Chinese government. Education is Australia’s third largest export (after coal and iron ore) and many universities are financially reliant on full-fee paying international students, almost one-third of whom are Chinese. Numbering some 160,000, Chinese students are increasingly portrayed by reactionary forces as either potential dupes of, or spies for, the Chinese government. Supposedly “brainwashed” Chinese students, under the thumb of Chinese agents or consular staff, are penetrating Australian campus life and using their collective economic clout to pressure university administrations to tamp down on academic “freedoms.” Thus, the story goes, these students are deliberately undermining, if not gutting, Australia’s “democratic values” from within on behalf of the “evil puppet-masters” of the CCP.
These wild claims appear to rest on the fact that some Chinese students have dared to challenge disparaging and/or false assertions that university lecturers have made about China. One case reported in the New York Times (15 November 2017) was that of a Chinese student at Melbourne’s Monash University who condemned a quiz question in a business class where the so-called correct answer was, “Chinese officials are truthful only when careless or drunk.” The student’s complaint was picked up by the Chinese Consulate and pressure was brought to bear on the campus administration. It speaks volumes about the current climate that a professor at an elite university in a major city in Australia would propagate such piggish insults and think that it would go unchallenged.
There are plenty of poison pens ready to stimulate the anti-China frenzy. One of the more wretched and much promoted examples (pushed by key members of the parliamentary committee reviewing Turnbull’s espionage laws) is the book Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia. Written by Greens supporter and Charles Sturt University professor, Clive Hamilton, this book drips with “yellow peril” racism and anti-communist prejudice. In the vilest traditions of “White Australia” Hamilton pushes the lurid fantasy that Australian educational institutions and industry are being penetrated and overtaken by “agencies serving the Chinese Communist Party,” even posing the threat that Australia could become a “tribute state of the resurgent Middle Kingdom”! Of course, at the same time he praises local Chinese anti-communists such as John Hugh from “Australian Values Alliance.” With strong backing from the bourgeois media, this sinister outfit successfully mobilised in 2016 to close down concerts organised in Sydney and Melbourne to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s death.
Hamilton’s book is so repugnant that it has been lauded by the fascist Australia First party. The campaign against Chinese influence in Australia is grist to the mill for numerous racist and fascist forces. Last October, a group of Chinese students were bashed in Canberra. Meanwhile the Hitler-loving Antipodean Resistance have been campaigning to drive Chinese students off campuses. What’s needed are union-centred mobilisations, alongside all the fascists’ intended victims, to clean this scum from the streets.
In response to the wave of hostility against Chinese students, last year the Chinese Consulate in Sydney issued a safety warning about studying in Australia. The Chinese government has also cancelled meetings between its officials and Australian university leaders. Such is the growing concern that six vice-chancellors from elite Australian universities are travelling to China in May in an attempt to repair the damage and improve relations in higher education. Recent developments have also troubled elements of the Australian bourgeoisie who see Chinese students not simply as “cash cows” but as potential pro-imperialist propagandists and/or operatives.
Laborite Union Tops Back Anti-China Campaign
Much of the Laborite union bureaucracy marches in lockstep behind the anti-China campaign. This was exemplified in 2015 when, along with their ALP parliamentary brethren, they led a chauvinist outburst against the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement calling on the government to defend “Aussie” jobs and to “Stop the China FTA.” The arch-protectionist Australian manufacturing union (AMWU) railed against “cheap Chinese imports that do not meet Australian standards.”
Ructions have developed between the protectionist and more hawkish “left” union tops and some Labor parliamentarians enamoured with the opportunities Chinese demand has provided Australian capitalism. The latter crowd are represented by ALP elder statesmen like former prime minister Paul Keating and former foreign affairs minister Bob Carr. The likes of Keating and Carr promulgate the lie that what benefits the large mining magnates and Australian capitalist system as a whole will have a trickle-down effect to the benefit of workers. Meanwhile, under pressure from their proletarian base to defend jobs and conditions, the protectionist union misleaders advance another lie—that unemployment can be solved if workers unite with their bosses to defend Australian industry against competitors and employ “local” labour first.
The union tops’ protectionism is a cover for their prostration before the bosses’ attacks on unions, jobs and conditions. They have scarcely lifted a finger to organise the growing numbers of unorganised workers, many of whom are vulnerable and deeply exploited immigrant, youth and women workers in casual and insecure jobs. When applied to China this protectionism is particularly pernicious in that it serves to line workers directly up behind their own imperialist rulers against a deformed workers state. A major campaign by the AMWU today is “The Force Behind Our Forces.” Calling to “Maintain Our [Military] Forces” and complaining about lack of planning and investment in “defence jobs,” the AMWU declares: “Our uniformed Defence Forces rely on a ‘silent army’ of civilian workers to support them . To safeguard national security, Australia needs a civilian workforce capable of designing and maintaining a variety of military equipment.”
In opposition to such wretched nationalism and militarism, workers should be guided by the understanding that their true allies are not the “local” bosses but workers across the country and internationally. Gains that have already been won by the proletariat must be defended. In defence of the unions and the Chinese deformed workers state, a class-struggle leadership of the unions would organise workers (including those who build military vehicles and vessels) in protest against Turnbull’s vicious new security and espionage laws. Such a leadership would link opposition to state repression with the struggle to maintain the strength and integrity of the working class. Against unemployment, it would demand a shorter work week with no loss in pay to spread the available work around. This would be tied to the demand for a massive program of public works, paid at full union wages, to replace the dilapidated schools, hospitals and public transport systems, and provide decent housing for all. Such demands will not be granted by the capitalist rulers but point to the need for workers revolution to get rid of the whole rotting capitalist system.
We of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) stand in political opposition to the nationalist union misleaders and their reformist left tails such as Socialist Alternative, Socialist Alliance and the Communist Party of Australia who have all backed the union tops’ chauvinist anti-China campaign (see “Defend the Gains of the 1949 Chinese Revolution!” ASp No. 228, Autumn 2016). It is no surprise that these “little Australia” reformists regularly call for a vote to the anti-communist, anti-China Greens who have long championed the demand to bring Australian “troops home” in order to defend Australian imperialist interests in the region.
In contrast to these opponents of revolutionary Marxism, we stand sharply opposed to the current chauvinist anti-China outcry and in defence of the gains of the anti-capitalist revolutions against our own imperialist rulers. Our model is the Russian Revolution of 1917 (see article on page 6). The young Soviet workers state of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party was based on the principle that workers of the world should unite against their capitalist oppressors. Only the expropriation of the capitalist rulers internationally holds out the possibility of a world free of exploitation, oppression and war. For that to occur we need to build a reforged Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution.