The government, police and media are pursuing a racist campaign of vilification and persecution against kids from Sudanese migrant backgrounds.
The Herald Sun is today boasting that a Sudanese born “suspected member of the Apex gang” will be “forced to return to Africa next year”. The racists are crowing.
Who exactly are we deporting?
Issac Gatkuoth came to Australia as a nine-year old child refugee. He “endured a hellish, parentless upbringing in Sudan”1. He hasn’t seen his mother since he was five years old, his two brothers were killed when his village was “wiped out”, and he spent time as an unaccompanied child in a Kenyan refugee camp.
“Until recently he believed his father was living somewhere in Australia, but was devastated when he learned his dad died when he was just two”.2
Unsurprisingly, Issac suffers from PTSD, has recurring nightmares, and developed an ‘ice’ addiction. Issac “was on ice and had not slept for two weeks” when he committed a violent carjacking.
Issac was sentenced, imprisoned, and next year will complete the prison term that is meant to ‘repay his debt to society’. And then he will be deported to a country which he fled when he was five, where the people he knew are long dead, and which is stricken by ongoing civil war.
Issac denies being a member of the amorphous and ill-defined ‘Apex gang’, but because of the colour of his skin, and the racist beat-up surrounding anyone tarred with these two words, the right-wing media, the shock-jocks and Liberal MP Jason Wood are jubilant because this Australian youth faces deportation.
Issac is as Australian as I am3. He went to an Australian school, grew up in an Australian community, was marginalized by good old Australian racism and neglect, and took popular Australian drugs to blot out the pain.
Issac is as much one of ‘our’ kids as anyone. He needs support, not racism, vilification and deportation.
Aside: Compare and contrast the coverage, ABC 7.30, “Soldiers returning from war turn to drugs and crime – but are we letting them down?“.
What is this ‘Apex gang’ bullshit anyway?
When is a gang not a gang? The police, media and politicians report on Apex gang as if it were a structured criminal organisation engaged in systematic car-jackings, burglaries, and armed robberies. The truth is a little less impressive.
When the ‘Apex gang’ first burst across media front pages in March it was little more than an extended friendship group.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a really big thing, you know. The media always speculates and tries to make things sound big, bigger than they are. … (It’s) just a group of youths. … Everyone’s got to have friends, you know.”
A bunch of kids growing up in a Melbourne suburb with a “lack of school, no jobs, lack of employment” hang out with their friends and get into fights with other groups of kids. Sounds familiar:
Sharpies, or sharps, are the darlings of Australian gang fashion. They started out in the 1960s when groups of working-class teenagers in Melbourne, and to a lesser extent, Sydney, came together over cars, tattoos, fights, and “dressing sharp.”
In March, some kids were involved in a punch-on at Federation Square during the Moomba festival. Melbourne’s largest street gang, Victoria Police, responded with copious amounts of pepper spray.
If the kids involved hadn’t been black, and if their little spat hadn’t pissed all over a City of Melbourne tourism draw card, the fight might have gone unremarked.
Brawls involving a couple of dozen people are common enough in any suburb with the right combination of unemployment, alcohol and machismo:
VICTORIA Police say they are not investigating an all-in-brawl at a suburban Aussie rules football match despite reports a pregnant woman was assaulted.
When the police and media reported that a “gang war” had taken place in the city, the Apex gang exploded. As the ABC’s ‘Apex gang member’ pointed out back in March, “Some people just want a reputation”.
Notoriety is a hell of a currency, and when the media, police and political establishment started condemning the ‘Apex gang’, every disaffected kid in the outer suburbs had something infamous to scrawl on the wall.
It is little wonder that the apparent composition of the ‘gang’ has changed and the crimes associated with it are expanding. Hundreds of people from all manner of backgrounds are now using the words ‘Apex gang’ in Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs.
There is no ‘Apex gang’, but there is a hell of a brand, and who wants to let the truth get in the way of a good story? Both the police and media outlets profit by stoking racist hysteria around the ‘Apex gang’. The gang narrative sells papers, drives website clicks, and justifies police budgets.
Anyone interested in how the police and media can invent a ‘gang’ out of whole cloth should read up on Adelaide “Gang of 49“.
In 2007 SA Police announced they were “monitoring a group of 49 primarily Aboriginal offenders held responsible for hundreds of crimes”. The media dubbed it the “Gang of 49” and dozens of articles followed.
The Advertiser and local talk back radio reported on the crimes, members and supposed rituals of this terrifying gang menace. One expert compared it’s lack of structure to the ‘cells’ of a terrorist movement! Before long there were indigenous kids running around calling themselves the “Gang of 49”, where no such gang had existed before.
Victoria goes to the polls in two years, and both major political parties will once again engage in the traditional ‘law and order’ bidding war for the support of the Police Association and the Herald Sun.
You can bet that the Police Associaton will demand more officers and greater powers, and both major parties will announce ‘new measures’ to ‘combat gang crime’.
Aside: Whenever you see the words “police sources” in a Victorian publication, the journalist actually means “Police Association gossip”.
Victoria Police cannot be taken seriously when they talk about the ‘Apex gang’, ‘gang crime’, or anything supposedly connected to the Sudanese community.
In 2014 three police were sacked and thirteen disciplined over the production of racist material at a Police station in Sunshine.
Racial profiling is common place:
Victorian Police LEAP data analysed by eminent statistician, Professor Ian Gordon from the Univeristy of Melbourne in Haile-Michael & Ors v Konstantinidis & Ors revealed that between 2006-2009, Africans in the Flemington and North Melbourne area were 2.5 times more likely to be stopped by police than other groups despite having a lower crime rate.
The practice of racial profiling extends beyond police “rank and file”. “Overt operational orders by Victoria Police have been known to target African youth” despite 2006 legislation that “makes it unlawful for a person to be treated differently from others on the basis of their race”.
Victoria has introduced a pilot “stop and search receipt” program, but it’s designed to avoid capturing any information about ‘race’ lest racism be detected. The Victoria Police Association resists even this most basic accountability measure.
Victoria Police, and in particular the Victoria Police Association, maintain very close relationships with the newspapers who might otherwise report on police misdeeds. The law-and-order campaigns of the Herald Sun (in particular) mirror the stated position of the Victoria Police Association, and crime reporting rarely deviates from the narrative pushed by Victoria Police’s media unit.
The confluence of interest between Melbourne’s largest tabloid newspaper and the Victoria Police Association deserves closer examination than I am able to provide in this post.
Issac Gatkuoth is being sacrificed to the myth of the ‘Apex gang’, and racist narratives around “Sudanese crime”.
The vilification of the Sudanese community continues unchecked in the pages of tabloid newspapers, on talk back radio, at MPs’ press conferences, and in the actions of the Victoria Police.
The reality is that Melbourne’s outer suburbs register unemployment rates approaching 30%, alienated teenagers hang out in ‘gangs’, and kids who’ve experienced war and deprivation need love and support.
We must push back against the vilification of the Sudanese community, public rhetoric about the ‘Apex gang’, and the victimization of troubled kids like Issac Gatkuoth.
A ‘final’ crackdown on the ongoing Bendigo Street protest-occupation seems likely as Victoria Police execute heavy-handed evictions and government rhetoric against occupiers gets increasingly extreme.
Melbourne is in the midst of a housing crisis, yet an estimated 82,700 properties sit vacant across the city. A significant number of these are owned by the government.
There are 34,700 waiting for public housing in Victoria. The public housing waiting list is over ten years long. This is why an estimated 22,000 people are homeless in Melbourne, and this is why increasing numbers of people sleep rough in the CBD, unable to find even the most basic shelter.
At the same time, the Victorian government owns a large portfolio of vacant properties in Collingwood and Parkville which were compulsorily acquired for the failed East-West Link project.
The East-West Link project was cancelled after the 2014 Victorian state election, and the state government had announced plans to sell-off houses acquired for the project. Two years after the East West Link project was scrapped the bulk of these houses remain in government hands, and many sit vacant.
The solution seems obvious. People need houses. The government owns hundred of vacant houses. Developers and property speculators sit on tens of thousands more. There is enough space to house everyone, right?
It was in this context that homeless people, activists and supporters initiated a protest-occupation of the swath of vacant housing on Bendigo Street in Collingwood in March this year. The actions of the Bendigo Street occupiers have put housing, housing vacancies, and the wash-up from the East West Link project in the public spotlight.
The occupiers of the properties have made the following demands and refuse to leave until they are met … All unoccupied properties acquired for the East-West Link that are still in the government’s possession to be added to the public housing register … [and] the Andrews government to say how they intend to provide housing for 25,000 homeless people
After six months of occupation, the Andrews government appears to be readying for a crackdown.
Police action at the occupation is becoming increasingly regular and heavy handed. On Friday, Victoria Police evicted a homeless indigenous family from 13 Bendigo Street. Three people were arrested.
Activists responded by re-occupying.
The Victorian government responded in turn with riot-police.
The absurd situation now, is that the Victorian government are now employing private security guards to sit in vacant houses in order to lock out homeless families.
— Boycott Wilson (@Boycott_Wilson) October 28, 2016
The Minister for Housing, Martin Foley, has stepped up attacks on occupiers, with the significant support of the Herald Sun.
The end-game for the Victorian government is the sale of as many of the acquired East-West link homes on the private market as possible.
The state government is attempting to recoup any money it can after spending $1.1 billion dollars to cancel the East-West Link project contracts. The state government was open about this objective prior to the Bendigo Street occupation.
However, in the face of criticism raised by the occupation and others, the state government has periodically announced that this or that house held by the state government will be converted into “social housing”. What this means in practice is that one or two houses are leased by the government to the Salvation Army.
Occupiers and others are rightly critical of the role played by the Salvation Army. Aside from being a religious organization with a history of homophobia, the Salvation Army does not provide the kind of secure housing that the public housing system does. “Social housing” leases are often conditional and rents are often significantly higher than the means assessed rents of the public system.
Nonetheless, the idea that the Salvation Army “do good” remains commonplace, and the state government have used this to create the political basis for attacking the occupation. The government simply announces that this or that house under occupation is now leased to the Salvation Army, and occupiers are all that stands in the way of the religious creepers doing their “good work”!
In recent weeks the campaign against the occupation has gone further. Martin Foley has claimed that occupiers are “armed” “muggers” “sex offenders” and more. The Herald Sun and others are actively canvassing for “terrified residents” desperate for the state to save them from “selfish squatters”.
The rhetoric is utterly disconnected from the reality that actually exists on Bendigo Street in Collingwood; the reality is that hundreds of people have come together over six months to raise a demand for a right to housing.
The importance of this action
The government hates the Bendigo Street occupation. The Herald Sun bemoans the $1.1 billion squat. For this reason alone it deserves your support!
Bendigo Street has shown that the direct action of homeless people occupying vacant property can be a politically powerful act. The act of occupying creates a situation that the government cannot readily ignore, it forces the government to act, either with concession or repression, in order to end this affront to property.
The Bendigo Street occupation demonstrates the rank hypocrisy of the state government, bemoaning homelessness whilst sitting on a portfolio of vacant homes.
The state government is desperate to undermine the inherent political legitimacy of this action, so that they can more freely utilize police violence to shut it down. They have not been successful so far because of the strong support for the action by activists, neighbors and the wider community.
But the state is preparing to act, and repression of the protest-occupation is imminent. Two things are required to deter the government, and hopefully force them towards concession.
The first is strong support to resist any eviction. The success of the police is not a foregone conclusion, a couple of hundred people willing to get in the way can transform an eviction situation.
The second is a willingness by activists to continue breaking the law, and to continue re-opening and re-occupying vacant government owned houses. For as long as this continues to happen, the state government will not be able to achieve its objectives: an end to the situation and the sale of these properties on the private market.
Until then, Stop the rot, squat the lot!
Phillip Galea, a fascist arrested in ‘anti-terror’ raids back in August, planned to bomb two “left wing premises” and cause “loss of life to persons possessing leftwing ideologies” according to statements made by Victoria Police in the Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday.
The Guardian is reporting that Phillip Galea conducted surveillance on two targets, obtained bomb making material, conducted research on improvised explosive devises, and sought to “recruit at least five other capable persons to assist with his plan”.
Galea has history. Galea is linked to a variety of far-right groups, and has been active in far-right and neo-Nazi politics since at least 2010. In the past eighteen months, Galea has been stopped with a knife at a rally in Richmond, stopped with tasers and mercury the day before a rally in Melton, and arrested with a flare at a rally in Bendigo. Andy Fleming has published an article detailing Galea’s links with Reclaim Australia, the True Blue Crew, the United Patriots Front, and possibly local Combat 18 boneheads.
Galea is due back in court on 19 December 2016.
See also: The Saturday Paper, 13 Aug 2016, How Reclaim Australia hid a ‘terrorist’
As Andrew Zammit explains, Galea is hardly the first far-right figure to engage in political violence in Australia.
The alleged plot, if proven, would not be the first case of far-right violent extremism in Australia. To choose some recent examples, in 2010 self-described Combat 18 members fired shots at a mosque in Perth. In 2012 two Melbourne neo-Nazi skinheads were sentenced to jail for brutally assaulting a Vietnamese student. In 2013 a former soldier and self-described neo-Nazi was jailed for weapons and explosives offences.
Police have not disclosed which “left wing premises” were targeted by Galea in this alleged plot, but I suspect this might be relevant.
In November last year a group of United Patriots Front goons led by Blair Cottrell shot a bizarre video of themselves harassing staff and volunteers at 3CR community radio, and then again at the Melbourne Anarchist Club. As Jeff Sparrow pointed out, the footage was “clearly intended to be intimidating”.
But it did more than intimidate. These little video excursions by Blair Cottrell and others were a way of signalling to the UPF’s supporters who their enemies were. They were identifying targets. It seems likely that Phillip Galea took the hint.
Another matter that remains unclear is how the case against Phillip Galea might yet impact Blair Cottrell’s own legal troubles. In September three former members of the UPF were charged with religious vilification offenses for their involvement in a “mock beheading video”. Yesterday Blair Cottrell confirmed he has also received charges related to “racial vilification I think”.
As the dregs of the UPF pass through the courts, other far-right groups are calling rallies, and the anti-racist response continues.
Photo Credit: The featured image was stolen from James Ross.
A small fascist group are trying to make their presence felt on the streets of Melbourne’s CBD, today they got a free-kick in The Age.
Today’s Age reports that “a vigilante-style group is running ‘safety patrols’ in Melbourne’s CBD”. The article reads like it could have been scraped from a Soldiers of Odin (SOO) press release, the video that accompanies the article is worse.
The Age happily compares Soldiers of Odin to New York’s ‘Guardian Angels’; a multi-racial group of who ‘patrolled’ the New York subway system in the 1980s. A more apt comparison for the Soldiers of Odin would be Greece’s Golden Dawn.
The Soldiers of Odin are not simply some confused vigilante group concerned with amorphous ‘crime’ in the CBD. Rather, they are implementing a strategy of intimidation with the aim of building a far-right street gang in the heart of the Melbourne.
Their politics are racist, nationalist, and fascist.
For the Soldiers of Odin, ‘crime’ is a euphemism. Their agenda is to target Muslims, and non-white immigrants from the Middle East and Africa. They talk about crime in terms of the minority groups they seek to target. ‘Crime’ provides the Soldiers of Odin with the cover they are seeking to demonize religious and cultural minorities.
If you have any doubt about the racist agenda of the Soldiers of Odin, check out their repulsive public Facebook presence. The racist material directed at Muslims and other groups of perceived non-white immigrants is there for anyone with eyes to see.
The Soldiers of Odin are implementing a tried and tested racist strategy; and if Chris Vedelago and Cameron Houston of The Age wanted to compare it to anything they should have compared it to the strategy adopted by Golden Dawn in Greece.
The Soldiers of Odin are conducting “street patrols” in the city, and purport to run a soup kitchen. They do both of these things with deliberate political objectives in mind.
Fascist rhetoric centres around the idea that the state has failed the ‘nation’ in some way. The Soldiers of Odin are asserting that the state has failed to provide for “our homeless”, or that the state has failed to provide “safety” from “crime”, and they are purporting to react to this failure. But at a deeper level they are reacting to what they see as the state’s failure to maintain white supremacy. The state has failed to stop “Islamisation”, “left-wing treason”, immigration and so on.
The soup kitchen is about legitimacy and political cover. Our society gives all sorts of leeway to cranks if they purport to undertake charity work. It is politically difficult for anti-racist activists or any other force to go out and bust up a supposed soup kitchen.
The street patrols fit into this rhetoric as well, but their purpose is far more sinister. The Soldiers of Odin are actively hostile towards non-white immigrants, refugees, Muslims and “the left”. Their presence in the CBD is about projecting intimidation.
I have written before about the fact that fascists have a public space agenda. They are making a claim about who can feel safe in public space and who is not allowed to feel safe in public space. They are making the claim that racism is acceptable in public space, and that all people who disagree with them should feel unsafe in public space.
The uniformed march of bone-heads is deliberately calculated to make non-white immigrants, and people who are identifiably Muslim, feel unsafe in our city.
Should they be stopped?
The Soldiers of Odin are presently a tiny far-right grouplet, however, unopposed, the knowledge that even a small group of thugs is roaming the streets can have a disproportionate impact. There is also no guarantee that this group will stay small.
Australia has not yet experienced the scale of economic shocks that facilitated the rise of these kinds of groups in different European contexts, however there are other factors that could support the growth of this model of far-right group.
In Victoria we are in the middle of a racist “law-and-order” scare. The Herald Sun and various tabloid current affairs outfits have been pushing garbage about “Sudanese crime” and the supposed threat of “Islamic” terrorism, and the state opposition is talking up a law-and-order election.
Whilst unemployment is officially down, there is still meaningful economic discontent in the disadvantaged outer suburban communities that far-right groups have been targeting over the past two years (Melton, Bendigo, Narre Warren). There is also simmering resentment, encouraged by racism from the media and various political leaders, at the apparent decline of white supremacy in Australia.
The Soldiers of Odin are unlikely to experience rapid organizational growth; they are not likely to become a major extra-parliamentary political force in the near future. That said, in the current context there is the political opportunity for a group of street thugs to build and organise. A couple of dozen roaming fascists can make a city centre feel decidedly unsafe; a couple of hundred could pose a significant threat.
Fascist street thugs, like the Soldiers of Odin, need to be opposed. Their presence in the CBD has to be rejected, and their activities ejected. Fortunately they are still a small group of political opportunists.
Anti-racists need to get together and debate tactics in their organisations and campaign groups, but I’d suggest one possible tactic that might be worth exploring is a counter presence.
Any anti-racist counter-presence would need to be bigger, have better food, and be prepared to go and dish out the grub and friendship whenever and wherever the Scum of Odin seek to set up shop. It would have to be an ongoing project, and to work it would need to draw in the participation of the people that these fascists seek to target.
The Soldiers of Odin seek to convey a sense of semi-anonymous menace. The images and video included in The Age article merely contribute to this, in particular by using their “from behind” style photos (a style also popular with the fascist groups they descend from).
Well, here are their less than impressive faces (thanks to DYVRS for digging up most of these).
1. Jay B Moore, ‘President’, ex-PDLA.
2. Cam “Moody” McCann, (Facebook handle), Werribee based.
3. Ashley McIvor, Heidelberg based, here next to Kane Miller (TBC)
4. Shaun Butinar, hanger-on
5. Mick Bevans
6 (1st). (Typo, I used 6 twice) Swiv McKay (Facebook handle, likely false)
6 (2nd). Garry Mattsson
7. Dez Aster (Facebook handle, likely false)
8. Corey Baines
9. Group shot.
If you recognise any of the above, contact your local anti-fascists! Slackbastard has more.
It’s utterly laughable that Age reporters Chris Vedelago and Cameron Houston did not challenge SOO on their neo-Nazi origins. They’ve adopted the name and branding (apparently with endorsement) of a Finnish fascist group. That name and logo draws from the post-WWII neo-Nazi embrace of “Odinist” and other forms of “Norse” symbolism.
And it’s not like fascists in Australia are unaware of the neo-Nazi connotations of the use of norse iconography by far-right groups!
Update: From Slackbastard:
SOO was founded by a neo-Nazi, Mika Ranta, with a criminal conviction for racially-motivated assault;
SOO branches around the world have attracted the participation of neo-Nazis and White supremacists;
the President of SOO in Melbourne was previously a member/supporter of the Patriots Defence League of Australia;
SOO member Cam Moody McCann particpated in the April 2015 Reclaim Australia rally in the company of neo-Nazis;
the great majority if not all of the SOO Melbourne boys are drawn from the (White) nationalist milieu.
Anti-Racist Canada has a ton of info documenting links between the Soldiers of Odin and neo-Nazism.
Further Reading / Links
Slackbastard, antifa notes (october 10, 2016) : Soldiers of Odin Redux
Slackbastard, Soldiers of Odin Versus True Blue Crew
Junkee, Anti-Muslim Vigilante Group Roaming the CBD
DYVRS, Who’s who in the Zoo?
Here are some links and tidbits, September 2016.
Randall Munroe of XKCD has published a lovely little graphic explaining just how abnormal recent temperature changes have been.
It seems increasingly likely that children today will live to see a world of 4.5 degrees of warming.
Ethical consumerism is worse than useless. The false choice of “ethical consumption” gives those firms most exposed to the risks of consumer backlash a ready source of green wash, and it provides new opportunities to sell “ethical” products at higher prices. Whilst doing this, “ethical consumerism” diverts attention away from the dynamic that is destroying our environment, exploiting workers, and wasting resources.
The Campaign Against Racism and Fascism have a forum next Tuesday entitled Making Melbourne a Hanson Free Zone, speakers include Inaz Janif, Jeff Sparrow, and Jack Latimore.
Annoying fascist slime ball Neil Erikson is apparently facing some kind of legal action. The Facebook page ‘Australian Settlers Rebellion’ (operated by Erikson and Shermon Burgess) has put up a post calling on fascists to support Erikson at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 6 March 2017, and states that Erikson has been “charged under the Communist Racial Discrimination Laws for depicting a Religious Act”.
If Erikson has been charged, then it could well relate to last year’s beheading stunt in Bendigo. Erikson was accompanied on that jaunt by Blair Cottrell, Chris Shortis, Lyndon Watson, and John Wilkinson.
Or it could be a publicity stunt with no basis in reality. Prosecutions for racial vilification are exceptionally rare, and Erikson’s name does not appear to be on the Magistrate Court list for the day in question.
Apparently some 49% of Australians support a ban on Muslim immigration. The Essential research poll is based on an ‘online panel’ of a thousand people who receive incentives to complete surveys…
None the less, the poll’s other questions about the return of Pauline Hanson to federal parliament pose a significant problem for anti-racists. 42% of respondents agreed with the statement “I agree with a lot of what Pauline Hanson says and it’s good to see her back in Parliament”. 62% of respondents agreed that “I might not personally agree with everything she says but she is speaking for a lot of ordinary Australians” and 65% agreed that “Pauline Hanson talks about issues other politicians too scared to tackle”.
‘Easy Money: The Reserve Bank of Australia and the tremors in capital accumulation‘ makes for interesting reading:
Unorthodox monetary policy is like a vast anti-gravity machine that has been able to delay the day of reckoning. The cost however is that it postpones crisis today by accumulating even greater and greater sources of risk. Unorthodox monetary policy today seems to necessitate unorthodox monetary policy tomorrow. It does seem unlikely that this can go on forever…
The Grupo Cultural de Estudios Sociales de Melbourne have released a new publication as part of the celebrations to make the 80th anniversary of the Spanish revolution.
A grass root C.N.T. militant Remembers: The oral memoirs of Luis Parés is newly translated into English, and represents an oral account of one militant’s experiences as a militant in the CNT during the Spanish revolution.
The flame of the Spanish Social Revolution has never stopped burning.
Eighty years since it was lit one can still find anarchist innovations in the folds of its contents. All its political adversaries through the decades have been unable to discard or permanently hide the constructive and positive social achievements implemented by the libertarian movement.
Thousands of printed works describing the events that transpired during those captivating days have traveled around the world, many of them written by renowned authors. Others books have been written by research academic historians giving their individual interpretations of the proceedings. Unfortunately not too many books have been written by the individuals that experienced the events at first hand, that were in actual fact making history with their militancy, with their direct participation, with their contribution in spontaneous actions and decisions be it at meetings, behind the barricades or on the battlefield.
At the beginning of the second half of the 1970’s a small group of compañeros in France, in Spain and where ever there were exiled Spanish anarchists set themselves the task of recording the verbal memoirs of militants whose singular actions contributed to the social changes, the collectivisations as well as the constant struggle against fascism. This is the history of personal experiences.
We now have the pleasure of presenting in the following pages the testimony of Luis Parés Adán who recalls his war. These memoirs were first published in the pages of “Espoir” the weekly publication of the French C.N.T. – A.I.T., number 825, July 1978.
You can download a .pdf of A grass root C.N.T. militant Remembers here. I hope to have some hard copies printed and available soon.
There is a federal election tomorrow. A few people have asked how I intend to vote, or if I intend to vote.
The standard line you will get from most anarchists is “Don’t Vote! It only legitimizes the bastards!”. The Anarchist FAQ spills some 18,000 words to this effect. As a position it misses the point.
Anarchists are utterly marginal within the Australian polity. The decision of a couple of hundred people to abstain for this reason or that, or to vote for this reason or that, is utterly without consequence. Even if we were a sizable political force, the legitimacy of the state rests on a hell of a lot more than the overall rate of participation in this or that election. States do not miraculously collapse when electoral participation rates fall below some magical number.
Whether you vote or not is of little consequence. If you do vote, you have no effective control over the representatives you participate in electing. The choices you are presented on the ballot are no choice at all. The major political parties operate as a cartel to lock out rivals, and only parties that accept the logic of the capitalist status quo gain access to the financial resources and media time necessary to compete. This includes The Greens.
The most important question is not who you voted for on election day, it’s what you do every other day of the year. Playing by the rules of the established political process is a mugs game; the deck is stacked in favour of the existing bourgeoisie political parties. If you want to change the world, don’t just vote, get organized and get active.
Join a union or start one. Go to a protest, sit-in, occupation, strike or demonstration. Join a political group, if there isn’t one that reflects your politics, start one. The social force necessary to effect real change has to be built, it can’t simply be voted for.
Further reading: Errico Malatesta, Reformism.
A few thoughts about tomorrow…
Acknowledging that voting or not voting is, by itself, unlikely to have any impact on anything, here are a couple of thoughts about your options tomorrow.
1. Whether you vote or not, you can decorate your ballot. So long as your drawings, obscene slogans and hashtags do not obscure the boxes, your vote will still be counted (so long as the boxes are numbered). The AEC keeps stats on the defacement of ballots.
2. If you refuse to vote, consider casting a blank ballot rather than staying home. Not only does this avoid the fine, statistics on spoiled ballots make it possible to estimate how many people are consciously refusing to vote.
3. The harder it is for a major party to form government, or to pass legislation, the better. If you do vote, I’d recommend putting the Liberals and any other fascists running at the bottom, then Labor, then the Greens, then any left wing party or independent.
5. If you are voting Green in the Senate in Victoria, consider voting below the line. Richard di Natale is at the top of the Greens senate ticket. He shouldn’t be at the top of yours.
Tomorrow’s poll will not bring about significant change. Climate change will not be addressed, capitalism will not be challenged, and gross inequality will not be overcome. It is up to us to build the social force necessary to achieve any real change in our society.
I still intend to vote. I’ll vote cynically. I intend to preference the Greens then Labor because it is easier to make the case for their inadequacy when they are in power. And I will vote for any left of centre independent or minor party, simply because the more chaos and gridlock there is in the parliament, the better.
After that, lets eat a sausage and get back to the politics that matters, on the streets, on the campuses, and in our workplaces.