As 2012 begins, students across Australia confront a worsening social crisis, attacks on their right to an education and the rising danger of war. Amid the deepening breakdown of the global capitalist economy, every region of the world is becoming a potential flashpoint as rival powers battle over control of key markets and resources.
Using similar methods that they used to launch the war on Libya, the US and its allies are now plotting a no less murderous regime-change operation in Syria. Calls for a “no fly zone” have nothing to do with “humanitarian” concerns for the Syrian people. Instead, just as in Libya, the aim is to install a compliant government that will unconditionally serve their interests—against the interests of their rivals China and Russia—and provide a base of reaction to suppress the growing unrest among the workers and oppressed masses of the Middle East.
At the same time, the US and Israel are ratcheting up their threats to attack Iran on the unsubstantiated claim that the country has a functional nuclear weapons program. These provocations are escalating tensions with China, which depends on Iran as a major supplier of energy.
The Gillard Labor government has fully aligned Australia with the war preparations of the United States against China. Without any public discussion, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has opened up northern Australia as a base of operations for the US military and volunteered the Australian military to participate in provocative naval actions in the Indian Ocean that openly target China.
The military agreements made by the Gillard government with Washington underscore the central role played by the US in the anti-democratic political coup that ousted Kevin Rudd on June 23-24, 2010. WikiLeaks has published cables showing that Washington was hostile to Rudd’s hesitation at fully supporting an aggressive US stance against China in Asia. Rudd was deposed by Labor Party factional powerbrokers who have been exposed as “sources” of the US embassy in Canberra. Moreover, “Four Corners” revealed this month that the US Secretary of State knew of the coup two weeks before it took place—and before anyone else in the Labor Party, or any ordinary working people around the country, knew anything about it .
Rudd was removed in large part to refashion the foreign policy of the Australian government. On every question since the 2010 coup, the Labor government—including Rudd as its foreign minister—has functioned as one of the most vocal defenders of US imperialism, from the expanding wars across the Middle East and North Africa, to the persecution of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
Hand in hand with its militarist foreign policy, the minority Labor government is escalating its assault on the conditions and democratic rights of the working class here. And it has only been able to succeed because it is propped up by the Greens. For students, the right to free, high quality education is being torn apart. Job losses and course cuts have been carried out on every campus in Australia. The University of Sydney, the oldest university in the country, began the year with the elimination of 340 academic and support positions.
Conditions facing students in the US and Britain give a glimpse of the future for Australia. In the US, state after state has announced spending cuts of upwards of 20 percent to education, resulting in massive hikes in tuition fees. For students in Britain, fees have been tripled. When term began last year, over 200,000 students were denied places.
This offensive against public education is taking placed amid widespread job destruction. The real level of unemployment has passed 10 percent and it is predicted that as many as 400,000 jobs will be lost this year as a result of the recession in manufacturing alone.
Youth endure the worst conditions. Unemployment for young people is currently five times the official national average, while more than 50 percent of young workers and working students can only find poorly paid and insecure casual jobs.
The explosive re-emergence of mass social struggles in 2011 showed that workers and youth around the world are refusing to accept the future they are being offered by the capitalist system. From the working class-led revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, to the struggles of workers and youth in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland against vicious austerity measures, to the Occupy movement across the United States and internationally, tens of millions of ordinary people have expressed their opposition to inequality, the assault on democratic rights and the domination of society by a tiny, wealthy elite.
What these movements have also demonstrated, however, is that the working class faces a crisis of political perspective. Even though Mubarak was ousted in Egypt, the military regime remains intact, along with gross inequality. Governments across Europe are destroying the jobs and social conditions of the working class. The Occupy movement has been largely dissipated, despite widespread sympathy and support.
The lesson that must be drawn from the events of 2011 is that what the working class needs, above all, is a revolutionary socialist and internationalist perspective.
The only way to end social inequality is to destroy its cause, the profit system, which is rooted in the private ownership of the means of production and the division of the world into competing nation-states.
This means students must turn to the working class, the only global social force capable of carrying through a progressive solution to the twin catastrophes of mass unemployment and war.
The first step is a resolute break with the Labor Party and the Greens, and all the pseudo-left organisations, such as Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative, that seek to tie students to them. Students must reject the bankrupt slogan of “no-politics”, which was used to keep the Occupy movement confined to protest appeals to the very governments and trade unions that serve as instruments of corporate and finance capital.
The ISSE is the youth movement of the International Committee of the Fourth International, the world Trotskyist movement. We fight on campuses in Australia, New Zealand and around the world to promote the intellectual traditions of classical Marxism associated with the names of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky.
The ISSE fights for internationalism. We reject all attempts to divide workers and young people along national, racial, religious or ethnic lines. In particular, we oppose the efforts of the ruling class to whip up anti-immigrant sentiment and insist on the right of workers and youth to live wherever they choose, with full citizenship and democratic rights.
The ISSE insists that a high quality, well-resourced education at every level is a fundamental social right that should be freely available to all. We oppose HECS and all other charges, including the newly imposed amenities fee that the Labor government has imposed on all students for basic university services. Resources for extra-curricular sporting, cultural, social and political activities should be provided automatically to all students free of charge, because such activities are a critical component of a genuine, all-rounded education.
The ISSE’s socialist program calls for a massive redistribution of wealth. We insist that the major banks, corporations and utilities be taken out of the hands of the billionaires and placed under public ownership and the democratic control of the population as a whole. These political demands are essential to securing the social rights of the working class, including the right to a well-paid job, quality education, health care and housing, a dignified retirement for the elderly and a world free of war, catastrophic climate change and repression.
ISSE branches hold regular political forums where all are welcome to participate in discussions on current political developments. The ISSE distributes key statements and analyses from the World Socialist Web Site among students on university campuses, TAFEs and high schools. The ISSE also organises meetings on the struggle led by Leon Trotsky and the Fourth International against the betrayals of the Russian Revolution and socialism by the bureaucracy headed by Joseph Stalin.
In 1938, under conditions of capitalist breakdown and revolutionary upheavals, Leon Trotsky wrote: "Only the fresh enthusiasm and aggressive spirit of the youth can guarantee the preliminary successes in the struggle; only these successes can return the best elements of the older generation to the road of revolution.”
In the face of the manifest failure of capitalism, we urge all students and young people to take up the struggle for socialism by joining the ISSE and fighting to build a new, revolutionary leadership of the working class.