In addition to the workers many other sections of the people are indeed adversely affected by this local and multinational monopoly capitalist domination of Australia, by Australia’s lack of full anti-imperialist independence. These other sections are also impelled into struggle and do struggle.
Many, many issues become the subject of struggle. All the issues and all the struggles have their root in Australia’s lack of thoroughgoing anti-imperialist independence and in fact (whether or not the participants fully understand it) flow into the stream of struggle to defend the existing degree of independence and carry it through to anti-imperialist independence.
Australia’s dependent position on U.S. imperialism resulted in participation in the U.S. aggression against Vietnam. The Vietnamese people were struggling for the national liberation of their country. Manipulated by U.S. imperialism the Australian state apparatuses, all the ideological weapons of the Australian and multinational monopoly capitalists, were used to send Australian soldiers to Vietnam.
The action of doing so led to counter-action. Wide sections of Australian people resisted Australia’s participation in this aggression. Foundation of the resistance lay in the workers. Many Australians in addition to the workers played a very active part in the struggle. Amongst them were sections of the capitalist class.
No doubt each section had its own immediate motives but the overall effect was struggle for Australia’s independence. The effect of the attempted imperialist subjugation of Vietnam necessarily raised in the minds of the Australian people solidarity with the Vietnamese people. If it can happen in Vietnam why can’t it happen in Australia?
Through Australian resistance to U.S. aggression in Vietnam, rich lessons were learned by Australian people. Amongst them were that an armed people in a country comparatively small, such as Vietnam, can defeat a much larger and more powerful enemy if those people are guided by correct ideological and political perspective; that Australian people were oppressed by a coercive state machine manipulated by a foreign imperialism, lied to by a traitor press and other ideological weapons, betrayed by a traitor class; that the Australian people have an immense capacity for struggle and that the working class was the decisive, but by no means the only force in that struggle; that the cause of independence was all important; that people organised in united action were the key to carrying on struggle; that there came into being organisational forms which expressed the desire for united action and provided a means of action. Naturally the struggle was a process. It had small beginnings, developed by stages until it became a gigantic movement. Also it did not in itself solve the problem of Australia’s independence. But it was an important part of the stream of independence struggle in Australia that had its beginning in the black people’s struggle against the invading British and has never ceased.
Struggle develops step by step.
Reference has been made to the multinational and other monopoly capitalists who sit astride Australia, hold it to ransom, a ransom paid in exterminating measures against the black people, exploitation of the workers, oppression of all the common people and billions of dollars extracted from Australia. A very good example of this is provided by uranium.
Uranium as the foundation component of nuclear fission emphasises Australia’s critical need to uphold her national independence and certainly to carry it through to breaking completely the imperialist hold on Australia.
Australia has a significant proportion of the world’s known uranium (some 20 per cent – even up to 30 per cent). Uranium is a substance that features largely in the contention and struggle between the two big nuclear powers – U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism. Each of these powers strives to control the uranium resources of the world both for war purposes and civilian purposes, each of which serves the other. Thus as Australia contains at least 20 per cent of the world’s uranium, Australia is deeply involved in the world-wide struggle over its control. Each superpower relentlessly pursues the struggle to dominate the whole of uranium mining and processing.
Uranium is a very emotional subject because it is so involved in nuclear war and nuclear damage. There are undoubtedly unsolved questions as to the danger of uranium mining and processing. Those questions cannot be solved by two superpowers each of which is preoccupied with profit, with war, with world domination. Industrial safety has always been subordinated to profit, safety is entirely a secondary consideration. The lives and health of millions and millions of workers have been sacrificed on the altar of monopoly capitalist profit. Take, for example, exposure to dangerous substances. It has been known for forty-odd years that exposure to asbestos fibres is productive of various forms of cancer. Yet the exposure has gone on. Many, many workers (including right here in Australia) have died or suffered terrible illness from exposure to asbestos, all on the altar of profit. Silicosis is an occupational disease particularly of miners and moulders when they are exposed to silica dust. Yet preventive measures can be taken. Many, many workers have died or become victim to crippling lung diseases through exposure to it, all on the altar of profit. These are but two instances of well-known hazards where preventive measures can be taken but are not, because it would reduce profits. Is it not an irrational social system that promotes and permits such things?
Now again to uranium. Radioactivity is a well-known cause of illness, particularly of cancer. There is every reason to believe that no proper safeguards would be taken in the mining and processing of it. The ruthless dispossession of Australia’s black people shows that everything is subordinated to profit. Why is there every reason to believe it? Because it has happened with every other substance that contained potential hazards but was the subject of private profit.
These substances can only be satisfactorily obtained and processed where there is no private profit motive, where the people themselves control the obtaining and processing. Then the people can investigate fully the hazards involved and the safeguards necessary. If a substance or process is too hazardous then some other substance or process can be investigated. Isn’t that the position with uranium in Australia today? It is not uranium in itself that is the issue: it is ownership and control of it. Given people’s ownership of it, then its mining and use can be properly investigated. If satisfactory methods are found then it can be used; if not, then alternatives must be found.
U.S. imperialism wants to control all uranium resources and processing; so too does Soviet social-imperialism. Each strives for uranium at the expense of the other. Each is desperately preparing for nuclear war against the other and for world domination. Each uses, as a method to that end, nuclear “civilian” power exported to other countries.
The Australian state apparatus and Australia’s ideological and political resources jump into the fray. Some crumbs fall to Australia’s monopoly capitalists in “partnership” for the exploitation of uranium. U.S. imperialism takes advantage of its entrenched position in Australia to grab Australia’s uranium and to use the state apparatus and ideological and political weapons to protect its grabbing. Soviet social-imperialism offers to process Australia’s uranium and uses anti-uranium sentiments to deal blows against U.S. imperialist exploitation of Australia’s uranium.
The whole operation calls into being a great Australia-wide struggle against uranium mining. The decisive force in that is the working class. Again the working class demonstrates by its actions that it holds the ultimate key to the solution of the problem. It has extremely important allies. Its allies are scientists, other intellectuals, people involved in environmental activities (from many walks of life including workers) religious people, pacifists, indeed every section of people except the tiny minority of monopoly capitalists involved in the mining of uranium together with their class brothers.
The conflict is fought out in the transport industries, amongst the mineworkers, in demonstrations of many sections of people, in the streets, halls, everywhere where people gather. There is wide united action. It gathers way. It is repressed, its participants fined, gaoled, persecuted, intimidated. Still the struggle grows. It takes on more consciousness that the real underlying issue is Australia’s anti-imperialist independence.
Along with the coercion of the state apparatus goes a great barrage of “argument” in favour of uranium mining. To examine something of these arguments is to assist the understanding of the struggle for anti-imperialist independence.
The uranium mine owners and their spokesmen say that uranium mining will bring great prosperity to Australia, billions of dollars. But the question is – to what Australia and to what Australians? Even on the narrowest basis it cannot assist Australian people. The Australia that is referred to as receiving great benefit is the Australia of these very multinational mining owners and those Australian monopoly capitalists permitted to share in the mining. These people are the oppressors, exploiters and enemies of Australia’s common folk. Mining means millions of dollars profit to the monopoly capitalists. These millions will not remain even within Australian capitalism, they will be remitted mainly to the USA (as with Utah and its profits from Australian coal). Hence they drain the foreign currency reserves even of Australian capitalism. Then it is said investment in uranium mining brings foreign currency into Australia and in this way augments Australia’s foreign currency reserves. (Mind you, these are Australian capitalist currency reserves, no ordinary person ever sees them.) But it is said they contribute to the prosperity of the Australian community. Very far from it; they contribute to the pressure against the Australian ordinary people, exploit its workers more fiercely, subordinate the intermediate sections of the people to the imperialists.
It is said that uranium mining would enable Australians to get jobs at a time when there is unemployment. Apart from the comparatively small number who would be employed, this is indeed a spurious argument. There is a great deal of material from which it can be seen that it is a spurious argument. For example, the U.S. multinationals established a comparatively large motor vehicle industry in Australia. They caused the state apparatus to import large numbers of workers from Europe and other places. From the exploitation of these workers plus Australian workers, they made millions of dollars in profit. These millions they exported to the USA. They produced dangerous, expensive and shoddy motor vehicles with which they flooded the market. In the mad drive for profit they over-produced their motor vehicles. Then they sacked and laid off workers. The repercussions struck every other section of industry, caused more unemployment. In short, together with the import of the U.S. capital, economic crisis was imported. And economic crisis was aggravated because the U.S. multinational subsidiaries in the lesser countries can be and are manipulated to the “greater” interest of the metropolitan country. Together with all this, their motor vehicles fouled the air, led to a mass road toll with thousands killed and maimed, ruined the public transport system.
The picture is exactly similar with all other monopoly capitalist industries. It can hardly be claimed as an advantage. It is a curse to Australia and Australians.
Add to it the stranglehold the multinational oil monopolies and their Australian partners have, along with food processing, rubber manufacturing, chemical manufacturing and other key industries. None of it has ever been to the “advantage” of Australian people in the sense that its advocates claim. Its only advantage for the people has been that it has called into being an Australian working class and intermediate sections of people who can take over the assets of the local and multinational monopoly capitalists and operate them for the advantage of the people.
Uranium mining in these circumstances is to place Australia even further into the clutch of imperialism and into the vortex of contention and struggle between U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism.
Still another illustration of this process is the proposed Omega navigation base in Australia. The ultimate purpose of the Omega navigation system in the contemporary world is to guide naval vessels and particularly nuclear submarines. The rivalry and contention between the superpowers are all-pervading and world-wide. Omega is a weapon in this all-pervading contention. It is a U.S. weapon against its rival – Soviet social-imperialism. In itself perhaps Omega is a good navigational system. No question of good in itself arises because the world is a real place in which a central feature is the expansionist activities of each of the superpowers. Whatever use Australian shipping can make of Omega is an issue subsidiary to the use to which U.S. imperialism puts Omega to guide its submarines against Soviet social-imperialism. The real argument about Omega does not really concern Omega as such; it concerns Australia’s independence and its position in relation to the superpowers. The establishment of an Omega base in Australia shows again the interference of U.S. imperialism in Australia and Australia’s involvement in the contention and struggle by U.S. imperialism against Soviet social-imperialism.
Independence is in the interests of all Australians. Then just as in the case of uranium such questions as Omega could be properly investigated and determined.
This type of consideration goes for all the U.S. bases and other military installations in Australia. They are not concerned to defend Australia for Australian people. They are concerned to serve the global interests of U.S. imperialism whose main enemy is now Soviet social-imperialism. They are testimony to the fact of Australia’s strategic position between the Indian and Pacific Oceans particularly having regard to the Suez Canal. Australia is the gateway from Europe to the Pacific.
The importance of Australia’s strategic position is also greatly emphasised by the whole process of national independence and liberation which is going on in Oceania. New independent countries have emerged, others are struggling for initial independence. The superpowers are hard at work getting their oars in. Soviet social-imperialism is lavish with its offers of “aid” such as airstrips, port installations, “loans”, equipment, experts, etc. There is no place, no island in the Pacific in which Soviet social-imperialism is not interested.
Australia occupies a unique position. It is the “big” power of Oceania. But U.S. imperialism is at present in the dominant position. It uses Australia for pursuing its imperialist aims in the countries and regions of Oceania. It is challenged by Soviet social-imperialism bent on a similar course. The cause of all the peoples of Oceania including Australia is inseparable. It is to break the hold of imperialism, to break from the superpower contention and struggle, to defend, win and consolidate independence.
Certainly too these U.S. bases are connected with U.S. imperialism’s economic interests in Australia. Add to this Australia’s monopoly capitalist partners with U.S. multinationals. Those economic interests are also the subject of intense Soviet imperialist interest and challenge.
All these questions have aroused broad sections of Australian people. Those people have waged continuous struggles. Of necessity those struggles push to the fore the question of Australia’s independence. By the very circumstances reviewed, that independence is anti-imperialist. The movement for it is engendered, provoked and sponsored by the very activities of the superpowers and their interference and bullying in Australia.