Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bernardi and the revival of anti-Communism

Nick G.

The leader of the new Australian Conservatives Party, ex-Liberal Senator Corey Bernardi, has won support for a notice of motion on an annual commemoration of “victims of Communism”.

Bernardi has distinguished himself by moving a raft of notices of motion, many on obscure matters such as his call to “eat a croissant” to celebrate a medieval French defeat of a Muslim army.  When he first raised his “victims” notice of motion on November 14, he also moved motions about governmental standards, the Crossroads program in NSW schools, White Ribbon Australia’s advocacy of abortion, and GetUp! -  all of which were opposed by a majority of Senators. So too was his “victims” notice, on that day at least.

Two days later, the Manager of Opposition Business on the Senate, the ACT’s Senator Gallagher agreed to the notice of motion proceeding, although she did say that “our position remains that this simple motion is the wrong way to deal with this topic, and we will be opposing it.”

Bernardi’s slavish following of Trump

What is Bernardi’s motion?
He has moved that the Senate—

(a) notes the Trump administration in the United States of America has declared 7 November to be the National Day for Victims of Communism;
(b) further notes the Senate motion passed on 18 October 2017 rejecting any assertion that the teachings of Lenin or Marx should be celebrated in a liberal democracy;
(c) recalls the number of refugees who came to Australia fleeing communist regimes; and
(d) calls upon the Government to organise a similar annual commemoration remembering the victims of communism from 7 November 2018 onwards.

Trump’s declaration about November 7, the day on our Western calendar when the Bolsheviks took power from the Provisional Government and placed power in the hands of the Soviets, has been driven by an organisation in the US called “Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation”.  For the last two years it has conducted online polls about the attitudes of US citizens to Communism, socialism, fascism and capitalism.  It breaks responses down demographically – by gender, age group, “race” and educational level.

To its concern, it has found “disturbing trends” amongst the Millennials – that group in their late teens and early twenties (most demographers equate Millennials and Gen Ys over a slightly wider age range, but this group reports both categories separately). What concerns the organisation is that this year, more Millennials would prefer to live in a socialist country (44%) than in a capitalist one (42%). Some even said they would prefer to live in a communist country (7%). The percentage of Millennials who would prefer socialism to capitalism is a full ten points higher than that of the general population.

This is the age group that almost succeeded in having Bernie Sanders, the US social democrat, elevated to the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate ahead of Hillary Clinton.

“It seems that the majority of America’s largest generation,” the organisation continues, “would prefer to live in a socialist or communism (sic) society than in a free enterprise system that respects the rule of law, private property, and limited government. This is even more disconcerting when coupled with the fact that, despite Millennials’ enthusiasm for socialism and communism, they do not, in fact, know what those terms mean.”

It is the last observation – probably true in some respects – that has prompted the organisation to lobby Trump for the observance on November 7 each year of a commemoration for “victims of Communism”.

“Communism isn’t back: It never left,” concludes the summary of this year’s poll.

Bernardi, well-known for his right-wing conservative beliefs, would have needed no pushing in the direction of anti-Communism.  He no doubt shares the concern of his US counter-parts about the growing popularity of Marxism amongst Millennials.

However, one of his own Millenials, Richard Zheng, an IT project manager at Wesfarmers, is probably more in need of some education about Communism than any of those who worry the US “Victims of Communism” pollsters.

Posting on Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives Facebook page, Zheng endorsed Bernardi’s notice of motion with this comment: “Unfortunately Australia is a communist country because of welfare, universal healthcare, too much government ownership and high taxes. We need to stop all that in order to stop the levels of communism.”  So much for the intelligence of a Bernardi groupie! And Zheng is not alone: others post similar comments on the Conservatives Facebook page.

Understanding “victimhood” and the question of class

Communists must prepare for another round of anti-Communism if Bernardi’s motion gets any traction.  Already the LNP Senators are supporting it.  Labor senators like Gallagher may well try and strike an “even-handed” pose, appealing to small-l liberals and the petty-bourgeoisie generally by copying the European Parliament’s equation of Communism with Fascism and its “equal” condemnation of both.

We don’t deny that there have been victims of Communist parties in power that have failed to correctly handle contradictions among the people.  It is not as if a piece of litmus paper can be dipped into a social and political dispute in a socialist country and pulled out a few seconds later to reveal whether it is a contradiction between the people and their enemies or a contradiction among the people themselves.  Different methods must be used in each case, but it can take a fairly long time to ascertain the nature of the contradiction and the methods to be employed.

We do not include hostile class forces, supporters of an overthrown bourgeois class, supporters of imperialist intervention and “socialist” pretenders who are active counter-revolutionaries and restorationists as “victims” of Communism.  Here the question of victimhood is a class question: those from the ranks of the people who are wrongly treated are victims of wrong approaches to the handling of contradictions; those from the ranks of the enemies of socialism who are subjected to coercion and repression are not “victims” of anything other than their blind loyalty to the overthrown classes whose interests they continue to serve.

If there is to be any commemoration of victims, then let us commemorate all those victims of oppressive class forces determined to prevent the liberation of the people.

We condemn Bernardi for slavishly falling in behind Trump and US imperialism with no mention of the crimes committed by the US and other imperialist powers.

Millions have perished at the hands of the US alone.  If we add the killings done by British, French and other capitalist and imperialist ruling classes, the millions killed and enslaved in the period of European colonialism, and the millions killed by semi-feudal and landlord class regimes backed by imperialism, then the victims run to the tens, if not hundreds, of millions. If we add to the millions of the dead the horrific numbers still in slavery, the masses of children being exploited in various countries backed by the imperialists, and the living hell of starvation and misery in famine-ridden regions, then we get some idea of the scope of the victims of the pre-socialist minority ruling classes of the world.

We should certainly arm ourselves ideologically and politically to contest any new wave of anti-Communism.

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