Thursday, November 29, 2018

Corporate media, Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine

Above: Kayteteye & Arrente woman Christine Kngwarraye Palmer speaking in Sydneyon the 11th anniversary of the NT Intervention in June, She is a member of Grandmothers Against Removals, Alice Springs, and The Strong Grandmothers of Central Desert Region.

Lindy Nolan

This is the second in a series of articles investigating ruptures in a carefully fostered pro-corporate united front among First Nations Peoples. The series focuses on the wider implications of recent statements by pro-mining Aboriginal activist Marcia Langton.

November 29, 2018

The tide has certainly shifted. The actions and voices of grassroots First Nations Peoples are gaining momentum. A petition, “As an Aboriginal Person, Jacinta and Bess Price DO NOT represent or speak on my behalf” had gained nearly 7,500 signatures by February this year.

Both have been prominent media figures. Bess Nungarrayi Price is Jacinta’s mother, a pro-Intervention activist and former NT parliamentarian. Langton points out that unlike her mother, Jacinta Price lacks a base among First Nations.

Marcia Langton noted the growing opposition to the Prices in her exposure of them in August.

Now Langton appears to be listening more carefully to so-called ‘small groups’ and people she’d once dismissed, like anti-Intervention activist and Tangentyere Council member Barbara Shaw, from Mount Nancy Town Camp in Alice Springs.

Back in 2008 Langton told Shaw, “I think you really need to read our position papers from the Cape York Institute. …the problem is the families who drink…If you oppose the policies we have invented in Cape York, you are causing the problem.”

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) is integral to the Cape York policies Langton praised.

In Canberra recently as part of the Tangentyere Council’s Women’s Family Safety Group, Barbara Shaw said, "We're just a small group of women who wanna work on prevention to keep our communities safe, to keep our children safe and out of harm's way, to support our men who are also going through hardship and hard times."

After the Apology

Then there’s another small group, Grandmothers against Removals (GMAR). Its members began their fight in Gunnedah in northern NSW six years ago in response to the ‘Friday Special’, the Department of Community Services van that regularly removed kids from school on Friday arvos, so parents or carers had to wait till the following Monday to Gomerget assistance.

Persistence saw GMAR spearhead a continent-wide movement. The Gunnedah grandmothers highlighted the continuing stolen generations. They eventually regained their own grandchildren, but the nationwide theft of children is systematic and growing.
NSW Indigenous academic Larissa Behrendt, who Langton once said should “get off her high heels” and come to NT communities, is a leading figure in the struggle. Her documentary, ‘After the Apology’ opened this year’s Adelaide Film Festival to a standing ovation.

Langton’s views have always been more nuanced than Price’s, but in 2016 she focused on individual Aboriginal stories and individual Aboriginal responsibility. She wrote of “the most taboo of topics in the Aboriginal world: sexual assault of children, alcohol and drug fuelled violence that destroys families, and failed parents” as the cause of child removals.
y 2018 her tone had shifted here too. In the article on Price, Langton stated, “The unnecessary removal of Aboriginal children and failure of the child protection system is a hot-button topic with Aboriginal people throughout the country, and especially in the Northern Territory. Did Price select this issue herself, or did her advisers? Thousands of Aboriginal people have attacked her on Facebook for her hypocrisy about it and her statements on domestic violence. In response, thousands of Price’s followers, most of them barking mad racists, attack Aboriginal interlocutors online. This past month alone, I have blocked about 400 of Price’s alt-right followers on Twitter.”

Above: Gomeroi woman Debra Swan, of Grandmothers Against Removals, outside NSW Parliament House in November protesting a new law enshrining theft of children.

Giving Jacinta a voice
But who gives Jacinta Price or her mother airplay? Langton mentions ‘mainstream television’ and targets Mark Latham’s pro-Australia Day promotion of Jacinta (when he was still with Sky and before he became a One Nation candidate). Jacinta Price also gets ABC coverage, particularly on The Drum.

But the Murdoch media is her major mouthpiece.

On August 12 Andrew Bolt gathered furious Facebook comments attacking her into a Herald Sun piece. ‘How does Jacinta Price stay strong against this hate?’

Every comment chosen used strong language sure to shock and offend his readers.

Some of the seven chosen comments (from tens of thousands by Aboriginal Peoples condemning Price’s stand over many years) were sexually violent and threatening. Some were clearly metaphorical. Bolt named each person whose comments he’d shared, listed the area where they lived, often their photos and where they worked. He also demanded some lose government funded work. This echoed a similar call six months earlier by Warren Mundine.

Bolt finished with an attack on the women’s movement, Clementine Ford and ‘the Left’ (of whom all would have abhorred threatening comments, while understanding the deep sense of betrayal from which they emanated).

Bolt finished with a plug for Jacinta’s bid for the federal seat of Lingiari. In Alice Springs, her home, it’s rumoured that Twiggy Forrest has funded her campaign to the tune of $900,000.
Langton makes clear the comments had been enraging far right twitter and Facebook feeds and encouraging widespread trolling of First Nations’ ones, before Bolt gathered them into one place.
Langton’s article was published 12 days after Bolt’s, another clear impetus for her article.

Defunding ‘haters’

Six months earlier Langton also spoke out powerfully against Warren Mundine after he labelled Dtarneen Onus Williams a ‘hypocrite’ and a ‘hater’ for a powerful metaphorical Invasion Day speech.  He called for the defunding of the Koorie Youth Council for whom Onus-Williams volunteers.

“The serious question here is why is the government funding these groups and these organisations when the people involved are haters who have no scruples about taking taxpayers’ money and then spitting in their faces,” Mr Mundine said.

Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett was mild by comparison, while Langton was given a single paragraph to Mundine’s five.
Who gave Warren Mundine voice? News Corp’s ‘The Australian’.

It calls Mundine an ‘Indigenous leader’. Just which Indigenous Peoples follow his lead isn’t too clear. Murdoch’s Sky awarded him his own TV program anyway.
To use a saying from last century, Blind Freddy can see how powerful the Murdoch empire is, despite its limitations.

News Limited is the Business Council and Australia’s biggest media player. The Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph and co amplify the alt-right voices in support of Jacinta. Each copy is shared numerous times in cafes, gyms and waiting rooms. Then there’s the blogs, the podcasts, the twitter and Facebook feeds, the promotion by likeminded shock jocks, plus Sky, Foxtel etc etc etc. No single platform is huge, but together they add up. There’s nothing ‘mainstream’ about it. Nor does it toe the BCA line.

Langton has been loath to point her finger at corporations supporting Jacinta Price. ‘Barking mad racists’ and ‘mainstream media’, yes. But not corporations. Not even Murdoch’s.

In fact, she mentions a single piece in The Australian, which is at odds with the overall avalanche of Murdoch coverage. It questions Jacinta Price’s behaviour.

Clinging to a corporate future?

Now grassroots Aboriginal Peoples are uniting. Marcia Langton has amplified some of their concerns using her prominent media profile.
The BCA has invested enormous efforts to win over Aboriginal leaders and groups to a corporate future. Unlike the Murdoch fiefdom, the BCA doesn’t want a far-right takeover… well not yet anyway. It still supports the ability of the tattered parliamentary circus to hoodwink people, without Tony Abbott at the helm.

Whether Marcia Langton still clings to the Business Council model remains to be seen.
Reality is a powerful teacher. Perhaps the failure of the corporate model to provide basic improvements to the lives of the vast majority of First Nations Peoples is raising questions for her. 

Many people hope so.

She would be a powerful advocate if she consistently looks to grassroots Peoples rather than corporations for guidance.

Parliament shamed by anti-women bullies

The decision by Victorian Liberal MP Julia Banks to quit the Coalition government over its attitude to women, and the sexist slur against SA Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young by a Queensland Nationals senator show that issues of gender inequality are still rife under capitalism.

Women suffer gender oppression in various ways.  That oppression is most intensely felt by working class women, but can also be experienced by women in the middle and ruling classes.  Women of the ruling class, unlike their proletarian and petty-bourgeois sisters, generally enjoy class privileges that blunt the effects of any gender discrimination they experience. Except in individual cases of, for example, domestic violence, they benefit both from their class position and from social advances that are won for women in their privileged position. They can afford to pay a cleaner for their homes, buy good quality take away meals or regular meals at restaurants. A nanny or other childcare is affordable for them. Their children are not stolen by the state if their relationship breaks down, as they rarely become homeless. While many men share housework, the majority do not and overwhelmingly these burdens fall on women. The capitalist system relies on this unpaid work.

The Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s and 70s challenged patriarchal ideology and gender discrimination and won some improvements in women’s legal rights.  There was a huge focus from the movement on women's health centres in working class areas, equal pay, strikes led by women from the movement in teacher and nurses unions, women's refuges, rape crisis centres, to get young women out of juvenile gaols who had been sentenced for poverty, for being "uncontrollable" or for being victims of violence and sexual abuse at home and more. At the same time, it privileged the women of the exploiting class over their working class sisters.  Gains were made in smashing the “glass ceiling”, and female CEOs and managers are now not uncommon, but the strains and stresses facing women on the ground floor and in the basement went largely unchanged. Many of the inequities and injustices of capitalism are visited more frequently and more intensively upon women of the working class than on men; consequently, the Party has a special responsibility to assist working women to overcome disadvantage and disempowerment.  Our booklet “Services sector workers struggle shows need for bold, resilient leadership” (available in the Downloads section of our website) deals very largely with the organisation of women in precariously employed industries.

Women of the upper class have been advantaged by the opening up of positions of corporate leadership to women. Associated with this has been a change in the social atmosphere in those circles where women have shown that they are in every respect the equal of men. Contrasting this world with the cesspit of parliament, Banks remarked that “Across both major parties, the level of regard and respect for women in politics is years behind the business world.”

Behavioural changes on the basis of gender moved quickly in the business world once it was shown that sexism and gender discrimination had become obstacles to capital accumulation. Parliament remained a refuge of sexist behaviours because they had no direct bearing on company profits and because they were but an extension of the personal vitriol, bullying and continual put-downs that mark every session of Question Time – behaviours that make visiting schoolchildren ashamed and embarrassed.

Sarah Hanson-Young has been targeted as a woman.  After speaking about a murder resulting from domestic violence, Senator David Leyonheljm insinuated that if she “hated men so much”, she should “stop shagging them”. Now, Queensland LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan has thrown at her the double entendre slur that she “has a little bit of Nick Xenophon in her”.

To date, and as a result of the recent ugly leadership within the Liberal Party, a number of Liberal women MPs and Senators have left the party, or otherwise expressed their dissatisfaction with the Coalition’s inability to deal with the bullying and sexism of those whom Banks has described as “the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk about themselves, rather than listening to the people."

SA Senator Lucy Gichuhi was demoted to an unwinnable fourth position on the Liberal Party's South Australian senate ticket after she threatened to name Coalition politicians who had bullied her and other Coalition women. West Australian senator Linda Reynolds hit out at bullying and intimidation in a speech in the Senate during the leadership spill, but like Gichuhi, was pulled into line by “Scummo” Morrison who insisted that their concerns be dealt with “internally”. NSW Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis announced that she was leaving parliament “in the face of NSW Liberal Party bullying, intimidation, leaking and undermining at a local level."

The Banks decision shows that neither Morrison nor his minister for women Kelly O’Dwyer have been able to change the culture that is driving women from their party. Two days ago, O’Dwyer launched an extraordinary spray against "homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers" in her party, but brought nothing but derision and scorn down on her own head yesterday, claiming in parliament that “this government is the natural government for Australian women”.

Working class activists, both men and women, must protect the interests of women. 

Marx and Engels were clear that patriarchal ideology developed in class societies and presented women as the private property of men with whom they enter a marriage or partnership relationship. A man’s wife was legally his property to do with as he pleased. Domestic violence against women and children flows from this remnant ideology.

All women are oppressed by patriarchy; working class women are doubly oppressed as members of the working class. They are the section of the workers most likely to be in low wage, unskilled and precarious work. Almost all women, no matter their class, have experienced sexual harassment or sex-based discrimination. Working class women have less power to deal with it unless they are in a highly unionised workplace. Women usually do badly from relationship breakdowns and are more likely to be very poor and suffer homelessness as a result, especially in their old age. However, bullying and domestic violence are embedded in patriarchal relationships and all manifestations of it must be fought regardless of class and social strata.

Whilst supporting women of the bourgeois class, and even those with reactionary and anti-working class politics, against bullying, leadership of struggles for women's rights must come from working class women. Their immediate demands must include the right to full-time permanent employment with equal pay for equal work; family friendly policies in all employment situations; government-funding for independently run women's shelters; free all-day care for pre-school children with properly qualified and well-paid staff; increases in the Newstart Allowance; subsidised public housing for homeless women. The removal of violence against women on TV and the sexualisation of girls through advertising are both absolutely necessary.

Working class women must be encouraged into the fight for national independence and socialism. They should be encouraged to bring to this struggle the perspective of a truly proletarian feminism.

Only in a socialist society can there be a purposeful and fully supported process of smashing patriarchal ideology and gender inequality. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Explaining China: how a socialist country took the capitalist road to social-imperialism

We have just uploaded this new paper onto our website.

It is available for download here: