The Guardian 14 December, 2005

Time to stand against racism



"This is racism and must be condemned and opposed", said the Secretariat of the Communist Party in a statement strongly condemning the riots on several Sydney beaches over the past few days. The statement continues:

The riots and violence were deliberately organised and it has been revealed that several white supremacist fascist organisations played a part in fanning and perhaps organising the racist actions. The fact that many young people were caught up in these demonstrations is one of their worst features.

Much has been done in Australia to promote a tolerant multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society. Such riots, if allowed to succeed and spread, could tear apart our society and set race against race and religion against religion. It could also divide multi-ethnic families.

These vicious and racist demonstrations are a direct consequence of the "anti-terror" laws, the appalling and discriminatory treatment of refugees, the arrest without charge of people from the Muslim community, the deliberate fostering of fear and insecurity, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the threat of war against other Middle Eastern countries in which the Australian Government is a major participant.

The responsibility for these developments rests squarely with PM Howard, Attorney-General Ruddock and former NSW Premier Bob Carr in particular. Their policies have helped to promote racist attitudes. They failed, even after the Sydney riots, to take a strong stand against racism and for multi-culturalism.

The responsibility also rests with sections of the media which give prominence to anti-Muslim stories and depict images of stereotypes of those from Middle Eastern countries. Some newspapers have been fanning the sentiments leading to conflict for several years.

The stirred up atmosphere was added to by the consumption of alcohol sold by the local hotels until they finally turned off the taps at the request of the police. But the damage had by then been done and the hooliganism seen on Sydney beaches was the result.

Some extreme elements from Middle Eastern communities in Australia have also not helped by their responses to undoubted taunts, humiliations and provocations. Terrorist attacks outside Australia also create resentment and fear and play into the hands of political manipulators.

The cycle of attack and counter-attack must be halted and all involved persuaded to restrain their words and their actions. There is an urgent need for community leaders, Municipal Councils, the State Government, representatives of ethnic communities and other democratic organisations to band together and make a stand against racism and all its manifestations.

The tone has been set for a united opposition to racism by the strong response of many citizens of Sydney beach suburbs who have condemned and expressed their disgust at the violence of the thugs who took part in the racist demonstrations.

It has been helped by the statements of many community and political leaders and by police officials who have also condemned the loutish, hooligan and racist behaviour.

But it is necessary for authorities to call the actions of the rioters not merely "anti-social" but what they really are racist even though other factors are also involved. They are no less than the racism of apartheid practiced in South Africa, the racism of KKK lynch mobs in the United States directed against African-Americans, the racism behind the White Australia policy and the deprivation and humiliation imposed on the Indigenous people of Australia.

Racism is a generations-old policy cynically used by the ruling circles in a number of countries to divert attention from their inability to look after the economic and social needs of the people and to blame "outside" groups for their failures. It was the policy of the leaders of fascist Germany to direct hatred against the Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Slavs and other national groups to divert the attention of the German people from their real intentions. Racism can lead to a cycle of war and destruction. It is also used to divide the working class along ethnic and religious lines and thereby weaken their struggle for pay and their rights and conditions at work.

Racism has led in a number of countries to the formation of racist-based political parties that play on the fears and resentments of sections of the community who are suspicious of people who have a different culture, religion or skin colour. Fortunately, this has not happened in Australia so far.

These dangers can still be avoided in Australia by all communities restraining their responses, by support for Australia remaining a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society, by education in schools about the evil of racism and by the rejection of those responsible for racist-based policies in Australia's political life.

Back to index page