An anniversary, the bushfires and a military missing in action: Bushfire crisis Part 2
Under an imperialist thumb, the Australian military has three key roles – to assist in defeating foreign threats to U.S. domination; suppression of internal threats; and bolstering war corporations. Louisa L briefly reviews the role of the Australian military and then looks at how its first two roles played out in the military’s response to the bushfires.
(Photo: Army reservists in historic compulsory call out deployed to Kangaroo Island bushfire areas.)
The Moratoriums against Australian involvement in the Vietnam War, have their 50th anniversary this year.
The failed U.S. imperialist war against Vietnam illustrates Australia’s aggressive defence of big power interests in overseas wars and preparations for them.
Even World War Two - like its predecessor - began automatically for Australia once Britain declared war. Britain left Australia undefended as Japanese troops swept towards to our borders.
The capitalist class has traditionally supported the ALP in times of crisis. It took the Curtin Labor Government to assert Australian needs - at a time when they coincided with U.S. ones. This was the only time the military actually defended Australia, though Australia simply swapped British for U.S. command.
Today, the Australian military remains in lockstep with U.S. interests, with almost no ability to independently defend Australia.
In July 1973, when the last Australian troops left Vietnam, the military’s reputation was in tatters. It was without a war for the first time since 1939. (Photo: An Australian soldier suffers in Vietnam)
The next year Cyclone Tracy demolished Darwin on Christmas Day and the military response was immediate. With two personnel dead and all its Darwin ships damaged, the navy began its largest operation in Australian peacetime history.
Blood transfusion equipment and Red Cross workers were flown in on naval aircraft, with navy clearance divers also arriving on Boxing Day. The political response was swift as well.
Scroll forward to the current fire season. Bushfires roared southward from Queensland for nearly four months, ignoring colonial borders and chasing rising heat.
Coalition response? Amid outrage, even Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph was forced to headline the Triumvirate of Holiday Absentees – Morrison, plus the defence and emergency services ministers.
Next came Australian Prime Minister "Scummo’s" Cobargo Catastrophe.
Finally, belated military mobilisation and the blatant politicking of Morrison’s Facebook video further damaged Scummo’s brand.
Who would expect anything else from an administration which oversees neglect, delay and outright cruelty to groups like welfare recipients and those caught in the National Disability Insurance Scheme?
Or aged care, with its 18-month wait for home assistance?
Scummo implements the most aggressive U.S. imperialist demands on Australia.
He hastens “small government”, by privatisatising and reducing services to the people. The number of Federal government departments have shrunk from 18 to 14, and only two pieces of legislation have passed since last May’s election, including Medivac repeal.
Military spending continues to rise, but sending troops to fight bushfires instead of US imperialist wars, is not a priority. It was welcomed when it happened, but was too little, too late.
None of this neglect or imperialist drum-beating started with Scummo. One example illustrates this.
Northern Tablelands town Tenterfield in NSW was threatened by fires from September, after long drought.
Imagine the joy when rain bucketed down. Then they discovered their suddenly filled dam was undrinkable, polluted by ash. Their 89-year-old water filtration plant packed it in.
This nationwide neglect of basic infrastructure is systemic. It’s capitalism. It’s Australia under foreign economic domination, the base upon which military domination sits.
Collective power and peaceful intent
When Cyclone Tracy hit in 1974 the collective power and peaceful intent of the people were much stronger, and the military in great need of PR.
Land rights struggles focussed the strength of First Peoples.
It was five years after the massive Penal Powers dispute brought a million out on strike across the continent. Momentum was only halted with the unexpected release of gaoled Victorian Tramway Secretary and CPA (ML) Vice Chairperson, Clarrie O’Shea.
After a decade long lead-up, suddenly, towards the end of the 60s, the chains were off and workers were collectively empowered.
Flowing from this, a worker-student alliance massively strengthened the huge Vietnam Moratoriums. Two slogans were key, “Stop work to stop the war” and “Bring our boys home”. Those boys had become men in the most brutal of ways. Too young to vote, old enough to die.
In his 1974 book, The Labor Party – Dr Evatt, the Petrov Affair and the Whitlam Government, CPA (ML) founding chairperson, E.F. Hill, said the ‘national bourgeoisie’ were swept up in the workers’ lead, seeing in Whitlam “an impossible dream of an independent capitalist Australia”.
Even Rupert Murdoch knew the Liberal/Country Party coalition was incapable of quelling the people’s defiant sentiment. He also backed Whitlam’s election.
In December 1972, Whitlam rode into prime-ministership to this background.
All Australian troops were withdrawn from foreign service within seven months of his election. No Australian troops were stationed overseas again until 1990.
Military power against the people
Between 1788 and 2007, there was plenty of other military action on Australian soil.
So-called Black trackers were used extensively to support military and police action. They were never deployed in home Country where they had family and obligations.
The nascent local capitalists of the Rum Corps - in cahoots with the big landholders - wreaked devastation on both convicts and First Peoples alike.
Alongside the continent-wide British war against First Peoples, came military suppression of convict rebellion, like bushranger outbreaks and the Battle of Vinegar Hill.
Then in 1854, the British army massacred Eureka miners. In 1891, that army formed the core of forces threatening striking Queensland shearers with the latest Boer War machine guns. The Australian military took action against striking coalminers in 1949.
And, in the weeks after CIA operative and governor-general Sir John Kerr sacked Gough Whitlam in 1975, this writer well remembers the dramatically increased helicopter traffic in and out of nearby Victoria Barracks as the military moved to grey alert in case of civil unrest.
Most recently, in 2007, the Australian army invaded First Peoples’ communities under the Northern Territory Intervention – both a land grab for resource companies and a devastating experiment in suppression.
A question of loyalty
Close links with community endanger the military’s ability to suppress the people.
Like “Black trackers”, military personnel are deliberately moved to different locations every few years. Constantly uprooted and unable to build community connections, instead they form friendships and deep loyalty within the military.
On the other side - despite the corporate powers of division personified in the Murdoch media - everyday people, like firefighters and other volunteers, are in action.
Young people lead in both climate action and in patiently increasing militancy within and beyond unions.
A few weeks back, a Cobargo firefighter said on ABC TV News, that if he were in a war, he’d want the locals with him. He wasn’t talking revolution. But that sentiment is growing rapidly amid smoke and fire and climate change denial.
U.S. imperialism is under threat on every front – strategic, economic and cultural.
Its little Aussie “allies” have to be kept in line, internally and against external foes.
As people’s faith in deceptive apparatus of capitalism like parliament recedes - and ferment for fundamental change grows - capitalism’s use of suppression will increase.
U.S. imperialism is growing weaker. But it is just as dangerous. There’s plenty to do.