Palm Sunday is for Refugees

Sadly Left organisation is at an all-time low in Brisbane. The annual Peace Rally on Palm Sunday, one of the cornerstone events of the radical calendar, was very disappointing. Despite strong speakers and determined organisers less than 200 people turned up to the Palm Sunday Rally at Reddacliffe Place in the CBD.

In the 90’s that number would have been over a 1,000, in the 80’s over 2,000 and in the 70s over 3,000 people despite intense repression and a smaller population.

In the 1970s and 80s some anarchist groups tried the syndicalist route in the unions (transport) but without any broad support from workers, because of repression and unrealistic expectations, these attempts collapsed.

WERC – West End Resource Centre

In the early 1980s three groups Friends of the Earth (FOE), LeftPress and the Learning Exchange established West End Resource Centre (WERC) and May 1st club. This lasted for some time. In the late 1980s, the Communist Party (CPA) formed the New Left Party. This was to be the last hurrah for the CPA, because its intellectual elite liquidated the party a couple of years later selling its printery, bookshop, concert hall and party building to 4ZZZ for a song. 

In the 2000s various parties formed another broad based party – the Socialist Alliance. In the end it was too broad and split, lacking organising and focus – another failed attempt at electoral-ism ending in tears.    Post 9/11 and the failed anti-globalistion movement,  others tried to start a community house in West End (AHIMSA house) but two of the protagonists stole all the funds and AHIMSA was sold by the bank with its benefactor penniless.

Parliamentary parties, Labor and the Greens, make little effort to help organise the Peace Rally on Palm Sunday. In the 1980s the Left of the ALP, the Nuclear Disarmament Party and smaller Socialist and Anarchist groups would have all participated.

Sure, some party members and small groups do still turn up but there is little if any organisational support. A keynote speaker from the Queensland Council of Unions said peace is union business but very few members of her affiliates turned up. An activist opposing the Land Forces Expo in Brisbane in June ’21 called out the unions for supporting the manufacture of munitions, military technology and armoured vehicles here in Queensland at Ipswich, Murrarie and Maryborough.

Despite this, groups like Just Peace, Refugee Action, Refugee Solidarity Meanjin and Unions for Refugees have conducted a determined campaign to have Medevac Refugees released from KP Prison in Brisbane. Nearly half the refugees have now been released but many still languish in detention in KP Prison and BITA at Pinkenba.

Earlier only about 20 people turned up to a Justice for Palestine picnic in Bunyapa Park in West End. It didn’t help that the two events overlapped.

At the Peace rally (become a refugee rally) the Combined Unions Choir sang some old favourites to lift our spririts. Simon and Mark performed some songs as a makeshift duet.

Slavery
On Saturday there were only a few people turned up to the Brisbane Labour History Association forum on slavery (Colonised Labour Symposium) even though it had great speakers and much was revealed about the stolen wages campaign by Auntie Leslie Williams (Not Just Black and White: a conversation between a mother and daughter). I was not aware that Premier Beattie threw his governments offer on the floor in front of the first nations representatives saying that all you going to get. In the end that was not even true. He offered $55M for the stolen wages from 1941 till 2002. Later this was increased to $190M with the recipients getting either $4,000 or $2,000 each.

More refugees to the north
In the region the genocide of the Rohingyan people by the Myanmar military government continues. Added to that the military shot dead over 100 protestors opposing the coup. Refugees are fleeing the country into neighbouring Thailand. Will they make it as far as Australia? I doubt it. We are a pretty unwelcoming outpost of empire with terrible government.

All the more reason to keep fighting and organising better for the future.

Ian Curr
30 Mar 2021