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Class and the NO result for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander VOICE

Dear Friends,

My apologies for my absence in recent months from posting blogs and other material to this site. Dealing with life difficulties has taken a bit of time. Now, back into it.

Last Saturday, I joined Solidarity Breakfast to discuss the class dimension of the Referendum result.

For overseas readers: on October 14th Australian voters had to decide in a national Referendum a simple YES or NO to change the Australian Constitution so that it would recognize Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (ATSI) and their 65000 years (approximately) of successful caring of country and enable a Voice to Parliament and government. The vote went 40% YES and 60% NO.

Closely related to the class character of the result is the understanding of the Constitution in the broader population. Most voters - both YES and NO voters - are quite ignorant of the content and key features of the Constitution.

I wanted to go further in the commentary than the brief point I made about it, but it would have required more time than was available.

In brief for now. For both ATSI people and the majority working class in the population, the Australian Constitution started as and remains rotten. The YES proposal would have made it somewhat less rotten and in the interests of the ATSI population. That leaves the basic point that it would have remained rotten for the working class, except for the quite significant indicators of if and how to go about reforming the thing.

The Constitution, as it stands, was deliberately created on racist grounds: the accepted dying out / killing off of Aboriginals and the “white Australia” policy. That sentiment was the dominant of the times and encouraged by the leadership group (Deakin, Parkes, Kingston etc) and replicated in most of our union movement. Of course, there was w.c. opposition to it also.

The Constitution does include a "race power" that enables the Parliament to make laws on the basis of race. Thus, it enables the Parliament to make laws that are positive for ATSI or detrimental. Recent law-making using the race power has been detrimental.

The big deal for the immediate, medium and longer-term future is the implications for strategy. That means a much better grasp of strategy. The ATSI leaders who counselled for more time in preparation were deadly right. Preparation is the first phase of strategy and itself, taking on Laurie Carmichael’s theoretical framework, which includes studying the enemy in detail, understanding and educating the majority, and working out the broad arc of the struggle to be won. Subject to further advice from ATSI organisations and leaders the truth-telling/political education task is now of great importance.

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1 Comment

Mike Ballard
Mike Ballard
Nov 05, 2023

My view is that the working class roughly makes up the bottom 90% of the citizenry of the Australian political State. The upper 10% are bourgeois capitalists, landlords and their lackeys amongst those who think of themselves as 'professionals'. Most of the people who can trace their ancestry to humans who lived in Australia before 1788, are part of the working class. The few who have made it into the upper 10% made up the Aboriginal mouthpieces for the "No" vote. The majority of Aboriginals voted "Yes". SBS/NITV did a story on this. The overall voting percentages went like this: Yes: 6,286,894 39.94% No: 9,452,792 60.06% The campaign for the "Yes" vote was run by the ALP and the A…

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