Australian history

How the rise of Trump is related to indigenocide and Australia Day

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Photo taken by Brendan Donley in 2016 in Perth. (Image via ‏

How the rise of Trump is related to indigenocide and Australia Day. John Passant explains.

ON 20 JANUARY 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Tomorrow, on 26 January, many Australians will celebrate Australia Day. These two events, although they appear disparate, are related.

U.S. capitalism was built on the indigenocide of native Americans. Australian capitalism was built on the indigenocide of Aboriginal people.

As Evans and Thorpe say, indigenocide is a reference to:

'… those actors (governments, military forces, economic enterprises or their agents, private individuals etc.) who carry out destructive actions, policies and practices on Indigenous/Aboriginal individuals, families and groups mainly because of their perceived indigeneity or ‘Aboriginality’.

As Raymond Evans said in a private conversation with me:

“This concept of indigenocide implies a combination of genocide (i.e. peoplehood destruction), ecocide (environmental theft and destruction) and ethnocide (cultural destruction). In short it is destruction in toto.”

Billionaire Donald Trump belongs to the nationalist economic wing of U.S. capitalism. He is also part of the gung ho faction of U.S. imperialism. Putting America first means putting the interests of the U.S. ruling class first both at home and abroad, at the expense of U.S. and foreign workers and the non-U.S. ruling class. Given the international interrelationships of global capitalism, a withdrawal by the U.S. behind economic walls is unlikely to work in the medium to long term.

Certainly, Trump will continue increasing inequality. Abolishing the totally inadequate Obamacare (which he's wasted no time in doing), massively cutting company tax, and keeping wages low, while all the time attacking welfare spending and welfare recipients, will only make inequality and the consequent anger worse.

Trump’s racist rhetoric might divert attention away from this although social movements like women against Trump, Black Lives Matter, and the fight for $15 an hour pay have the potential to unite disparate groups and challenge the Trump billionaire status quo. All Trump’s talk about unity of Americans will not be able to paper over the class divisions he wants to worsen economically and politically.

The key to beating Trump is protesting and striking. What a wonderful sight, then, to see at least half a million women and men in Washington DC protesting against Trump, and many more protesting around the globe. The potential for real resistance to Trump’s sexist, racist and anti-working class agenda exists.

See the extraordinary #WomensMarch turnout in 57 countries around the world, captured in real time (just scroll down the widget):


Here in Australia, millions will celebrate Australia Day on 26 January. This is the day to celebrate the establishment of the first (white British) settlement in Sydney Harbour. There will be endless talk about the great Australian spirit and all being together.

It is all bullshit. Indigenocide saw the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal people between 1788 and 1850, either through actual force of arms, or more often disease, dispossession, imprisonment, and poverty. From convicts to military, from forced immigrants to free men and women, while the Aboriginal population was halved between 1788 and 1850, over the same period the white population grew at a rate of about nine per cent annually. In terms of population numbers, this effectively meant replacing black people with white people.

So effective was the process of extermination that, according to A. Dirk Moses, the Indigenous population declined from approximately 750,000 in 1788 to 31,000 in 1911. The massacres, the deaths and dispossession have not ended.

Australian capitalism stands on the graves of the Aboriginal people. The structure that is Australian capitalism, including tax, has its foundations in soils drenched in Aboriginal blood. If, as I believe, it is that true that as Marx put it [t]he tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living’, then the tradition of past indigenocide is embedded in our societal structures and circuitry. The structure of indigenocide lives today.

The Northern Territory Intervention, the deaths in custody, the ten-year life expectancy gap, the stolen kids, the poverty, all help explain that indigenocide is ongoing. It lives in the structures and institutions of capitalism.

This is why, for many Aboriginal people, Australia Day is a day of protest, not celebration. The day in the mainstream media and among many many Australians is viewed as a day for us to come together.

However, the day celebrates invasion and destruction, not unity. It celebrates the extermination of Aboriginal people and their Aboriginality. There can be no unity around indigenocide.

This means not joining the celebrations. It means protesting Australia Day. It means joining the women’s protests and other protests here in Australia that will break out against Trump and his Australian acolytes. It means fighting for LGBTQI rights. It means supporting every struggle for workers’ rights and better pay. It means supporting refugees and asylum seekers.

It doesn’t mean changing the date to celebrate some sort of fake unity on another day. It does mean addressing not just the immediate issues of Aboriginal people but a more fundamental addressing of foundational issues.

To start off, we could do away with myths about the glorious establishment of Australia and the denial of indigenocide.

There may well be flag burning on 26 January. Who could be surprised that the victims of indigenocide burn the symbol of their destruction? I, like many Aboriginal people and their supporters, including the Left Renewal faction in the Greens, back such actions.

Then it becomes a process of finding out from Aboriginal people by democratic means what they want.

On the agenda might well be a treaty, recognition of prior and current sovereignty and paying the rent. The key to stopping celebrating indigenocide and winning fundamental justice is protest and civil disobedience, including flag burning.

Winning that battle means we would all have something to celebrate.

Here are Facebook links to details of some Australia Day protests across Australia:

John Passant is a former Assistant Commissioner of Taxation. Read more by John on his website En Passant or follow him on Twitter @JohnPassantSigned copies of John Passant’s first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016) are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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