- by Hannah Middleton
- The Guardian
- Issue #2024
Lance Cpl. Nick J. Padia, a gunner, writes the words “War Pig” on a window of his humvee after reaching one of their objective points at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, 2016. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L Ortega – flickr.com (CC BY-NC 2.0)
The following is a contribution delivered by Dr Hannah Middleton to the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) International Conference held in Houston over the 10-11 September.
On behalf of the Communist Party of Australia, I thank the CPUSA for inviting us to speak at this important conference and I send our fraternal greetings and solidarity to all your members and supporters.
I acknowledge that I am speaking from the land of the Gadigal people. I pay my respects to their elders, past and present, and I acknowledge that this is Aboriginal land – always was, always will be.
On the 16th September last year the former Morrison Government suddenly announced the formation of “an enhanced trilateral security partnership” between the US, the UK, and Australia known as AUKUS.
AUKUS is about US imperialism wanting to use Australia as a base to confront and, when the time comes, to attack China. For the US, it is better to set Australia up as a primary target than Hawai’i and the west coast of the US.
The abrupt cancellation of the existing $90 billion contract for French diesel submarines cost millions of dollars in compensation and ruptured Australian-French relations for over eighteen months.
The major component of AUKUS is Australia’s agreement to purchase eight nuclear-powered submarines. The first one will not be operational until 2040, and the last not until 2060. By then, the submarines will be obsolete death traps, susceptible to detection and destruction by existing and new technologies.
Former diplomat Bruce Haigh suggests “The submarine deal was always a smokescreen to get US nuclear-armed submarines based in Australia. The so-called deal was a sop to public opinion and for the moment it has worked.”
Former Prime Minister Morrison claimed that under AUKUS “Australia is not seeking to establish nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability.”
These claims were immediately undercut when the Minerals Council of Australia and leading members of his own government called for a domestic nuclear industry to help develop the skills needed to maintain and operate a nuclear-powered submarine fleet.
Others are concerned that the AUKUS partnership will rekindle Australian efforts in the 1960s to acquire nuclear weapons, a debate now under way in Australian strategic think tanks.
However, the US military bases at Pine Gap outside Alice Springs, Shoal Bay near Darwin, and Geraldton and North West Cape in Western Australia are far more important to the US than a few extra submarines.
Australia hosts around fifty US bases, including training, live firing ranges, logistics/materiel, intelligence, surveillance, communications and troop bases.
In addition, all Australian army, navy and air force bases are open for use by the US military at a moment’s notice.
There are few other electronic surveillance installations in the world that produce anything near this quantity of intelligence on China’s military communications and radar signals, as well as political, economic and scientific communications.
AUKUS is not just nuclear submarines.
Under AUKUS, Australia will be further militarised and garrisoned with more deployments of US aircraft in Australia, more US surface and subsurface vessels in Australia, more joint war games, four new military bases, two new bases for the militarisation of space, greater co-operation in hypersonic weapons, cyber warfare, underwater systems, artificial intelligence, and long range strike capabilities including Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles, and support for combined military operations in the region.
Before AUKUS, the US had been militarising the north of Australia as a potential site to threaten China.
This US military colonisation of Australia’s north was accelerated in September 2021 at the 31st Australia-United States Ministerial Consultation which endorsed the following military co-operation:
Deployment of US aircraft in Australia and aircraft training and exercises;
Increasing US surface and subsurface vessels in Australia;
More exercises and greater combined engagement with allies in the region; and
Establishing a combined logistics and maintenance enterprise to support high end warfighting in the region.
The September agreement represents a total subordination of Australia’s interests to those of US imperialism. It licenses the deployment of nuclear weapons to Australia, potentially including long-range nuclear armed bombers, ballistic missile submarines, and tactical nuclear cruise missiles.
The agreement is one of a series of many recent developments that are tying Australia to US plans for retaining its regional military dominance in the face of China’s rise.
They include significant and extremely costly upgrades at Air Bases Tindal and Darwin to extend runways and upgrade fuel storage facilities to accommodate US long-range bombers and upgrades to training ranges and aviation facilities used by Australian and US forces, particularly the 2,500-strong US Marine Air Ground Task Force on permanent rotation through Darwin.
These developments strongly indicate that the Australian continent will serve as a substantial base for projecting power against China, particularly US power, but also Australian power in a US-led war.
The enormity of these concessions, and the abrogation of sovereign responsibility for the security of Australian citizens, are supported by the new Labor Party Government which is firmly locked into imperialism and defence of the capitalist system at any cost.
In May this year, the right wing lying, corrupt Morrison Government was thrown out, and the social democrat Australian Labor Party (ALP) won power – except in the Upper House (Senate), where Greens and Independents hold the balance of power.
The new Defence Minister, Richard Marles, has gone so far as to say that we are not only working “inter-operatively” with the US military in numerous ways but we are now committed to “integration” of the ADF into US force structures.
Prime Minister Albanese has said “We will deepen our regional defence co-operation with close partners – including Japan, India, Singapore and others – to bolster our joint capabilities, shape our strategic environment and uphold the rules of the road.”
This is imperialist spin for encircle, contain and defeat socialist China.
The Australian Labor Government has adopted the role of pre-eminent attack dog of US imperialism in the Asia-Pacific region. It has joined with the Biden administration in ratcheting up the confrontation with China which was escalated by the highly provocative visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
Australian Governments are ignoring history and refusing to acknowledge that Western imperialist domination is ending. This geopolitical shift is characterised by, among other things, changes in trade. In 2000, over 80 per cent of the world’s countries traded more with the US than China. By 2020, seventy per cent had more trade with China.
As a result, there is a threat that Australia may get involved in a conflict that the US and its allies cannot possibly win, and from which we cannot possibly benefit, whatever happens.
With a budget deficit in the trillions, for Australia to squander $170 billion on these submarines is unforgivable.
In addition, Australia paid $835 million to French shipbuilder Naval Group and $35 million to US defence contractor Lockheed Martin in compensation for the cancelled submarine contract.
AUKUS smacks of lining US arms corporations’ pockets at the Australian taxpayer’s expense. The US has a history of foisting rubbish on the ADF, such as the F35.
There are far better ways of allocating this extraordinary spending – regional co-operation, diplomacy and massive fiscal repair as well as health, housing, education and environmental repair.
The adoption of a peace budget will create far more jobs and far greater security for the Australian people.
US imperialism’s current approach of encircling and containing China includes the formation of the Quad, AUKUS, Five Eyes and other strategic military alliances.
US President Joe Biden signed the National Defence Authorisation Act in December last year. This calls for an unbroken chain of US-armed sentinel states stretching from Japan, India and South Korea, to Australia, Thailand, The Philippines, and Singapore to encircle China.
The narrative built to hide US fear of China as a rival power challenging US imperialism’s regional hegemony is that China is an authoritarian state that is a military threat.
However, there has been no pattern of China moving outside its boundaries, other than in respect of territory, such as islands, which it has always insisted were its own.
The war of words and most of the trade actions were consciously provoked by Australia. And when China barred some imports from Australia, the US did not hesitate to fill the gap.
Today US imperialism is fighting to maintain its domination of the Pacific, pouring millions of dollars into “aid”, funding the Peace Corp’s return, establishing new embassies across the Pacific and appointing the first US envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum.
But any hope that Australia’s island neighbours will welcome further nuclearisation of the region is ridiculous. Within days of the AUKUS announcement, a series of statements from Pacific leaders, community elders and media organisations highlighted the persistence of the deep anti-nuclear sentiment across the region.
Pacific communities are calling for an alternative future that replaces militarised security with genuine human security.
Fiji Prime Minister Bainimarama stressed that “the commitment of the Pacific Island nations to the elimination of nuclear weapons is not based on an abstraction. It is based on real experience with the consequences of nuclear fallout, and it is at the root of our sense of urgency.”
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare said that his nation “would like to keep our region nuclear-free and put the region’s nuclear legacy behind us … We do not support any form of militarisation in our region that could threaten regional and international peace and stability.”
Marshall Islands President David Kabua stated: “We tirelessly underscore that no people or nation should ever have to bear a burden such as ours, and that no effort should be spared to move towards a world free of nuclear weapons and nuclear risk.”
After World War II, the US was so far in the lead that it could establish and run the global order. The US gave the orders. Gradually however, industrial powers recovered and decolonisation and the non-aligned movement grew.
US imperialism responded by beating all this back violently, using wars, assassinations, overturning governments and more.
With Asia now the centre of global economic power, imperialism is working to retain its economic and political primacy, risking war – and even nuclear Armageddon.
This madness has its origin in the United States, whose ruling class is greatly threatened by the advances of the Chinese people which pose an existential threat to the advantages long enjoyed by Western corporations which have benefited from centuries of colonialism.
The aim of US imperialism’s foreign policy is to prevent any national power becoming a challenge to US. The US has defined China as its principal threat and is now working to instigate a war between Taiwan and China.
Immediately after the announcement last year, anti-AUKUS groups sprang up around Australia and a national organisation is emerging – the Australian Anti-AUKUS Coalition (AAAC).
There have been many protest rallies, leaflet distributions, social media campaigns and more. Our Party worked hard to bring trade unions into this growing movement.
The national coalition is planning an advertisement for a national newspaper, to appear on the first anniversary of the announcement. Meanwhile, a petition already has nearly 26,000 signatures.
Our Party reached out to our fraternal parties in the US and UK and also participated in international peace movement forums. We gave particular attention to the development of resistance among Asian and Pacific states.
However, this initial flurry of intense discussion and actions diminished as the conflict in Ukraine dominated our attention. It is essential that it is reactivated.
Recognising that war is the product of the anarchic and competitive character of the capitalist world order, we know that in order to end bloody imperialist wars we must overthrow capitalism.
This is an urgent task for as a declining imperial empire struggles viciously to retain its domination, we face a fight that can end “in the common ruin of the contending classes.”
In this situation we must confront this on a global scale. We must build the widest and strongest peace movement possible to win reforms that can save the planet and also contribute to the fight to replace capitalism by socialism.
We have to argue that countries buying more and more deadly weapons systems in an escalating arms race does not create peace or security. It has not worked in the past and it never will.
Human security is not based on escalating military spending and war games but on care for the planet and its inhabitants – a state which is impossible under capitalism.
It is time for us to insist that governments around the world redirect their massive war spending to serve humanity suffering from lack of food, water, and other human needs amid an expanding climate catastrophe.