The Guardian • Issue #2077


A place under the table

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2077

It’s always a stressful experience meeting the boss, so perhaps we should sympathise with Anthony Albanese who has just been to Washington to catch up with US President Joe Biden. Australian Prime Ministers go through this exercise from time to time, while the nation’s media contort themselves in the pretence that the relationship is anything other than servile on our part. A recent cartoon sums up the visit, and the Australian media’s delusions very well, showing a hopeful dog looking upwards towards a master with the caption ‘a place at the table.’ It’s easy to poke fun at the pretence and desperation involved, but these are serious times. Let’s look at the Albanese-Biden meeting objectively.

The US-Australia relationship is not so much an alliance as an exercise in willing bondage. Australia does everything the US wants, sometimes before they ask for it. Australia is unusual in this respect; other ‘allies’ have shown much more independence. For example, New Zealand refused to be part of the ‘coalition of the willing’ in George W Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq. The United Kingdom didn’t sent troops to Vietnam, while Australia jumped at the chance.

More recently, Australia has signed up for AUKUS, a Defence agreement much more expensive than anything our government has ever done before. Again, it’s not necessary to go this far to be a US ‘ally.’ The US needs allies to maintain its status as top superpower, and is prepared to give them some leeway to keep them on side.

This country does not need to impoverish working people in order to have allies. If that sounds melodramatic to you, ask yourself which Australians would benefit most from free dental care, TAFE, and university, just three of the things we could afford if we weren’t committed to AUKUS.

So as the Australian corporate media gushes about how much Mr Albanese and Mr Biden smiled at each other, it’s worth asking the question; what’s in it for us? Does the relationship with the US justify this much grovelling?

The conventional answer here is that Australia needs a ‘big friend’ to ‘protect’ it in the event of a war, the way the US protected us from Japan during the second World War (with the help of the Soviet Union). We are a ‘medium power’ and we need to have a super-power on side, goes the argument.

World War II was 78 years ago, and it’s worth asking who we need protecting from in 2023. China is the conventional answer to that question, but it’s not a good answer. As is pointed out elsewhere in this issue, the People’s Republic of China prioritises win-win cooperation with other countries.

Besides which, the US acts in its own interests – or rather in the interests of capital. It would drop Australia like a hot potato if those interests changed.

Australians live in a world where we are constantly told how free we are as well as being told there is no alternative to life as a US client-state. There is an alternative. It’s called putting our national interest first, the way an independent nation would.

The Communist Party of Australia supports an independent socialist Australia, one which values cooperation more than intimidation. This is possible and realistic. We’re working towards it now.

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