In putting together the first edition of Red Flag, we had to decide what issue to lead with on our first front cover. It was an important decision, as it gives us the opportunity to convey something about what kind of publication Red Flag will be, what kinds of issues it considers important and where it stands. It was with this in mind that we decided to lead with the case of Bradley Manning, the US soldier who is currently standing trial in a military court. Manning, who released masses of cables documenting the crimes of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, is charged with “aiding the enemy” and “endangering US forces” and faces life in prison if found guilty.
We decided to lead with this story not only because it is an important case, but because Manning himself epitomises the kind of courage and integrity in the face of power that we would be proud to bring even a fraction of to the pages of this paper. Since his arrest in 2010, Manning has been subject to unimaginable cruelties, which clearly amount to torture. But, as Barry Sheppard writes on page 3, they “failed to break him. They failed to get him to testify against Julian Assange with promises of a lighter sentence and better conditions. While he has admitted to being the source of the leaks, he maintains that he was correct to do so, to shed some light on the ugly truth of the US wars. Bradley Manning is a true hero, a person of conscience.”
We live in a world where “political struggle” is a sullied phrase. The term evokes dishonesty and the kind of vacuous, self-serving antics that are once again on display in Australia this month as the Labor Party tears itself apart, looking for every possible cause of its malaise except the ones that actually explain it. If that is “politics”, then it is wholly understandable that most people want nothing at all to do with it.
But there is another kind of politics: the politics of resistance and struggle. It is this that leads people like Manning to tell the truth about the crimes of the US military machine, even at the cost of their own freedom. And while Manning is a particularly heroic case, there is no shortage of examples around the world of people putting themselves on the line in opposition to the powerful. The latest episode is unfolding at the moment in Turkey, as hundreds of thousands take to the streets in rebellion against neoliberal economic policies and an increasingly authoritarian government. Over the past few years – from the Arab revolutions to Occupy to the resistance to austerity in Europe – people have time and again taken to the streets, organised in their communities and their workplaces, and set themselves the task of fighting for a different, better world.
This politics of resistance is what Red Flag is about. It is a paper that will tell the truth about the rulers of our society, and champion every flicker of resistance from the workers and the oppressed.
We took the name Red Flag because it represents solidarity, struggle and internationalism, but also because it stands for socialism – a world organised to meet human need, not the interests of the rich minority that currently control our governments and our society. Out of the struggles against the individual injustices of our current system, we want to be part of building a new socialist movement that can mount a challenge to the whole structure of capitalist rule. This is an enormous task. But the courage of people like Bradley Manning, and of those resisting oppression and injustice from one side of the planet to another, gives us confidence that the future belongs to us, not to the unspeakably foul minority who currently rule our world.
Time for something completely different
As we go to print, it is unclear whether Julia Gillard’s disastrous prime ministership will last for more than a few weeks, or even days. But what we do know is that the return of Kevin Rudd won’t save the ALP. Even if he clawed back a few seats, or by some miracle won the election, it wouldn’t address Labor’s fundamental problem. The party has abandoned even the pretence of standing up for its working class constituency against the interests of the rich and powerful. It is a loyal and unashamed servant of the same big business interests as the Liberals.
The argument that Labor can be somehow transformed into a vehicle for advancing workers’ interests should long ago have been settled. Workers and the poor need a new party – an organisation that fights for them, and is controlled by them. We hope Red Flag will play a role in laying the basis for a new type of political organisation – a socialist party, a party of struggle – that workers can be proud to be a part of.