Some thoughts on the Biennale boycott and the state

by · March 15, 2014


It would be churlish to thumb one’s nose at the successful artist boycott of the Sydney Biennale, which cut the Biennale’s partnership with Transfield over the latter’s participation in the federal government’s border protection regime. A new tactic within the mishmash of often mutually hostile campaigns in support of asylum seekers, its triumph certainly brightened my day and that of many others after the depressing spiral of retreat and impotence that seems to have dominated refugee activism in recent years.

That it happened soon after the killing of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati in a pogrom-style attack on detainees on Manus Island — the site of Kevin Rudd’s PNG Solution — shows how politically combustible the apparent elite consensus on asylum seekers can be.

Of course the result has been a reaction from the federal government. First from the eminently liberal Malcolm Turnbull, but more importantly from George Brandis with the threat that he would pull federal arts funding from projects where corporate funding was knocked back on political grounds. This has exposed a tension in the boycott strategy — if it is portrayed as a point of principle to refuse money from corporate participants in the border/detention regime, then why don’t artists also refuse funding from the government whose border policy these companies are implementing? This need not be fatal — if corporate boycotts are seen simply as a tactical manoeuvre to boost a campaign that has long been on the back foot in relation to the state, and if artists are prepared for the possibility of state sanctions on them, then it may well prove to take things forward.

But the question of the state is one that cannot be avoided, and boycotters should expect other such responses as their activities widen (industry Super funds are next), perhaps sanctions under the Trade Practices Act? The Transfield boycott has scored a nice win that should focus minds on “what’s next?” rather than “how can we keep repeating a strategy with a limited shelf-life?”

Soon after Barati’s death, Liz Thompson, a migration agent and long-time radical Left activist came out about her experiences on Manus on SBS television and then caused a stir inside the pro-refugee campaign by pulling out from speaking at a rally calling for the Manus centre to be closed. I’m not especially interested to respond to the criticisms Liz raised of the campaign (Lizzie O’Shea responded here, although I don’t agree with some of her arguments) — I will simply say that I think it would have been better for Liz to have raised them directly at the rally, because I think the divisions between various pro-refugee campaigners should be addressed through direct (and if necessarily polemical) dialogue.

What is important is that, like quite a few people involved in trying to widen corporate boycotts beyond Transfield, Thompson endorses the analysis of Angela Mitropoulos, and the group of people who run Crossborder Operational Matters (xBorderOps). The strength of Mitropoulos’ approach is that it is uncompromisingly for an open borders policy (something Left Flank advocates also) and that she doesn’t treat asylum seekers as passive beneficiaries of the compassion of Australian resident activists.

But there my agreement ends. Because I think that Mitropoulos’ perspective — laid out in detail in a working paper that I commend Left Flank readers to digest — rests on an untenable explanation for what is happening — that “the only real function” of current border policy is to create markets in people-smuggling, use more violence in deterrence, and produce industries that profit from the deterrence.

This is an upside-down view of the world, describing the secondary consequences of Australian government policy as the primary drivers. While this confusion may not be detrimental in the context of the beginning stages of a boycott campaign, it cannot account for the bizarre contortions of the political class over what is at most a second or third order issue in the electorate. In that sense it inadvertently plays into the panic of the political class on the issue.

After this the analysis veers off into the usual free-floating stuff about Australia’s dark colonial past recapitulating itself in an undifferentiated way. The constant conflation by Mitropoulos of ordinary people in civil society (Some of them? Most of them?) with the actions of the state and its political class is telling. It reaches fever pitch with the claim that “Operation Sovereign Borders is the Cronulla riots by other means”. Similarly the playing up of a tiny minority of openly far Right members of the Navy seems to be designed to enforce this impression of out-of-control racism in society driving border policy. The same downplaying of the political logic of the border regime is also reflected in how the paper both recognises how the state shifts blame from itself by subcontracting to private providers and advocates a strategy to attack those providers at least as much (perhaps more) than the state itself. i.e. “Look, the government is shifting the blame! Let’s target the people the government is shifting the blame onto!”

Mitropoulos fudges the question of the alleged electoral benefits of border policies (see here for my summary of the evidence) and basically writes off the possibility of building a movement based on social forces within Australia by damning such an approach as unable to break the current political deadlock (which, reading not very much between the lines, is a statement about an electorate hopelessly caught up in racialised beliefs).

She argues: “Breaking with the downward spiral of border politics requires stepping outside the presumptuousness and anxious reiterations of colonial sovereignty and acknowledging the ways in which the operations and development of border controls function within a global system.” Yet this seems to mean not challenging those notions of sovereignty in the domestic debate, because XBorderOps appears singularly uninterested in actually rebutting Abbott’s arguments around this, which are the centre of his political sales pitch. You may notice that Abbott isn’t even mentioned in the working paper and Morrison’s importance seems to mainly be that he is the “member for Cronulla”. For a much more convincing view on the “national sovereignty” question, this post by The Piping Shrike is essential. The shift to a “global” angle and a call for sanctions against Australia also seems to me to represent a retreat from grasping the fundamentally domestic logic of immigration and border policy.

Mitropoulous has little to say about the Australian state and government, except as part of a complicated and decentred causal web. Yet there is no question that any kind of strategy that could change this policy — even one that started with disrupting “supply chains” — would need to take those centres of power head on. Indeed, the government’s reaction to the Transfield boycott tells us that will be sooner rather than later. I’m curious to know what xBorderOps has to say about how to deal with that.

Discussion18 Comments

  1. Pete says:

    Thanks for writing an article critical of the boycott that actually tries to broaden and contribute to refugee activism, it’s certainly the first I’ve seen. I did however think you were being a little disingenuous in saying that xBorderOps “both recognises how the state shifts blame from itself by subcontracting to private providers and advocates a strategy to attack those providers at least as much (perhaps more) than the state itself”… As I understand it, the point of attacking detention contractors is not simply to vilify them and make them look like baddies (there’s usually plenty of existing grounds for vilifying them anyway), the point is to make the private administration of detention such a public relations nightmare that it becomes unprofitable for private companies and therefore a massive headache FOR THE STATE. I think the tactic of targeting private contractors should be seen as a way of attacking the state by other means – we’re all pretty aware now that the familiar tactic of calling directly on the state to end mandatory detention has been completely exhausted of whatever political promise it might once have had. And as Liz pointed out, those tactics have become so unselfreflective as to actually reproduce the border in its method of organising — even using language of “concerned citizens” as though citizens meant “everyone”, or as you acknowledge, “treating asylum seekers as passive beneficiaries of the compassion of Australian resident activists”. I couldn’t agree more that we need to attack the state, but dismantling mandatory detention will require us to come up with new ways of doing that if we’re to climb out of this stalemate, including tactics aimed at those to whom the state farms out its policy implementation.

    • Dr_Tad says:

      Thanks for your comments.

      I agree that the implicit point in the working paper is to make things unworkable for the state, and sorry I wasn’t clear enough in my summary. The problem is that even if such a strategy was 100% successful the state could simply return to a nationalised system (or pay another government, e.g. PNG’s, to run parts of the system). I don’t agree with people like Antony Loewenstein who argue that subcontracted state terror is inherently worse or less transparent than publicly funded state terror.

      The current policy flows from domestic political imperatives and that Coalition and ALP governments would both be able to live with that kind of (nationalised) outcome as long as they thought they were continuing to gain benefit from it in terms of political authority derived from defending “national sovereignty”. This is my first worry about the “supply chain” argument, because I’m old enough to remember when there was no supply chain, and it was all done by the state.

      My second worry is that the “supply chain” idea disperses the orientation of activists away from where the barbaric policy originates. It ends up placing too much weight on some nebulous constellation of factors where there is no clear analysis of what drives the policy. Hence it leaves itself open to being outmanoeuvred by the centralised efforts of the state.

      In a sense the “supply chain” argument turns a useful tactical improvisation into a piece of high analysis about what is going on. And therefore distracts us from really figuring out the logic of the political class’ actions.

      Unlike Liz T I think the problems with the Left of the mainstream movement (i.e. the RAC style formations) is that they look to find leverage within the political class to change things rather than challenging the political class directly, as if the policy was just a bad policy and not much more central to the way politicians operate. The movement has an aspect of trying to talk compassion to power, as if moral suasion will be effective. It speaks in the language of abstract human rights and international law, when in fact this does nothing to take on Abbott’s central argument — the “we will decide” of national sovereignty. I think the RACs fear that a clear anti-sovereignty argument will alienate support. Abbott wins because the movement evades answering his central challenge, the one that convinces most people on the basis of rules being broken, queues being jumped, etc.

      Unfortunately I think the xBorderOps working paper and campaign also fails to challenge this — instead dismissing it in passing as part of a nasty undifferentiated colonial-national-racial thingy, where all evils are conflated. This makes life too easy for Abbott.

  2. James Robb says:

    I had a quick read of the xBorderOps working paper, and largely agree with your estimate of it. The key idea is mentioned briefly as part of a long list, but then not developed, namely, that the function of immigration laws is “the creation of hyper-exploitable pools of labor.” The paper says this, then rushes on to talk about a bunch of secondary consequences as if they’re the main purpose, just as you say. But this is the heart of the matter: the ruling class’ goal is not to keep people out, it’s to keep them down. They want to keep a layer of workers rightless and illegal, beyond the protection of the law and without any claim to the social wage. That way, as well as being superexploited directly, the migrants can be used to undermine the rights and wages of workers who have citizenship rights. Australian workers (and New Zealand – the same things apply here) are not mistaken – or necessarily racist – to fear the effects on their own wages and conditions of having a layer of rightless immigrant workers who are prepared to work for much lower wages, just because they are rightless and desperate. This threat is real. The mistake comes when they think that this threat can be eliminated or even managed by ‘controlling the flow’. The flow is always going to be controlled by the bosses, in their interests. The only way to combat the threat is by welcoming all immigrants, integrating them fully into the unions, incorporating their experiences into the struggle. This is why the starting point must be demanding an end to all immigration restrictions. This is a perspective that Australian workers can be won to, not just because it is the only way to abolish the inhuman and criminal detention centres and acts of piracy on the high seas, because also it is in their own class interests.
    Without being very close to the discussions, I suspect that confusion on this question is what underlies the impasse on tactics that you describe.

    • Dr_Tad says:

      Just a quick disagreement: You write “the ruling class’ goal is not to keep people out, it’s to keep them down”. I don’t think the anti-refugee stuff (c.f. periodic general attacks on immigration) is about this. I think it is directly about authority through defence of national sovereignty. Obviously some people read the jobs/services competition thing into it, but most hostility towards refugees is based on their unlawful, queue-jumping attack on border integrity.

      Sadly the biggest anti-immigrant stuff about jobs was the attack on 457 temporary work visas, and this was mainly led by Left unions and the ALP on the basis of foreigners undercutting wages and conditions. I wrote about it here last year:

  3. Pete says:

    It seems to me that the bit after “unlike Liz T” sounds a lot like Liz T, actually – she herself points out the problem of Anglo refugee activists constituting themselves as the only active participants in border struggles and thereby recapitulating the same logic of Abbott/Howard’s “we will decide”. Too often refugee activists show themselves more capable of solidarity with the political class than with refugees and migrants themselves, identifying all too easily with the “we” in “we will decide”. What she is asking the “movement” to do, and I hope she can correct me if I’ve read her wrong, is to realign itself ‘with’ rather than ‘for’ refugees on the one hand, and decidedly against the politicians creating this whole farce on the other (and let’s not even get into the crap about how “we are all boat people”).

    Two other things: in no way would I suggest that border violence would be better if administered by the state. I am however suggesting that these private contractors are not an epiphenomenon of the current policy – they are essential to it. I just don’t think the PNG solution or Sovereign Borders would have been possible to engineer without the blame-deferral mechanism that these corps provide.

    Second thing: I don’t agree with everything Angela Mitropoulos writes, but I think it’s worth recognising that one of the motivations for the “supply chain” argument/concept is that it seeks to broaden the debate from a narrow one about refugees — where the left’s response is to endlessly regurgitate slogans about compassion and fleeing from war etc — to one about the border as such, and about who and what can move across it, as well as the ways that the border is re-enacted within the territory it is supposed to demarcate. Where do migrant workers and international students fit in to the refugee debates? What of employers’ and unions’ and universities’ increasing role in policing visa categories? People seeking to move across borders will use whatever channels they think will help them — they will say they’re a student or a 457 worker or a refugee or whatever but they become those entities as a consequence of Australian immigration policy (thanks to Sanmati for this point). So far the pro-refugee left in Australia has spent most of its energy on assuring everyone that people who call themselves refugees do in fact satisfy the criteria the Australian state has tabulated for them, rather than demanding we tear up those criteria.

    If the supply chain stuff is mostly tactical I don’t really see that as a problem. It stresses that we don’t JUST have to intervene at the policy level, because the border is implicated in all corners of Australian society and everyday life, and we should challenge it wherever it appears. That doesn’t mean we forget about the state, it means we don’t let the state reassert itself in the very methods we use for criticising the state. I’m not sure what your version of confronting the state entails if not the RAC/ASRC-style politics you claim to oppose.

    • Dr_Tad says:

      Maybe my position is closer to Liz T’s than our, er, sharp exchanges in recent times would indicate! Your summary is certainly not how I understood her position, and I’m not sure it fits with the xBorderOps analysis, which she endorses. But I am definitely for more dialogue.

      I also don’t think the private providers are an epiphenomenon, and they certainly will lose business if the system is renationalised and so might prefer to see the current arrangement perpetuated. But that’s not really my concern. What I am interested in is why the policy exists at all, and the answer to that is political and state-driven. It explains why the “toughness” tends to get ramped up for domestic reasons whenever the political class is feeling anxious about its authority.

      I’m not really convinced of the centrality of the “supply chain” argument to a “no immigration controls” case of the sort you put and with which I pretty much 100% agree with. My starting point is a simple one that when it comes to the movement of working people their freedom to move should take precedence over the state’s attempts to regulate that. This means arguing that “national sovereignty” is not a sovereignty that helps working people in Australia; rather it is the sovereignty of the state to rule over them against their interests.

      I think that RAC/ASRC-style politics start from the idea the policy can be shifted without a more generalised fight against the authority of the political class and the state, and so play into accepting that sovereignty. Meanwhile, the xBorderOps argument tries to fight a decentralised enemy (the reproduction of what the state does in every corner of society) while refusing to clearly take on politics and the state as the ultimate source of the problem. I disagree with both.

  4. Brynn says:

    I had some involvement in the xBorderOps site early on, but now work on this stuff independently, and speak only for myself.

    I research and work on the supply and investment chains of the human rights abuse (I prefer the term “value chains” as it includes finance and sponsorship arrangements, etc; others prefer the term network rather than chain). So I thought I’d just make a comment about the tactic and its uses, advantages and dilemmas.

    In present day Australia, we have a situation of near impunity for basic rights’ abuse by the State. There are very few, if any, means of holding the State to account beyond voting the government out in elections and replacing it with a non-abusive government. And in the context of this particular abuse, that option too is unavailable.

    The state is the ‘lead contractor’ or buyer in this value chain. Where it is not possible to directly attack the apex of a value chain, you can destabilise it via its tiers and sub-tiers. All of this puts pressure on the activities (in this case policies) of the apex. It is a process of accountability through attrition, of making the apex progressively weaker and more isolated, making the policies of the State harder to implement, the range of partners smaller, more expensive, etc. Value chain destabilisation is not a linear tactic. It is not possible to predict the point at which outsourced detention and detention itself detention will become unfeasible (that may well be at the same point here, it is impossible to say).

    Because of the way value chains reach out into our lives, they also provide unique opportunities for unfolding complicity or implicatedness at a personal level. Superannuation divestment is the clearest example of this; the artists’ decision to boycott was another, along with labour withdrawal and whistleblowing.

    The progressive weakening of the value chain of detention (and appreciation of its price) may also impact how the policy is perceived in the electorate. But value chain destabilisation is an unruly tactic and it is not always possible to anticipate its consequences. This timeline of value chain destabilisation in relation to execution drugs provides a good example

    In short, value chain destabilisation and disruption is a pragmatic, practical (if innately, to an extent, uncertain) tactic in an environment of very few (if any) immediate alternatives. I disagree with the suggestion that this tactic distracts from the barbaric policy at its core: I think we’ve seen, to the contrary, that it focuses the electorate on the policy, and the small actions they can take to challenge it outside electoral politics. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a company, Transifeld, publicly shamed and scrutinised for its role in a system of brutal extrajudicial internment. We’ve seen unprecedented media coverage of the roles of other players in the value chain. This is progress. Of course the tactic of Brandis, Turnbull, Belgiorno-Nettis et al has been to distract, to try to turn this into an endless conversation about arts funding, but the message from xBorderOps and others has remained clear: this is about an absurd and unaccountable system in which people are indefinitely interned, degraded and subjected to extreme violence.

    As for the question of “what’s next?,” the end game is of course the apex of the value chain – the State and its policy of mandatory detention – but it is not clear when and how that end game will be engaged. And I’d agree that given the bombastic reactions of government Ministers to the Biennale’s decision this may be sooner than anticipated, and we’d all do well to be prepared.

    • Dr_Tad says:

      Thank you for commenting, Brynn.

      I think as a tactic the boycott move has been very useful, for several of the reasons you point out.

      However, I think you do get to the nub of the issue here when you write: “There are very few, if any, means of holding the State to account beyond voting the government out in elections and replacing it with a non-abusive government.”

      Actually, there is also the possibility of mobilising widespread social resistance to the state and its political class, to force change or perhaps to end that form of rule over society. But most of the Left has abandoned such projects. Whether such struggles are initially over refugees or not is secondary: What matters is that the Left accepts self-imposed limits on what is politically possible. And even those people from the revolutionary Left who run many of the RAC-style groups self-censor on these questions, presumably because they fear nobody would listen to them if they mounted a full-blooded attack on the political class. In my view there is plenty of evidence that the dominant public mood about politics is hostile opposition to the politicians and their games, but the Left seems not to see this and instead plays out a political script that effectively lets the political class off the hook.

      On Brandis, I don’t think he is “distracting”. He is looking for ways to shut down a situation that looks worryingly out of the government’s control. I mean, how can they appear tough on borders when they can’t even keep a bloody arts festival in line! We should be thinking about their weakness rather than seeing taking them on as so difficult.

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  6. Tom says:

    While this confusion may not be detrimental in the context of the beginning stages of a boycott campaign, it cannot account for the bizarre contortions of the political class over what is at most a second or third order issue in the electorate.

    Our electoral system means that the struggles of the political class and party politics will tend to dwell on issues that are of a notionally second or third order of importance. Wedge issues.

    When you look at that Piping Shrike writeup of asylum seeker politics from two years back, you notice how different the references to the electorate are.

    Polls show that understandably, most of the public thinks that if they arrived they may as well be processed on-shore. On-shore processing is the preferred option even among Coalition voters. What is clear right across the board is that Abbott’s “turning the boats back” is not seriously considered, even by his own supporters.

    Compare this to the current widespread support for Abbott’s towbacks in his constituency, and regular citation of the “60% think treatment of asylum seekers is not harsh enough” poll result from two or three months ago as representative of the electoral mindset. There is a resoundingly false sense of the public psyche as the foundation of policy direction across a lot of the analysis.

    Asylum seeker politics dominates elections because it’s electorally volatile, ripe for manipulation and it rates highly with a significant enough sector of the population to influence elections that, regardless of the hollowing out of our political culture, still determine the rest of the national agenda.

    This is also a reason why electoral solutions to the questions of mandatory detention and asylum policy, built by those to whom the cause is ultimately dispensable, are unlikely to be long-lasting – as Rudd’s attempted dismantling of OSP in 2008 was not.

    • Dr_Tad says:

      I don’t think there is any question that people’s attitudes have hardened up as the political class has become ever harder with its practical measures around borders. The Piping Shrike makes this point in her/his more recent post on sovereignty. But it still doesn’t prove that the issue swings substantial numbers of votes, let alone elections. There is pretty much no evidence for such a claim, although from the moment that Howard started making it following the 2001 election, the ALP hardheads came to understand it as the key issue on which the loss of their working class base to the Coalition rested (just as they had bought the “Howard’s Battlers” line in 1996).

      Rudd was able to change the policy because he was wildly popular, seeing off three Liberal leaders in the process. Therefore, until 2010, there was less pressure internally to engage in an unwinnable race to the bottom. After Rudd’s Copenhagen setback this all started to unravel. Hence why one of the three reasons Gillard said she had to take over as leader was the need to lurch Right on asylum.

  7. Tom says:

    Sorry, blockquote tags in the above comment were not respected – didn’t realise so it’s a bit of a mess.

    The paragraph starting “While this confusion …” is quoting from the OP. The paragraph starting “Polls show that understandably …” is quoting the Piping Shrike from June 2012.

    • Dr_Tad says:

      Sorry about the blockquote thing. I don’t seem to be able to fix it for you either.

  8. Tom says:

    The Vote Compass exercise last year recorded asylum seeker policy as the second most important to voters at the time of the election, after “the economy” but ahead of health, climate change, education, the NBN etc. To me that begins to belie your claim that this issue doesn’t influence votes, but it’d be good to look into that further.

    The way in which an issue influences votes can be highly indirect. The heated debate over asylum seeker policy occupies space that could otherwise be used for the scrutiny of other notionally more significant policy questions, while also reassuring a section of the Coalition’s base.

    It’s an engine of distortion, and its polarising and deliberately confused outlines make it an ideal topic for a government like Abbott’s pushing a wide-ranging agenda for which it has very little explicit mandate.

    To me, Occam’s razor makes it sensible to assume the major parties who invest heavily in electoral analysis understand the significant of the issue to winning elections, which is why they give it so much attention. I’m not at all convinced by the claim that its airspace reflects a crisis of political authority, and I think this part of your argument needs a lot more support.

    Yes, the ALP under Rudd gave up on dismantling Nauru because they burned their political capital very suddenly – but that example and the following disarray of the movement to end detention shows why it needs to have its foundations outside of the parties, the activist class and the electoral cycle.

    • Dr_Tad says:

      Vote Compass was not an opinion poll in the usual sense in that it didn’t use a population sample but required people to voluntarily log in. That is, it suffers from selection bias that cannot be overcome by its adjustment for demographics and other variables.

      In actual opinion polls asylum seekers has tended to be a second order issue in influencing voting at the most. Sometimes it drops further down the list.

      We can also look at opinion polling before and after major events related to asylum seekers. The only time there has been a big shift in voting intention around such an event was after the Tampa, but interestingly Howard’s advantage started to evaporate very quickly, and it was only the added bounce of 9/11 and joining the war on Afghanistan that gave Howard a second boost (although it was still very far from a landslide election).

      It’s my view that the only vote-shifting effect the issue has had of any significance is to assist the leakage of votes from Labor to the Greens. But even this is limited and hard to quantify given the numbers involved.

      I am not trying to suggest that the issue has no effect on politics. But it is not a direct one on votes. The Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments were not destroyed electorally by the boats issue, but their inability to deal effectively with the issue undoubtedly didn’t help their authority problems (although of course we have to recall that Rudd had plenty of authority until Copenhagen, a fact people don’t like to talk about now).

      The best evidence we have of the asylum issue being one of authority is the way the parties themselves talk about it. The ALP agonises over it being the cause of its loss of working class supporters, usually characterised as racist and living in Western Sydney. This theme runs through all their agonised debates of the last decade. The Coalition talks about it as an issue of sovereignty (“we will decide, etc.”), which is directly a question of governmental authority.

      I of course agree that the movement to end detention should have its foundations outside the political parties and the electoral cycle (although I have no idea what this “activist class” is). But I think that unless it comes to grips with the exact political causes of the policy then it will continue to fail to make an impact. I worry about the obsession among activists with how horribly cruel and racist most Australians are, because I think it leads to various arguments to see ordinary people in Australian civil society being the fundamental problem, and therefore looking to external forces to solve it.

  9. Brynn says:

    Thanks for the response, Tad.

    I think the difference here may be in your rendering of the urgency of action on mandatory detention, when compared with how it is expressed by those pursuing a value chain strategy and, more importantly, those in the camps right now.

    You propose a strategy of “mobilising widespread social resistance to the state and its political class, to force change or perhaps to end that form of rule over society.” Is it fair to say that, given where we are in Australia politically, this is a medium to long term strategy?

    That is, I don’t think it’s necessarily a case of anyone having “abandoned such projects” – rather, that the abuse currently being perpetrated through the system of mandatory, indefinite and offshore detention is both too extreme and too immediate to rely primarily on a strategy of sustained social influence to achieve a change in what, as you say, is politically possible.

    Long term persuasive strategies must of course continue in the background, but the intolerability of our treatment of asylum seekers calls for immediate action, and foreground value chain interventions (however piecemeal and unruly) allow us to respond in this way.

    • Dr_Tad says:

      Well, to be honest, I don’t see the boycott or supply chain stuff getting quick results either. The machinery of the border regime is now so entrenched that it’ll take much more than a bunch of boycotts to fix the problem. And the policy can survive numerous acts of resistance in the camps themselves, even if some become publicly known.

      Simply put, I don’t think there’s a shortcut to “mobilising widespread social resistance to the state and its political class”. Helpfully, I think the widespread popular disdain for the political class is actually a reason to think that such resistance could be mobilised. But activists of various stripes seem uninterested in pursuing this avenue.

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