Bob Gould, 2005

A peculiar slant on the reactionary attack on multiculturalism

Source: Ozleft, August 3, 2005
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

Green Left Weekly discussion list

Monday’s issue of Green Left Weekly has a lengthy article by Peter Boyle with the rather ambiguous headline “Move over Pauline: War fans racism — the End of Multiculturalism?”.

Boyle makes the broadly correct point that the sweeping attacks by the bourgeois press and its paid hacks on multiculturalism itself have a profoundly reactionary content. Nevertheless, nowhere in the article does he call for a broad defence of multiculturalism against these attacks.

Indeed, the article reads as if the overthrow of multiculturalism is inevitable. This is a dangerous view for a socialist newspaper to express. To quite properly complain about the rabid racism of the most conservative sections of the ruling class without associating that complaint with a vigorous defence of multiculturalism is inherently defeatist.

Multiculturalism has in fact become deeply entrenched in Australian society. Reactionary figures such as John Stone may call for the closure of SBS and the right wing of the Tory government may desire that kind of outcome, but there’s a considerable basis in society for a vigorous and successful defence of multiculturalism.

The reason Boyle beats about the bush on this question in the way he does, with a lot of leftist statements about racism, but without a forthright call for the defence of multiculturalism, has a certain history in the DSP leadership.

A few years ago, on behalf of the DSP leadership, in a sort of “red professor” role, Iggy Kim put his name to a semi-official DSP pamphlet, The Origins of Racism, in which he blamed the labour movement as the historical source of racism in Australian society.

In that pamphlet it was argued that “official multiculturalism” was a reactionary device used by Labor as the “second party of capitalism” to delude migrant workers. The argument was that crude.

I’m not attacking Iggy Kim personally. Clearly, he was putting on paper the semi-official DSP leadership view, and it was obviously useful to have his name on the pamphlet given his non-English-speaking migrant cultural background.

Recently, when Al Grassby died, the DSP and GLW completely ignored his death despite the retrospective witch-hunt launched by the bourgeois press against him as the eloquent Australian originator and exponent of multiculturalism.

Now that the most reactionary section of the ruling class has launched such a ferocious attack on multiculturalism it’s obviously a difficult question for the DSP leadership to handle.

In pursuit of their shibboleth about the Labor Party as the second party of capitalism, the DSP leadership has elaborated a rather forced intellectual construction that takes the DSP into the same territory as the most reactionary sections of the right on this question.

In the light of the current reactionary assault on multiculturalism, the DSP should open up in its press and in the Socialist Alliance and the DSP a serious discussion of multiculturalism, and who knows, they might even end up revising their mistaken position on this question.

Those interested in these questions should carefully re-read Iggy Kim’s DSP leadership pamphlet, The Origins of Racism, and my articles, Multiculturalism and Australian national identity and The historic role of Al Grassby.