Bob Gould, 2007
Source: Green Left Weekly discussion list, December 6, 2007
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter
Discussion on far left email lists such as Green Left, Marxmail and Leftwrites since the Howard government’s electoral defeat has been trivial and rather stupid. Most of it has paid little attention to the enormous popular mobilisation that was essential for the Howard government’s electoral defeat.
Contributors on Green Left and Leftwrites, insofar as they mention it, barely acknowledge the electoral mobilisation organised by the trade union movement. They treat the electoral victory as really a kind of defeat because spectacular mass strikes and militant activity didn’t predominate.
This view is idiotic. It leaves out of account the defensive mood that dominates the working class at the moment and implies that had the leaders of the labour movement called more strikes, etc, things would have been better. On this score the Socialist Alternative contributors on Leftwrites are the worst.
Such word play is hopeless metaphysics. Several contributors say that failing militant industrial mobilisations all you got was electoral politics replacing one bunch of conservatives with another, to paraphrase Tom O’Lincoln. In this universe there are no victories for the working class unless they are sparked by tiny vanguard groups.
This kind of perversion of Marxism — which at its best must involve a recognition of contradiction and dialectics, of ebbs and flows — is of course not necessary for groups obsessed with timeless propaganda. All that’s necessary for them is to belt out the propaganda in the hope that somehow, somewhere, it will work.
The DSP majority is a bit more cautious, leaving it to their more incoherent and quasi-religious supporters to say that kind of thing. The DSP leadership does, however, via the energetic cyber-warrior Norm Dixon, belt out a one-sided, totally exposure-driven view of the universe. They wheel out various articles from the bourgeois media, in which right-wing pundits desperately try to domesticate the new government, as if the hopes of these pundits were already accomplished an fact, which is by no means the case.
Two areas of conflict demonstrate these groups’ bankrupt view of politics. Since the election, Warren Snowdon, a vocal opponent of the bad aspects of the Howard government’s abrogation of Aboriginal rights in the Northern Territory, has been appointed to the Rudd cabinet. Another major opponent of the intervention, the redoubtable NT indigenous leader Marion Scrimgeour, has been made deputy leader of the NT Labor government.
The massive vote for Labor in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia, even in Noel Pearson’s bailiwick of north Queensland, shows that the intervention is unpopular among indigenous people.
Many indigenous leaders have addressed the new government in a careful way, applying pressure for prompt action to get rid of the bad aspects of the NT intervention. Meanwhile, the reactionaries in the Murdoch and other media are pleading with Rudd to preserve the intervention.
Struggle is obviously proceeding, but all Norm Dixon can focus on is a Murdoch media report about Warren Mundine, one of yesterday’s Aboriginal leaders in the Labor Party, pleading with the government to stick with the Howard intervention. Dixon and his associates can’t recognise a mass conflict if it’s taking place in the broad labour movement and indigenous community because they can’t afford to recognise any struggle that takes place in the broad labour movement.
Their crackpot perspective forces them to ignore any event that they can’t fit into their rather anti-working-class schema about the inevitable betrayals of the broader labour movement.
Another area of struggle concerns the proposed privatisation of electricity in NSW, along with some aspects of the railways and the Sydney ferries. This struggle is proceeding in a very public way, led by a number of unions that are generally part of the Labor right, by Unions NSW, and also it must be said by pretty well the whole of the Labor left, including the deputy premier.
It’s just possible that the anti-privatisation forces in the broader labour movement may win the battle. Dixon and his associates are incapable of commenting on these developments, firstly because their world view prevents them from recognising real contradictions, and secondly because if they do recognise the development of this important struggle it would force them to recognised the stupidity of their empty Labor-always-betrays rhetoric.
Dixon and his associates are like the Bourbon kings of old who have learned nothing and forgotten nothing, and nothing at all interests them if it doesn’t feed their ridiculous pretensions to being at the centre of political struggle.
Life in Australia, as it always does, is now settling down for the end-of-year holiday period. Dixon, DSP majority leader Peter Boyle and the Socialist Alternative bunch would do well to study a bit about the contradictory history of the labour movement in Australia, but I’m not holding my breath.