Bob Gould, 2008

Gerard Henderson’s praise of Green Left Weekly

Source: Ozleft, April 2, 2008
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

Gerard Henderson yesterday quoted approvingly from Green Left Weekly in a column setting out to prove that there’s no difference between the Rudd Labor government and the defeated Howard Liberal government on Iraq, and Stuart Munckton posted the Henderson article without comment on the Green Left discussion list.

In subsequent comment on the Green Left list, Dave Riley, in his usual delightful way, ropes me in on the question of withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq. This question is well worth discussing.

I favour the complete withdrawal of all Australian military personnel from the Middle East and every aspect of the Iraq war. Doug Lorimer’s article in Green Left Weekly, which so impressed Henderson, meticulously documents the obvious fact that Australian troops have been withdrawn from operational military activity, leaving some to guard the embassy and some with a training function, is very probably accurate. I’m quite prepared to trust Lorimer’s research on this question.

Nevertheless, the parallel views of the implications of this set of circumstances in Green Left Weekly and right-wing spin doctor Henderson’s column, are very striking.

Henderson campaigned vigorously for the Liberals in the election campaign and clearly opposed the withdrawal of any part of the Australian military commitment in Iraq. Now, in the broader interests of maintaining conservative pressure on the new Labor government he says hopefully that in foreign policy matters the Labor government will be no different than the Howard government.

Henderson is, of course, having a bob each way. If there’s no significant difference in foreign policy, why did he oppose the withdrawal of the troops that are now being withdrawn?

In my view, while the withdrawal of Australian troops from an active operational role is not all that I would want it’s a substantial step forward because it demonstrates the increasing isolation of US imperialism’s reactionary military venture in Iraq.

Henderson wants there to be no difference in foreign policy matters, and stating it the way he does, and particularly his cyncial quotation from Green Left Weekly, is actually an exercise in applying pressure to the Labor government from the right.

Green Left Weekly, if it so wished, could have handled the question in a different way. It could have said the withdrawal of the Australian troops from an operational role is an excellent thing and now the Labor government should go the full distance and withdraw completely from the reactionary military venture in Iraq.

It chooses, however, for reasons different than those of Henderson, to say there’s no essential difference between Labor and the Liberals on Iraq, because that suits the DSP leadership schema about Laborism.

The inability to make distinctions and the constant desire to paint Labor as no different than the conservatives is at the heart of the DSP’s political paralysis in making any sort of serious approach to conflicts and developments in the broad labour movement.

In the DSP leadership mindset on these matters, which is unfortunately broadly shared by both DSP factions, no serious approach is possible to contradictions and conflicts in the broader labour movement.

Memo to Riley: I’m about five feet nine inches tall, which is about the national average. I’m not too familiar with Riley’s height although I imagine he’s of the same order. In his garbled mind, he’s obviously throwing in some half-remembered reference by Lionel Murphy to his “little mate” Morgan Ryan, who was short and fat.

I’ve no particular objection to attempted humour at my expense in political polemic, but a word to the wise, Brother Riley, to make effective humour at someone’s expense, the joke has to bear some reference to obvious factual features of the person or persons you’re trying to satirise. Your attempts at humour are usually so remote and convoluted that they’re incomprehensible.