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Henry Judd

Books in Review

Opportunism Down Under

(July 1942)

From The New International, Vol. VIII No. 6, July 1942, pp. 190–191.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Introducing Australia
by C. Hartley Grattan
The John Day Company, New York, vxi–331 pages

C. Hartley Grattan is one of those journalists whose mentality is obsessed by such matters as “scholarly research,” “constitutions and federalism,” “states’ rights,” etc. He is a legalist and a formalist in the worst sense of the word. Although he has one good book to his credit, dealing with America’s entry into the last war, his other works are marked by a stodgy approach and superficiality.

His book on Australia is particularly bad in this respect. It is little more than a collection of abstract facts about this almost unknown territory. If one wishes to learn the low-down about Australia – its size and population, climate, its various industries, Australian slang, culture, etc – then this book performs a very useful purpose. But if you are seeking something that lies a little deeper – say, for instance what is the basis for Australian labor reformism and opportunism, what is the social character of Australian economy, etc. – then it must be stated that such a book is not yet written.

For, on these matters, Grattan is a complete blank. In one sentence (to the effect that Australia is the country where a miner can become a cabinet minister) Zinoviev, in his essay, The Social Roots of Opportunism, had more to say than all of Grattan’s 300-odd pages. There is no effort to explain the specific features of Australia:

  1. The backwardness and distorted character of its economy, which is a pastoral one;
  2. The ability of the Australian Labor Party to achieve a successful (until recently) reformist growth;
  3. The effects of the supremely chauvinistic policy of racial exclusion and tariff protection;
  4. The real reasons for the minute Australian population;
  5. The relation between British capital and Australian industry;
  6. The “seizure” of Australia by America, etc.

Above all, Grattan avoids any discussion on the “White Dominion” policy and the special backwardness of the Australian labor movement insofar as socialist and revolutionary ideology are concerned. But how can one even begin to understand Australia’s present crisis without answering these questions? Of what use is it to know the bare “facts” when the Australian people are fighting for survival against Japanese invasion? Must one not know the fact that the Australian reformist Labor Party is politically bankrupt and that it is precisely the policy of its leadership in collaboration with the rulers which has prevented the economic and material growth of this vast continent and brought it to its present precarious position?

The best part of this book is, in our opinion, a bit of Australian verse which we take the liberty of quoting. A working class as tough as all that can yet learn Marxism and get rid of its capitalists!

By C.J. Dennis

Fellers of Australier,
Blokes an’ coves an’ coots,
Shift yer bloody caracases,
Move yer bloody boots.
Gird yer bloody loins up,
Get yer bloody gun,
An’ watch the bugger run.

Fellers of Australier,
Cobbers, chaps an’ mates,
Hear the bloody enermy
Kickin’ at the gates!
Blow the bloody bugle,
Upper-cut and out the cow
To kingdom bloody come!

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