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19453Re: Fighting Howard's attacks

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  • bobgould987
    Jul 2, 2005
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      By Bob Gould

      I find it interesting that no-one from the DSP leadership makes any
      kind of response on the major issues I raise in my last post about the
      reasonable inference that the DSP leadership favours the transfer of
      industrial powers from state to federal jurisdiction. If that were not
      the case it would be a simple matter for the DSP leadership to reply,
      and simply say it opposes the transfer, but no reply is forthcoming.

      As this is a burning issue facing the working class and the labour
      movement, I intend to keep pressing for a forthright reply.

      Nevertheless, there have been infuriated responses from Norm Dixon,
      Kim Bullimore and Kathy Newnam, from the Northern Territory, on my
      passing comment on the DSP's sectarian hostility to the labour
      movement in the Northern Territory, and to the leadership of the
      Aboriginal community there. This is extraordinarily revealing about
      the DSP leadership's systematic sectarianism, which has become a total
      and self-reinforcing system.

      I have some respect for the small number of DSP and Socialist Alliance
      members in the Northern Territory, the eight or 10 of them, because
      most of them are people who move there to try to extend the political
      influence of the DSP.

      The DSP's attempt to strike roots in selected far-flung places, and
      the sacrifices individual members make to do that, is worthy of a
      certain respect. Nevertheless, that respect doesn't make them immune
      from a serious critique of their strategy and methods.

      The left and the labour movement in the Northern Territory has a long
      history. The NT itself is a very unusual community. About 25-30 per
      cent of the population is indigenous, but the non-indigenous
      population is also very diverse, including a large component of recent
      migrants and a large component of people of colour.

      The White Australia Policy was never successfully enforced in the NT,
      as is made clear in the work of Henry Reynolds and Julia Martinez
      (which I quote at length in my piece on the labour movement and racism
      http://members.optushome.com.au/spainter/Racism.html ). It wasn't
      accidental that the first Australian capital city to elect a mayor of
      Chinese ethnic background was Darwin. That was many years ago, when
      the White Australia Policy was still dominant in most of Australia.

      For all of the labour movement's existence in the NT, the overwhelming
      majority of the indigenous community has voted Labor right up to the
      latest election, when the proportion of indigenous people voting Labor
      appears to have increased slightly.

      Kim Bullimore waxes eloquent about the general proposition that people
      of colour, lesbians and others are often co-opted under capitalism,
      and she baldly infers that's the case with the representative leaders
      of Aboriginal communities who were elected to the NT parliament.

      Kathy Newnam expands on this in a rather indirect way and asserts that
      the indiginous leaders elected to parliament are co-opted by the
      capitalist ALP.

      This is a completely futile approach politically. The whole politics
      of indigenous Australia in the NT is expressed through the ALP, and
      there's not the slightest evidence of any change in that situation at
      the mass level. All the evidence points to that relationship
      increasing, with indigenous communities in the NT now finding
      substantial direct representation in government, through the ALP.

      The DSP leadership manages to find one Aboriginal leader who's talking
      about a new party, and they manage to hang a whole theory on that, but
      the results of the election, which are staring them in the face,
      indicate that the overwhelming majority of indigenous communities vote
      for, and are tied in with, the ALP.

      On the non-indigenous side of things, the enormous swing to Labor is
      dismissed as the behaviour of a bunch of rednecks. This is a pretty
      strange bunch of rednecks, who vote for a Labor Party a third of whose
      winning candidates are Aboriginal, and a large number of whose
      government ministers are also clearly going to be indigenous.

      In fact, the idiot chatter about rednecks is a brutal slander of the
      rather proletarian population of the NT. Even the northern suburbs of
      Darwin are among the most ethnically diverse places in Australia. As
      well, the NT, and Darwin particularly, including the northern suburbs,
      is one of the most proletarian places in Australia if you include
      service workers and public servants. The concentration of public
      servance in the NT is one of the highest in Australia.

      I would expect that the thousands who marched against Howard's
      industrial laws were a representative cross-section of Darwin's
      population.

      Norm Dixon slanders Bob Gould, saying that by arguing for a united
      front in the NT I'm in some way supporting Claire Martin's draconian
      and populist legislation against chronic alcoholics. That's just a
      slander. If I lived in the NT and was in the ALP I would campaign
      energetically against such populism. But to single that out as the
      only issue in politics is stupid and myopic.

      It seems highly likely that a number of the indigenous leaders who are
      in the ALP are likely to oppose that legislation, too. Having watched
      one of them, Marian Scrimgeour, energetically steering a
      pro-indigenous political platform through the last ALP federal
      conference, in a most forthright way, I'm quite confident the
      representative figures in the NT indigenous community who've been
      elected to parliament and cabinet in the ALP, will conduct the
      necessary campaign for the rights of indigenous Australians, because
      of their mass connections with indigenous communities all over the NT.

      I don't mean to be too unkind to the tiny group of mainly
      European-descended cadres of the DSP in the NT, but unless they're
      miracle workers I doubt that they have any serious mass connections
      with the indigenous community.

      The most revealing point in Kathy Newnam's post is her primitive abuse
      of the NT treasurer, who she says made a wonderful speech about
      solidarity of workers against Howard's laws, but who must be abused,
      condemned and rejected because he's a stinking Laborite, or words to
      that effect. This dead-end sectarianism is as close as you can get to
      the opposite of what's required in the mobilisation against Howard.

      One might have expected that serious socialists would have a critique
      of Claire Martin's populism on the alcohol question, but unite with
      Martin, the treasurer, the rest of the parliamentary Labor Party and
      the cabinet in opposition to Howard's proposals.

      But no, all you get from the DSP cadres is extravagant abuse of Labor
      and nasty anti-working-class slander of the rather proletarian
      European-descended and mixed-race population of the NT as mainly a
      bunch of rednecks.

      It's striking that in the NT, as with everywhere else in Australia for
      that matter, the ALP-trade union continuum is treated by the DSP
      leadership as a reactionary monolith. In reality, things are quite
      different. There are broad contradictions in the Labor Party and the
      unions in the NT between left and right and in objective terms because
      the overwhelming majority of the indigenous community are on the left
      because of their oppressed situation.

      The DSP leadership are dramatically exaggerating the co-option of the
      indigenous community and its leaders, which has really advanced very
      far at all, at this point.

      The sheer magnitude of the anti-Howard protest in the NT and that all
      the Labor politicians there felt obliged to participate, underlines
      the class dynamics of the labour movement in the NT and the contrast
      between and that and Claire Martin's conservative electoral populism
      is evidence that the ALP in the NT is anything but a homogeneous
      reactionary mass.

      In particular, in relation to indigenous Australians, wouldn't it be
      far saner to orient to the leadership of the indigenous community, who
      are clearly integrated in the Labor Party, and to try to move them to
      the left, rather than arbitrarily and mindlessly condemning them all
      as a bunch of sellouts, as Kim Bullimore clearly implies?

      Strategically, in relation to all sections of the oppressed in the NT,
      the DSP has gone barking mad, despite the dedication and good
      intentions of the young comrades from the south who've gone up there
      to trail-blaze for the DSP.
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