19495Re: Fighting Howard's attacks
- Jul 3, 2005By Bob Gould
I was obviously a bit premature in thanking Cathy Newnam for the
civilised and even slightly good-humoured tone of her previous post.
Obviously the DSP dog whistle has been blown and it has been made
clear that you never respond to Gould in a civilised way if you can
avoid it. Crude abuse is better, from the point of view of the DSP
leadership, and Cathy Newnam responds by making up for her previous
moderation with a pile of abuse.
The abuse doesn't worry me, although I prefer to proceed in a more
civilised way when possible. I do, however, take strong exception to
Cathy lying about what I said in my post.
I didn't "laud" the DSP for not saying nice things about the ALP.
Neither did I say anything like: "well at least you could also say
someting nice". Cathy is making this up as she goes along.
I did say, and I repeat and amplify it here: it's the high point of
political lunacy at the mass level to treat the ALP and the trade
unions in the Northern Territory as a homogeneous, reactionary force,
when it is quite clearly divided into different groups, layers, rights
and lefts, trade union forces and indigenous communities.
Talking about the ALP as a homogeneous entity is nuts everywhere in
Australia, and it's particularly grotesque for a tiny cadre group of
half a dozen or so non-indigenous missionaries from southern parts to
treat the rank and file, the leadership, and the functionaries and
activists of the indigenous community (and I include MPs and ministers
of the NT government) as a homogeneous reactionary force.
That approach is crazy strategically, and grotesque and condescending,
particularly towards the indigenous community and the overwhelming
majority of indigenous people in the NT who vote Labor.
Clearly, the overwhelming majority who voted Labor did not regard
Claire Martin's conservative populism on the question of alcoholics as
the decisive factor.
I'm not overly concerned about the ALP in the NT as an entity. It can
look after itself, as it clearly has in the recent election. (The DSP
sect repeatedly predicts the death of the ALP, and is doing so right
now, and it has never been right so far.)
What does particularly concern me is treating the ranks of such a
complex and heterogeneous mass workers' organisation as the ALP in the
NT, as a bunch of total reactionaries. That's condescending,
politically myopic and totally counterproductive.
Socialists who behave like that are condemning themselves to almost
total isolation from the left two-thirds of society in the NT for the
Right now, the masses of trade unionists in the NT are girding their
loins for the impending collision with the Howard government over
industrial relations, and I'll bet they were elated to have Claire
Martin and every Labor politician in the NT marching with them in that
protest, and to hear ministers in the NT government making fiery
speeches of solidarity with the trade unions against Howard.
In addition to that, I'll also bet that in indigenous communities all
over the NT, people are celebrating the fact that indigenous
Australians now have substantial access to government by having a
third of the ministers in an NT Labor government.
I'll further bet that in indigenous communities all over the NT groups
of people are formulating demands and wish lists about what they want
from a Labor government and their representatives.
In the face of these circumstances, rather than putting forward a
sensible critique of Claire Martin's populism and saying something
like: "despite this let's unite around the struggle against Howard"
and, for indigenous people, "let's unite around getting your demands
out of the Labor government", all you cranky, politically tone-deaf,
isolated DSPers can say to the two-thirds of the NT masses who voted
Labor or Green is that the crushing of the Tories was a victory for
This lunatic sectarian posture is particularly damaging in the face of
the immediate task in hand, which is to defeat Howard's assault on the
unions. The DSP leadership's stance is beginning to appear to have a
sinister side, as it slowly unfolds that they have deep misgivings
about any substantial focus on the linchpin of Howard's assault, which
is smashing up the state industrial systems and centralising the power
in Canberra. All the exaggerated left talk encouraged by the DSP
leadership is beginning to appear to be cover for a very right-wing
I'd also put it to Cathy Newnam that the extravagant and crude
language she uses to attack me is evidence of bankruptcy in debate.
I'll finish by repeating my strategic question: if you insist on
reducing politics to a ludicrous moral posture of caricaturing the
whole labour movement in the NT, including its indigenous component,
as racist, how do you intend to approach the overwhelming majority of
people in the NT who identify with Labor?
What's your tactic for getting a hearing from them? It seems to me you
imply they're either closet racists themselves or poor, deluded people
who don't listen to the educated wiseacres of the DSP sect, and in
their benightedness continue to vote for the "racist" ALP. As the
people you have this attitute towards are the overwhelming majority of
indigenous people in the NT, it seems to me highly unlikely that this
strategic approach will get you any significant mass audience,
although it's not excluded that you may get a hearing from a smallish
minority of very angry people.
It's characteristic of ultraleft sects such as the DSP that they
usually settle for a couple of recruits from those they perceive to be
the most angry and most oppressed, rather than try to elaborate a
strategy directed at the left-leaning majority of the society.
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