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5897Re: The ALP is EVIL!!!

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  • ozleft
    Apr 26, 2004
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      Dave Riley wrote:

      >>I suggest that Shane should attend to the question of history a bit
      more carefully before dismissing a claim such as this one. If Shane
      can name a war that the ALP did not support in part or in whole or
      from the beginning of it -- I'll be duly humbled. To say it split
      over the issue says nothing at all relative to the claim. To say that
      it had reservations -- as in the case of Iraq -- doesn't qualify
      either --since by default it supported the war. Nor does Vietnam
      count as it had several different positions through the period of that
      conflict. Half hearted positions such as Whitlams' "withdraw to
      holding areas" is still support for the (Vietnam) war as is the
      "support our troops" line we were offered during this current invasion.

      >>As for the question primarily of conscription and WWI -- you need to
      note who was advocating the conscripting -- it wasn't a died in the
      wool Tory but a Labor man, a Labor "rat" -- Billy Hughes.

      >>The other tangent in Shane's supposition is that there is supposed
      to be something succinctly "un evil" in the ALP's nature that
      precludes it from supporting all imperialist wars. I'd like to know
      what that is. I've never found the ALP to be that way at all.

      >>I go elsewhere looking for my saints and don't expect to find it in
      the ALP.

      >>Is the ALP evil..? Well, the system it represents certainly is. You
      figure.>>

      Politically speaking, Dave Riley asserts that black is white, the
      world is flat and the moon is made of green cheese

      By Bob Gould

      Responding to Carl Kenner's eccentric post carrying on about the Labor
      Party being "evil", Dave Riley has posted some opinions that are
      essentially as bizarre as Kenner's.

      Included in Riley's assorted historical falsifications is a barefaced
      distortion of the political events in Australia surrounding the Iraq war.

      Riley makes the extraordinary assertion that, in effect, Labor
      supported the Iraq war. The problem with this weird falsification is
      that everybody in Australia who reads this list is aware that the
      opposite is the case. At the time of the Iraq invasion last year,
      Labor voted unanimously in the federal parliament against sending
      troops to Iraq without UN authorisation, and stuck to that position.

      Just about every ALP member in the country, including many
      parliamentary politicians, state and federal, marched in the
      demonstrations against the war. The deputy premier of NSW and the
      current federal president of the ALP, Carmen Lawrence, were among the
      more prominent protesters.

      Since the election of the new federal leadership, Mark Latham, his
      deputy Jenny Macklin, Carmen Lawrence, and many other Labor
      politicians, have defiantly said they opposed sending the troops and
      the Australian troops will be withdrawn shortly after the election of
      a federal Labor government. Troops home by Christmas, as Latham puts it.

      It's true that the opposition of Labor to the war is couched in
      traditional Social Democratic lingo, what would you expect? But to
      assert, as Riley does in his eccentric way, that the ALP did not
      oppose the Iraq war is the kind of moralising sectarianism that
      contributes to the isolation of "Marxists" who talk like that.

      Riley insults Labor supporters who oppose the Iraq involvement. If he
      makes that kind of assertion to them face to fact, they're very likely
      to react to him as if he's a Martian for trying, in his arrogant way,
      to tell them what they really think. It's particularly insulting to
      many hundreds of Laborites who are resisting the chauvinism being
      whipped up in support of the Iraq war to be told by someone that
      they're not really opposed to the war because they don't formulate
      their opposition the same way he does.

      People normally react very badly to being accused of holding opinions
      opposite to the ones that they actually hold.

      The only people in Australia who don't believe that the Labor Party
      opposed, and still opposes, the Iraq war are a tiny minority of
      socialist sectarians such as Riley. Everyone else in the leftist half
      of Australian society -- the Labor supporters, the Greens supporters,
      the members of trade unions, etc -- know that what Riley is saying is
      wrong.

      All the opinion leaders on the right of Australian society know he's
      wrong too, because they're frantically whipping up as much hysteria as
      possible to attack Latham and Labor for allegedly "cutting and
      running" from the Iraq involvement.

      I'm writing this after Anzac Day, which this year has been the
      occasion for an even more than usually extraordinary media binge in
      which the bourgeois press have tried to use the commemoration of past
      wars to justify the Iraq involvement. Sunday's Telegraph, a Murdoch
      paper, had a long-winded, almost pleading editorial directed at Mark
      Latham, demanding peremptorily that he drop Labor's opposition to the
      Iraq involvement "in the national interest".

      Yesterday we had the repellent image of "the little digger", Prime
      Minister Howard, imitating Billy Hughes with a lightning visit to Iraq
      for the Anzac commemoration. Front page pictures everywhere of Howard
      in a flak jacket being brave, we are told.

      Despite all this media hysteria, Latham as late as Monday morning
      reasserted, again in traditional Social Democratic terms, that a
      Latham Labor government, if elected, would withdraw Australian troops
      by Christmas.

      This is in the face of all the militarist hysteria associated with
      Anzac Day and Howard's visit to Iraq.

      Despite all this, Riley continues to insist that Labor doesn't oppose
      the Iraq war. What a clown!

      Someone who goes around saying that the Labor Party is not really
      opposed to the Iraq war cuts themselves off, by that posture, from any
      means of connecting with the consciousness of the half of Australian
      society that opposes the Iraq war. All that Riley can say to the
      masses of Labor supporters who oppose the war is a sneering "you're
      not really opposed to the war".

      Riley hangs all this on the rhetoric frequently used by Latham and
      also used in a slightly different way by many antiwar protesters,
      about "supporting the troops" by bringing them back from Iraq. It's
      nonsensically sectarian to equate this position with supporting the war.

      Riley doesn't appear to have noticed the antiwar movement developing
      in the US among families of US service personnel who want their family
      members brought home. He seems to have forgotten the experience of the
      Vietnam antiwar movement, which in Australia on the left side with
      which I was associated, placed its main emphasis on "bring the troops
      home now". In constructing a mass antiwar movement it's political
      realism to avoid making crude and direct attacks on service personnel,
      who are in the final analysis put in harm's ways and sent to do bad
      things by their political masters.

      Of course Latham and other ALP right-wingers put a slightly
      conservative spin on "supporting the troops", but it's vicious and
      stupid to equate this with support for the war, if it is, as it is in
      Latham's case, associated with the proposition that "supporting the
      troops" means bringing them home.

      Dave Riley's sectarianism towards the Laborites brings him more or
      less into the position occupied by Albert Langer and other Maoists
      during the Vietnam War, who attacked us all because they said the only
      honourable policy was to support the NLF and that concern for the
      welfare of Australian troops was a betrayal.

      Riley's account of the Vietnam antiwar movement is just as mad as his
      comments on the Iraq war. In Australian conditions, the decisive
      factor that made it possible to mobilise a substantial independent
      antiwar movement in the early stages of the Vietnam war, when that war
      was very popular, was the fact that Arthur Calwell, the then Labor
      leader, took a courageous and belligerent stand in opposition to the war.

      Most independent socialist antiwar activists, many of us also in the
      ALP, threw themselves into the agitational space opened by Calwell,
      and built a mass antiwar movement comparatively rapidly.

      It's true that the new Labor leader after Calwell, Gough Whitlam, with
      the full support of the then still powerful Stalinist apparatus in the
      labour movement, watered down the withdrawal policy, but he didn't do
      it without very substantial opposition. At the NSW ALP conference in
      1967, I rallied about 40 per cent of the delegates behind a motion
      reasserting the Calwell policy of withdrawal, and defying Whitlam (for
      which impudence I was expelled from the official left caucus, the
      Steering Committee). Similarly, the leftist Victorian state executive
      also stuck to the withdrawal policy, and an independent and vigorous
      antiwar agitation, including most Labor Party members nationally,
      continued during the first 18 months of Whitlam's leadership.

      By the 1969 elections, the combined impact of the worsening of the war
      and the continued antiwar agitation caused Whitlam to reverse his
      stance and effectively revert to the withdrawal policy.

      When the mass Moratoriums were organised in 1970, the ALP in every
      state was a central part of those protests, which took place around
      the demand of immediate withdrawal.

      Taken as a whole, Riley's assertion that the ALP supported the Vietnam
      War is political nonsense.

      Riley is like a caricature of an old-style Jesuit, trying to find a
      way of saying black is white. He uses the victory of Whitlam in 1967
      in watering down the withdrawal policy of the ALP somewhat, to trying
      to make a case that Labor didn't oppose the Vietnam War. This ignores
      the mass politics of the Vietnam agitation. In the relatively short
      period from mid-1967 to mid-1969 we militants continued to put
      pressure on the Labor leadership, and by late 1969 Whitlam
      somersaulted under the pressure of the worsening military situation
      and the antiwar agitation, and in practice reverted to the withdrawal
      position.

      No one in Australia that I know, other than Riley and one or two
      others, remembers the events of the Vietnam struggle in the way that
      Riley claims to now. Everywhere I go in society at large, and in the
      workers' movement, what people remember is our relative success in
      keeping Labor honest on the Vietnam War. People remember the mass
      mobilizations against the war in which many Laborites played a leading
      role, and they also remember that the new Labor government of Whitlam
      in 1972 withdrew the last troops, released the draft resisters and
      wound up conscription.

      Riley's version is a rewrite of the events.

      When he gets back to World War I, Riley gets very Bolshie about the
      Labor rat, Hughes. The facts of that historical experience were that
      initially most Labor politicians and trade union leaders supported the
      war, but they always opposed conscription.

      When the conservative Labor prime minister, Hughes, tried to impose
      conscription, he was forced by ALP opposition to hold a referendum. He
      tried to persuade the ALP in the bigger states -- NSW, Victoria,
      Queensland and South Australia -- to support conscription, and he was
      resoundingly defeated by all those ALP state executives.

      All four of those state executives adopted a position that any Labor
      politician who supported conscription would be expelled from the ALP.
      Immediately after the first referendum, all the right-wing Labor
      politicians who supported conscription were expelled.

      This week, with much fanfare, the Labor Party is celebrating the 100th
      anniversary of the first national Labor government in the world, led
      by J.C. Watson, which lasted for about 10 weeks. In 1916, a relatively
      unsentimental Labor Party expelled Watson, along with all the other
      right-wing politicians who supported conscription.

      The defeat of the conscription referendum, by a narrow absolute
      majority, and narrowly in three of the six states, was largely a
      product of the organised opposition to conscription of the labour
      movement throughout the country, the Labor government of T.J. Ryan in
      Queensland, and the agitation of the radical Catholic bishop Daniel
      Mannix, who rallied the large Catholic population against conscription.

      Hughes tried again in a second referendum and was defeated by a wider
      margin. Despite the defection of the right wing, which amalgamated
      with the Tories, the ALP rapidly revived electorally and was elected
      to state government in NSW in 1921.

      In the conscription referendums, the two states with the strongest
      Labor political representation, NSW and Queensland, voted against
      conscription by the largest majority.

      The conscription split, the defeat of conscription in the referendums,
      and the impact of the Russian Revolution, shifted the ALP to the left
      for the next 20 years or so.

      The two forces that emerged as decisive influences in Labor politics
      for those 20 years were the Marxist left and radicalised Irish
      Catholics. It took a very long time to roll back the radicalisation of
      the Australian labour movement produced by the conscription campaigns.

      Anyone who disputes my account of these events should look at some of
      the historical material on Ozleft, which contains more detailed
      accounts of the conscription upheavals and the struggle over the
      Vietnam War.

      The DSP leadership, with which Riley is generally associated, used to
      know the history of all these events, and I find it fascinating that
      Riley can say these eccentric things on the Green Left discussion site
      and no one from the DSP leadership challenges his historical inaccuracies.

      Riley's barefaced attempt to rewrite the history of the Iraq war and
      the ALP's attitude to it, not just after the event, but as it's
      happening around us, is a really strange phenomenon. One would think
      that everyone, including Marxists, can see that what he's saying is
      nonsense. He's obviously relying on the peculiar mindset of most of
      many of his associates, to try to get away with saying black is white.

      In a way this throws new light on the way Stalin's historical
      falsifications proceeded. If Riley thinks he can rely on a peculiar
      mindset among some socialists to rewrite history as it's happening, it
      gives one a hint of how much easier it must have been for Stalin and
      his red professors to rewrite the history of the Russian Revolution,
      when they had a powerful emerging bureaucracy and an increasingly
      totalitarian state apparatus behind them.

      It may seem a bit over the top to reply to Dave Riley's short comments
      so extensively, but Riley, a long-time member of the DSP, now one of
      the key ostensible independents allied with the DSP in the Socialist
      Alliance. Clearly his views on these matters have a bearing on the
      battle that is currently going on in the Socialist Alliance between
      the DSP current and a number of the small affiliates, some
      independents and the ISO on Socialist Alliance strategy running up to
      the coming federal elections. Those interested in the far-reaching
      debate now going on in the Socialist Alliance should read the recent
      discussion bulletins of the Socialist Alliance, which are available at
      http://www.socialist-alliance.org/idbpage.php
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