Re: The ALP is EVIL!!!
- Dave Riley wrote:
>>I suggest that Shane should attend to the question of history a bitmore 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 tonote 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 supposedto 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 inthe ALP.
>>Is the ALP evil..? Well, the system it represents certainly is. Youfigure.>>
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
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
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
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
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