A week in Brisbane

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Fri Aug 9 01:51:55 MDT 1996


Comrades

This has been an interesting week.  We are in the run down to the budget and
various groups are beginning to take to the streets to assert their
"rights".  The govt has talked tough about the national interest and the
need for cuts.  But they got elected by pretending that they would cut nothing.

So there is real anxiety and fear around and I think increasing anger. The
federal reserve bank has just lowered interests rate because, I believe,
that the promised cuts have damaged confidence so much that everyone is
scared.  They may actually have brought on a recession.  Anyway unemployment
is on the way up again.

There is also talk of Labor softening its commitment to "economic
rationalism".  At some stage we should discuss how the use of this label
permits the myth of an alternative capitalism which is people friendly, and
which if we could only get back to all would be well.  This I take it is
Will Hutton's message.  MaybeHugh could post something about this.
Certainly Hutton is just beginning to get a run on the airways here.

On Tuesday I took part in a forum on "Ethics and the Documentary film maker"
for the Brisbane International
Film Festival.  I  was on the panel with two practicing film makers -Tom
Zybricki and Trish Fitzsimmons. very interesting. There was a moment which
might particularly interest list members. We were discussing a Labor film
"Friends & Enemies" about the Power  Workers strike of 1985.  This strike
was crushed by a very conservative govt.  I did strike support work and the
magnitude of the defeat left me out of action for a few years.  But the
point I wished to make concerned a section in the film where the film maker,
Zybricki, had set up a govt minister by pretending to make a film about him.
It is a wonderful moment when the minister is at a dance and as he waltzes
around the floor he boasts to everyone "they are making a film about me".

Well Trish said that this was an ethically dodgy  thing to do.  And Zybricki
tended to agree with her.

I disagreed strongly and said what they were "astride the dead horse of
universality morality" (Trotsky)  The film maker's ethical duty was to the
oppressed i.e. the strikers. By showing the minister as a buffoon he had
moreover captured the essence of the conservative govt and something of the
banality of evil.  Stupid egotistical mean spirited clowns with state power.
A comparable moment I thought would be capturing Goering in drag. I  was
giving here my interpretation of the Bhaskar thesis that the truth of things
(alethia) is ethical.

I won that point on rhetoric alone but as always the ethical conundrum of
means and ends is lurking around.  But then we can always use the word
"dialectical" to cover that. No?

Thurs was strike day.The picket outside my campus was extremely militant.
There was a punch up and a scab was beaten up.  It marks a qualitative
change from the past where the scabs walked (literally) over us.

The subsequent rally was marked by a clash with the  police.  An individual
got arrested and we tried to get him released.  The extra special goon squad
was brought in and they did us over.  There were ten arrests and lots of
assaults on the demonstrators -special holds, fingers in ears, on pressure
points etc.  I tried to negotiate as an elder statesman but got thrown aside.

At the watch houses we held a rally and I spoke there.  We were watched by
police and I got great pleasure in bellowing about police corruption.  We
are setting up a committee  to investigate the police attacks on the
demonstrators.  I know it is very tame shit compared with Turkey but you
have to  oppose them at all levels.

The main point is that there is just a trace of a new left emerging from the
universities.The final crowd outside the pig house was around 80-90.  That
is good for Brisbane.  All young folk except for me and three other old
ancients of the struggle.  But it was pleasant being in a left crowd where
there were not as many organisations as people.


Today on my way to work I passed through another crowd of demonstrators.
School cleaners who  have just had the sack (privatization).  They were
middle aged mainly female and very upset and frightened.

So the seeds are there.  Can it  all come together? Well as always I think
the key is  in Sydney and Melbourne. Here's  hoping.

regards

Gary




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