Referendum Down Under

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Tue Nov 9 07:35:27 MST 1999


    I find this talk of a referendum on a "Republic" --with a capital R-- to
be a bit much. As far as I can tell, what was involved was exchanging one
bourgeois figurehead for another in an imperialist bourgeois democracy.
Given the phony choice, I was surprised that the Left as a whole did not
call for abstention or some sort of no vote. That would have been my line --
take this referendum and shove it.

    I don't believe it is correct to classify the Windsors as representative
of feudal interests. They are a thoroughly bourgeois monarchy. Nor does
sovereignty seem to be in question. Australia does quite as it pleases given
the world it lives in: life sometimes isn't easy for a piranha in an ocean
full of sharks like the Americans, the French and the Brits. But a local
figurehead as opposed to an imported one makes zero difference as far as
this is concerned.

    You think perhaps the workers might have voted yes for MORAL reasons, to
repudiate the Windsors who "are also a walking and a living scandal in terms
of their venality, and their moral and spiritual corruption." Once
again --as they did in the United States during the Great Clinton Blow Job
Crisis and Impeachment-- the workers have shown that they are not nearly the
suckers for bourgeois moral hypocrisy that the right-wing politicians would
like them to be. They instinctively --and quite rightly-- react with
distrust at the bourgeoisie's attempts to transform people's private lives
into political issues.

    That was the "secret" of the Clinton impeachment scandal that none of
the Washington worthies in the gasbag talk show circuit dared to mention.
Clinton's job approval was astronomic for a lame-duck president, not DESPITE
the scandal but BECAUSE of it. Working people "forgave" Clinton for his
dalliance and having lied about it because what they couldn't forgive was
the cops, the courts, the prosecutors and the press having asked about it in
the first place.

    In terms of their own CLASS interests, looking at it from afar there
seems to be absolutely nothing in this referendum that could or should have
interested the workers in the least. The one calculation workers might
perhaps be inclined to make is that if the bourgeoisie is pushing for this,
they must be up to no good. An attitude of, whatever the rulers want, I'm
against, might be considered primitive, but it seems to me the beginning of
wisdom in class politics.

    So I say three cheers for the Australian working class, and one Bronx
cheer each for the bourgeois campaigns for a "yes" and a "no" vote.



-----Original Message-----
From: Gary MacLennan <g.maclennan at>
To: marxism at <marxism at>
Date: Monday, November 08, 1999 10:18 PM
Subject: Referendum Down Under

Things went very much as planned last weekend. As per usual Australia won at
the sport and lost at the politics. Thus the Wallabies took out the Rugby
Cup and the referendum to set up a Republic was defeated. For Prime Minister
John Howard, the man who strangled the Republic at birth, there is the
advantage that the glow of success from the sporting field will overshadow
disaster in the political domain.  It is true though that, like all
substitutions and consolations for this vale of sorrow, our ability to bask
the reflected glory of John Eales and his mighty men will fade.  But not to
worry the Olympics is round the corner and there are sure to be many moments
when once more our hearts will swell with pride and joy and the feeling that
God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world. Sport then for
will continue to be the rose in the cross of the present and the heart of a
heartless world.
Why though did the Republic fail? It is inconceivable that a modern nation
Australia would vote *for* the Windsor family.  Not only does the Queen and
brood represent the feudal, they are also a walking and a living scandal in
terms of their venality, and their moral and spiritual corruption. The very
fact of the Windsors and their ilk is enough to make one long for the Old
to ascend and wreak revenge on humanity. I cannot believe that the people of
Australia gave the British Royal Family a positive endorsement.  Now I know
that the champagne corks are popping in Buckingham Palace and I have just
that a new Royal Tour of Australia has been announced for March 2000.  But I
will not agree with the media idiot who said, ‘The workers stayed with the
Windsors’. However it is true that the working class voted no, and we need
understand why.
What has occurred is in many ways a re-run of the 1996 defeat of the Keating
Labor Government.  Thirteen years of the ALP in power brought about
high unemployment, job insecurity and a massive increase in exploitation on
job. As a consolation for this, the workers were offered cultural and
constitutional modernisation. Keating in fact began the current push for a
republic. However the working class rejected modernisation and voted for a
return to the past.  Quite simply Howard fooled them here by promising
security.  In reality through his labor reform agenda he has speeded up the
process that Labor had started.
So the workers of Australia are trapped. All political parties have endorsed
the politics of neo-liberalism. No one is offering them other than ‘reform’,
that is blood, sweat and tears. Accordingly the workers have fallen back on
resentful prerogative of saying ‘no’ to the modernisers who care nothing
their suffering. I do not rate this refusal very highly for it is true that
workers will only become hegemonic and dangerous when they say ‘yes’ to a
socialist alternative to neo-liberalism. But for the moment the ‘no’ must
It is also a comfort to note that the Republican camp could not arouse the
enthusiasm of the working class. For who were these republicans?  Their
was Malcolm Turnbull, barrister, merchant banker and multi-millionaire. Also
prominent were Rupert Murdoch, American and non-tax-paying capitalist, and a
host of minor Tories such as Amanda Vanstone and Malcolm Fraser. That such
filth cannot lead a popular movement is a wholly good thing. So although I
voted ‘yes’ to the republic and although I also am for cultural and
constitutional modernisation, I understand those who said ‘no’  to a vision
a republic which would not have improved their lives.


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