latest column

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at
Fri Apr 27 18:06:09 MDT 2001


My latest column.  It contains a piece on the Black Blocks and the New Left.



Revolutionary reveries and premonitions in the Bin:

The recent protests in  Quebec against the Free Trade of the Americas were
remarkable for their demonstration that a New Left continues to be take
shape.  It is moreover a Left quite unlike any of its predecessors. It is
overwhelmingly young and connected not to any clear theory or politics but
instead to a deep seated despair about the condition of the world and
indeed the human species.

We have had a quarter of a century of economic policies that have seen the
one per cent who are the rich increase their share of the global wealth
from 35 to 50% .  We have had a quarter of a century of global politics
that has seen the human race march ever closer to ecological doom. All this
has borne a bitter and strange fruit.  I refer specifically to the
phenomenon of the 'Black Blocks'.  These are the anarchist militias who set
out to directly combat the state and the minions.  In Seattle last year
they targetted McDonalds and Nikes.  This year in Quebec they stood amidst
the swirling clouds of tear gas and hails of plastic bullets and hurled
black defiance at the state.

There has been much adverse comment about their tactics, not least from
some of the Marxists on Lou Proyect's mailing list. (This list on
marxism at remains crucial to the renovation of a Marxist
politics). The argument essentially is that the media focuses almost
exclusively on the violence of the Back Blocks and this gives the
anti-globalisation cause a bad image.  There is also an instrumentalist and
conspiratorial view of the media here. Because the cameras are focussed on
the Black Block, that must mean the rich and the powerful want us to see
them.  So the argument goes that in a sense the Black Blocks are playing
into the hands of the enemy.

I myself am much less critical.  I see the Black Blocks in the words of one
of the contributors to Lou's list as an 'intifada of the young'.  Despite
my reservations about their tactics, for me their anger and rage is almost
holy.  As I have said before, 'What is the crime of thrashing Nike,
compared to the crime of owning Nike?'  Moreover my attitude to them can be
summed up in the phrase Pablo Picasso used to explain why he had joined the
Communist Party.  Picasso said, 'Ils sont les plus braves.'

In Australia the New Left has yet to emerge.  That is not meant in any way
as an insult to the brave few who protested last year in
Melbourne.   Despite their heroism we are still living through the absence
of a Left.  Yet, as I write this, it is gathering.  The remorseless
dialectic is as always at work.  As Marx would have put it, the Old Mole of
revolution is grubbing away underneath the horrible actuality that is
stifling us all.

When the New Left appears, many of the old thematics will also
re-emerge.  At some demonstration  somewhere, someone will get up and
propose that only women be allowed to speak.  The vegetarians, the
Catholics, the Ghandians will gather like locusts around the centres of
militancy and attempt to destroy them. There will be an even more
remarkable resurrection. What remains of the old Stalinist Popular
Frontists will be wheeled out (literally) to denounce the militants as
"agent provocateurs" and "Trotskyists".

More importantly those natural heirs of the Stalinists, the current trade
union bureaucracy, will strive with all their might to keep the workers
away from the militant young.  This they will do instinctively because they
sense deeply that if the workers ever join up with the militants, we will
have a revolutionary explosion, which will take out not only the
capitalists but also the trade union leadership.  That is why in Seattle
the union leaders kept their march away from linking up with the
protestors.  That is why in Melbourne the union leaders refused to join in
the attempt to blockade the Casino.  That is why in Quebec the march of the
workers was led away from where the rich and the powerful were meeting.

When it all unfolds, remember you read it here first.

2. In the meantime we are as I have said in the grip of a horrible
actuality.  In Canberra, John Howard is the incarnation of Dead Man
Walking.  Despite the fact that he has performed more back flips than a
Kung Fu movie star, there is still the stink of death about him and his
government.  The one hope of the Liberals was snuffed out when
Treasurer  Costello's courage failed him and he refused to challenge for
the leadership.

Over in the Labor camp there is a sneaky kind of joy.  All the fantasies of
the right wing pragmatists and opportunists are about to come true.  They
will win an election without having to promise to do anything. At present
the major difference between Howard and Beazley is that one is a vicious
little right winger and the other is a large affable right winger.  Take
your pick.

Beazley, as leader of the Labor Party, should be under pressure from all of
us to come up with policies and solutions.  Above all he should also be
campaigning for an election now.  The Howard government is like that
something in the fridge that has gone long beyond its use by date. Even the
dog turns up its nose at it.

The longer Howard remains in office the worse it will be for Australia.  At
one level this is because his are now the politics of denial.  His refusal
to admit that we are in a recession is actually harming us.  Moreover,
although he has no idea of what to do about the downward spiral of the
economy, he still retains the capacity for mischief. A clear example of
this was his appointment of the priest Hollingworth as Governor General.

3. Now I know that the Brisbane establishment has rallied in joy around the
appointment of one of their own.  I am also aware that even some leftists
think that Holligworth is 'left-leaning'. However he is nothing of the
sort. Hollingworth is known as 'Clickety-click' by the radical clergy on
account of his true devotion being to having his photograph taken.

Hollingwoth is also a man whose core principles, to borrow a phrase from
Nietzsche, consist of a mobile army of metaphors. Thus he was once a
republican.  Then at the Republican Convention when he sensed the tide was
running strongly against republicanism he got up and announced he was
'confused'.  Now the former republican is obviously a good deal less
confused.  He has become the Queen's man.

  Again his back ground in the Brotherhood of St. Lawrence is supposed to
demonstrate that he was a crusader for the poor.  Yet the great crusader
has remained tactfully silent while the Howard government launched a brutal
and heartless campaign against those same poor.

In short Hollingworth. is the Vicar of Bray of our time.

          The Vicar of Bray

          In good King Charles's golden days,
          When loyalty no harm meant;
          A furious High-Church man I was,
          And so I gain'd preferment.
          Unto my flock I daily preach'd,
          Kings are by God appointed,
          And damn'd are those who dare resist,
          Or touch the Lord's anointed.
          And this is law, I will maintain
          Unto my dying day, sir,
          That whatsoever king shall reign,
          I will be Vicar of Bray, sir!

          When Royal James possess'd the crown,
          And popery grew in fashion;
          The penal law I shouted down,
          And read the declaration:
          The Church of Rome, I found would fit,
          Full well my constitution,
          And I had been a Jesuit,
          But for the Revolution.
          And this is law, I will maintain
          Unto my dying day, sir,
          That whatsoer king shall reign,
          I will be Vicar of Bray, sir!

          When William our deliverer came,
          To heal the nation's grievance,
          I turned the cat in pan again,
          And swore to him allegiance:
          Old principles I did revoke,
          Set conscience at a distance,
          Passive obedience is a joke,
          A jest is non-resistance.
          And this is law, I will maintain
          Unto my dying day, sir,
          That whatsoer king shall reign,
          I will be Vicar of Bray, sir!

          When George in pudding time came o'er,
          And moderate men looked big, sir,
           My principles I chang'd once more,
          And so became a Whig, sir:
          And thus preferment I procur'd,
           From our faith's great defender,
          And almost every day abjur'd
          The Pope, and the Pretender.
          And this is law, I will maintain
          Unto my dying day, sir,
          That whatsoer king shall reign,
          I will be Vicar of Bray, sir!

4. If Hollingworth's appointment was a cunning work of mischief an even
more harmful plot is underway.  The Bin can reveal exclusively that
television personality George Negus has been offered the job of presenter
of The 7.30 Report.  The current presenter, Kerry O'Brien, is loathed by
the Howard government.  They have long sought to destroy him but feared the
backlash, which might result.  Hence the offer to Negus.  The latter like
Hollingworth is seen as 'left leaning' and so his appointment could defuse
the protest at O'Brien's dismissal.  If Negus had any true left principles
he should spurn the offer from Howard. In any case, we all should rally to
protect O' Brien.  If he is dismissed we should also demand that the
Beazley government reinstate him at once.

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