Australian coup in 1975? (was Re: The CPA and Aboriginal Activismwas RE: Scholarship and politics (was Re: Proyect v Woods)
g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Wed May 23 16:25:22 MDT 2001
At 12:07 24/05/01 +0800, Greg wrote:
>Such is the state of Australian politics even our coups are stage farces
>and from an international perspective don't really deserve much attention.
>Nestor I hope this is useful, and I rely on better informed comrades to
>correct my blunders, it is a shoddy rendition of events.
This is far from shoddy, Greg. It is very insightful. I had arrived in
Australia in Jan 10 1975. the coup was in 11.11. 1975. I am truly glad I
was here. For if I had not seen with my own two eyes I would not have
believed the spontaneous reaction of the workers to the coup. People
stopped work and poured out on to the streets. Especially the better paid
and educated workers who were the true base of the Labor government. I
have a recording of Bob Hawke union leader future ALP leader and Prime
Minister standing outside Parliament as the workers surged around howling
"We want Gough". He looks extremely worried. worried that is about the
danger of the workers getting out of control. He need not have
feared. The Left leaders of the workers , especially Carmichael of the CPA
had absolutely no intention of calling for a general strike.
The Communist Party paper, The Tribune, went daily for the
emergency. their line was that this was a fascist coup and in such
circumstances all support had to be given to the Labor Party. In the mean
time the Labor Party held a series of monster rallies all around
Australia.` These were and still are the biggest rallies ever held. I
missed the one in Brisbane because of child care duties (miaow!!). But at
it the Labor leader Gough Whitlam unveiled the key slogan. He told the
assembled thousands "Maintain your rage". That has now become associated
with the whole campaign. Everyone neglects to mention the second part of
the slogan. Whitlam went on to add "But don't boil over".
The conservatives as Greg pointed out won a huge majority but in terms of
percentages the hard core working class stayed true to Labor, and the
conservative government could never really take them on. The Tories
drifted from 1975 until 1983 when Labor came to power.
Always in defeat the ALP learn a lesson from the bourgeoisie. Their defeat
in 1949 was caused by their attempt to nationalise the banks. so in the
run up to the 1972 election Whitlam made a series of speeches promising
never to nationalise anything. Similarly in the run up to the 1983
election Hawke then Labor leader made a series of speeches promising to
"looks after the economy and to be good economic managers". In other words
the lesson the ALP had learned from the Whitlam sacking was that they had
tried to do too much in terms of social reform and had not made sure the
economy ran on the lines that would make the ruling class profitable.
So the Hawke and the Keating Labor governments began the process of
economic "rationalisation". They dismantled most of the controls on the
banks and attacked workers' rights. This set the stage for enormous worker
disillusionment and they delivered for the first time ever a huge slice of
the working class vote to the Tories in 1996. Since then it has been six
years of purgatory.
But Australia is still not at the stage Argentina is. We still have a
unionised sector. The middle class have not been plunged into the ranks of
the lumpen proletariat. That of course is where we are heading,
methinks. But there will be a great struggle. The anticipation is that
Labor will stop the attacks. Of course what will happen is this. The
incoming Labor government will tell us all that there is a deep financial
crisis. They will produce figures from the treasury to prove that the
budget is in deficit. (Yesterday's budget figures showing a "surplus" are
pretty dodgey). We will then have a period of further austerity.
Above I said that the ALP learned lessons from its defeats in 1949 and
1972. It however learned nothing from its defeat in 1996. There was
nothing to learn. They had totally gone over to the side of the
bourgeoise. For ever after their role was to mind the shop for the owners,
the capitalists. They were never ever going to try and take the shop over
in any way.
I still recall vividly on the night of their defeat in 1996, Labor Senator
Bob McMullan complaining on television that the ALP had done everything
they were supposed and had brought in all the necessary reforms and they
had been defeated.
There is much more that can be written about all this of course. I am
especially interested in the struggle between tradition and modernity as it
was played out from 1944 to 1972. Moreover it has just been revealed that
the Conservative government of Sir Robert Menzies was eager to offer 2000
Australians soldiers for nuclear experiments in 1959, but a moratorium
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