Australian coup in 1975?

Greg Schofield gschofield at
Wed May 23 20:19:05 MDT 2001

Gary I liked all that you said but thought to add some more and speculate a

First, a little observation. I was selling those CPA tribune dailies during
the period, which initially went like hot cakes (quite unbelievable).
However, after the first two issues I stopped reading them, which to a
smarter person might have been a good indication of problems. Likewise so
did the public gradually loose interest.

If I remember rightly while the verbiage level was sometimes high, there
was no real political content and just a smattering of news. It would have
been under perfect circumstances a time to win over vast hordes of people,
(I am afraid the possibility of doing anything substantial did not then and
does not know appear realistic - while the effects of mismanaged mobilising
would I think have turned very deadly very fast).

The CPA by that stage (though I was not clear about this at the time)
inherently abandoning the class. It was many years before it became clear
to me that this had far more class content than mistakes or errors attached
to it. Anti-workerism was actively promoted, would you believe, rank and
file organisation strangled whenever the opportunity arose, even union
leadership purposefully isolated and forced out. I did not know it at the
time (otherwise I would not have stayed so long) but in effect the party
was purging itself of proletarian elements (not just workers but any
intellectuals who maintained this connection, in fact anything that was
associated with the working class).

I will not bore you with the details of the various misdirected struggles
which took place internally, but I suspect basic disbelief at what was
actually happening played a major role.

In the move towards coalitionism (not that any of these were ever serious,
or seriously pursued - yet another illusion), social movements, anything
vaguely political but not directly stamped by the working class. The depths
this reach is hard to imagine, hard even to recall how we suffered it and
did not walk out (well in fact this is exactly what did happen).

Far from this stemming from some theoretical errors - the leaderships grasp
of theory was at best simplistic. They (I use the term loosely because it
was not confined to those in position) were also very duplicitous in what
they picked up and abandoned. We poor sods who believed what we were saying
deluded ourselves that they did believe some of the garbage they actually
said, but I  have plenty of reflected experience to know that they tailored
what they said to each particular audience though I am still not clear what
they were after. The whole thing seemed so predicatively suicidal that I am
now of opinion that this had somehow become their objective.

All of which leads me to this overall conclusion, I can only understand
this (the CPA experience), the position of the present remaining movement,
the situation of the ALP, the odd position the conservatives have got
themselves into, and despite all this a rather wonderful, quirky,
disposition of workers, indeed people at the bottom end altogether. The
march of Aboriginal reconciliation just one of many extraordinary
manifestations that people have not given up.

For those outside Australia - these marches were not big, they were huge as
sizable portions of the population of each capital city came out onto the
street in general support of aboriginal struggles - in many ways
unprecedented - just as the growing militancy of the
mayday/anti-globalisation actions shows. I know we have had similar things
in the past, but we also had much more extensive political organisation in
the past, moreover the so-called violence of the latest mayday actually had
(and this is my first experience of this given the tendency for people to
wag their fingers at anything "violent") a lot of public support.

The coming general election looks like wiping the old conservatives off the
map, yet this sweeping Labor victory (things may yet go awry) holds no
illusions for anyone - which having grown up with traditions of political
allegiance being part and parcel of Australia's culture is very strange as

I suppose I am just getting back to an overall picture, that the ruling
class has transformed itself into something with very much less hegemony
than it had before, I simply cannot read things any other way, the fact
that in different ways the same things seems to be happening across the
world is new. For instance any actual social-democracy has simply vanished
- I agree with you below that this did not happen overnight, but the last
decade has just made it so obvious 1983-1996 ALP government defying and
denying any connection with social-democracy.

Its landslide defeat in 1996 I think was a by-product of the usual skillful
electoral boundary changes being exaggerated by an actual swing, by the
next election the swing had returned but the conservatives lost hardly any
seats, I don't put extreme changes beyond them, as I saw the electoral maps
for 1975, but the last swing seems to have doubled up and then some - of
little interest except what the hell is actually going on? I am not so much
perplexed as bemused, but we really have to get a theoretical handle on
what is going on, because this sure is not the same old story as it has
been puffing along since the 1890's.

Sorry Gary I suppose that is my point, there has been a historic shift, it
has been going on for some time and is now unavoidably present and
basically I have not seen anything that seems to have the slightest idea
what it is all about. Trotting out the old stuff and dressing it up to fit
the occasion looks ludicrous to me and before any one jumps on me with
accusations of revisionism, what we need is some good old fashioned (read
Marx) Historical Materialist analysis, and not regurgitation of past
battles which have limited, if any, applicability at the moment.

I remain optimistic, but I wish someone would lance the boil so that we can
move on.

Greg Schofield
Perth Australia

At 08:25  24/05/01 +1000, you wrote:
>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.
>>Greg Schofield
>>Perth Australia
>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 intervened.

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