An exchange with an Australian on PEN-L

Greg Schofield g_schofield at
Fri Apr 12 11:05:28 MDT 2002

[ quoted text snipped ]

Could not help but reply to this one Louis.

I cannot shed much light on comparisons between Australia and Argentina, but a
few things about Australia show up anomolies in capitalism as a world system
not easily slotted into imperialist or victim.

Australia was a major recipient for British export capital up until WWII when
the Americans took over that role. There was never any need to send in gun
boats when Britian controled the state Govenors (representatives of the
Crown). When during the depression Jack Lang (Premier of NSW) suggested
renigging on the loans used to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge he and his
government were dismissed.

As for Britian up until WWII the bulk of all land in Australia was owned by
British absentee leasholders, likewise nearly all the major mining and other
resouces sectors fed into British industry (Australia was a source for massive
raw resources and after the invention of refrigerated shipping for extensive
meat exports (through British owned slaughter houses, from British leased
stations, on British owned ships).

Is Australia a victim?

Well at the same time it was exploiting the Pacific region, mostly small scale
merchantile ventures in things like sandlewood, but also kidnaping and
indenturing slaves to fill the Queensland cane fields, whose product of course
was milled and processed by Bristish own factories. "Blackbirding" as it was
known was usually a small scale affair carried out by small Australia capital
and sometimes a good deal of cunning and brute force.

We have not touched on the brutal expropriation of Aboriginal people, carried
out by pastoralists and their agents for the most part but also by others not
the least a systematic governement policies.

On top of this there was Australia's all important strategic role in Asia (one
recognisied most obviously by the US during WWII but continuing to this day as
the lock on Asia).  Someone has to own Australia if they want to control
Asia. Britian first, then Japan attempted it and since then the Yanks have had

Where Australia is unusual is that its small population has meant that there
has been a large historic labour shortage which has aided Australian workers
to improve their conditions and through the last half of the 19 th century and
eary 20th century Australia was seen as a "workingman's paradise" though the
reality was far from it, there was more then a grain of truth in this.

Another level of complexity on this was the "White Australia Policy" a largely
successful attempt to exclude all non-european immigration (until the second
half of the 20th century). Framed and conceived in racist terms it unwrote the
strength of labour in Australia by effectively stopping mass cheap labour,
which other parts of the British Empire were only too willing to organise.

If your scratching your head at this moment wondering what this makes
Australia (victim or perpetrator) there are of course many more layers and
contradictions which could be added - none of which will make this question

Australian govenerments, the parties of governement have been under foriegn
thumb for a considerable time, now the US practically vets every party
leadership and US think tanks feed directly into governement decisions. ASIO
our intelligence agency is practically an arm of the CIA (it was designed to
be so in 1948) while behind in the mirky depths of military intelliegnce,
fasciod and British intelligence is rumoured to hold great sway. Under British
guidence during the Great Depression a large secret fasciod army was
organisied amongst ex-soldiers (they had more machine guns then the Australian
army, 300 of which mysteriously appeared, offcially recovered from "war
monuments" at the outbreak of WWII).

After WWI Australia gained a number of colonies and protectorates, difficult
to say how important these were to Australian capital, though some substantial
Bristish interests benefited by Australian administration (it is really
difficult to separate Briostish capital from Australian capital, especially as
Australia considered itself more British then the British until WWII).

"Actually, I am going to be spending most my next post identifying the
differences between Canada and Argentina--only because I am trying to write
email reports rather than a book. Bringing Australia into the mix would be
too much. I will argue that Argentine agriculture was a variation on the
latifundia with a low level of mechanization. Canada was just the opposite.
The government encouraged small-proprietor ownership and the level of
mechanization was substantially higher. Was Australia based on something
like the latifundia?"

Louis Latifundia in Australia was widespread (in terms of large tracts of
governement land being turned over to a aristocracy - in this case the bunyip
aristocracy of would bes). The general labour shortage and land so extensive
that mechinazation played practically no part in the huge pastoral industry
(Aboriginals supply a lot of slave labour). In other more intensive
argriculture (cane growing, dairy etc), small hjoldings were encouraged, but
only once the prime resources where taken by the big boys (usually but not
always vital water soiurces where excluded from the small selectors).

In the America's small farmers were at the forefront of the frontier, mostly
because the land had inhabitants none too pleased to be pushed off it. Thus
the small farmers acted as military front of occupation (doing the killing and

In Australia early application of biological warfare (smallpox 1789), followed
up by quick disposition on a continental scale did not give the native
inhabitants much military advantage, struggle and fierce battles occured but
massacres and yet more disease, the poisoning of waterholes made occupation
relatively easy here - the result was that large landholders with a handfull
of employees (in the early days indentured convicts) took large tracts of land
(some as big as England) - the squatoracrcy which the governement rushed to
recognise as legal possessors.

If there was a general rule about small farmers in Australia is that they have
effectively been good land clearers, whose land was too small to be viable and
was soon bought up at bargain prices (often for the price of the original
debts incurred to clear it in the first place - more often not even that
much). To this worthy end thousands of migrants were conned with promises of
productive land, thousands of returned soldiers were given hopeless blocks of
land and so the rural landscape of Australia was established (mostly empty).

Victim or agressor, imperial power, imperial pawn, colony? I would say all,
depending on what is looked at and when.


Greg Schofield
Perth Australia
g_schofield at
Modular And Integrated Design - programing power for all

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