[Marxism] Aussie left nationalism (was Re: US SWP participation in UK anti-war protests)

Nick Fredman sra at scu.edu.au
Sun Nov 23 17:28:39 MST 2003

If I recall correctly Tom O'Lincoln and Gary MacLennan, Australians 
on this list, have worried in a few posts about the Australian 
nationalist dynamic of anti-war activities over the last year or 2, 
and despite a tradition of left nationalism, in the ALP, CPA and most 
bizarrely in the remnant Maoists of the CPA(ML), they're a little bit 
too worried I generally think, underestimating the extent that most 
participants in such actions, despite contradictory consciousness, 
can see Australia as a willing if junior partner in imperialist 
adventures. In a couple of cities the more liberal, pro-UN forces 
have split the movement and activities they organised have a more 
nationalist flavour, but the dynamic of the recent anti-Bush visit 
demos here were clearly anti-imperialist (and the demo organised by 
the anti-imperialist wing in Sydney was several times the size of the 
liberal-Statinist effort). Even if the movement were more liberal and 
nationalistic revolutionaries should of course push for united action 
while seeking to raise their views within the movement in a 
non-sectarian way, and as has been noted this understanding is what 
the US SWP has lost in a big way since the 1970s.

Related to left nationalism is the question of what the left should 
say, in a small imperialist country like Australia particularly, 
about liberalisation of global trade, tariff removal etc. In the 
cultural industries this relates to the problematic concept of 
"cultural imperialism". One issue raised during the Bush visit here, 
and heating up since is an upcoming US-Australian Free Trade 
Agreement. At stake is various public sector gains working people 
have won such as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (subsidised 
medicine), and in the cultural sphere, public subsidies of film 
production and TV content rules. The leftish culturatti are in a tizz 
about a US takeover. At the recent Australian Film Institute awards 
they lined up to denounce the FTA. A recent Australian film called 
Dirty Deeds, a slick and funny look at Sydney gangsters in the late 
1960s fighting off a US mafia takeover bid, was all about cultural 
imperialism (as the director said in so many words in an interview on 
the DVD). A old communist in his 70s in our Socialist Alliance 
branch, who used to work in the country music industry, has 
complained a number of times about all these young people and their 
rap music with Yank accents - a gentle reminder about where country 
music came from doesn't seem to shift him from his left cultural 

These are all real questions but the left needs to point out that 
tariffs and regulation of private enterprises are false, bourgeois 
solutions to the problems of defending jobs, the public sector and 
getting the voices of marginalised classes and other groups into the 

Nick Fredman
Student Rights Advocate
Southern Cross University (Lismore)
Student Representative Council

Shop 9 Plaza, SCU Lismore

Ph: 6620 3044
Email: sra at src.scu.edu.au
web: http://www.lismoresrc.org.au/


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