[Marxism] Re: Iraq should cost Aussie PM his job, says conservative big shot

Gould's Book Arcade ggouldsb at bigpond.net.au
Wed Apr 7 23:44:45 MDT 2004

Responding to Tom O'Lincoln and McLennan

Tom feels obliged to turn my careful assessment of the political assessment
of Latham's statement into Latham being my 'hero'. That's insulting, but its
par for the course from Tom whenever he refers to me, and I'm used to it.
More importantly, its a diversion from the general point that I made, and
Tom's further development of his original point about John Valder marks a
political difference between us. Tom asserts that there's some silent force
in the Liberal Government that may come out against the occupation
relatively soon. He's having himself on. The Tories in Australia, all of
them in the Parliament, stuck to the Vietnam War to the bitter end, even
after it had become clear that the ALP under Whitlam would be swept into
power, partly on the basis of rejection of the Vietnam War and despite
Whitlam's earlier ambiguous attitude to the war. By about 1970 Whitlam was
doing what Latham is doing now, though it took him  some years to reach that
position. Latham has reached a position of opposition to the Iraq War, much
more quickly than Whitlam did over Vietnam, one of the reasons being that
there is a substantial folk memory through the whole of the Australian labor
movement about the Vietnam experience.

In addition to this Australian society and Australian politics is, as it has
always has been, divided into two broad currents. On one side is the
organised working class and recent NESB migrants, together with a big slice
of the 'new social layers' and a section of the literate middle class. This
half of Australian society vote Labor or Green, and are overwhelmingly
opposed to the Iraq involvement, with some in the centre wavering. In his
stance on Iraq, Latham (who is in no sense my hero) is responding both to
his base, and covering  his left flank a bit in relation to the Greens, at
the same time as taking a punt that, in the middle ground of Australian
society, the Iraq quagmire will rapidly become unpopular. Latham may not be
my hero, but he's no mug politically, and he's taken a fairly calculated
gamble on the social forces in play. In the other, more conservative 45% of
Australian society who vote Liberal, National or One Nation there may be
some people opposed to the war. Nevertheless, the bulk of the active
bourgeoisie, even if they're uneasy about the war, are locked into the
conservative political structures supporting the war, and are unlikely to
change in the short term.

O'Lincoln and the DSP overstate the direct physical influence of the
anti-war movement in this respect. The anti-war movement rose and then fell
and I was up to my ears in it, and I will continue to be active in it. The
notion that it's a direct physical pressure right now is a bit romantic.
What it expressed, and still expresses was the underlying rejection of
imperialist wars by the left half of society, when they are organised by
radical minorities. Rather than the size of demonstrations, etc. (which are
at the moment modest) it is these social facts to which Latham and the ALP
leadership are reacting. That's a pressure from the side of society which is
their base. In Britain, Blair is up to his elbows in shit because he
persists in a headlong collision with the traditional social base of the
British Labor Party, which is clearly against the Iraq War. Blair does this
for the most reactionary ideological reasons, and has decided to respond to
the pressures from the most reactionary elements of the bourgeoisie - and he
hopes to get away with this by a crude appeal to traditional British
chauvinism, etc.

Latham and the Australian Laborites, thankfully, from the point of view of
defeating the imperialist war in Iraq, aren't as ferocious ideological
loyalists to the direct interests of the most reactionary sections of the
Australian bourgeoisie.  Blair, may in due course be destroyed by the way
that his ultra-reactionary posture on the Iraq War collides with the social
base of British Labourism. The practical and operative political point I was
trying to make, as against people like the DSP, and it would appear also
Tom, was the fundamental division in Australian society between the left
side to  which Latham is clearly responding, and the conservative side of
Australian society. From this fundamental division, any useful Marxist
tactical orientation must flow in current Australian conditions. Its not a
question of who is or isn't a hero, its a question of the class forces at
play in political life in Australian society, and this is one of those
moments when a Marxist has to be particularly sectarian or particularly
thick not to be able to spell out a sensible strategic orientation in the
short term. In particular I think Tom's formulation about how we may see a
sudden emergence of  significant forces on the Tory side of politics who may
come out against the Iraq War, is delusional. The hysteria of the bourgeois
press, which even includes the traditional liberal bourgeois press like the
Fairfax papers, against Latham over  Iraq, suggests the unrealistic nature
of anticipating a sudden weakening about Iraq, on the conservative side of
politics in Australia.

Gould's Book Arcade
32 King St, Newtown, NSW
Ph: 9519-8947
Fax: 9550-5924
Email: bob at gouldsbooks.com.au
Web: www.gouldsbooks.com.au

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