[Marxism] Australian Update

g.maclennan at qut.edu.au g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Tue Dec 5 22:25:41 MST 2006

Thoughts on Oz December  6th 2006

Two items struggled this week for mastery in terms of news value:  the second Ashes cricket battle between England and Australia and the leadership contest within the opposition Labor Party.  This being Australia I think the sporting context won rather easily. Everyone is agog with the exciting victory over the “Old Enemy”. 

Though to say that would no doubt offend the sensibilities of one of the great egos of our time.  I refer to the new leader of the Labor Party - Dr Kevin Rudd – former diplomat, business man, and scholar.  He, I strongly suspect, regards his elevation to the pinnacle of the Labor Party as something like the transfiguration of the Christ.

He has been relentless the last few days in a media driven endeavour to persuade us mere mortal Australians of the correctness of his vision of himself. Almost everywhere one turns we have the image of Rudd’s bespectacled, and weirdly, nerdy school boy face grinning and  grinning and laughing and laughing at us.  Not since 1952 when American Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson (1900-65) deliberately mispronounced words and showed reporters a hole in his shoe, in an endeavour to persuade American voters he was normal, has an intellectual so eagerly sacrificed himself on the altar of political opportunity and opportunism. 

Was this all just a media circus?  It is true that the media do a good leadership challenge and they regularly indulge that ability to fend off the boredom the of the Eternal Return of the Same that is Australian politics.  Besides a federal election is only a year away and that adds just the right amount of piquancy to a challenge.  

Moreover, as well as the factor of the media, there was too the drama of the sacrificed leader – Kim Beazley.  His defeat acquired the near ritual quality of the necessary sacrifice-  a “good man” betrayed and stabbed  in the back. What more could one possibly want?  But our cup runneth over, because in addition to the sacrificing of Beazley by his own party, there was the fact of the death of his brother on the day he was dumped as leader.  Truly a horrifying nexus of events: so horrifying in fact that the pleasure gained from the contemplation of the fate of Beazley was almost Dionysian in its intensity.

Is there anything more to be said?  Does the changing of the guard in the Labor Party have a political dimension?  Even though this is electoral politics, it is worth reminding oneself that one cannot rule out entirely there being something actually political about it all.  It is true that Rudd himself has been at great pains to reassure us that he is “rock solid on the American Alliance” and an “economic conservative”. In other words Rudd has also pledged himself to be a bearer of the Eternal Return of the Same.

If he stands for the same things as the conservatives then what is the point?  What does Rudd offer? There are a few things to note here.  Firstly he offers us his intelligence to which there are three interlocking aspects.

He is in fact saying to the ruling class – trust me I am smarter than the Tories.  I will do a better job for you.  His predecessor here is of course the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson (1916-95).  In 1964 the latter offered a technology led revival of British manufacturing and it is fascinating to see Rudd tout the same formula. He will it seems revive Australian manufacturing.  

Yet like Wilson, Rudd is doomed to fail here because he does not command Capital and so cannot order it to invest in Australian manufacturing.  There will be much talk about training and infra-structure but there will be no revival. Historically Australian manufacturing survived behind tariff barriers. That is no longer an option in these days of globalisation and so Rudd has nothing to offer but rhetoric or as he would put it “style”.

Rudd may have more success with the second element of his intelligence. He has hinted at redefining being pro- America away from being pro-Bush to being pro-Democrat.  Implied here is a rejection of the overly aggressive, and thus counterproductive, aspects of American world domination.  I think that here Rudd is responding to a feeling in sectors of the American ruling class that Bush and the neo-conservatives have been a disaster that has actually weakened American hegemony.

The third aspect of Rudd’s intelligence in command has to do with global warming.  Rudd has sensed the truth that climate change will result in the mutual ruin of the contending classes. Howard cannot and will not act against any section of capital. But Rudd might just link up with those capitalists who realise that life in their gated communities will not survive climate change.

So Rudd has promised to be a brighter, smarter servant of the ruling elites. But what has he offered the people? His initial pronouncement was that he offered a variation in style to the incumbent John Howard. Just as the Democrats ran on not being Republican, Rudd will run hard on not being Howard. The substance underlying this stylistic variation would appear to consist in an offer to the working class of relief from the ruling class market driven offensive,  an offensive which Howard has led so ruthlessly.  

Rudd has talked here of how the recent industrial legislation has given employers total control over such things as shift work allocation.  For Rudd that means that parents will not be able to be certain about taking their children to football or going to Church on Sunday.  Rudd is a fanatical Christian and this is his own personal spin on the increase of power that the new Industrial laws have given the ruling class.  

Nevertheless Rudd’s Christianity not withstanding when he talks of the excess of power of the recent industrial reforms he is speaking from the soft heart of Laborism and indeed he is drawing on its historical raison d’etre.  The market is not to be challenged but the inevitable victims will have their brows soothed.  The essential functionality of the market is to be disguised with acts of charity.

The problem here for Rudd is that the ruling class is only interested in having their brutalities softened if there is an external challenge to their rule. For instance President Roosevelt’s New Deal of 1933-7 can only be understood in terms of the fear of a Communist threat.  The American ruling class reluctantly went along with the New Deal because there was the spectre of appropriation haunting them.  

No such spectre is on the horizon now.  Accordingly the ruling class do not care about the victims of their rule.  Rudd may talk all he likes of a return to core Australian values, meaning specifically a relationship with the ruling class mediated by populist notions such as mateship- but the Australian dominant class is simply not interested in being the friend of the Australian worker. For them it is a case of “Profit Rules – Ok.”

The result of the upheavals in the Australian Labor Party is that we now have two political leaders who are both conservative religious men.   They resemble in their nerdiness two school boys.  Yet there is a minor difference.  One of them, John Howard, is the sort of schoolboy who became the Head Prefect through a servile willingness to do what ever the masters wanted backed up by an eagerness to rat on his school chums.  The other schoolboy (Kevin Rudd) got to be a prefect because he was bright and the masters recognized him as potentially one of them – a future mandarin.

Will Rudd be able to trade in on his intelligence and get to be Prime Minister of Australia? Perhaps.  My own feelings are that he will not make it.  There is no crisis that would force the ruling elites into backing him.  They are likely to leave him to the mercy of the media and the vicissitudes of public opinion, in other words what we call democracy.  

There is over a year to go to the election.  That is too long a time for Rudd.  There is a real danger now that the working class will get to know him.  The truth that he is an office thug and a bully might well leak out. Nor in this, the most secular of nations, can his religious zeal be hidden for such a length of time. It might impress the pope, but the average Australian worker will not be so easily swayed.

It is true that the Australian working class is the least militant and the most apolitical working class in the world.  They will not grasp the fine shades of emphasis, the subtle signals that Rudd is giving. These are in any case intended for the ruling elite. It is up to the latter who will be Prime Minister of this country. Rudd knows this, and he is desperate to impress.  That is why he specifically mentioned in Parliament yesterday, that the Labor Party had fought against Marxism for a century. 

But who among the ruling elite cares now?   My best guess is that they will stay with Howard and the working class will as always in this nation follow their masters.



More information about the Marxism mailing list