[Marxism] More thoughts on Oz

Nick Fredman srcsra at scu.edu.au
Wed Feb 7 18:41:38 MST 2007

From: "Joaquin Bustelo" <jbustelo at bellsouth.net>
Date: Wed, 7 Feb 2007 07:32:20 -0500

> Gary writes: "For all intents and purposes we have the same 
> relationship to
> the US that the Marshall Islands does.  When the Americans say "jump", 
> the
> Aussies wonder 'how high, oh master?'"
> For that to be true about Australia, it would have to stop being an
> imperialist country and become instead a Third World one. While there 
> are
> undoubtedly progressive sentiments being manipulated in there, isn't 
> it the
> long-standing position of Marxists in  Australia that Australian 
> nationalism
> and anti-americanism are essentially reactionary?

I haven't had a chance to read Gary's comments (and I find his comments 
interesting, but unless he fixes the column width thing the extra 
effort is off-putting), but he does seems to drifting into the dreaded 
curse of Australian left nationalism. Below is a few relevant sections 
on the far left and nationalism from an introductory chapter to the 
thesis I'm writing (meant to be right now, actually). Tom O'Lincoln may 
be pleased to be quoted, twice. There's a lot more on nationalism in 
the general labour movement and the ALP if anyone is interested. 
Generally Joaquin is right, excepting the "newer" CPA (the Stalinists 
re-appropriated the name after the Eurocommunists dissolved in the 
early 90s), has pretty much the same nationalist position of the old 
CPA (which now I think of it I haven't mentioned that below).

Rick Kuhn's very relevant article on the  60s left is also at 

Re that, I refer to a nuanced difference between the "state cap" 
comrades and the DSP:  the former seem to think it's a concession to 
nationalism rather than a bleeding obvious politico-economic fact to 
state that Australia is a "junior partner" in global imperialism (as 
very much opposed to a neo-colony).

The latter difference shouldn't be exaggerated. The ISO view of the 
Australia US Free Trade Agreement is in an interview at 
http://www.greenleft.org.au/2004/574/32876 . I don't disagree with any 
of this and around the same time I wrote a GL article on the issue 
which I think has no discernible differences (maybe it said "juinor 
partner") with Glanz's comments, but which I can't seem to find now.

 From a section of my thesis on ‘left nationalism’

More radical forces in the labour movement have been seen by some 
commentators as minor but at times important sites for the reproduction 
of left nationalist ideology. The Communist Party of Australia has been 
criticised for adapting to the analysis of Australia as an exploited 
colony, economic nationalist themes of tariff protection, arbitration, 
state aid for capitalist industry and a view of Australia culture and 
history that overemphasises national distinctiveness (in fact a number 
of members of the radical nationalist school of historians such as 
Turner had backgrounds in the CPA). Maoist groups, significant in the 
1970s, have been criticised as adopting an almost parodic obsession 
with Australian culture and defence of Australian interests against 
foreign exploitation. These aspects of communist politics have been 
analysed, particularly by commentators from sections of the far left 
from anti-Stalinist traditions, as part of a gradually adopted 
reformism that suited the respective groups’ sponsors in Moscow and 
Beijing, and, particularly after the CPA’s break with Moscow in 1968, 
adaptation to the mainstream officialdom of the labour movement
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 From a section on ‘Internationalism’

The Communist Party of Australia was formed in 1921 based on the 
internationalist ideals of Marx and Lenin, and was a significant force 
in Australia politics from the 1930s until the 1980s, but as noted 
above a number of critics have argued that there an adaptation by the 
CPA and its offshoots to left nationalism. These critics do point out 
however that the CPA often fought against racism and expressed 
solidarity with struggles overseas, suggesting it was a site for the 
reproduction of contradictory combinations of nationalism and 
internationalism. For example O’Lincoln argues that the Communist-led 
1938 waterside workers strike against iron exports to Japan was 
motivated both by appeals for solidarity with the oppressed people of 
Asia and by calls to strengthen national defence
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[2]. However in the late 1940s the same Communist-led maritime unions 
played a significant role in helping the Indonesian independence 
struggle, through bans on the Dutch colonial forces — a stance that had 
a clear internationalist, and no discernibly nationalist content
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[3] …

Consistent and organised expressions of internationalism are still 
extant in Australia but once again contained in small socialist groups. 
For example, the Democratic Socialist Perspective, the key group behind 
the newspaper Green Left Weekly and the broader Socialist Alliance, 
summarises its view of nationalism thus: “Nationalist ideology, which 
propagates the idea that all classes within a given nation have common 
interests opposed to those of other nations, is a powerful tool for 
subordinating the class interests of the labouring masses to those of 
the capitalist class and to the maintenance of capitalist political 
power…socialists are advocates of working-class internationalism, which 
is based on the recognition of the identity of interests of the workers 
of all nations, and are therefore opposed to all varieties of 
nationalist ideology” while recognising that the “nationalism of 
oppressed nations has a democratic content that is directed against 
imperialist oppression”
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[4]. There are some differences among the far left on the question of 
the nation, for example Kuhn critisises the tendency that would become 
the DSP for analyzing the Australian state as a “junior partner” and 
“client” of US imperialism, which he sees as a concession to left 
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[5], a discussion that will be taken up in Chapter 6.

The direct following of far left groups is clearly quite small, with 
for example the Socialist Alliance receiving scarcely 12 000 votes in 
the 2004 federal election
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[6]. However there are some indications that the ideas of 
internationalism extend beyond committed socialist members and voters, 
such as the high rankings achieved by the Green Left Weekly website, 
including being judged the most visited political website in Australia 
on a number of occasions
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[7]. In terms of analyzing how different streams of thinking and 
discourse on the nation have continued and changed, the extent to which 
internationalist ideas affect broader forces such as the ALP, Greens 
and trade unions will be a focus for this study.

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[1] Jon West, Dave Holmes and Gordon Adler, Socialism or Nationalism? 
Which Road for the Australian Labor Movement?(Sydney: Pathfinder Press, 
1979), Tom O'Lincoln, Into the Mainstream: The Decline of Australian 
Communism(Westgate: Stained Wattle Press, 1985) and Rick Kuhn, 'The 
Australian left, nationalism and the Vietnam war', Labour History/72 
(1997), 163–184

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[2] O'Lincoln, Into the Mainstream40–41

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[3] Rupert Lockwood, Black Armada: Australia and the Struggle for 
Indonesian Independence 1942–49(Sydney: Hale and Ironmonger, 1982)

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[4] 'Program of the DSP', Democratic Socialist Party 1994 
<http://www.dsp.org.au/dsp/program/prog05.html> accessed August 16 2006

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[5] Kuhn, 'The Australian left, nationalism and the Vietnam war' at 175

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[6] Alison Dellit, 'Socialist vote ‘puts us in a better position to 
fight back’', Green Left Weekly 13 October 2004 
<http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2004/602/602p3c.htm> accessed 16 
August 2006

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[7] For example the online edition of Green Left Weekly was measured  
the website in the“lifestyle and politics” categorymost visited by  
Australian users in the April–June 2005 quarter by the web monitoring  
company Hitwise, see'Green Left Weekly', Hitwise  
sDomain=www.greenleft.org.au&iDate=200502&iCatnum=295&Cal=> accessed 18  
August 2006

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