[Marxism] More thoughts on Oz

Rohan Gaiswinkler rohanger at yahoo.com.au
Thu Feb 8 00:37:04 MST 2007


Joaquin:
   
  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? 

If not, what are the positions of the various currents in Australia on 
the
Australian national question?
   
   
  Reply:
   
  To understand the complexities that arise out of the national question I think it is necessary to go beyond the imperialist / Third World divide because this doesn't explain everything, such as the power dynamics between two imperialist countries.  I think there are two questions that need to be considered separately:
   
  Firstly: Is every Australian nationalist notion reactionary to the core?
   
  Secondly:  Can a progressive political program be built around any particular form or varient of Australian nationalism.
   
  On the first question: If someone where to say, " I wish Australia didn't pride itself on getting involved in every stupid American war.  First Vietnam, now Iraq... another bloody mess.  Why can't we have an independent foreign policy?
   
  These words are not reactionary to the core, but they also miss the point.  "We" DO have an independent foreign policiy.  Independently, the Australian ruling class foreign policy is to slavishly back the Yanks in (almost) every confrontation... until such time as the establishment no longer see it in "our" national interest to back Uncle Sam as a most importat imperial ally and capitalism's guardian and head-kicker.
   
  Australian nationalism is very strong in the Australian psyche.  Most of the time progressive notions are mixed up with reactionary, racist, or merely chauvinist ideas.  The French nuclear testing in 1995 was a classic case.  The Australian bourgeois media unleashed a huge wave of anti-French sentiment in response to the issue gaining promenance.  While the mass-movement concentrated on "No more Hiroshimas - No French testing", the media focus was chauvinism: "Get your filthy bombs off OUR patch, Frenchie" [not the actual words of-course].
   
  So not everything under the sun of Australian nationalism is reactionary through and through.  When the American shoe manufacturer, Deckers, saw fit to declare Trademark ownership of the name / term  "ugg boots" thousands of Australians went into nationalistic fervour.  On a cultural level you couldn't really blame them.  No Australian company would ever have the hide to declare intellectual property over the name of an American cultural icon.  Imagine an Australian company telling Americans that no hat they manufacture can have the word "Stetson" applied to it or even be associated with it.  The ugg boots case struck a chord because it associated Australian nationality with injustice at the hands of Americans.  An internally anti-nationalist position in this case would be to support America's takeover of our sheepskin boots!  Deckers lost in the end (but what a lot of fuss over something pretty trivial anyway).
   
   
  The problem with Australian nationalism - as with all imperialist nationalisms - is that it is tied to the fortunes of an exploiting country.  So that for every vaguely progressive notion that might be tied Aussie nationalism, there are six or seven chauvanistic and racist ideas just around the corner waiting to raise their ugly heads.  Also, the anti-American varient of Australian nationalism usually comes with dumbed-down anti-Americanism, one with no grip on imperialism intellectually.
   
  So the answer to the second question is also no.  To try to turn the waffer-thin (and basically politically negligable) progressive aspects of Australian nationalism (eg "We don't want your Yankie wars") into a progressive political program would be a total dead end.
   
  Cheers
  Rohan G

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