[Marxism] The line in the sand: Oz in Iraq

g.maclennan at qut.edu.au g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Wed Feb 14 01:16:34 MST 2007

Recent weeks have seen a remarkable decline in public support for the conservative Howard Govt here in Australia.  After 10 years in office there are signs of a certain weariness or even boredom with the Howard govt.  Polls put the Labor opposition comfortably ahead.  However IMHO this situation could be corrected by a short sharp pro-govt campaign by the Murdoch media.  Labor are far from home in this an election year.

But apart from the boredom of a consumerist led approach to electoral politics there are a number of issues that are fuelling a more substantial feeling of opposition to the conservatives.  In other posts I have touched upon the public support for David Hicks the Guantanamo prisoner.  One must also include the draconian industrial laws, attacks on welfare and the underfunding of health and education.

Finally, finally Australia's commitment to the Iraq war is also beginning to bite.

This is very unpopular with Australians and is clearly seen to be a disaster. Yet here Howard, when he calls for "staying the coursein Iraq" does appear to have the support of a strong section of the bourgeoisie and I also suspect of none other than the Labor leader Kevin Rudd.  The latter inherited the Labor Party's commitment to pulling out Australian troops if elected.  He has repeated that commitment but has softened it as much as he can. The pullout will be postponed.

Yet Rudd knows the war is unpopular and senses that the governmment is vulnerable.  So he attacks but only in terms of the ar being a "mistake" and not in terms of it being an essential part of the American imperialist adventure.  Nor does he ever point out that polls show that Iraqis want the Coaliiton of the Willing to leave Irqq.

Rudd's ambivalence on Iraq is of course due to the complex relationship between US and Australia.  The last time the raising of this issue caused a rash of posts that led to Comrade Walters having severe eye problems so I won't go there again.

What interests me though is that Howard on Iraq has drawn a line in the sand.  He knows he is in charge of a most unpopular policy.  Yet he repeats loudly and publicly that a defeat for America in Iraq would be a disaster for Australia.  Rudd of course as someone who in his own words is "rock solid on the American alliance" cannot call for an American defeat. Nor can he deny that an American defeat in Iraq would be bad for the imperialist camp to which he and the Australian ruling class firmly belong.

Howard has received support from right wing intellectual Gerard Henderson.  He conceded that Howard had been undiplomatic to attack Barama and the Democrats, but Henderson also repeated that a defeat for America in Iraq would be disastrous for Australian interests.

What Howard and Henderson are arguing is of course a variation of the old domino theory, which was so prominent in the Vietnam War days. Briefly and over simply what is wrong with the domino theory is that it works on the Popper Hempel model of causality - the constant conjunction of events, where event A will inevitably be accompanied by event B.  A proper Marxist (& Critical Realist) model of causality would emphasise that if A happens this will unleash a tendency for B to happen unless other tendencies kick in to negate this.

So an American defeat in Iraq would set loose a number of tendencies, but it would not automatically lead to the collapse of the American Empire. The struggle will continue but on terrain more favorable to revolutionary forces.

Perhaps this is an overly subtle point.  But Rudd's twisting and turning have brought home to me the absolute need to think outside the bourgeois framework.  It is necessary to read everything they say as far as possible, but it is also crucial to have a totally different set of first principles.

Rudd and the media commentators lack these and so they cannot lay a finger on Howard when he stakes his position as the vanguard of bourgeois interests.



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