[Marxism] The political "crisis" in Oz

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Sat Feb 25 01:29:42 MST 2012

Thoughts on the leadership challenge in Oz…

I had not intended to say anything about the current situation in
Australian politics because I was not sure there would be much interest on
the list, but I have been asked for a comment and so I will oblige.  Basically
the story is that the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd resigned as Foreign
Minister to challenge for his old job of Prime Minister. The incumbent
Julia Gillard is trying to hold off the challenge. There is a ballot on
Monday which Rudd is expected to lose by how much no one really knows. Out
of a caucus of 103 he might have  30 odd votes. He might.

What he does have though is massive popular support largely generated by
the media including the Murdoch stable. So Rudd’s base is outside the Party.
Within it he is universally (even by his supporters) hated or feared. I
could go on and on about Rudd’s personality.  I had a close encounter with
him myself and that convinced me he was not a human being and that at some
time in the future the mother ship would come to beam him back up. However
that is not really important.  What would appear to be the situation is
this.  The Labour Government is massively unpopular.  The Prime Minister,
Julia Gillard’s numbers, are trending towards record lows. If Labour picks
Rudd they will win the next election provided he goes almost immediately to
the polls.

My predictions are as follows.  Rudd loses on Monday.  He goes to the back
bench where like Banquo’s ghost he puts the evil eye on the Prime Minister.
The Labor Party and the Prime Minister will sink ever lower and lower in
the polls.  Eventually the Labor Party will hold their noses and bring Rudd
back.  They won’t want to do it.  Their molars will be grinding but they
have no choice.  We are witnessing a phenomenon of mass hysterical
proportions. Nothing can stop Rudd.  If the ALP holds to their present line
and refuse to reinstate him they will be decimated at the next election
which is due a year from now.
So what is interesting about all this for a Marxist list? Is it just
another instance of electoral idiocy, once we have looked at the personal
factors and the quirk that one of the strangest people to walk the earth is
the most popular politician in Australia? The answer is "yes" here.  This
is a farce dressed up as a "crisis" by the media.  Gawd how I wish we had a
real political crisis.

Are there any policy differences between Rudd and Gillard?  Well the answer
is no – none at all. Rudd may have out in favour of gay marriage while
Gillard opposes it.  But that is just a piece of opportunism by Rudd, and
stupidity on Gillard’s part.

To repeat the question - is the fracas of any interest to Marxists?  Well
there are several dimensions that bear thinking about.  Mass phenomena and
hysteria such as the fuss around Princess Diana’s death and burial are or
ought to be of interest to Marxists. More importantly though the fracas has
a lot to tell us about the trajectory of political parties within the
electoral domain. What has happened IMHO is that political parties have
been hollowed out in political and ideological terms.  They have all become
electoral machines and have lost organic and political links with their
supporters. The decay of  the public sphere has meant that no longer do
ordinary people attend political meetings and discuss politics.  Membership
of all the parties has shrunk as a consequence.

Most importantly because of the absence of a political orientation – there
are almost no significant policy differences between the major parties- the
parties are vulnerable to media intervention.  If the press gets bored and
wants to work up a challenge or a leadership “crisis” they can.  It can
even support a challenge for leadership by someone like Rudd who has no
base within the party.  They can persuade the “people” that their wishes
are being ignored and lo and behold we are getting a kind of “March on
Canberra”.  Today Rudd staged a walk through the centre of Brisbane and he
was mobbed. All recorded by the media. This then to quote a famous saying
is What democracy is supposed to look like – only it is the bourgeoisie and
their organic intellectuals that are doing the supposing.

Will any real democracy break  out?  Will we ever hear the magic mantra of
“Mic Check”?   I fervently hope so but in the mean time we have to endure
another circus from the very bowels of electoral idiocy.

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