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  Issue No 38 Official Organ of LaborNet 05 November 1999  




Guest Report

John Passant's Requiem for the Left

The victory of the Conservative Howard Government in 1996 represented the logical and crowning achievement of the pro-market policies of the Labor Party under Hawke and Keating. Disillusionment with the ALP as it attacked its supporter base in the name of capitalism provided a breeding ground for the acceptance of Howard's even more rigorous economic rationalism.

The result of 13 years of Labor capitulation is that the organised left is in disarray. It is now little more than a cheer squad for capital.

The most important political event this year in Australia has been East Timor. The Left has capitulated.

It has ditched generations of principled opposition to Australian militarism in an instant. It has embraced US imperialism overnight. It has supported more arms spending. And in the stampede to the right the left has embraced the league of robber nations, the UN.

Not one major left-wing figure in Australia today who has expressed any concern about sending troops into East Timor. Not one leftist of any authority has queried the official line that we are in East Timor to save the people.

Where are the doubters, those who might have the courage to stand against the tide and suggest we are in East Timor to show the ruling classes of other countries in South East Asia that we are the power in the region? Perhaps, the imaginary leftist might muse, this is our elite's chance to overcome their own Vietnam syndrome.

Where are the voices querying the figures on the slaughter in East Timor, suggesting that the Australian media and Government may have exaggerated the numbers to create a pro-intervention climate in Australia?

Where are the voices asking why Falantil did not defend its people against the militia and why the Australian Government's strategy has not been to supply arms to the freedom fighters since the Indonesian invasion almost 25 years ago?

Instead of raising these questions the pro-war left has been John Howard's most active supporter and cheerleader. The consequence of the left's surrender is that those millions of decent Australians who felt anger and outrage at the events in East Timor after the vote for independence have not been fully armed with all the arguments about intervention.

The result? Over 80 per cent of Australians support the participation of Australian troops in East Timor.

Clearly East Timor has been a domestic political success for John Howard. By allowing this, and supporting it, the pro-war left has demonstrated its bankruptcy.

And yet something else is happening in Australia. Despite Howard's supremacy on the East Timor issue, the polls haven't shown a major swing to the Coalition.

Rumours are beginning to emerge that Howard maybe considering a post-Olympics election. This is a high risk strategy because the backlash to the GST will be in full swing at that time.

It is even more high risk when you take into account the fact that despite the massive support Howard presently has because of his actions over East Timor, the ALP is within striking distance of the Government. If East Timor couldn't produce a swing to the Government, what will?

The only certainty in Australian politics these days is uncertainty. Voters are rejecting economic rationalism. Since both major parties have adopted variations of economic rationalism, voters end up changing from one to the other, or looking for alternatives like One Nation with its proto-fascist arguments.

In this sort of environment, there may be an audience for left-wing ideas.

In regional Victoria and working class Melbourne rejected Kennett's crass rationalism. Labor, written off by the pundits, is forming a minority Government.

The vote for Bracks is not a real swing to the left because the ALP is the human face of economic rationalism and in Government it will deliver Kennettism without Kennett.

That is not the point. Whatever illusions people may have in Labor, many were voting against economic rationalism, against the loss of hospitals and schools and for something better.

While the milksops in the ALP may have benefited, the result shows a volatility that a mass left-wing organisation (if it existed) could have taken advantage of.

Then there was Dr Kemp's attempt to "reform" higher education by privatising it. Tens of thousands of students mobilised immediately.

Working people saw the proposal for what it was- education for the rich. Their anger forced Howard to choose some careful words which gave the impression he would not attack higher education in the way Kemp suggested. At least not at present.

If there had been a serious political and industrial left in Australia of sufficient size and authority its members could have built on the outpouring of anger over education to link the economic rationalism of our rulers with their adventures in East Timor.

There is no such organisation. The task for the anti-war left is to try to build it and, just as we did over Vietnam, patiently explain our truths.

John Passant is an anti-war socialist


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 38 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Peter Reith
We�ve fought him for the last four years, perhaps it�s time to try to understand him.
*  Education: The Boston Strangler
If the teachers' salaries "offer" had been any good, John Aquilina, the Minister for Good News Only, would have made the announcement and been seen to promote it.
*  Economics: Key Indicators
A new ILO publication provides real cross national comparisons which show that Australian workplaces rate very well on productivity, wages and non wage measures
*  Unions: Dili's Union Presence
The International Federation of Journalists� Safety Office for the Media in East Timor (SOMET) is conducting an investigation into the recent killings of two journalists in East Timor.
*  History: Maritime Dispute Records
A Joint ACTU � ASSLH project will identify and preserve as many records as possible arising from the 1997-98 Maritime Dispute.
*  International: Western Mining into Guns and Gold
An Australian mining company, Western Mining Company Limited (WMCL), has effectively won the support of the Philippines army in its battle with traditional owners in Southern Mindano.
*  Satire: Gay Scientists Isolate Christian Gene
Gay scientists today released a study which, they claim, at last identifies the �Christian Gene".
*  Labour Review: What's New in the Information Centre
View the latest issue of Labour Review, our resource for students, delegates and officials.

»  Reith : Directly Elect the ACTU President Too
»  Unions Launch Search to Fill Games With Local Workers
»  Public Servants Offered Quadruple Time for New Years Eve
»  If You Want to Protest - Dump the Preamble
»  Six Minutes To Clean a Classroom: Cleaners Draw the Line
»  New Labour Advisory Council Meets
»  Teachers Pay Site Doesn�t Give Full Story
»  Bankstown Students Win Union Support
»  Workers to Use AGM to Call Telstra to Account
»  Unions On Line Conference
»  Foxy Officials to Crash Backlot
»  POSITION VACANT - APHEDA, Union Aid Abroad.

»  Guest Report
»  Sport
»  Trades Hall
»  Piers Watch

Letters to the editor
»  Lines of Demarcation
»  Referendum? No Dam(n) Choice!
»  With Friends Like These ...
»  Get Real

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