Sep 25, 2009

The Australian can’t tell its left from right

The thinkers that The Australian chose for its left series weren't leftists, they were labourists – submitting their intellectual abilities to the pre-ordained goal of selling a stunningly unambitious political programme.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


For the past week, The Australian has been running a series entitled ‘what’s left’, with people they nominate to be ‘key left thinkers’ articulating a left vision of politics and society.

Well that was the stated intent anyway. With The Oz you have to assume the purpose is other — and with all due respect to some of the people involved, it seems obvious that the real purpose is to make the left look rather bereft of ideas (not, it must be said, a tough call at this juncture).

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6 thoughts on “The Australian can’t tell its left from right

  1. Heathdon McGregor

    On The Oz, a game for there new ad where people (I recognise maybe four) ask a question of the camera. Imagine they are asking this question of themselves, just for hits and giggles, and then riff on what the answer may be….

  2. Walter Slurry

    Well said Guy. What does the Labor Left really stand for? Let’s start with poor Julia Gillard, Deputy Prime Minister and a woman I have long harboured semi-illegal thoughts over. Sadly, she is proving to be as disappointing as Scarlett Johansson movies.

    Compared to the Education Revolution in France, when students went the biff over curriculum and education, this one is all about how many auditoriums does it take to change an education system.
    Perhaps having Kevin Rudd call up 25 times a day to ‘run something by’ her has rendered Ms Gillard a social isolationist. Whatever, Gillard and Macklin’s answer to complex matters of social inequity is to cut off welfare payments to those most in need. How Left is that?

    The Left once understood that these issues required a holistic approach and that, for example, some kiddies are not really playing truant; they’re home looking after their siblings cause mom’s an alcohol and/or dad’s beating her half to death unless someone is home protecting them.

    Jenny Macklin is the mannequin of the Labor Left. Madame Tussaud’s offers more enlivened political interventions. It’s not building houses Jenny – its social reform that once characterised the Left of Australian politics. If you’re confronting rampant alcohol and drug abuse, probably the dumbest and most short-sighted action to embark on is to cut off alcohol and drugs.

    I know it sounds all bleedin’ heart and feel good and let’s pass around the talking stick while we sip lattés, but the fact is we don’t need the army; we need dedicated continuous social support structures and … wait for it … land rights.

    Yes Lefties, it’s a truism, the return of land and autonomy over access to Aboriginal communities does work, or so the Canadian experience tells us. But instead we have Macklin and her battalion of white, uni educated 30 something advisers in Canberra telling the black fella what’s best for them.
    And the proof is in the soy pudding – worse outcomes for Aboriginal people, more dysfunction, fewer traditional communities and a whole lot more problems.

    Then there’s John Faulkner, the warrior of the Left overseeing a war against the Taliban, in which our boys are using targeted assassination to wipe out a bunch of towel-headed terrorists without trial or any form of justice. Granted they may well deserve it, but for the Left to support the killing of innocent civilians along the way makes them .. well the Right, really.

    Like the original Ashes, we should burn the Left and mourn their passing, then play sport to see who ‘wins’ them.

  3. Mark Duffett

    “the return of land and autonomy over access to Aboriginal communities does work, or so the Canadian experience tells us”

    Eh? What about what the Australian experience tells us? Notwithstanding recent swings in the opposite direction, we’ve had return of land and autonomy over access to Aboriginal communities since the 1970s.

    But back to what I was originally going to say, about “class mobility…is terrible”. If I may be permitted a personal anecdote of my own:

    My great-grandfather – railway ganger
    My grandfather – draughtsman
    My father and mother – teachers
    Me – geophysicist

    I don’t think this progression, such as it is, has anything to do with any exceptional ability on my part; in fact on balance I’d say my grandfather’s natural abilities exceed my own. But I don’t think this story is untypical, and to that extent it has everything to do with excellent and improving conditions for social mobility in Australian society.

  4. Jeff Richards

    “The thinkers that the Australian chose for its left series weren’t leftists, they were labourists – submitting their intellectual abilities to the pre-ordained goal of selling a stunningly unambitious political programme, and thus reduced to a mixture of PR spruiking (“try new Left patriotism!”), personal anecdotes, waffling about the ‘mystery of social democracy’, sucking up to social conservatism (“defend the family”!) or presenting a defensive and reactive unionism (“limit corporate power”!) as a positive programme.”

    Thanks for this article… as a supporter of the radical left, I completely argee with your assesment of the old farts that the oz drags out when they want to have another of their pretend debates.

  5. John Passant

    Thanks Guy. I look forward to Part 2. I am keen to see your suggestions about ‘why the world is about to take us far beyond the anodyne prescriptions of The Oz’s authorised left — - and even beyond the more robust programme I’ve sketched out above.’

    I thought the robust programme you sketched was a form of radical social democracy and still worshipped at the altar of profit. And I didn’t have any sense of the agency of change you had in mind, other than a vague unease that your view is that this would arise in a top down fashion, with the gods of Mount Olympus giving us mortals benefits, and taking them away too.

    As to a left ‘programme’ I’d like to suggest a mass democratic working class movement establishing its own organs of rule and beginning to organise production to satisfy human need and it appears to me we have one coherent version of a left vision. And part of that must be about what the Wobblies tried to capture – the abolition of the wage system.

    I thought the most interesting article was John Sutton’s. Some on the left wing of the trade union bureaucracy can and do talk about Marxism, but as you point out they have little idea what it means.

    Indeed the John Suttons of the world perform a valuable function for capital – the control of the power of the working class, and in times of social crisis a group the ruling class can turn to to save capitalism. (The French Communist Party in 1968 comes to mind).

    If John encouraged and help build independent rank and file groups and activity in the CFMEU and harnessed his members’ power to smash the ABCC (and save Ark Tribe from jail) then I might be tempted to listen more attentively to his Marxism. Nothing I have seen so far from the CFMEU indicates that that is on the leadership’s agenda.

    Anyway, I look forward to Part 2.

    En Passant with John Passant

  6. Barry 09

    Wow is the OZ still printing papers ????? Who buys them ???

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