Richard Cobden writes: Re. “Rundle: how radical gender theory hijacked Marxism — and why we need to get it back” (Friday). I have gone through the same dilemma as Guy Rundle: The Spectator (UK) is a delight, the Australian edition a poisonous worm. I even asked the UK subscription department if they would just send me their edition. The solution is, fortunately, quite simple. Have The Spectator Australia delivered each week, and rip off the cover and pp i-xii. There is even an extra pleasure, not available to my British co-readers, of trashing (literally) the odious Rowan Dean and the unctuous David Flint, all in one gesture. I recommend it.
On Labor v the Greens
Colin Smith writes: Re. “Stay and fight, don’t leave and snipe” (Friday). Janet McCalman’s distress about members of the progressive middle class “wasting their vote on minor parties” is misplaced, given preferential voting. A second preference to Labor flows on if the Greens candidate is eliminated, not only at full value but also with a message attached that the sender is not happy and the recipient of the vote had better pay attention.
Again, her assertion that “vanguard politics, like the Greens, does not work in the long run” sits rather oddly with her support for a major party which began in the 1890s as a determined movement to get a handful of working class representatives into Australian parliaments and prevailed to give us the welfare state and — among other notable leaders — Gough Whitlam who “changed this country forever”.
There is, indeed, as Professor McCalman observes, “no time to waste to save planet earth and ourselves” and surely no better way to impress this fact upon (what is now wryly described as) the ‘Alternative Liberal Party’ than the loss of its safest seats to a home-made, grassroots party of people so possessed by her sense of urgency that they are prepared to volunteer and donate and doorknock in their thousands – week in and week out. And that is “profoundly anti-democratic”?!
Geoffrey Heard writes: Janet McCalman makes some good points, but they are about 180 degrees out of register. She says, correctly, that Australia “needs a united, creative, hard-working Left” but her assertions that it must be “fully engaged in the union movement” and that it must be a “mass party”, a SINGLE party, to “deliver change democratically” are open to question.
We have just had the Gillard minority government which, supported by the Greens and independents, was able to deliver real, democratic governance to Australia for its term. Sadly, in some ways, it was an opportunity lost; Gillard (and no doubt those in the ALP who put her into power — and her secret opposition, Rudd) shared McCalman’s view, obviously, and did not want to forge a real partnership between the ALP and the Greens.
They have yet to appreciate the changes in society that have occurred or are in prospect that McCalman points out, or — like McCalman — they are refusing to see that the old solution will not provide the answers to the new questions. The Left will never be a union-based (dominated?) monolith again. It is no use comparing today with Whitlam’s era. Back then, the unions still had enormous power in society and represented a huge voter base. Not any longer — and successive ALP governments, under Hawke and Keating, helped reduce the unions to the rump (well almost) that they are today.
The other thing that people like McCalman ignores is what long ago occurred on the opposite side of politics. Faced with new realities, the Liberal and National parties formed a coalition which has been exceedingly successful over decades. There is no reason why a coalition of the left could not be just as successful — or more so — in future with the balance of forces in it shifting with time and emerging realities just as has occurred with the LCP/LNP coalition.