Monday, July 09, 2007

One for Bill

Over the past week I've been having running discussions with Bill 'decapitate her majesty' Direen about Republicanism. Bill will appreciate this new Marcus Strom article, which fuses the argument against John Howard's 'paternalistic assault on Australian Aboriginals' with a call for radical constitutional reform in Australia, and presumably by extension New Zealand.


Anonymous aussie red said...

Read the recommended reading. Constitutional Convention? Blah Blah.
Aussie bosses worried about Federation? What shit. When Howard can wedge a series of elections playing the racist card, and has Labor fingering its own, who cares about states?
Especially territories to the north.
Only a stranded CPGB (what communist takes an imperialist appellation?) member who wants to infuse the left with a spurious cause.

He's right about the Aboriginal question being at the center of politics however. Shame that the Aussie left treats Blacks as a minority and not a nation. Let's talk about a Black Republic rather than bury the black question in the swamp of white Australian republicanism.

11:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was such a thoughtful comment, aussie red. You've obviously thought hard on these matters.

Why would the Business Council of Australia (the organisation representing the top 150 companies) campaign so hard for a constitutional convention? On the crisis of federalism why would its chairman say "the problem will only get worse if we do not fix it now".

Why do all the premiers call for such a convention?

Why does the Northern Territory campaign for statehood?

Do these people have nothing else to do with their time so just campaign on such matters as a bit of a wheeze?

Your incoherence sums up the myopia of the Australian left quite neatly. Unless the workers' movement can take a lead on democratic questions it can never achieve socialism.

Oh. and what communist takes an "imperialist appellation"? First of all, you display your ignorance. How is "Great Britain" any more imperialist than "United States" "Germany" or "Australia" for that matter? "Great Britain" is the actual name of the Kingdoms and the piece of geography: named so to distinguish it from Little Britain (not the TV show, but Brittany now part of France).

CPGB is the historical name of communism in the Britian - it was accepted into Comintern with that name. Good enough for Lenin, but not good enough for Aussie Red....

But if you want communists in parties with unusual sounding names, try Rosa Luxemburg. I wonder if you know the name of the party she founded after the split with the Pilsudskite national-socialists of the Polish Socialist Party. Was Luxemburg a crypto-monarchist?


Labor Tribune

12:41 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to know more about the idea of a black republic in Australia. Is it an idea which is strong among Aboriginal radicals? What about Aussie socialists?


8:04 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha ha just when I thought the standard jokes about socialists (spending all their time fighting each other over trivial differences) were a bit exaggerated... thanks you two.

Maps what they are thinking of is the idea of Fourth World peoples as constituting soveriegn nations. And yes you will see this in Aboriginal politics - this is why there is a tendency to look to achievements in the U.S, not N.Z or Canada.

12:45 pm  
Anonymous aussie red said...

Oh Marcus darling.
NT wants to be a state to get their hand on some of the grub.
The bosses want a common market to stop the states getting their hands grubby.
So what, what imperialist monopoly doesnt want to deregulate markets its called free trade and investment. Even Marx approved for different reasons.
But when push comes to shove Howard dont rush up to Alice to hold a CC, no he sends in the Feds to look under the beds.
As for Britain what's Great about it?
Black Republic? Its a concept, its a reference is to Black national self-determination as in Lenin, mate.
It takes precedence historically, conceptually, and therefore DEMOCRATICALLY to a white Australian republic in a still empty land.
4th worlders are ghetto dwellers.

1:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Britain is "Great" cause it's bigger - ie greater in size - than brittany.

Any idea of Rosa's party name yet?

THe idea of a black republic has little support in Aboriginal politics. IN the 80s activists such as Gary Foley promoted the Aboriginal passport as a bit of agitational politics, but it is not a serious suggestion. The only areas where indigenous people make up a majority of people is in the deserts of the centre and a few towns in western NSW and QLD. Not the basis of a separate republic I would think.

That is why i promote an australian republic based on a treaty with indigenous people. Something the left generally dismisses as an abstraction.


2:03 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Marcus,

I agree that real socialism and real democracy are inextricably linked - in a country like Australia, socialism could almost be defined as the radical extension of the limited democracy that presently exists, so that the economy is brought under the control of the vast majority of the population, rather than a handful of billionaires.

I can also see the point of initiating debates about constitutional reform, as a way of stirring debate about more fundamental questions about how society should be organised.

I wonder, though, whether there's a danger of becoming a little dogmatic and schematic here, and trying to connect the case for democratic reform of ossified constitutional arrangements to every burning issue, even when the connection can't easily be made.

I can understand your points about the way that demography would make calls for a black republic difficult, but I don't see why we have to jump from that view to calls for constitutional reform in Aussie. Such reform can only come if the white majority of Australia jumps into gear and into radical action against the politics of both Howard and Rudd. I think it's a bit rough for Aboriginals to have to wait for that happy day to come.

What are Aboriginal people calling for when they use nationalist or separatist language? I don't know, but I do know that in Aotearoa the term 'tino rangatiratanga', which translates roughly as sovereignty, can mean all sorts of things to Maori, from more autonomy to the successful resolution of a local land dispute to a separate legal system to full independence. 'Tino rangatiratanga' can't be reduced to the simple demand for a Maori republic.

It's clear to me, even from this distance, that Aboriginal people are a million years ahead of white Australians in their appreciation of the racist nature of the Aussie state. It's not fair to shackle them to the white majority, by saying that the key to their emancipation is some sort of constitutional overhaul or reorganisation of society that can only be carried through by the majority. Why can't they go for greater autonomy from the racist state now?

Here's a hypothetical but not impossible scenario: an Aussie cop kills an Aboriginal on Palm Island, or another isolated Aboriginal community, and the locals rise up, burn their police station, take over state-owned buildings, declare their community off-limits to Howard's forces, and appeal for reognition from the international community and solidarity from other Aboriginal peoples and progressive parts of white Australia.

We've seen some, but not all, of these things happen before, haven't we? If the uprising spread to other communities, then where would that leave calls for a Treaty and a constitutional overhaul? It might well leave them as options for a Howard government confronted with a serious threat to its authority!

Another possible scenario is large-scale Aboriginal land occupations aimed to thwart Howard's plans to roll back land rights. Would it be appropriate to insist on the inevitability of Aboriginals staying inside the Aussie state if these took place? In some cases, Maori staging land occupations have actually declared the independence of the occupied areas from the state. Would we want to oppose such calls in Australia, on the basis of rather abstract facts of demography?

8:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maps, the last thing I was trying to say is that indigenous Australians must wait for a republic or any other constitutional settlement before they fight for justice. It that is how I have come across, the fault is all in my writing style.

I said that the left's reaction has been ostensibly correct. Perhaps I should have gone into some of the concrete things that Aboriginal activists and organisations have been saying for decades on this stuff. However, that was not my audience particularly.

I used to work at the Central Land Council in Alice Springs as a policy officer. I think much of what they say is pretty sound - more autonomy, better funding, land rights and a treaty.

One of the central recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991 was for untied triennial block funding for Aboriginal communities.

Such autonomy alongside investment in social and economic infrastructure is essential. These things I take for granted. My article was aimed at the left's lack of political leadership on broad democratic questions.

Of course, I don't think Aborigines can have justice under capitalism (and neither can any oppressed group or the majority class) - but that doesn't mean we just sit around waiting for the revolution.

The whole programmatic point I'm trying to make is that unless you connect the immediate struggles to broader democratic questions which inextricably lead to the small matter of socialism (ie: democratic workers' government) then you are just tailing the movement, descending into economism or merely speechifying socialism.

On the matter you raise of Palm Island. Such a scenario is in the realms of possibility. However I don't think that Aborigines would look to the 'international commmunity'. There is a strong history in the labour movement - the Communist Party and parts of the ALP - for strong solidarity with Aboriginal Australia. The scenario you paint would be a battle from a point of extreme weakness - it is not a strategy I would advocate, but if it developed, of course I'd 100% back those on Palm Island.

It was the 'back to country' movement and limited land occupations in the 50s and 60s that led to the first successful land claims in the 70s. I would support similar moves now. But I believe - and it is a belief shared by many indigenous Australians - that we must go further than land claims or even an apology. It is time for a genuine treaty between the colonisers and the colonised. This is part of the framework in Canada, which arguably has the best record of an imperialist country with its native people.

Further I am saying that a genuine treaty process would involve a democratic reckoning on the non-Aboriginal side of the equation -and that means a democratic republic. I don't see a big stretch at all between the matter of indigenous 'rights' and the struggle for a republic.

I don't believe that a black republic, separate from non-Aboriginal Australians is viable. I think that a republic in Australia worth the name is impossible without a treaty and autonomy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities - self-government from below.



11:48 pm  
Blogger dave said...

Marcus, who are you to decide what is viable or not for Blacks?
The unreconstructed Aboriginal Officer?

If white Aussies could face up to even the idea of a black republic with its own land, resources and political system, they would be capable of a having a socialist revolution. Just like the Great British workers had to defend Irish freedom, before they could could get rid of what is Great about Britain.

During that revolution blacks could then freely decide how much autonomy they wanted in a socialist republic.
Aussie Red

9:26 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aussie Red the main problem with your analogy is that England and Ireland were - and are - not the exact same piece of land.

White Australia built its cities often directly on top of important land (eg Perth).

4:05 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

It is essential the British keep the Royalty.

Germany became fascist -the didn't have a King or Queen.

Democracy is also a dubius virtue or concept - Hitler got into power via democracy, as did Bush etc
being Republican hasn't stopped the US becoming fascist.

Fundamentally - as is well known - the English are a kind people who have tea and scones - they muddle along into these silly wars and so on but the Royalty (of course the Royals themselves are a very tragi-comic lot) stops them all going mad. (I mean completely mad.)

11:17 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting, Scott, especially with regard to the quasi-monarchist nature of the presidential position in some republican situations...

cheers, Bill Direen

1:49 pm  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home