Straws in the Windby Max TeichmannNews Weekly
, May 19, 2001
The May Day marches and demonstrations have come and gone, like the summer blowflies which used to torment Melburnians. One can just remember them - but only just.
Still, it can be too easy to knock our demonstrators. At least these demonstrators don't, as a rule, hang around pokies, sit in serried ranks howling in unison on behalf of some rootless cosmopolitan tycoons we call our sportsmen, or burn up their tyres drag-racing. So, they deserve brownie points for all that. But rather more is required for a pass in Practical Politics.
Being opposed to economic rationalism, its agendas, its core values, i.e. amorality, and its ongoing effects, e.g. the disposession of the jobs and the diminution of the life chances of more and more people, should naturally endear the demonstrators to many of us.
But I'm afraid very little of value appears to have come from The Radical Moment. It is like walking around an empty auditorium after a rock concert - only a few cleaners and some graffiti to remind you that, a little time ago, there was a great deal of excitement, and noise.
The S11-M1 crowd saw their revolutionary affirmation turned into a Feral's Moomba. The truck with the disco, and Feralettes skipping along, their eyes unclouded by thought (Oscar's phrase), drew the most interest. Brunswick Street comes to town. But the rest seemed fairly uninspiring stuff. A plethora of different banners and placards reminded us of the very large number of things and activities that some people dislike - sufficiently to weigh down someone else's demo. Our political Moomba became an ideological flea-market. Marx wept.
Melbourne's police had made their point last time - viz., they can clear the streets and maintain order whenever they are allowed.
Their interstate colleagues were endeavouring to make the same point, as were the London police, who had been so disgracefully abandoned by their civilian masters a year before.
The fact is, unless facing massive crowds, or armed civilians, most well-trained police forces can keep, or restore civil order, protect lives, property and the rights of the law abiding to go about their business without hindrance. Only political or judicial sabotage in high places can prevent such outcomes.
But there are some interesting contemporary exceptions to this in Europe. Berlin is a pregnant example. Berlin police and military units have always had an enviable or unenviable reputation for maintaining and, where necessary, enforcing order - but no longer. I understand that there is a part of Berlin, inhabited by anarchists, etc., which German police don't enter without their riot gear - another part in East Berlin, where the neo-Nazis dwell, and which the Polizei approach with similar circumspection.
Periodically these groups come out and trash parts of the city - on a more or less regular basis. This is the result of decades of disingenuous external propaganda, concerning the dangers of the return of fascism to Germany, the genetically violent character of most Germans, and the general undesirability of police forces and armies - symbols of State oppression.
The results have been the difficulties of German police in always carrying out their duties; while the NATO German peacekeepers in Yugoslavia frighten no-one, except perhaps their allies.
This would be OK if everyone were the same, and acted the same - but they don't, as peaceful and democratic countries periodically and painfully have to rediscover.
There are nasties outside; and nasties inside, the latter being strangers to either morality or patriotism. Hence, to the ways of democracy, or citizenship.
Needless to say, the M1 people and their rag-bag coalition advanced no cogent criticisms of capitalism, or globalism - though these exist aplenty; no ideas as how to change society or the economic system meaningfully.
They exhibited few clues as how to make a revolution. In fact, few desire one. The Greens who presented want more handouts, and expanded rights to interfere in the lives of others (only they know about Global Warming). And the protection of oppressed classes like the Botanical Gardens' bats and Fraser Island's dingoes: Peter's friends.
The Ferals want the dropping of all attempts to make them work, learn anything, and in many cases regard unhampered access to free narcotics as a basic right.
The unionists had more conventional aims - jobs for all (of them) more and more money, less and less work. Everyone a pre-Reith wharfie. But revolution? Abolition of capitalism? No - rather the familiar union scenario - industrial conscription, i.e. compulsory unionism, and a wages break-out which would push the old, the unemployed and small business to the economic margins.
I'm not saying they'll get this - I'm just saying that the union Left correspond to Lenin's 1911 diagnosis of the Australian labour movement: non-socialist or pre-socialist, interested in wages and conditions but not radical political change - people with the aspirations of two-bob capitalists. And these people were there at the demo, hot from Trades Hall, mouthing radical slogans which meant nothing.
The students wanted free education for all and large increases in allowances. Having, along with the teacher unions, virtually achieved their main aim - no real assessment - they are finding it hard to know what to get up to. About as radical and unselfish as the croupiers at the casino - though not nearly as hard-working. All rather reminiscent of the Me Society.
Demonstrations like these seem essentially media creations, where Life copies Art. Only the art was Walt Disney, out of Salvador Dali, produced by Sergei Eisenstein, with musical themes drawn from Roy Rene's tone poem, Stone the Crows.
I doubt whether the marchers made a single convert, or enthused a soul: the public watched with vague interest, as they do when the zoo orang-utans wrap themselves in sugar bags. Or else they expressed irritation-cum-derision. At least no-one offered peanuts.
One important development was that the ten or eleven splinter Left groups have come together in a Socialist Alliance, as the Greens did. They plan to run election candidates. I can hardly wait.
These marches and counter marches will decline to the degree to which a Labor victory seems more and more likely - for Kim has promised, or will promise, each and everyone of these embattled urgers, his or her own swill bucket with name inscribed. Damn the economy! More moolah, gaining attention, and relieving boredom and isolation: these things were what the event was about.
So, yet again, the globalists and economic rationalists escaped scot-free - which wasn't the point of the exercise. There must be another way - so I suggest the young people should think the next move out.