by Max TeichmannNews Weekly
Straws in the Wind: Great Helmsmen: past and present / A tale of two branches
, January 26, 2002
Great Helmsmen: past and present
Older readers, and certainly our varsity baby boomers, can easily recall Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book
; although it is unlikely many of them would have consulted it lately. In the 60s and early 70s, that Red Book loomed very large in the intellectual traffic of the humanities students at our universities, taking the place, for many, of any serious study or reflection. Certainly on the part of the more politically engagé students.
With the aid of the burgeoning plagiarism industry, and sustained and successful attacks upon assessment requirements, many radical pan-handlers, Red Books
in hand, were able to graduate, then pour into the expanding school industry. (For some years, about 70 per cent of Arts graduates finished there.) And helped make education what it is today.
A great pile of logs blocking the river of knowledge and moral progress, with the fresh water from the hills being diverted into the foetid swamps on either side of the log jam. To become as sour and rancid as the stale swamp water of which it is forced to become a part.
This 60s origins educational system of ours is playing the same role as did the institution of serfdom in 19th Century Russia: until it is removed little real moral or political progress can occur.
Nobody looks up Mao’s portentous puerilities nowadays - like Stalin’s short history of the Soviet Union - too embarrassing. But its subliminal influences can still be stumbled upon in the most unlikely places. So when reflecting upon the political style of Steve Bracks and his political prompters, I started to feel the twinges of memory.
A learned Trot friend of mine made the Big Tour of Mao’s China just after the Cultural Revolution had run its course, and returned with some sociological goodies. A nation-wide program to rename everything - streets, parks, natural features, etc - an exorcism of history, and community, on a grand scale. No one could find his way any more.
In lieu of any real progress, the Maoists had decided that words were Things: that new names and words are signifiers of change, of progress. But, alas, there remained the same mean streets, cesspools, the same pollution, eco-degradation and poverty as before. The same foetid tyranny.
But people had lost even more of their communal bearers. But some real changes had
occurred. A great deal of the precious artistic heritage of China, the cultural achievements of thousands of years, part of communal memory, had been destroyed irrevocably by the Red Guards.
Universities were closed, and what remained of the intelligentsia ... liquidated. But an interminable propaganda cacophony penetrated every part of Chinese society, focussed on the greatness of Mao.
My Trotskyite friend was not
amused. Nor was he pleased to find that most of Marx/Engels was unknown; inaccessible - just a few slabs of raw radicalism. And Lenin? Much the same.
As to news of the outside world, (or its past thoughts?), forget it. The Middle Kingdom knew it all - especially since it had come under New Management.
To go from the crazy but earth-shaking dramas of the Middle Kingdom, to the pushings-and-shovings inside the John Curtin Hotel ... may seem a notable descent; but this is
where we live.
Firstly a frenetic but extremely lucrative - for friends - construction and knocking down of buildings is going on in Melbourne. Overlapping with the renewal - i.e., gutting - of some of our most prized institutions. The Gallery, the Museum and, if they can work out a way, the Library, are filleted or await filleting. And vulgar, pretentious, horror stretches shoved up in their place.
Renaming is taking on, thus Spencer Street is to be renamed Southern Cross. Why? Because Spencer was a British aristocrat. Probably a relative of Lady Di. At least it won’t be called Granny Davis Street.
Given the very large number of Melbourne Streets named after English dignitaries - especially in the CBD and places like Carlton - there is much virgin territory for our Red Guards manqué. There are
numerous doyens of the Wren Machine and the old CPA to be slotted in. St Kilda Road could become Frank Hardy Boulevard. Nicholson Street to become Cosa Nostra Street. And seeing that our New Labor people identify so heavily with the travails of the criminal population - past and present - a Snowy Cudmore Grove, a Squizzy Taylor Square?
The Great Helmsman was photographed swimming a huge Chinese river. In record time ...of course. So ... Steve swims to Lorne with Channel Nine following. Proving ... what did
it prove? And the Great Leap Forward of sporting arenas, Show Biz, and ugly skyscrapers goes on.
None of this, any more than Chairman Mao’s antics, have anything to do with government or the distribution of justice or equity. Only with this government and the maldistribution, and the dissipation, of the social product. To comrades - authentic and honorary. Understandably, there is a joining fee for the latter.A tale of two branches
I shall tell you about two young people, who joined the Victorian Labor Party last year. Coming from traditional Labor families - not empathising with our Liberals - they thought they’d give Labor a try. Perhaps revive the old roots - for their parents had long since retreated from Labor commitments, exhibiting signs of profound disappointment and disillusion.
My first friend, who knows Liberals well, and sees them as quite inadequate morally and intellectually, was saddened to find the ALP cadres a lot worse.
He has lasted six months in his branch, but is soon moving and will not maintain the political affiliation. Neither disputatious or wishing to "be noticed", he has merely listened and watched. His branch is one of two underpinning a Federal seat and a Labor MP.
His branch is, in part, still working class, with most of those members getting on in years; while the other branch is middle class. Schoolteachers and public servants in the main, and a much younger branch.
The two groups might have come from different countries: the yuppie branch chanting the shopworn mantras from The Age
or the ABC - their concerns identical with those of the Greens and the Democrats, their interest in the lives of the workers, the aged, or the original culture of trade unionism - vestigial. Though against globalisation - of course, of course - capitalism suits them just fine, and if they do
have children, the State should perform the hard yakka, but they
shouldn’t pay. Just go on improving their shining hours.
The working class branch supported Howard on the Tampa
and the snakeheads. It does not intend to say Sorry. Most members hate drugs and they are wondering when Labor is going to do something about schools and hospitals and judges, who appear to be protecting criminals and corporate robbers. Very strong on the importance of unions, they are finding it hard to excuse much present day union behaviour.
They had not so cordially hated Kennett’s guts while agreeing that Labor’s mess had to be cleaned up. They had hoped Bracks might restore things, but see the Victorian political scene as a yuppies’ picnic, and ponder why Labor have taken up with enthusiasm the same end of town with whom Kennett’s Party cohabited. They are becoming sick of Bracks’ hype and word-salad machine-gun delivery. And they see the same old rorting and corruption reappearing.
These older Labor people aren’t fools. They have political memories. They are the kind of working class Laborites of whom Kim Beazley Snr spoke: "The cream of the working class". And the yuppie branch correspond to their successors: "The dregs of the middle class".
The working class branch feel like the ugly sisters at the pantomime, as do our lower classes generally.
My intelligent, politically-educated friend is tip-toeing away to join the swelling ranks of the count-me-outs.
The second young man lasted one meeting at his branch, out in the wilds of Dandenong. The branch appeared to be doubly stacked. Half were Turks, the other Greeks, and they spent the night arguing. There was very little about Labor politics, or the state of Victoria. Victoria
! Where’s Victoria? The pack leaders obviously had their minds on a political job, their dream: how to get out of Dandenong and meet one of those important people at the Casino or Collins Street. Vive the multivulturism
Rick Wallace has a piece in the Herald Sun
on reforms Messrs Hawke and Wran are considering for Labor. Eliminate the need for two years membership before you can run for Parliament. This restriction was in fact "waived for high profile candidates such as Mary Delahunty and Cheryl Kernot". Ahem. Sounds more and more of the Plague Year and its cry: "Bring out yer dead".
Wot about a few snakeheads to represent the politically correct! They should start putting something back into the party which barracks for them. Sorry - I’ve just been told that their friends already do. Most generously.