Pauline Hanson and apologies to aborigines

This is a transcript of Hanson's speech to Parliament - a speech so appallingly wrong that even John "Not as racist as you might think" Howard had to call (almost) racist. Just to keep you aware, the Queensland support for One Notion could be as much as 15%, and in some seats they've got more support than the Coalition. But anyway, without further comment, from the state that brought you Joh Bjelke-Peterson (for almost 20 years), comes this badly-worded piece of fiction.

 

2nd June 1998,

Ms Pauline Hanson in Parliament

Mr Speaker,

I rise today to speak on a matter that has grave and wide-ranging consequences for all Australians.

The matter is the ominous document entitled, United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

This treaty is due to be signed by 2004.

The complicity, or at the very least, the lack of will on the part of the Federal government, to encourage public examination and discussion on this threat to the Australian people, is very similar to their reluctance to debate that other attack on Australians, also sponsored by Labor and the Coalition, the M.A.I.

Both of these treaties will take power and choice from the majority of our own people and place that power and freedom of choice firmly in the hands of foreigners and self-seeking minorities.

Both of these treaties diminish Australia's sovereignty, and in the case of the so-called, 'Rights of the Indigenous People', could ultimately result in the disintegration of our nation.

With the M.A.I. now largely exposed and on hold, the time has come to concentrate on the dangerously and inappropriately named, 'Rights of the Indigenous People'.

When signed, this treaty will be a permanent fixture of division.

It will not just divide us racially but geographically.

This treaty is a treacherous sell out of the Australian people.

It is a document of such social impact it would be unimaginable to most Australians.

It will tear the heart out of our country and deliver that heart to one of our very smallest minority groups.

This treaty is the initiative of internationalists with no loyal commitment to our country or the future of our people [...]

 

My promised second post on the conjuncture down under will have to wait until my marking is behind me -if that ever happens.

But things crowd and comb to a fall here and something should be said.

I want specifically to address the issue of the Queensland Election due this Saturday. I also want to try and work through why I have got it all so wrong.

My public position on the extreme right One Nation Party of Pauline Hanson has been that as she threatens the interests of the bourgeoisie with her anti-Asian racism she would be lucky to get 4% of the poll. Latest figures show her as winning up to 405 of the vote in certain rural electorates and she will win between 4- 10 seats and may well determine the next government.

So how did someone like meself who prides himself on being "smarter than the averasge bear" get it all wrong? Well I underestimated once again the deeply anti-social and destructive nature of capital. We are fast approaching a period of acute economic crises. 25 years of neo-liberalism has left in its wake thousands of deeply marginalised, insecure and frightened people. These are the poor sods that have flocked to the banner of One Nation. The party too has carefully eased back on its racist rhetoric and instead targetted the ban on semi-automatic guns, and the deterioration of infrastructre in the countryside.

As a result Hanson has cut in sharply to the base of the conservative parties. She has however not touched Labor to anything like the same extent. But what we used to call 'backward', i.e. non-organised, sections of the w/class do seem to be giving her their vote.

Sometime ago I sent a piece on fascism to the m-I list and got shit poured on me by Louis Godena for being old fashioned and also for showing off by quoting Nicos Poulantzas. Well I have gone back to Puolantzas' book on fascism in an attempt to understand what we are going through. I still think he makes a key point when he argues that before the ruling class use fascism there must be a fascist movement for them to link up with.

Now it is this that I forgot when I predicted that the ruling class would ensure the destruction of One Nation. They will keep a careful eye on Hanson and her supporters but they are still contemplating the value of having a strong movement to the Right, which will target welfare recipients, gays, blacks, women and lefties generally.

Nothing in Hanson's agenda addresses the central quesiton of our time - which is how to begin the process of ensuring that the capitalist class exits from the stage of history. Indeed she tends to read class problems as race problems and this in many ways suits the interests of the capitalists.

There is though the question of Australi'a link with Asian capital. We are deeply tied in with Asia, especially Japan, and there is no alternative. The government has spent $500, 000 wining and dining Asian editors to ensure that they do not construct Australia as racist in their journals and papers. So this is an attempt to keep Hanson as "for domestic use only" and to ensure that it is business as usual in the region.

It might succeed. In the meantime there has been a rupture in Australian politics and of course, the dialectic being remorseless, this break has come to the Right. Left candidates will be lucky to crash the 4% barrier while the fascist filth wilL poll in their hundreds of thousands.

The other news is that the run on the Australian dollar and the continual cycle of crises within this region is having a very destabilising effect on Australia. The economy is so sluggish that there should be a cut in interests rates. But such a cut is impossible given the weakness of the dollar. So the Reserve Bank wants to raise interest rates to halt the dollar's slide but to do so would precipitate a very deep recession indeed. In the mean time Soros speculates his way into billions - how much money does one person need and how could he possibly be happy?

--Gary McLennan

 


It would appear that Hanson's One Nation party has won ten seats in the Queensland Election yesterday, with approximately a vote of 25%, that is one in four voters voted for one nation. The majority of her support came from National Party/Liberal party voters, but the Labour Party also lost approximately 4% of its vote going to her. What the configuration of the next parliament will be is not determined yet, there is an outside chance that Labour will have a one seat majority or One nation and Nationals may form a new coalition. it will be a few days before all is determined.

Obviously all and sundry are in shock at the result, and very very depressed and scared. However it is important that some real and deep analysis is done on why she was able to get such support.

Obviously such analysis is going to take some time and will require a lot of honest and open discussion, particularly amongst the left.

In looking at the question of why she was able to attract such a vote I think it important not to overreact and brand all those who voted for One Nation as right wing fascists. Whilst certainly the ideologues of one nation(ON) have extensive organised right connections both in Australia and internationally think it important to look at the result from the perspective of the consciousness of the voter. Issues such as disgust at politics and politicians, fear in the face of economic and social insecurity etc, are all significant. As well the strategies engaged in by ON are ones that we can all learn from. One Nation runs a Web Site at http://www.gwb.com.au/onenation/qldstate/june13, it is definitely worth taking a look at,( if it doesn't make you sick)

I think that what has to be learnt is that while we have in the past seen Hanson as a loony, and only ratbags would support her, it is not so, and the threat she represents and is able to gather is far more serious.

Now more then ever before the left in australia has to move from its sect building and embrace a perspective of countering the rise of the right represented by hanson with a mass class alternative. Such an alternative must be democratic and inclusive, it must embrace difference rather then be one line oriented, and it must learn from the tactics of Hanson and address the concerns that are being so seriously felt amongst the ordinary people, with a perspective that there are other alternatives.

I believe that the Progressive Labour Party is a starting place to start to address these necessities. It is by no means anything more then embryonic, but it can provide a framework for countering not just the rise of hansonism, but the causes of it.

I hope gary will be able to give a better analysis of what the election result means, and I hope that contributors to this list add a voice to the discussion of where we can go now.

--Ken Howard


Comrades,

This is my monthly column which attempts to deal with the Hanson phenomenon. Hopefully it will contribute to the debate both on this list and in Brisbane.

Regards

Gary

One Bin...

I had been intending to do a piece on poetry in this issue but hard reality has forced me to lay aside the viewless wings of poesy. Something must be said about Pauline Hanson's One Nation and the election. The muse will have to wait. First let me say that I was wrong and my old mate Bob Leach, God rest him, was correct. Before Bob died I argued repeatedly with him that One Nation would get less than five percent. Bob said Hanson would get over 15%. I laughed at that. Well even in South Brisbane, the place I think of as my spiritual and political home, Hansonites got 1200 votes. Such is life.

I have written before about Hanson and argued that she represents what I termed residual political correctness. She is deeply opposed to the emergent political correctness, which has grown around the liberation movements of women, gays, people of colour etc. Hanson's project is awash with nostalgia for a lost utopia, a time of mythically united white Australia. Menzies was in Canberra. There were no "chinks" or "gooks" anywhere and the "abos" were kept in the place. There wasn't a "poofter" to be seen and the "sheilas" were happily back in the kitchen preparing to feed the man meat.

In political terms the line from Canberra to London had been relegated to second place behind that to Washington. This was the anti-communist's paradise. But to defeat the Communist Party of Australia and to win the Cold War the capitalist class had to go into an alliance with the most backward and conservative elements in society. Crucial here was the role of the Catholic Church in keeping the right wing in power from 1949 to 1972.

Through the alliance between capital and conservatism, modern progressive culture was successfully kept at bay. As a consequence "ordinary" Australians chomped on their loathsome vegemite sandwiches, sucked their execrable beer in vast quantities and waited eagerly for the next Royal visit and the chance to once more see the Queen passing by so that they could all happily love her till they died.

What happened to this alliance? Why did capital turn on its most loyal supporters? Well it is in the nature of capital to seek profit and this drive inevitably leads to change and change is what conservatives fear most. Added to this, the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that an anti-communist alliance was no longer necessary and so we had the era of TINA - there is no alternative (to capitalism).

Before I discuss the implications of TINA I want to re-emphasise my point about the role of capital in the defeat of communism. To win, capital needed to encourage national ignorance and idiocy. They succeeded so brilliantly here that there is, left over from the Cold War, an enormous reservoir of what can be most accurately described as stupidity. It is this vast cultural and political ignorance that has given birth to and sustains Hansonism.

However it is important to see that this is a non-hegemonic force. It does not have the intellectual or moral capacity to challenge the rule of capital. We are left then with capital unconstrained; capital without the need to pacify workers through the welfare state and a centralised wage fixing system or to keep the rural conservatives happy through state subsidies; capital with such ideological hegemony that it could describe itself as "rational" as in economic rationalism.

Where does Hanson fit into this picture? As I have said, she is a conservative. She wants a return to the alliance with capital but on the terms of the conservatives. Such an alliance is not being offered and given the globalised nature of Australia's economy it is simply impossible that it will ever be.

There will be no let up in the drive to privatise and sell of public assets. Rural and regional Australia will continue to have their services cut back. The public sector, health services, education - all will continue to be squeezed. Unemployment will reach ever higher. Thus the assault on the historic compromise between capital and labour will proceed unabated.

What will be offered though are fringe concessions on social issues. Though even here One Nation's hatred of Asia remains a stumbling block. However overall there will be a marked move to the right in cultural and political terms. Thus the shameful treatment of Aboriginal Australians by the present Howard Government will only get worse. There will also be attacks on migrants, gays and women. This will be coded as an attack on "political correctness".

None of this will address the fundamental problem. Capitalists will continue to insist that the economy be managed to their benefit. They will get richer. We will get poorer. However Hanson will not ever come to understand this or to address it. That is why Courier Mail columnist Lawrie Kavanagh, while rejoicing over the vote for One Nation, keeps saying that Hanson does not have the answer to the 'nation's woes.' Kavanagh himself of course has no answer either, except to pour out pathetically boring eulogies about bush poetry and dinkum Aussie battlers. All this is backed up by a vicious homophobia and hatred for the progressive middle class.

But there is an answer to our problems and it was captured in Engels' famous contrast -'socialism or barbarism'. With the 22% vote for One Nation at the Queensland Election we have come a lot closer to barbarism. Thus One Nation is demanding an end to public funding for the arts and Aboriginal Australians, and a referendum on the reintroduction of capital punishment. It is in these areas that they will make gains.

There are other aspects of the "program" of One Nation that may be even more easily accommodated. There is a strong anti-intellectual strain to their politics which was captured when one of the successful candidates denigrated people with "shiny asses and university degrees". True. Already Borbidge, the right wing Premier of Qld, has come out attacking political correctness and "those people with degrees who spend their lives in front of computer terminals". All true.

So we will have an increase in racism. Progress and decency will be even further eroded. Tourism will suffer as will Queensland Universities which have to compete to get Asian students in order to survive. But capital will not be challenged and that is why there was no all out campaign in the media to destroy Hanson as there was in 1975 when the Murdoch Press went for the throat of the Labor Govt.

I do think though that capital will attempt to keep One Nation under control. But in these days of crashing currencies and tumbling share markets do not expect the capitalist class to take out any movement on the far right. The Hansonites are now something of a nuisance and an embarrassment but they could yet be of use should capital ever be locked into a battle with its true nemesis - the working class.

This remains the only social power that could bring off a successful challenge to capital. It stuck by Labor in the election though there were isolated pockets that did defect to One Nation's ranks. But as always the working class stubbornly refuses to take up the task of becoming a hegemonic force by abolishing the capitalist class.

Yet we should still acknowledge that despite all their political weaknesses the Australian working class holds the line of decency and civilisation against on the one hand the criminally irresponsible capitalists and on the other the barbaric philistines of One Nation. It needs to be said again and again that if Labor and the working class had followed the example of their "social superiors" - the middle class, those who claim to be the guardians of the "national interest", then a Hansonite would today be Premier of Queensland.

I would also like to emphasise that when the workers were struggling militantly against Reith, Howard and Corrigan in the waterfront dispute and were rallying thousands to their banner that there was no talk at all of One Nation. The lesson here is that the retreats and compromises, which the working class makes, leave open the space for the fake opposition of movements such as Hanson's. It is sadly one of the cruelest ironies of the remorseless dialectic that at this juncture the party of the working class, the Australian Labor Party, is led in Queensland and elsewhere by men who understand nothing of this.

What of the Left? Well by and large we do not exist. I like to think that, as Roy Bhaskar would put it, although we are absent we are still real and perhaps we are. Whatever the case we, the tiny fragmented Left, must in the meantime strive to use all the means at our disposal to get people to realise that the 'onlie begetter' of the disasters that face us is the capitalist class. We must tell all who will listen that the sole solution is a revolutionary overthrow of existing social relations in order that we might progress to a truly egalitarian society. Very true.

--Gary McClennan


Again, I really don't know about Australia, but the current vogue for apologising for everything seems like the very opposite of a 'class, left-wing, not to mention moral stance'. I note that it costs Tony Blair nothing to apologise for the Irish Famine, or the inheritors of Fascism to apologise for the Holocaust. When the Pope apologised for holding the Jews responsible for killing Christ, Lenny Bruce wrote to him to tell him to fuck off. When the ruling classes apologise, they never mean that they intend to do anything about it, only that they want to blur their actual responsibility in a spurious 'collective guilt'. Unless you hold that it was the Australian working class that was responsible for the persecution of the aborigines, why should they apologise? Unless the ruling class is willing to do something to make amends, what is their apology for? the Left needs to be rebuilt - one good tactic would be identifying with the struggles of the oppressed By all means. But is an apology what is called for?

--Jim Heartfield


Jim has missed the point in relation to Sorry Day.The history of white settlement in Australia was one of genocide. True the british emptied their gaols to colonise,but the Squatters - ruling class also come to steal the land,which was done by slaughter of the original inhabitants.

Until as late as the 1960's aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families and sent to missions under what was called the asssimilationist policies. They became known as the stolen generation, and it was only in the 1990's that this became recognised.

The liberal government under John Howard faced with the overwhelming evidence of this,and the courts ruling that this was not an empty land was faced with recognising what had gone on. The politics of apology are not about angst but recognition. Howard will not comptemplate apology because to do so would entail recognition not only of the basis of compensation but also that the racism continues.So the politics of sorry are intimatly connected to the governments current attempts to disposses even further the claim to land by the original inhabitants. As such it is progressive and critical. Hanson and Howard want to totally disposses the aboriginal people, national sorrow is only the recognition of injustice and giving it a form,it is a class issue and the working class are as much to blame as the ruling class for the stolen children.

--Ken Howard 


Tony has given a partial answer to this but for once I think he tended to be pragmatic. He argued for an apology as a good way of out maneuvering the racists especially the Prime Minister who shares James' views on apologies almost to the letter.

I however think that an apology is called for in its own right. Now first let me disagree with James' statement that there is a current vogue for apologizing for everything. I suspect that the number of apologies could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

What is being apologized for? Well it was official government policy to take children away from their Aboriginal parents right into the 70s. I know that James would not support that, though sometimes his attitude to what he considers 'progress' makes me wonder.

Now what about the Australian working class? To revert to this level of analysis is actually to obscure the issue. Australia's aborigines were denied citizenship until 1967. It was only then that they got the vote. The vast majority of White Australians, including the workers, happily went along with the denial of basic rights to an extremely oppressed people.

It is true, though, that the Communist Party of Australia was the first organization to take up the cause of Australia's indigenous population and a number of unions did good work trying to get Aboriginal workers pay. Not a rise in pay mind you but simply wages. This was as long ago as the sixties.

The white pastoralists responded to having to pay their Aboriginal work force by expelling them from the stations and so severing their ancient links with the land.

However apart from the actions of the Communists, I repeat that the dominant Anglo culture in this land has never been disturbed unduly about the plight of the Aborigine. By and large they hold to a view that they have brought civilisation to Australia. they feel they stand for progress. They even claim to be enlightened. For them aborigines stand in the way of the march of history and if they get crushed well too bad but humanity must stay on the path of progress.

So to demand an apology from these people is to ask them to think about the darker side of modernity and not to simply equate modernity/capitalism with progress.

Now it is true that such appeals serve often to enrage the racist filth, but that does not make them wrong.

regards

--Gary McClennan


 * Yesterday the Metropolitan police apologised to the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence for their failure to find his killers, in the midst of a public inquiry.

* Last year Tony Blair apologised for Britain's role in the Irish famine

(* An ongoing inquiry into Bloody Sunday is widely expected to end in some form of an apology)

* Despite complaints by the British press, the Japanese have said they were sorry for the hurt and suffering caused British POWs

* Veteran loyalist gunman Gusty Spence has apologised for all the hurt caused by his fellow terrorists, even attending IRA veteran Sean Keenan's funeral (something of a change from the days when loyalists opened fire on nationalist funerals)

* Gerry Adams, too has joined in with the apologies, this time for all the hurt caused by the IRA.

* The British judiciary has acknowledged its role in miscarriages of justice in the seventies and eighties - principally the 'Irish cases'

* Robert McNamara has said that America's war in Vietnam was wrong

* In South Africa the truth and reconciliation tribunals are an orgy of apologies, where torturers and secret policemen evade responsibility for their actions by repeating the most anodyne and insincere apologies.

* Japanese party leaders in the LDP made contrition for their 'dirty hands' in the corruption scandals of a few years ago

* Japanese business leaders followed suit after the recent financial problems

* German leaders have constructed an entire political system around the idea of collective guilt

* Switzerland has apologised for its role in banking Nazi gold, setting up a fund for survivors.

So, that's more than five.

But you might reasonably say, 'so they should apologise, those things were wrong'. I don't necessarily disagree with that. My point is only that these public displays of contrition are wholly insincere. Recognising past faults can be a way of revitalising institutions that have been discredited. I cannot speak authoritatively on the Australian case, but I do distrust the vogue for apologising - especially because it rarely leads to any structural qualification of the power of the oppressors.

Specifically, Germany's contrition over the holocaust does not put a stop to German racism in the here and now, Japanese leaders apologies over corruption do not put a stop to the power of money in politics, Britain's 'apology' for the famine does not amount to an acknowledgement that Britain is the problem in Ireland, US soul-searching over the Vietnam war (even to the point of electing a draft-dodger) does not stop them from conquering Vietnam economically. . .

It seems to me that we have two very different ideas about racism. You see it as a case of whites as a whole gaining by the suppression of other races. I see it as the elite's division of the working class along national or racial lines. In your argument, white workers gain materially from the subjugation of blacks. In my view white workers lose out by cleaving to ruling class ideology, which prevents them pursuing an independent course.

Finally I return to my proviso, that I do not know the specifics of the discussion about the apology in Australia, and anything I say here is in the general terms of the specious politics of collective guilt, though I am naturally suspicious of any argument that starts by saying that you cannot disagree without breaking ranks.

-- Jim Heartfield


James,

Yesterday morning I apologised to my son firstly for burning the porridge and then later for not being able to start the car. So maybe you are right after all. Perhaps there is a vogue of politeness sweeping around the globe. Sorry about that.

I wonder could we somehow get word to the Conservatives here in Australia. Maybe then they might apologise to Australia's aborigines.

Now about racism and the working class. How beautifully orthodox you are in your analysis. "Racism is a division in the working class". I recall being taught that in a Marxist educational at Essex University - over a quarter of a century ago.

The problem is that applying the formula to Australian aborigines, just will not work. By and large they are not part of the working class. They exist largely on welfare and charity and have done so since the invasion of 1788 succeeded in destroying their tribal structures.

Now the dominant culture in Australia is the Anglo culture. These are the inheritors of the Empire. Their outlook is white colonialist. At best they are patronising towards Aborigines. At worst they rape and murder.

Hanson's support has just shown that there are sections of the Australian working class who do have a colonial/settler outlook. Moreover this does have a material base. We are on aboriginal land. In the rural areas the latest round in the dispossession of Australia's Aborigines was in the 60s - the 1960s.

Now a final word on apologies. there are three broad positions, I think.

1. We can object to these because there are too many and the currency is devalued. We can also say that they are insincere and that making them means nothing.

Or

2. We can argue that there is something to apologise for. We can also state that forcing an apology from the government, in this case the Australian government, would be a useful organising tool in a time of growing racism. We could moreover put the case that it could help the Australian aborigines get some land rights and additional breathing space so that they might be able to survive.

Or

3. We could argue that there is nothing to apologise for. We could believe in the will to power; that the raping and the pillaging is all part of human history. We do it to the Aborigines. They did it someone else or they would do it to us if they got the chance.

We could also say that we have brought them the benefits of modernisation and civilisation. Mind you if one looks at the statistics for venereal diseases among Australian Aborigines this is a little bit hard to maintain. But we could still point out that now they mainly wear clothes now and once upon a time they went around largely naked and besides we also brought them televiion.

Australia's Aborigines have chosen the second alternative. The reaction from the Right here suggests to me that they are correct.

Regards

--Gary McClennan