Monday, July 19, 2010

How red are the Greens?

One of my themes here at "Anything Goes" is that it is okay to consider multiple theories (of anything) and it is actually okay to change your mind ... in fact, it is a good idea to change your mind in the face of new information that contradicts a previously held theory (if there is another theory available).

Consequently I don't share with some a concern that a person might previously have been a communist or fascist and is now campaigning as a democrat of some kind. (see note below)
However I did find the entry in Gerard Henderson's Friday issue of Media Watch Dog. In this he details some of Lee Rhiannon's personal background as a member of the Communist Party of Australia and the Socialist Party of Australia as revealed in Mark Aarons new book The Family File.

Now I have no difficulty with the fact that in the late 60s and early 70s people could still find full-blown Leninist-Stalinist communism attractive. I do find it hard that the Soviet could be defended after the details of the Terror became known or after the 1968 Czech invasion. But in global politics it was reasonable to think of the peasant communism that was Russia as being a solution to the need for rapid development of the colonies being freed from European empires.

Personally, I've always happily subscribed to being a socialist, but never a revolutionary socialist. And these days I'm that horribly confused beast that I describe as a "market socialist".

But if someone like Lee Rhiannon is going to hold herself out for public office as a potential Senator for NSW her Communist/revolutionary socialist past needs to be acknowledged in her official campaign biography.

My flirting with the Democrats leading up to the 2007 election was spurred by my dislike of the Greens, populated as I believe it is by many former communists and unreconstructed Trots. My thinking was that progressives who were uncomfortable with the ALP's internal ethos (aka the NSW Right and all it stands for) and organisational structure (unions having 50% vote at all conferences)needed a viable non communist alternative.

The fact that Rhiannon won't disclose her history suggests that she doesn't disown it - a vote for the Greens in NSW is a vote for a revolutionary socialist. Unfortunately this time the Greens might just get up in NSW. It looks like I failed.

Note: I also don't necessarily think that all those communists in the in the late 30s who sided with Soviet Russia and hence against war with Germany were necessarily absolutely wrong and by implication Nazi sympathisers. Certainly Stalin himself didn't expect the pact to last forever - but they had a common enemy in parliamentary democracy. The two of them were always going to fight it out and really the treaty achieved Stalin's aim - that Russia and Germany did not have to engage till Germany was already overstretched to its West. The treaty was a tactical error by Hitler - who in entering it abandoned his first option of a partnership with Britain to wage war to the East against communism. By being a little more patient that strategy could have been achieved.

1 comment:

Vic N said...

from the Boston Globe....

It’s one of the great assumptions underlying modern democracy that an informed citizenry is preferable to an uninformed one. “Whenever the people are well-informed,

they can be trusted with their own government,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789. This notion, carried down through the years, underlies everything from humble political pamphlets to presidential debates to the very notion of a free press. Mankind may be crooked timber, as Kant put it, uniquely susceptible to ignorance and misinformation, but it’s an article of faith that knowledge is the best remedy. If people are furnished with the facts, they will be clearer thinkers and better citizens. If they are ignorant, facts will enlighten them. If they are mistaken, facts will set them straight.

In the end, truth will out. Won’t it?

Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite.

In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

This bodes ill for a democracy, because most voters — the people making decisions about how the country runs — aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false.

And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”