Monday, July 05, 2010

The other lot against democracy ... and understanding the NSW Right

In other democratic news, Bob Carr has written about Mark Aarons new book The Family File.

The book is the tale of one family's involvement in the communist cause over four generations. What Carr regards as explosive in the book is the revelation that many leading left-wingers in the ALP were also CPA members. Paul Norton has written that these aren't much in the way of revelations.

He goes on to try to describe two kinds of anti-communism - one being against specific instances of communism, and the other (an essentialist anti-communist) as being against the philosophy. He tries to argue that some kinds of anti-communism makes you a fellow traveler with some vicious regimes of the right. However, "my enemy's enemy is my friend" is a well-known fallacy in politics and diplomacy - though often breached - witness the Taliban.

Actually anti-communism is probably just as valid as being anti an islamist caliphate. Certainly there has always been a fine dividing line between the theoretical description of communism as a giant co-operative and the actual detail as fundamentally anti-democracy. Ultimately to be anti-communist because every instance has been anti-democracy is actually a pretty good place to be.

What is more important for everyone to understand is why the NSW Right of the ALP is so different. As the party split around the country and the anti-communists left the party stayed together in NSW. The right did not have a name till Paul Keating named it Centre Unity, while what is now the Socialist Left was known as the "steering Committee". Ultimately that division then crystallised around the real meaning of "democratic socialism".

The NSW Right's machine capabilities and reputation evolved as its means of ensuring the left was subjugated. As Freudenberg noted in Cause for Power, once the left agreed to "power sharing" the jig was up.

While Carr is right to note the important role of Whitlam and NSW the question is how relevant they are today. They are no longer battling a nascent communist core. The NSW Right has got used to exercising power for power's sake.

The person who will pick up Whitlam's mantle of reform is the person who challenges the NSW Right and reforms its approach to power.

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