Green Left Weekly discussion list, January 9, 2006
Flushed with his faction’s success in making Peter Boyle general secretary of the DSP, Norm Dixon returns to his rather over-ripe cyberwarrior niche in the DSP’s bureaucracy. He and his associates love words like scab, applied indiscriminately to Labor Party members, and by implication to me.
I anticipate that, if anything, Dixon’s hysteria will get worse, if that’s possible, now that his political mentor is the boss.
The story about the reactionary Young Labor resolution is now old news (and it was even posted on this list last week). The day it broke in the media, I was approached by Channel 10 news to comment, and they sent down a reporter and camera operator to interview me.
I said that I’d been been secretary of the Vietnam Action Committee during the Vietnam War, I had vigorously opposed conscription, and I saw no reason to change my view. I said that proposals for conscription had been defeated in two referenda during World War I and that opposition to conscription at that time had been spearheaded by the Labor Party and the trade unions.
I pointed out that during the Vietnam War a number of conscientious objectors to military service had asked to be allowed to do community service rather than military service and their requests were summarily rejected by the Liberal government, which jailed the objectors.
I also pointed out that all past proposals for national service had been associated with military service, and the talk about civilian service was a smokescreen, given the well-known fact, recently covered at length in the media, that the government is having difficulty recruiting to the military.
I made a bit of a joke that I had been rejected for national service in 1954, when it was compulsory and universal, because when I went for the medial examination I was found to have the biggest bunions they had ever seen.
I said that the Young Labor proposal was naive in the extreme and was actually an attempt by the Young Labor right to look respectable, and it was an enormous mistake for the Young Labor left to acquiesce in this approach, as they appeared to have done.
I further pointed out that the period of the greatest upsurge of interest in the Labor Party among young people in the late 20th century was when Labor opposed conscription for the Vietnam War, and if the Young Labor leaders seriously wanted to revive Young Labor, which is pretty moribund at the moment, they should propose radical policies, rather than trying to be more conservative than the Liberals.
I mentioned that I had cut my political teeth, in part, in the 1950s fighting the right wing in Young Labor.
In the event, Channel 10 didn’t use any of the interview with me, but it did use a grab from my old rebel colleague Simon Townsend, who had been in prison as a conscientious objector. He said similar things to me: that the proposal for national service was the dopiest thing he had heard of for years.
I’d make the comment in passing to Dixon, who I imagine will keep spluttering about scabs, that the extreme expression of right-wing views by the rump leadership of Young Labor is a good case for some young rebels to get into Young Labor to give the right-wingers a run for their money.