Advice from the Planet Zot


Marcus Strom sets local Marxists straight

Bob Gould

Like poor Michael Berrell, Marcus Strom from the Planet Zot has the gentle knack of mistiming his pretentious and superior commentaries on events. Marcus is going to set Marxists in these parts straight in five seconds flat by introducing us to the mysteries of Marcus thought about the republic and other matters.

Marcus has a go at me for allegedly fawning over Tony Burke at the Labor for Refugees dinner, and he makes an inane joke about me going back to the Catholic church in a deathbed confirmation. His knowledge of Catholicism is as ill-informed as his notions of Marxism. I was, in fact, confirmed, like any other young Tyke, in my youth when I was 11 or 12 years old. Confirmation for Catholics is rather like a barmitzveh for Jews.

My cultural identification with the Irish Catholic community is hardly news, since I’ve written about it at length. My rejection of Catholic religious belief took place when I was 15 por 16, and I turn 70 next year. I feel no temptation at all to qualify my rejection of religous belief.

Marcus’s dopey journalism reveals, in fact, a certain religious bigotry, in the same way as his frequent used of the term Trotskyites reveals a certain closet Stalinism.

Marcus’s nose is out of joint because I took advantage of the fact that I got a minute or two at the dinner to speak about the 20 books I donated as a prize for the raffle, and I took the opportunity to make a short political statement.

I praised all present, right, left and unaligned, and the salt-of-the-earth cross-factional group in the Labor Party fighting for the interests of refugees. I then praised Tony Burke’s handling of his new job as shadow immigration minister, and his extraordinary speech, which we had just heard, promising to abolish temporary protection visas, etc, etc. I ascribed his position to his Catholic conscience.

My political aim was to, in a civilised way, continue the pressure for further improvements in Labor Party refugee policy. When I sat down I got uproarious applause. Dopey Marcus considers this fawning. Am I fawning on the Greens, who Marcus also dislikes, when I call for a united front between Labor and the Greens and I point to the Greens’ contribution to exerting pressure on the Labor Party from the left.

From the regal high ground of his Planet Zot, Marcus ridicules my 50 years or so in the Labor Party, but the fact that I’ve been around the workers’ movement for a long time and been associated with dozens of agitations on the left gives me a certain authority to say what day it is when I get a bit of an opening, as I did at the Labor for Refugees dinner.

If Marcus wants any serious political influence in the workers’ movement he should climb down from his eyrie and engage in some agitation, as I have done all my life, as well as lecturing the world on theoretical questions, as I also have done all my adult life.

Today, the Tory government’s reactionary policy on refugees took a major belting. Important elements contributing to that belting were civilised pressure on the left from the Greens, the revolt of civilised Liberals against Howard, and the workings of Senator Fielding’s Christian conscience, which played a progressive role on this question.

The biggest force, however, was that, driven by his conscientious approach to these matters, Tony Burke, together with John Robertson from Unions NSW, succeeded over time in hardening up the Labor federal caucus around a better policy on refugees. This held even in the face of the current hysteria about events overseas. Without Tony Burke and John Robertson bringing a breath of fresh air into the Labor Party on refugee matters, today’s very important defeat for the Howard government could not have happened.

Socialist sectarians who write of Labor as just another Liberal Party do so at their own political peril.


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