A healthy development


Green Left Weekly, the DSP and this week’s developments in the labour and indigenous movements

Bob Gould

After a week of discussion and argument the issue of the DSP’s Green Left Weekly that went up on the web this evening is a breath of fresh air, up to a point, as is the linked Green Left discussion site.

Firstly, the main line article on the apology to indigenous Australians, written by Peter Robson, provides pretty sensible comprehensive coverage of the issues without any sanctimonious finger-wagging, etc.

As it’s my impression that Robson was one of the DSP bloggers early in the week who had a fairly negative approach to the then-projected apology, this marks a change for him and the DSP leadership, and I applaud them both for it.

Despite what they may say about their line having not changed (it’s de rigueur for them to continue to say that) this is an entirely healthy development.

The major factor in this change is probably a more sensible appraisal of the response of the vast majority indigenous people and the militants at the indigenous convergence in Canberra. A secondary factor is some sharp commentary on the initial posts on the web early in the week, not just by me, but also by others.

Whatever the reasons, I applaud the currently more sensible approach.

Another change in the DSP’s previous practice is Peter Boyle’s posting of Joe Holder’s secretary’s report on the Labor Party anti-privatisation meeting, linked to Jenny Haines’s more extensive account of the meeting.

One hopes photos of the meeting taken by the Green Left reporter might be published somewhere.

While discussing the meeting, I’d make the point that Jenny Haines’s estimate of 200 people attending the meeting seems to me correct, not the smaller number reported in the Sydney Sun-Herald. A meeting of this character is easier to count than a moving protest or a street meeting.

There are 290 seats in the refurbished Trades Hall auditorium and there were about 10 speakers and chairpersons on the platform and maybe 50 empty seats, so an attendance of 200 is a rather conservative estimate.

It’s a pity that there seems to be no provision in the GLW online set-up for last-minute news. As an outsider, I guess GLW is probably laid out on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, so it might be good journalistic practice to leave scope for last-minute news, such as the privatisation meeting on Saturday, which would provide more immediacy. Many protests happen on Saturday, for example.

I don’t mean any disrespect to the GLW staff in making these observations, but these days weekly publications have a great deal of difficulty retaining immediacy and some sort of arrangement for last-minute news could be useful.

In addition to this, once more, unless I’m a hopeless dummkopf, GLW still doesn’t seem to have solved the technical problems in putting the coming events listings online. As an assiduous reader of GLW who did and would use the coming events list extensively if it was on the web, I hope those technical difficulties are solved soon. (I’m told someone more technically au fait than myself that there might be a real difficulty in doing this because there’s a lot a more work in a list of coming events, than in straight journalism.)

The bottom line of all the above comments is that this week’s GLW and postings on the GLW discussion site represent a political improvement in the approach of the DSP majority and I hope it continues.


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8 Responses to “A healthy development”

  1. Norm Dixon Says:

    You could always just pay the $3 (solidarity price) and buy an issue, and read the calendar there, or better still take out a subscription! Chuck a few extra bucks in as a donation and we might be able to upgrade some of our creaking technology and solve some of our problems.

    Just a suggestion, Bob, if you have a event, forum or action that you or members of the ALP left would like to see publicised in the calendar, email it to calendar@greenleft.org.au Don’t keep them under your hat, we ain’t omnipresent.

    As the rabid Third-Period sectarian responsible for compiling the Blue Mountains GLW activist calendar (see http://www.greenleft.org.au/calendar/?q=bluemountains) you will note that “through gritted teeth” I try to include a broad range of events, including that of the local state member for Iemma’s star recruits.

    Maybe you can acknowledge that in your “credit where credit is due” department.

  2. Mattie Says:

    The GLW article Bob refers to hardly provides “a comprehensive coverage of the issues”. It neglects to even mention the most important policy commitments made by Rudd in relation to Aboriginal life expectancy and infant mortality, or the early education targets.

    And it incorrectly states that the housing policy initiatives of the new commission are for the NT alone when in fact it is a national indigenous housing policy.

    The NT is not the only state that has large numbers of indigenous Australians living in remote communities, with inadequate housing and often without town water supply and sewerage facilities. In NSW alone two-thirds (around 200 communties) of the estimated 10,000 Aboriginal people living in communities remote from country towns do not have these basic municipal services.

  3. rohan is ready to fall Says:

    Norm Dixon says if Bob Gould want I better standard from the Green Left he should give a donation.

    Surely a donation from Gould is unnecessary the DSP is absolutely rolling in cash. You have an annual budget of about $500,000. You raised about $250,000 per year for the last two years in your Green Left appeal.
    Over the last three years you have spent about $500,000 on sending people to Venezuela. You own millions of dollars in commercial property (the Resistance Centres in 6 cities, Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart and Perth).

    Surely you can afford the modest sum needed to fix the technical problems with the ‘Upcoming Events’ column in Green Left.

  4. Bob Gould Says:

    I don’t doubt that what Mattie says about the ongoing negotiations between the indigenous movement and the government is true, and you get a flavour of that from another angle, in the post by Wombo on another thread, and I hope the discussion continues.

    When I make the point that Peter Robson’s article is useful, I wasn’t so much concerned with every detail and I don’t think it’s entirely reasonable to expect every serious commentator to cover every detail anyway. I think it’s counter-productive for outside commentators to try to dot every i and cross every t from the point of view of their fixed position on indigenous affairs.

    I choose to follow in detail the proposals of the broad left in the indigenous community and support them in campaigning for dropping the bad aspects of the Northern Territory intervention.

    Incidentally, the diehard reactionaries of the Murdoch press this morning are trying to invent a new category of so-called indigenous elites to slander Tom Calma and Marion Scrymgour the Labor Party deputy premier of the NT. These people are campaigning to have the bad aspects of the intervention replaced by better practices quickly.

    In my view, Robson’s, Wombo’s and Mattie’s contributions are useful parts of this discussion and my purpose was to note the fact that Green Left had avoided sterile anti-Labor rhetoric on this occasion.

    This discussion will obviously continue, and it should. Socialists should participate in it in an objective spirit, giving great weight to the views of the broad left in the indigenous community, which includes the organisers of the Canberra convergence, Tom Carma, and Marion Scrimgeour.

    On the other question raised by Rohan, who I don’t know, I have very strong views. If Norm Dixon makes a little jibe at me that I should make a donation to Green Left Weekly, I shrug it off. I have plenty of socialist political projects of my own that I support, and Dixon’s remark is just a bit of jocular demagogy, which is very mild compared with the abuse that sometimes comes from him.

    Rohan’s other point, trying to paint the DSP as a wealthy organisation, is a very nasty line of argument, which I reject. It’s a bit like the Murdoch press attacking Marion Scrymgour for being some kind of elite.

    It also resembles the really bizarre obsessions of the strange man Ferguson on SWP USA discussion list about who owns the property of the US SWP.

    What smallish and other rather beleaguered socialist groups do with their modest accumulated resources is their own business. Obviously some problems arise when there are splits and opposing factions feel they have some stake in those resources, but that’s still basically their business, not mine or Rohan’s.

    Despite my well-known, very sharp political differences with the DSP majority, and significant differences with the DSP minority, on the basis of my own experience of socialist groups, I don’t believe for a moment that the DSP bunch is rolling in money.

    Like any other socialist group, or even any voluntary group in society, it functions on money raised from members and supporters and in practice their activities are sustained by a very large amount of voluntary effort. Supporters of these organisations contribute time and money, and the money is usually a kind of distilled time unless someone has come into an inheritance, won a lottery or even struck it rich gambling, on sport or the stock market. Even in cases like that, people who sling to causes they support usually do so for reasons of commitment.

    That’s how the rather proletarian Catholic church has functioned in Australia for about 200 years.

    Ozleft aims to promote critical and intelligent discussion among socialists, not abuse of people for their voluntary political activity, even those who have sharp political differences.

    I know quite a number of people who’ve devoted a big part of their lives to entirely voluntary activity without stint, for small socialist groups, who’ve subsequently developed disagreements with those groups. The saner and better people in that situation reorganise their lives to suit their new situation and put down their devotion to the struggle in a previous framework to experience. They may have hard feelings on this or that matter here or there, but they have a clear understanding of the workings of constant activity dedicated to a common cause.

    The alternative approach that some adopt is to carry on about how to carry on about how they were deceived and robbed, which is usually hard to believe, because they were usually adults when they started to contribute to this or that group or cause.

    That way of handling disagreement or disillusionment has always struck me as pretty useless.

  5. Mattie Says:

    I don’t know what Bob means by referring to me as an “outside commentator” (outside what?) or saying that I must have a “fixed position on indigenous affairs”. I’d say I have quite an open mind on these extraordinarily complex and overwhelmingly unresolved issues.

    I believe there’s been little discussion in recent years of indigenous politics or policy, by either indigenous organisations, or the broad left, including to some extent the Greens. Other than, that is, simple reaction to the dominant Howard-imposed agenda which meant: the overwhelming attention given to the history wars, the huge obstacle that the refusal of an apology represented, the almost exclusive focus on issues of law and order and violence, coexisting with the deafening silence, criminal neglect and seeming indifference of government on almost every other level relating to fundamental Aboriginal social justice needs, land rights and cultural heritage, or the processes and structures that will always be a crucial part of any meaningful Aboriginal self-determination and without which any improvement is impossible.

    I think if any one has a “fixed position” on indigenous affairs it is organisations like Socialist Alliance which today have a very basic, static set of demands, often mere slogans, with almost no policy detail, or interest in developing that, or of fostering debate, nor much interest in offering detailed critiques of ALP policy and direction, or even getting right basic facts in reports of important developments such as which occurred in the federal Parliament last Wednesday. Which was sort of the point I was abbreviatedly making.

    One of the great things about the Apology and the change of government federally is that the way is now open again for argument, clarification, negotiation and hopefully organisation on so many levels around issues and strategies that have been virtually unaddressed for so long. The most hopeful initial sign of that right now is the range of indigenous voices nationally who are now able to speak out and are being heard.

  6. rohan Says:

    Bob raises an excellent point, what get’s me though is the moralising tone that Norm Dixon takes when he ‘asks’ for donations.

    Techinical problems with the Green Left website are not Bob Gould’s fault, nor is there even anything he can do to fix it.

    Fixing it is a task that lies 100% with the DSP. Now if there is a will to fix problems like this a way will be found.

  7. Rohan Pearce Says:

    Different Rohan in case anyone wasn’t sure 🙂

  8. Peter R Says:

    I apologise for the incorrect statement about the range of the ‘bitpartisan committee’. it was a case of misreading the way Rudd said it, and i should have read more deeply.

    the targets stuff, i cut for space. I thought it was more important to talk about the resources they were dedicating than the targets. the alp has had tragets for a while, but it don’t mean much without resources. made the choice to fit on the page. damn me if you will.

    Now, i will take a small issue with the way Bob has repesented the way this happened. when you’re debating on the net, you write stuff to correct, or balance, what people are saying. particularly in response to something. i wote my initial response to gould because i thought it unblanced (in a piece of ecumenical brotherhood, i will say the piece after that was better).

    I DIDN’T write a complete analyisis of the apology, only whart i disagreed with with Bob. I believe the piece i wrote — which wa an attempt to represent the TOTALITY of the affair, not just a CORRECTION — would be the same regradless of the interchange.

    anyway, i figure there’s a dfference people should recogonise.

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