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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

 

Correspondence on Langer and the late Jim Bacon

Posted by Fabian Hammer at Harry's Place's Smartening ourselves up

Mr Will of General Theory of Rubbish is no slouch in abuse with two slurs against me in one post: (1) I am a "stalker" of Mr Langer and (2) am a "right wing freak". Both pathetically unsubstantiated, but I’ll give him a point for interesting political imagery.

Countering my rejection of Mr Langer’s assertion that “there is no great distance from effectively leading rebellious students and workers to effectively leading governments”, Mr Will referred me to Portugal’s Prime Minister, Durão Barro, whose political activity started with the Maoist PCTP-MRPP.

According to my reading, Mr Barro grew up and left Chairman Mao’s fold in 1977 at the ripe old age of 21. Three years later he joined Social-Democratic Party (PSD), where he remains to the present day.

He was elected a Member of Parliament at 29 years of age, becoming Sub-Secretary of State in the Internal Affairs Ministry. In 1987 he was appointed Secretary of State for Cooperation in the Portuguese Foreign Ministry and in 1992 he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs.

After losing office in 1995 he lead the Parliamentary Commission on Foreign Affairs and worked as Director of the International Relations department at the Lusiada University, Lisbon.

In 1999 he was elected president of PSD and became the Opposition leader and, in 2002, he was elected Prime Minister.

Is that 24-year social democratic, parliamentary career (1980-2004) evidence that “there is no great distance from effectively leading rebellious students and workers to effectively leading governments”? Not in my book.

And what of Jim Bacon, Premier of the Australian state of Tasmania until his unfortunate passing earlier this year at the age of 54? His political activity started with the Maoist CPA (M-L) at Monash University and then extended into the then-Maoist-controlled national office of the Builders Labourers Federation.

According to my reading, Jim Bacon also grew up and left Chairman Mao’s fold around 1977. In 1980 he became Tasmanian State Secretary of the BLF and, in 1990, CEO of the Tasmanian Trades and Labor Council. During this time he joined the Australian Labor Party and served on its state executive.

In 1996 he was elected as an ALP Member of the House of Assembly for the Tasmanian Parliament and became ALP parliamentary leader and Opposition leader in 1997. In 1998, he led the first majority [Tasmanian] Labor Government in 20 years into office and his government was re-elected in July, 2002.

When Jim Bacon succumbed to lung cancer, the federal ALP leader, Mark Latham, whose national leadership Bacon supported vigorously, described him as “a good Labor man - a committed trade unionist and successful, reformist Premier of Tasmania” who had “transformed the State for the better, giving it new education and economic opportunities” and who would “be sadly missed by the Labor movement and the people of his State”.

Is that 24-year social democratic, union and parliamentary career (1980-2004) evidence that “there is no great distance from effectively leading rebellious students and workers to effectively leading governments”? Not in my book.

To Mr Langer, whose only role in Australian parliamentary elections has been to encourage people not to vote, the whole business of governance may seem easy and hardly worth a quarter-century learning curve.

So much easier to wait for the next “high tide” to sweep one into power, forever, with the time-tested tools of the proletarian dictatorship.

But Mr Langer and his tiny group of unreconstructed Maoists, or “Anarcho-Stalinists” as he prefers, currently needs political oxygen and publicity.

Thus his articles and interviews claiming the late Jim Bacon as a closet Maoist who only joined the Australian Labor Party because it was a “necessity” if he wanted to be “leader of Tasmania's unions”; that he only wanted to be Premier of Tasmania because "what else is there to do right now?"

Of course, Mr Langer never made these claims when Jim Bacon was alive; and Jim Bacon didn’t seem to notice Mr Langer’s importance. He could have, after all, appointed Mr Langer Chief of Police, Secretary of the Department of State Development; State Librarian, or anything. But didn’t.

And so, Mr Will, with all your talk of resistance to fundamental paradigm change and so on, there is more than just a choice between “being a bad communist” or a “right wing freak”. It is being a democrat.

Perhaps a social-democrat, a liberal-democrat or even a conservative-democrat. But certainly not a “pseudo-democrat”.

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