Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ethnic and civic nationalism in Israel

Further to my post on Palestine an interesting survey on Israeli-Arab public opinion here:

94 percent of Israel's Jews and 27 percent of its Arabs declared themselves willing to fight to protect the country. ..The rest of the survey presents a more positive picture of the attitude toward the state than that expressed publicly by most of the Arab leaders and spokespeople: 44 percent of Israel's Arabs "are proud to be Israeli citizens"; 24 percent say they are "patriotic Israelis to a great extent"; and 35 percent say they are "patriotic Israelis to some extent." Is Israel better than other countries? Sixty-six percent of the Jews think it is, and no less than 77 percent of the Arabs.

Evidence perhaps that an ethnically founded state, such as Israel is, and which any Palestinian state would also be, can attract civic loyalty and evolve in a civic nationalist direction.

Interesting article in The Independent quoting a Gaza feminist

Hamas is far from being the Taliban. It strongly supports women's education, is generally opposed to "honour killing", and some of its candidates supported women's shelters. Its spokesmen have also been at pains to stress that it does not intend in the foreseeable future to impose its religious ideology - including its long-term commitment to sharia (Islamic law) - on the parliament.

But Ms Ayesh is concerned that the more congenial public message sometimes conflicts with the deeply held belief of its new PLC members. For example, she notes that Mariam Farhat, the "Mother of Martyrs" whose election video showed her helping her own 17-year-old son to prepare explosives which killed him and five Israelis, said in an interview that her first parliamentary campaign would be for a law requiring all Palestinian women to wear the hejab. To Ms Ayesh, Mrs Farhat's later disavowal of the interview was unconvincing. But, in any case, she expects the change to be cultural and gradual rather than legislative. "Hamas will not do this directly but they will use other respected figures, for example in the mosques."

both via Norman Geras

Monday, January 30, 2006

National party split?

The Nationals are back in the news with the defection of Julian McGauran to the Liberals. if we go back to the formation of the Country party (as it was called until the 1980s) they was always a tension between those who saw it role as being an adjunct to the Nationalists and those who it as having an independent role. This tended roughly to parallel the division between the graziers who competed on international markets and the small farmers who looked to Empire markets and who sought government support. The party was so influential under McEwen because the Liberals accepted the small-farmers' agenda and McEwen was able to drive industry policy under Menzies. Personalities played a role in their decline after McEwen but the major factor was that farmer organisations came to agree with the graziers' free-trade position. It took time for the party to accept this position. John Warhurst's Jobs or Dogma shows how resistant Doug Anthony was to the industries Assistance Commission being involved in rural policy. Once however the party leadership adopted this position it had nothing to distinguish it on economic policy.
Queensland adds a complication. The Nationals resemble in the part the Labor party of the early 1930s, in both cases one state branch (NSW for Labor) was estranged from the majority of the party. Relations within Labor between NSW and the rest were poisonous and they seem to be fairly toxic in the Nationals currently. Eventually in 1931 Labor split when the state branch declared that sitting members would only be endorsed if they supported its policies rather than those of the federal ALP. Could the same happen now? I doubt it, in 1931 only a minority of NSW Labor MPs followed the state party, apart from Joyce today who would follow the Queensland Nationals if they tried to split from the federal party? None I think. The Queensland Nationals would be aware they would probably lose a knock-down battle with the Liberals at the state level as well. The 1930s were the age of ideology but I don't see a coherent rallying point for the Queensland Nationals.

Israel & Australia comparasions

I made the below table for one of my lectures based on 2004 figures (multiple identification for the NZ figures hence not strictly comparable):

Indigenous population


South Africa









New Zealand






It suggests however why the Israel/Palestine issue is so unresolvable. It shows too that Australia and Israel/Palestine are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Australia is however second only to Israel in its level of post-war migration. I remember Peter Sheldon, gave a paper at the 1997 Labour History conference on parallels between the experience of different migrant groups to Israel, and how the experience of those Sephardic Jews from the middle east rather than the European paralleled the Australian experience of non-Anglo migrants (I don't think it was ever published). Only now does Israeli Labour have a leader from a recent migrant background. Lorenzo Veracini has highlighted the parallels between Australian and Israelii attempts to come to terms with the colonial past comparing the fate of Palestinians and aboriginals.
The impossible task of the Palestinian Authority, powerless and overburdened by expectations, could even be compared to the fate of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Commission in Australia. ATSIC had its share of leadership problems, especially Warrnambool local Geoff Clarke, but this was an effect rather than a cause of its problems.
My way forward: have Israelis and Palestinians elect a one electorate a constituent assembly to resolve the political makeup of these lands. Given the geographical distribution of the two populations this would probably result in two 'states', but the rights of both to self-determination must be qualified by commitments to human rights, which is particularly relevant given the rise of fundamentalism.
It is unrealistic to expect that these would not be ethnic nationalist states, but there is a spectrum of ethnic nationalisms.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Palestine, Poland & gays

I can't imagine a poltical setup less favourable to the development of democracy and civil society than the plight of the Palestinian 'authority' (protectorate, colony, homeland?) and the despair its population/prisoners and John Berger has some insightful comments here, but the Palestinian elections are not good news for gays, some have already had to flee to Israel and Hamas are concerned about gay 'peverts' along with mixed dancing.

These are interesting comments on the site of ASWAT Palestinian Gay Women:

Many women in the Palestinian society are living their identities and sexuality in secret. We believe that this is a result of the patriarchal structure of our society where surviving means being silent; silent in our neighborhoods and villages, silent inside our families and schools, silent within women’s organizations, and often even with each other. Palestinian patriarchal society does not accept, and often aggressively rejects, any expression of ‘otherness’. When women dare to identify themselves outsides the borders of prescriptive traditional gender roles and identities, they face violent exclusion, or even worse, violence against their own bodies and property. One strategy to reinforce silence on and subordination of women's sexuality or sexual energy and potential is through sexual violence. This is the reason why, until now, Palestinian women have hardly ever organized or dared to protest, resist, and insist upon creating a space to deal with issues of women's sexuality and lesbianism. Furthermore, as Palestinian women living inside the borders of Israel or in the Occupied Territories under Israeli occupation, we belong to an internally displaced population that does not enjoy equality in power, resources, education, culture, or religion. In addition to our feminist struggle for equal rights, privilege and opportunity in our society, we are at the same time very much part of a national struggle for recognition in our civil minority rights (Palestinian who live in Israel comprise about 20% of the population of Israel). As long as women participate in the struggle for national liberation, we are welcomed and our efforts are appreciated. Some women can, in fact, leave the private sphere only if their activities serve men’s strategic and political aspirations for national liberation. The moment women want to focus their energies in establishing independence from the male occupation and structure, they are transformed instantly into enemies. The competition between different, sometimes clashing needs and struggles, puts us in peculiar situations where we are demanded to prioritize one struggle over the other or to choose our ideological 'loyalty' in a multi-layered reality and among potential partners. In this sense, ASWAT offers a unique perspective on social change in light of the conflict between identities and political struggles.

Christians working hard here also, new Polish president worried about 'peverse demonstrations' by gays.

Elections everywhere except in Cuba and the Victorian Labor Party?

As we celebrate the onward march of democracy this goes against the trend. Victorian Labor Premier Steve Bracks has foreshadowed intervention by the right-wing controlled Labor Party national executive to ensure that ballots for the Victorian Legislative Council among rank and file Labor Party members come up with the right result. It is not exactly clear what he is proposing but I don't see how ballots can go ahead if the result is determined. Not surprisingly this is seen by the press as a praiseworthy exertion of influence.
Before this many party members who live in safe conservative electorates (50 years since Labor has won an election in Warrnambool) were looking forward to the opportunity to select Labor candidates who would actually win elctions under the new PR system for the Council that divides the state into 8 electorates of 5 members each. Would-be Labor candidates were actually having to venture out into the country and lobby branch members who have been accustomed to being ignored by metropolitan Labor politicians. Doesn't make Labor look good compared to the Greens who have endorsed their candidates by a rank and file ballot. May not help Labor's campaign down here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Elections in Peru, but what about Cuba?

Peru has elections in April and this site has material on this (although much of it is in Spanish). The rising candidate seems to be another populist military man and admirer of Hugo Chavez: Ollanta Humala. Recent elections mark a rejection of neo-liberalism. But in Cuba there have not been competitive elections for a very long time, but eventually perhaps sooner than many expect there will be elections in Cuba. It is possible to see why Cuba still attracts sympathy and support in Latin America as discussed in Castaneda’s Utopia Unarmed.
The extent of popular support in Cuba for the Communist Party must be questioned. The issue here is partially economic, but we could also point to the violations of human rights identified in this statement by Noam Chomsky and others, and this report by Human Rights Watch. More fundamental is the type of social control and surveillance described by one dissident:
"Those who don't live in Cuba find it difficult to understand that the system maintains its political control principally through self-repression. Every Cuban has a built-in policeman. This complex mechanism whereby one assumes the conscience of a hunted person has been developed and perfected for almost 40 years. To those who see it from afar, it is almost imperceptible....". I suggest that a reaction against this system of control will drive Cuban Communism's electoral defeat. Post-Soviet Russia experienced economic collapse, social disintegration and the large-scale articulation of the emergent capitalist mode of production with pre-capitalist modes such as slavery manifest in sexual trafficking. But they did not vote for the Communists. Here I draw on Stephen White's How Russia Votes, this book shows that in 1995 the one thing Russian voters were glad to see the back of from the Soviet era was the system of surveillance and social control and this was a major reason why the Communists lost. This is why Cuban communism will lose, then like other Latin American communists they will recast themselves as social democrats and win the election after that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

New Democrat disappointments

The Canadian election seems to have gone pretty much as expected, with something of a late rally to the Liberals. I thought the NDP's performance; up from 19 to 29 was a bit disappointing. If they are not going to make substantial gains against the Liberals at a time like this when are they going to? It is still well short of their maximum representation in the past 43 in 1988. The recent dreaming of some NDP members about progress towards replacing the Liberals was unfulfilled. The NDP suffered a net loss on the prairies (my pessimistic expectations in my earlier post were overfufilled) with the defeat of Niki Ashton in Churchill (which has the second highest First Nations population of any electorate) with the NDP vote split after the former NDP MP ran as Independent after departing the party on gay marriage.

If we compare 1988 and 2006 we find that in 1988 the NDP won 32 out of 86 seats in the west (prairies + BC) and this time 13/92. The NDP's problem is I think that ultimately it can't really compete with the Liberals on the social agenda, the Liberals will move left on this to capture their ground, and competing on the social agenda reduces the NDP's ability to win votes in the west as shown by Churchill. Keith Archer's Political Activists hints at this in showing the divergent attitudes of older and western NDP members. The fact that the NDP/Liberal balance in the west has shifted in favour of the Liberals from 1988 to 2006 shows how the new politics is unfavourable ground for the NDP. The NDP needs something to distinguish it on the economic front from the Liberals but after the collapse of the socialist project what can this be? On the other hand perhaps most of NDP's western decline is due to the Saskatchewan collapse from 1988 , was their 1988 vote there a historical remnant (like Democrats in the US south before 1994?) but the NDP did recover from the Diefenbaker sweep of 1958.
We can compare the problems of the NDP vs. the liberals to the Greens vs. Labor in Australia; the Greens were unable to make a breakthrough until 2001 when Labor's capitulation to the conservatives on the Tampa crisis enabled them to capture social liberal votes from Labor.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Democrat president?

A recent article in the New York Times on Hillary Clinton seems to have inspired Andrew Sullivan's piece reprinted in The Australian. A better Times piece is however Matt Bai's Ms Triangulation here. Hillary aspires to be a Truman Democrat on foreign policy but would she be a Truman Democrat on domestic policy? Most media discussion in Australia is foreign policy (and a very narrow definition of foreign policy at that) centered there is very little about domestic American policy. Yet much would depend on whether a Democrat president faced a Democrat congress, the Democrats seem to be travelling well for the 2006 elections here. Bush's polarising approach has encouraged Democrats to vote as a bloc more consistently than previously; would this continue under a Democratic presidency? Joseph Stiglitz complains that on international economic policy the Clinton administration pursued more conservative lines than on domestic economic policy, would the next Democrat president be any better? As Chris Nyland notes the Australian left has largely ignored the labour rights sections of the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement. What options might a Democrat administration open up here? Bush has pushed his agenda through Congress could a Democrat president do the same? Can the Democrats get beyond the free-trade protection debate? How will the split in American labor affect the ability of unions to exercise influence on a Democrat administration? The Australian media and those on the left to whom America is evil by definition will ignore these questions but I will post on them.

Labour market flexibility in the US

Interesting article from New York Times on the position of 'day labourers' in the US.

Remembering corporatism

Have finished reading Peter Loveday's Promoting Industry (1982) which I picked up last year in a Library cleanout. One one hand it is a record of projects long forgotten and institutions long since privatized such as the Australian Industries Development Corporation (on which Peter Baldwin had some interesting reflections in 1990), although seeing a reference to John Howard as Treasurer makes you stop. However the central theme of the challenge to Westminster norms associated with industry assistance and the interpenetration of the 'state' and 'industry' remains. Some of Loveday's views could be phrased in Foucauldian terms. It anticipates the early 1980s preoccupation with 'corporatism'. It struck me that the attacks on Hawke's corporatism from the right in the mid 1980s (as with Katherine West who for a time had a high media profile on this but who has since disappeared completely, is she dead?) anticipate themes of the 1990s and beyond. Corporatism was presented as an elite device to control dissent and West highlighted the need for this consensus to be broken by campaigns on 'inflammatory and non-consensual' issues such as Asian migration, and this was combined with pseudo-leftish rhetoric about the exclusions of corporatism. There was also the theme in this literature that corporationism was a threat, possibly even a 'fascist' one to the perfections of responsible government. Today the conservative criticism of NGOs follows exactly the same line as the anti-corporatist literature, government-NGO cooperation is described as a threat to democracy and responsible government.

Friday, January 20, 2006

McKnight vs Marx

I like David McKnight's work on international communism and espionage. It displays a praiseworthy willingness to face facts, but his other work is more doubtful. In a recent piece he draws on Giddens to argue that green politics can be seen as a revival of conservative values and that by implication this is the way forward for progressive politics, the argument is fleshed out with the usual quotes from Burke and Oakeshott. But Burke was a great admirer of Smith, as Chandras Kukathas pointed out years ago agaisnt John Hirst and Robert Manne, Oakeshott was a capital-C conservative. The argument that the left should look to conservative values is a very old one as Marx noted in the communist Manifesto. Marx was right to reject 'feudal socialism', the Marxist tradition recognizes as Andrew Levine puts it in The End of the State that there is a 'rational kernel' to conservatism, but historical materialism recognizes this through its rejection of revolutionary utopianism. Marxism is not anti-capitalist or anti-liberal but it argues that capitalism and liberalism will be transcended by communism, Berki's Insight and Vision is good on this. In Marx's view there is no simple returning to the unity and harmony of pre-modern society, we can't just look at capitalist society and conclude it is individualistic, divided and exploitive and say stop this, rather new forms of unity are constructed by capitalism in the form of a working class united by capitalist production.
Once we start to argue that the left should look to conservative anti-individualist values we open the way to dangerous outcomes: 1. illiberal social authoritarianism (as in some 3rd way discourse) or 2. hailing conservatives as allies agaisnt economic liberalism, the bizarre left-wing admiration of Santamaria in his last years is an example, or at a more tragic and frightening level the case of Henri de Man and neo-socialism; 3). embracing any ally against the empire/neo-conservatism etc. such as the perception of bin Laden et. al. as anti-imperialists.

Eight more years of opposition?

What does 18 years in opposition turn a Labo(u)r party, what will the ALP be like in 2014? 'The grass roots members went along with New Labour in the 1990s, often with reservations, because they could see it was the way to win elections. But now, for many, their party has been taken over by an ideologically driven group with its own agenda. They want it back. If they do not get it, and the omens are not good, we will end up with a national party with a tiny local membership' says UK Labour activist Andrew Coulson. Not encouraging. Will Gordon Brown want 'build a liberal, compassionate, consensus to replace the right wing, mean market ethos, and let the middle class will see the benefit of a more equal, fairer, society. '? Austin Mitchell (the last antipodean socialist turned British Labour MP) thinks so

Environment ministers very past and future

So Robert Hill is gone, he did very occasionally give the impression of ocassionally having a vague idea there might two sides to the story of the government's brillance, but he has done as good job for them in the Senate. His service as Environment minister is forgotten, but Timothy Doyle in his entertaining Green Power suggests that as minister he was a master at dividing green groups and at closing down meetings by diplomatic disinterest. Should be useful in New York. He did steer through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the Howard government's flagship environmental legislation. It would too much to hope the Environment portfolio would go in the reshuffle to someone who actually knows something about it such as Sharman Stone? I will post next week on the new joy awaiting education I fear: the academic bill of rights.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Back to the 1920s in New South Wales

The NSW Liberals are back declaring that the NSW ALP is politically indebted to ethnic criminal gangs. This is of course supported by Paul Sheehan, Should we be grateful that NSW Liberalism gives us reason to be enthusiastic about the possible re-election of the Iemma government? Here the NSW Liberals return to their historical roots. In the 1920s the Nationalists took anti-Catholic politics to a new low. Labor was accused of being under the control of priests and publicans and this was linked to corruption and branch stacking. There was outrage when Labor supporters pulled down the British flag at the Protestant Federation election rally on Empire Day 1925. Did Catholic bashing work electorally? In 1922 Labor crashed to a severe defeat after two years of uninspiring government, bitter factional warfare in the party and a massive campaign by protestant organisations against Labor. There were 'Protestant Labor' candidates elected in 1922 and 1925. Catholic-bashing helped in 1922 but Labor would have lost anyway. However the 1922-25 Nationalist government overplayed the sectarian card to the point of obsession. It focused on the papal document Ne Temere which was interpreted as claiming that Catholics regarded Protestant marriages as not being true marriages. Legislation to outlaw promulgation of the decree was introduced in 1923 by politician and murder T. J. Ley. However it meet opposition from some Anglicans and the Legislative Council and was not passed. By 1925 it seems voters were turned off by the government's focus on sectarianism to the exclusion of anything else, Labor had reunited behind Jack Lang and won a narrow victory. Although Lang in government alienated the middle-class and many rural voters his class appeal won back many blue-collar Protestants. After 1925 the Nationalists dropped overt sectarian appeals, Thomas Bavin Premier 1927-30 was an old Deakinite and an Anglican who earned the ire of Protestants by talking to Catholic leaders. Lang in government 1930-32 inspired class panic rather than Protestant panic.

The lesson is that if Labor is not setting the agenda on economic issues cultural politics can fill the gap to Labor's disadvantage as in 1922 but that voters will be alienated by conservatives who only talk about culture as in 1925. Rather than speculating on whether John Howard's father was a New Guard member for which there is no evidence we should remember his family roots in interwar Dulwich Hill; a centre of suburban Masonry and anti-Catholicism.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Seen in South Los Angeles

The Canadian election on 23 January

If the Canadian elections result in a Conservative victory we can expect a flurry of excitement in The Australian but some background is required ( I will ignore the Quebec issue). From an Australian perspective Canada is a land in which the Labor Party started out as the Country Party and the Liberal Party started out as One Nation. The left-right division is there but arranged very differently.

Canada entered the twentieth century like Australia with a liberal and conservative party, although unlike Australia the Liberals tended to free trade and the Conservatives to protection. Unlike Australia however farmers (particularly in the west) felt themselves oppressed by eastern capitalists and Conservative protectionist and inclined to the left. In the 1930s farmer organisations, some unionists and socialists united to form the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). The rise of the Federation is beautifully described in Lipset'’s Agrarian Socialism; Lipset is still alive and is the last of those young Jewish socialists who found their way to neo-conservatism, although he never went as far as some. Many thought that the CCF would supplant the Liberals as the party of the left (as had occurred in Australia) but this never occurred. The Liberals moved leftwards in a New Dealish kind of way, many pragmatic unionists stuck with the Liberals, the Canadian Communists supported the Liberals during WW2, and the Liberals held the culturally dissident vote: French Canadians, Catholics and First Nations. In the early 1960s the CCF reformed as the New Democratic Party (NDP) and shifted its appeal from farmers, a shrinking and increasingly conservative group, towards workers and the intelligentsia. In western Canada the CCF largely supplanted the Liberals as the left party. In 1944 it was elected to office in Saskatchewan, under the leadership of Tommy Douglas, grandfather of Kiefer Sutherland , as the first socialist government in North America and currently governs there and in Manitoba. However in eastern Canada the Liberals remained the dominant party of the left. It has been the same nationally; the NDP has never been able to supplant the Liberals. Former NDP members often join the Liberals as the only way to national office. The current Liberal Health minister was NDP premier of British Columbia, where he led the NDP to its worst ever defeat.

In 1993 the old party system was smashed not from the left but from the right. By the 1980s western Canadians no long saw themselves as oppressed by eastern capitalists but by high-taxing governments too beholden to Quebec, and they considered the Conservatives (in government since 1984) as much to blame for this as the Liberals. In 1993 they dumped the Conservatives en masse for a One Nation style populist right party; Reform. The Conservatives plummeted to 2 seats and the Liberal returned to power. The split in the right-wing vote between Reform (later renamed Canadian Alliance) and the Conservatives helped the third-wayish Liberals to easy victories in 1997 and 2000. The NDP was a distant third; it was hard hit by the disastrous term of an NDP government in Ontario (1990-95) which led to the loss of all its electorates in this industrial heartland and the rise of Reform which captured the western protest vote for the right. As the NDP challenged the centre-left Liberals from further to the left it was particularly disorientated by the crisis of the socialist project. Its current leader has tried to appeal to anti-corporate globalisation sentiment with some success, but the Greens now erode the NDP vote from the left. In 2003 the right reunited as the ‘Conservative Party of Canada’. The old Conservatives were an eastern establishment party, but Reform was influenced by the American right and tended to a religious social conservatism. In 2004 the scandal-ridden Liberals had a narrow victory over the new Conservatives, largely because many voters saw the Conservatives as being too extreme. Now however the Conservatives are leading in the polls, they seem to have been more successful in distancing themselves from the religious right, and like John Howard in 1996 presenting themselves as a moderate alternative (some Conservatives fear they have sold out) to a complacent government, even although the economy is booming, as the Liberals have highlighted. Liberals are depressed or very depressed and fear that many normal Liberal voters will abstain. NDP supporters are feeling more confident. The apparent Conservative shift to the centre also advantages the NDP, left-wing voters are less likely to rally around the Liberals to stop the Conservatives (this is encouraged by Canada'’s first past the post system), and the NDP has appealed to left-leaning Liberals. This appeal has been assisted by the replacement of Jean Chretian as Liberal leader and PM by Paul Martin, Chretian had a more left image than Martin.

What will happen on the 23rd? Current polls of decided voters have the Conservatives ahead about 37% to 29% for the Liberals with 18% for the Quebec based Bloc Quebecois and 5% for the Greens. Betting markets are more positive about the Liberals however. The Conservatives have made up substantial ground. Some in the NDP are now dreaming about the possibility of finishing second if there is a Liberal collapse. It is difficult to see where they could win the electorates to achieve this. I think the Liberals have enough safe seats, largely definable in terms of ethnic diversity, whilst NDP will struggle to gain Conservative seats (although a Liberal collapse will help them in western Canada). With first past the post and five parties predicting seat outcomes is a lottery but even an 11% swing from the Liberals to the NDP, which would put the NDP ahead in votes, would leave it behind in seats the NDP has to rely on the Conservatives substantially increasing their vote to have hope of beating the Liberals into second.

When the Australian press has mentioned Canada it has been in the context of debates about foreign policy and ties between the Australian Liberals and the Canadian Conservatives. The more interesting questions, from an Australian view, could arise in First Nations policy; some Conservatives propose similar critiques of indigenous self-determination in Canada to those made in Australia by conservatives. I will provide a further analysis next week.