Rethinking multiculturalism

The following is an excerpt from Chapter Eight of 'Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture War', (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005).

What do most people mean by multiculturalism?

Before proceeding let's examine what positive motives are behind this concept. What's positive is a deep desire to oppose racism. Support for multiculturalism expresses a desire for a world in which people from different cultural backgrounds will respect each other and in which the inevitable disagreements within any society do not lead to violence based on ethnic or cultural difference. It also represents a rejoicing in diversity and variety. It can represent a rejection of being confined to the narrowness of one's own culture and a desire to share aspects of a culture not one's own. Multiculturalism is also motivated by a desire for equality, expressed as an equality between groups.

Thinking beyond that coloured label

GREAT movements in politics and history have always been underpinned by powerful ideas. In the historic conflict between capital and labour, one side championed the ideas of socialism, and the other a mixture of liberalism and conservatism.

But what powerful ideas underpin the newest global political force, the Greens? Although the Greens represent something new in politics, both their enemies and friends try to categorise their ideas under the old labels of right and left, based on the class war.

Don't equate ideologies

Sydney Morning Herald

12 January 2005

Hope and optimism were associated with Marxism in a way that was impossible with fascism. This article responded to a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald by writer Louis Nowra.

Do Australian communists have blood on their hands? Is the Che-T-shirt-wearing generation a modern version of the Hitler Youth? Louis Nowra claimed on this page on Monday that communism and fascism are equal and he lamented that a plaque near his home records the life of an East Sydney communist.

The fact that Che is chic and that Soviet-era kitsch is sold widely is significant but not in the way Nowra thinks. Not only have these symbols been emptied of their original meaning but the old framework defining right and left has been transformed since the end of the Cold War and the reconstruction of the right by the free-traders and neo-liberals.

Capitalism (not Jesus) is the reason for the season

You all should know by now about the growing split on the Right between the free marketeers and old style conservatives who believe in values other than the commercial.

This was dramatically demonstrated by the stand taken by conservative religious figures George Pell and Peter Jensen over Howard's IR laws. (A very good piece on Jensen and his politics and values is in the latest 'Monthly' by Andrew West. )

But did you see this gem on 17 December in 'The Australian' by columnist Caroline Overington? Basing herself on material from the Ayn Rand Institute she calls for more profits and presents at Christmas.

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Her article sounds like it is oriented to an American readership but there is no mistaking her desire that commercial values should prevail over religious values. George and Peter, please take note:

'I think Christmas should be much more commercial,' says Overington.

The culture war and moral politics

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of "Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture War" (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005).

In early 2004, the Prime Minister, John Howard, sparked a brief but intense national debate about the values taught in public and private schools. Parents were increasingly sending their children to private schools because, he said, 'they feel that government schools have become too politically correct and too values-neutral'. The acting Education Minister, Peter McGauran joined in, adding that too many government schools were 'hostile or apathetic to Australian heritage and values'. Treasurer Peter Costello backed his leader. Parents turned to private schools, he said, because they delivered hard work, achievement by effort, respect for other people and strong academic standards.

The Death of the Old Right: when conservatives become radicals

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 4 of "Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture War" (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005).

One night about 30 years ago I drove in a battered car with a comrade through the darkened streets of inner Sydney, spray cans at the ready. That night we endlessly painted a slogan on brick walls, fences and the side of factories. The slogan read 'Stop Work to Stop Fraser'. It was just a few days after the notorious sacking of the Whitlam Labor Government by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, and the abrupt installation of the leader of the Liberal Party, Malcolm Fraser, as Prime Minister. The response of the Communist Party, of which I was a member, was to try our hardest to organize a general strike by trade unions to protest the assault on democracy represented by the sacking. Politically, lots of things have changed since then but I don't regret for one minute trying to help organize that strike.

The triumph of an idea: how neo-liberalism succeeded

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of "Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture War" (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005).

The power of ideas to shape societies is profound although we are largely unaware of their effect in our day to day lives. Underneath the common sense of an epoch and the slogans of its political parties are buried sets of philosophical ideas and values. These new ideas often begin as the property of a small group which then filter out into the surrounding society. If they find fertile ground they can spread and transform societies in a relatively rapid time. This has occurred with many new religious ideas, such as Christianity and it also occurred with the ideas of the socialists in the nineteenth century. The ideas of democracy, equality and reason fermented in French society before they burst out in 1789 in a revolution which not only transformed France but Europe and beyond.

Laurie Aarons: 19 August 1917 - 7 February 2005

This obituary for Laurie Aarons, a leader of the Communist Party of Australia, appeared in The Age, 11 February 2005 under the heading 'Top comrade bucked heavy-handed Soviets'.

One of the first acts of rebellion by Laurie Aarons, who has died of cancer at Calvary Hospital in Sydney, aged 87, occurred during the 1930s when a conservative member of the NSW Parliament tried to pass a law enforcing "neck-to-knee" costumes at Bondi and other surfing beaches in Sydney.

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