Bernie pic

Bernie pic

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Aussie progressives choose long hard roads

Seventy years of Left activism in Australia

Far Left In Australia Since 1945, editors Jon Piccini, Evan Smith and Matthew Worley, Routledge, London and New York, 2019. 
Book review by Bernie Dowling

THIS book, written for popular as well as academic readers, is officially due out next year, so I guess this is a preview rather than a review.
Copies appear to be available now from the publisher’s website
The site does not have a graphic of the cover and I copied the one above from the national library records. The publisher could update with a different cover but I am betting on the banner of the defunct Builder’s Labourers’ Federation – now part of the CMFEU – will fly on the front of this book.
As well as constituting a preview, my musings are largely based on background material and a review of a Beta copy by Wollongong academic Rowan Cahill.
I will stop the equivocations lest I start to appear as incredible as triple-speak lawyer Rudy Giuliani defending Donald Trump.
This book does not regard the Far Left as the inverse of the deservedly maligned Far Right, Cahill tells us in his review. 
Reviewer Rowan Cahill probably could have saved time by saying the 17 contributors have varying degrees of sympathy with the Left.

But, in saying that, Cahill would have lost all the fun of describing the Far Right:

“a gaggle of neo-nazis, fascists etcetera of a thuggish acid-in-your-face kind, racist trolls, a cyberspace of one-person-and-a-dog-flat-earth ‘parties’ that manage to jag the system and gain traction amongst fake news devotees, Christian clappers with heads buried in the Old Testament, and a galaxy of their combinations and ilk.”

On the other hand,

“Far Left refers to the politics, passions, enthusiasms, strategies and formations to the left of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), which, as is evident in this book, and generally speaking, was not Far Left.”

In short, the sort of people I, and perhaps you, engage with on Twitter, including people committed to reforming the Labor Party from within.
By now, you will probably have an inkling whether you will like this book but I will provide more encouragement with chapter outlines:

Jon Piccini

·         Introduction : the history of the far left in Australia since 1945 / Jon Piccini, Evan Smith and Matthew Worley
·         Australian communism in crisis, 1956 / Phillip Deery
·         The current of Maoism in the Australian far left / Drew Cottle and Angela Keys
·         Breaking with Moscow : the Communist Party of Australia's new road to socialism / David McKnight
·         The "white Australia" policy must go : the Communist Party of Australia and immigration restriction / Jon Piccini and Evan Smith
·         The far left and the fight for Aboriginal rights : the formation of the Council for Aboriginal Rights (CAR), 1951 / Jennifer Clark [No Capital A for Aboriginal according to details lodged with the national library. I will ask Tweeter Marcia Langton about this].
·         How far left? : negotiating radicalism in Australian anti-nuclear politics in the 1960s / Kyle Harvey
·         1968 in Australia : the student movement and the New Left / Russell Marks
·         Changing consciousness, changing lifestyles : Australia's women liberation, the left and the politics of "personal solutions" / Isobelle Barrett Meyering
·         Black power and white solidarity : the Action Conference on Racism and Education, Brisbane 1972 / Lewis d'Avigdor
·         The Australian left and gay liberation, from 1945 to 2000s / Liz Ross
·         Beating BHP : the Wollongong jobs for women campaign 1980-1991 / Diana Covell
·         Halcyon days? : the Amalgamated Metal Workers' Union and the accord / Elizabeth Humphrys
·         Reading and contesting Germaine Greer and Dennis Altman : the 1970s and beyond / Jon Piccini and Ana Stevenson
·         The cultural front : left cultural activism in the post-war era / Lisa Milner.

NOW that I have performed my reviewing duties I am entitled to a whinge about the prices of books which are likely to be set as university texts. This 286-page book retails for $AU 242 (hardback) $49.99 (paperback) and $67.27 (eBook).
As someone of mature age, if not maturity, I have gone back to university full-time and have to endure the expense of academic texts.

 I know 17 historians contributed to this book but I cannot imagine they would expect much in the way of royalties. Aren’t they supposed to be publishing to garner peer admiration, tenure, a pay rise, or escape from a tiny office near the broom cupboard to a slightly larger room neat the stairwell?
Prices seem exploitative of history students, teachers, and librarians who have to fork out $AU242 for a hardback or $67.27 for an eBook. Any neo-Marxist among the authors must be suitably embarrassed.

My own 300-page history book sells for a mere $AU30

As an eBook, my quasi-historical neo-noir is $AU11.67.
And I cannot make a bunch of history student buy my books. Where’s my placard? I can feel a protest coming. What do we want? Mandatory purchases of Bernie’s books.
You can buy The Far Left In Australia Since 1945 HERE.
Rowan Cahill review was first published in an edited form in Recorder (Newsletter of the Melbourne Labour History Society), Issue No. 293, November 2018, pp. 8-9.

Here is our video to accompany my review: 

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