Vale Peter McGregor RightsBase
R.I.P. Peter McGregor, Australian anti-apartheid and anti-war Activist Sydney IndyMedia
We have lost an invaluable comrade in Peter McGregor LeftClick
Peter McGregor Tribute by John/Togs Tognolini Tog’sPlace.Com
Peter McGregor 1947-2008: Thanks for the dreams that I have had with many of you. Remote Control
On a sad note… Les beanz
Permanent Love and Rage: Peter McGregor, 1947-2008 Sydney IndyMedia [Robert Austin]*
Peter McGregor: A Memoir 1947 – 14 January 2008 Ken Lovett and Mannie De Saxe
‘A radical activist to the very end’ Tony Stephens, SMH, January 23, 2008
As a member of the Viet Nam generation — I turned twenty in 1967, which meant, in Australia, that you faced conscription for the war — I’ve been well positioned to evaluate the debates about the significance of the war. Because the war became so controversial, & because it seemed the West was defeated, battles for the war’s ideological meaning & status have continued — escalated? — long after the fighting ended in 1975.
Especially over the last decade, I’ve both interpreted these cultural battles, but also contributed to them. This book is a selection, in chronological order, of my contributions…
When initially confronted with the war, I was quite immature, though 20 years old, & sat on the fence concerning both conscription & the war in general. Then the good fortune of not having my birth date picked in the conscription lottery of 1967 prompted me to check the war out more thoroughly. My tentative involvement with the anti-war movement began cautiously & indirectly with my joining the humanitarian aid group Australian Committee of Responsibility for the Children of Vietnam (ACORFCOV), founded by the wonderful Sheila Rowley. ACORFCOV was inspired by the (US) Committee of Responsibility (COR) chaired by Dr. Benjamin Spock. Evidence of what was happening (Whoops! euphemism) — being done to Vietnamese civilians & children was enough to move one to joining anti-war actions & then the movement itself.
However, by the mid 70s I’d evolved to an anarchist position, under the influence of Socialisme ou Barbarie, Solidarity (UK) and the Self Management Group (Brisbane)… ~ Cultural Battles: The Meaning of the Vietnam-USA War, Scam Publications, Brunswick (Victoria), 1998, pp.15–16
I met Peter in 1995 at the Visions of Freedom anarchist conference in Sydney, but otherwise knew him through his writings, including a short piece he wrote concerning a conference on Antonin Artaud, 100 Years of Cruelty, held in Sydney in 1996. From what I can recall, I think Peter was attempting to direct the attentions of those assembled — Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva and Sylvere Lotringer were among the *s haunting the conference — to the live theatre of cruelty which surrounded them… and something about how the real horrors of the last 100 years needed to be faced rather than effaced through ‘art’ or ‘theatre’…
Well, you can read Peter’s account here:
According to one of the conference organisers, Alan Cholodenko, Derrida’s appearance (sic) was a ‘central moment in the intellectual life of this country’. Who are they kidding ? The Clancy auditorium was less than half full, while the Dalai Lama was drawing thousands, as Noam Chomsky had done last year.
Until Derrida & this academic/artistic milieu make the jump off the fence – away from the critical-distance posture – & engage with the struggles for freedom (like Chomsky & the Lama), their appeal, & what they have to offer, will remain limited. It’s not just the abstract, convoluted language, but the displacement of human agency & the mystification of subjectivity that loses many of us: what are Derrida, Kristeva et al DOING to change the world, & what do their analyses suggest we can do to overthrow barbarism ?
Where & how does their appropriation of radical others – like Artaud – transcend recuperation ?
The conference’s claim for Artaud’s voice as ‘irrecuperable’ was an ironic contrast with their own terms of engagement with his life & work – their use of intellectual & artistic ‘stars’ & performances, the reduction of cruelty to spectacle, & the reign of ideologies of the fragmentary…
Nice one Peter!
After contacting him about the Packer Dis-Memorial Committee, he reckoned my blog was “lively”. Really nice bloke by the sounds of it, and sure to be missed. ‘Only the ruling class mourns its dead heroes’; the working class mourns by organising in memory of its friends…
See also : Peter McGregor – free at last, Ethical Martini, Sunday, 2 December 2007. “Senior Constable Stuart Cosgrove wrote to me: Frid 23 Nov: “Mr. McGREGOR, I wish to advise you that the charge of Enter Inclosed lands not prescribed premises without lawful excuse brought against you in relation to an incident that occurred at the University of NSW on 5th July 2007 and … which is scheduled for hearing at Waverley Local Court 6th Dec 2007, is to be withdrawn as per request by the University of NSW. Regards, Stuart Cosgrove, Senior Constable, Maroubra Police Station”. At the time of Peter’s alleged ‘entry onto inclosed lands not prescribed premises without lawful excuse’ he was attempting to conduct a citizens’ arrest upon former Attorney-General Philip ‘the gormless pillock’ Ruddock.
* Robert Austin writes:
The Australian Nazi Party, ideologically aligned with apartheid, organised a brutal and cowardly assault on McGregor in 1971 which I witnessed. Its propagator, one Ross Lesley May (aka “The Skull”), subsequently served time; but the police more often than not acquiesced in Nazi violence and that of fellow racists and the more fanatical rugby fans, who were often inseparable. As systematic police violence against the indigenous population before, during and after anti-apartheid’s summit has shown, racism is endemic to the colonial mentality. The declaration of a state of emergency by premier Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland meant that the police state would save the Nazis extra resources in the North. Unlike seasoned campaigners, myself and other students had been stunned when assaulted by uniformed Nazis at Sydney airport whilst there to peacefully protest the arrival of the all-white South African life-saving team. Even the traditionally-racist Sydney Daily Telegraph was momentarily shocked; in its lead article, moreover (see 24 March 1971). Sir Frank Packer’s media empire was better known for its racist editorials, some secretly penned by the poet Kenneth Slessor, according to his widow. As an aside, arrest during the Anti Apartheid Movement mobilisations—with or without conviction—was still a pretext for exclusion from practice as a teacher in Queensland as recently as 2003.
Note that Ross ‘The Skull’ is still kicking it in Sydney, where he remains one of Dr James Saleam’s closest allies, often accompanying him on public protests and at public meetings.