Why I left the lefties
October 16, 2009
Kevin Donnelly had a working-class upbringing. He lived in a working-class suburb. His father was a Communist. As a student, he took part in protests against the Vietnam War. He went to University. He got a job as a teacher. He joined a union.
Then he joined the Liberal Party.
Why did Kevin join the Liberal Party?
Because he realised his father was a dreamer. Because socialism is driven by “class bitterness and the politics of envy”. Because Edmund Burke was right when he emphasised the need to conserve, not revolutionise, social institutions. Because evolution is better than revolution, and “[a]s Burke predicted, the French Revolution descended into terror and brutality. Since then, history is littered with tyrants such as Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot who killed and enslaved billions in the name of socialism.”
In addition to Burke, Kevin blames the work of George Orwell, especially Animal Farm.
As for Marxism, there is “something soulless and reductionist about” it: “To say that great literature, art and music are simply the results of power relationships denies the creative urge driven by moral and spiritual forces”.
After abandoning his job as a teacher, Kevin got a gig with Kevin Andrews as his Chief of Staff.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Still, I have a few minor quibbles with Kevin.
To begin with, ‘the left’ is rather more extensive than the CPA (or the ALP). Thus Orwell, whom Kevin cites with approval, was a ‘leftist’, and his parable was intended to debunk the myth of ‘Soviet Russia’, not ‘socialism’, something to which he remained committed until his death. Further, while there are economistic, mechanistic and reductionist interpretations of Marx’s thought, his writings have been proven to be rather more fecund than Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China or Pol Pot’s Cambodia might otherwise suggest.
A movement of the left should distinguish with clarity between its long-range revolutionary aims and certain more immediate effects it can hope to achieve…
But in the long run, a movement of the left has no chance of success, and deserves none, unless it develops an understanding of contemporary society and a vision of a future social order that is persuasive to a large majority of the population. Its goals and organisational forms must take shape through their active participation in political struggle [in its widest sense] and social reconstruction. A genuine radical culture can be created only through the spiritual transformation of great masses of people — the essential feature of any social revolution that is to extend the possibilities for human creativity and freedom… The cultural and intellectual level of any serious radical movement will have to be far higher than in the past… It will not be able to satisfy itself with a litany of forms of oppression and injustice. It will need to provide compelling answers to the question of how these evils can be overcome by revolution or large-scale reform. To accomplish this aim, the left will have to achieve and maintain a position of honesty and commitment to libertarian values.
~ Noam Chomsky, Radical Priorities, pp. 189-90
See also : Kevin Donnelly, John McIntrye, and the right to indoctrinate while sucking on the taxpayer teat…, loon pond, September 29, 2009.
- The Australian can’t tell its left from right, Guy Rundle, Crikey, September 25, 2009 | The past and future of the Left, Guy Rundle, Crikey, September 28, 2009 | Rundle: A vision of the future, written by the Left. Part III, Guy Rundle, Crikey, September 29, 2009.