the australian constitutional thingy

rc-am rcollins at
Wed Nov 10 11:39:28 PST 1999

catherine wrote:

> >>and there's no 'identity' because the prior forms of working class
> >>have proved themselves to be little more than mechanisms of integration
> >>subordination.
> i skipped this in angela's post but... this only makes sense to me at the
> level where people want to say all 'identity' in this politicised sense
> a mechanism of integration and subordination. i'm not really happy with
> that either, but are you saying there's something specific about
> workingclassness that used to be articulated as an identity and no longer
> can be?

i don't think it's a claim about identity as such, though there is implicit in there a claim -- easily substantiated i'd say -- that the forms of representation (and in this sense, identity) bequeathed to us from the history of the trade unions and the ALP have proved themselves little more than mechanisms of integration and subordination. that they mostly practiced a contradictory integration/oppositional movement is important, though they didn't always do that in equal measure either. more recently though, they were (for reasons which have nothing to do with 'betrayal' i'd hasten to add) only capable of doing the former -- with dramatic consequences both for the viability of the unions and the ALP's electoral prospects.

but at another level, you're right, perhaps it does raise the question of whether identification leads inexorably to integration. and, with three important specifications: a) that identification in this instance means identity under the sovereignty of capital (ie., labourism and unions as the bargainers of the price of labour); b) that identity here was always premised on the limit-points and exclusions of either those not in paid work (hence, the peculiar leaning of the aust welfare state as against, say, western euro social democracy) or those beyond the border which became at certain key moments (1940s, 1950s, 1980s) a policing by the unions and the ALP themselves of the more militant elements of the trade union movement as well as the exclusion of the rank and file members; b) that there is no such thing as total integration (this is a mystique peddled by only the more one-dimensional analyses of capital)....

> set (i prefer flat white myself, less chance of it being served in a
> with a tissue tied round it, i hate that).

flat white, cafe au lait.... gee you people talk funny.

> how about if it was an
> expression of 'us' and we're just part nostalgia, part rampant
> part justifiable cynicism, and part stupidity.

why would you think of it in such terms? seriously. the amount of whining from various richies has been an incredible display of class hatred i would have thought, and it's important in the context of that to be a little bit more precise with those adjectives: a) i didn't see much nostalgia, not even amongst the monarchists, who never wanted to talk about the queen because they knew few were going to be convinced by nostalgia; b) whilst most people (across the 'yes' and 'no') expressed insecurity, this was an insecurity that anyone other than ourselves would 'look out for our interests' -- and nothing at all wring about that; c) the cynicism was justifiable, yes; but it was also a cynicism about those running the show; d) there was nothing stupid about the 'no' vote: people might be widely ill-informed about the constitution, but given that document doesn't really apply to the reality of political arrangements, it was hardly an ignorance vis reality; and in any case, the only people who have turned out to have been naive are those who thought that a 'yes' vote was going to lead to a wider constitutional reform process. turnbull has been characterising 'no' voters as "no-hopers and pessimists" because, not surprisingly, he is unable to distinguish between his version of hope and optimism and that of most people, since for turnbull, he and his mates are after all the only historical subjects.

btw, distract me with the thing about the High Court's Mabo decision.

Angela _________

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