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Issue #1893      November 6, 2019

Editorial

Lest we forget

November 11 is Remembrance Day, the day when the Armistice Treaty ending World War 1 was signed in 1918. November is also an important anniversary for Australia for a very different reason. On that day in 1975, the Governor-General Sir John Kerr sacked Australia’s Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in a bloodless coup. Whitlam had indicated his government’s opposition to any foreign bases or military facilities on Australian soil, including those of the US. In particular, the lease on the most important of the US’s facilities, Pine Gap, was to come up for renewal in December. It would not be renewed according to Whitlam. (Nugan Hand, www.cpa.org.au/resources)

“Whitlam’s ‘crimes’? He pulled us out of the Vietnam War; stopped conscription and released the young men jailed for non-compliance with the draconian National Service Act; abolished the White Australia Policy; and assumed responsibility for Aboriginal health, education, welfare and land rights; initiated pay rises for workers; started Medibank [predecessor of Medicare – Ed]; abolished university fees; established legal aid and relaxed censorship and divorce law; among many other initiatives,” wrote Joan Coxsedge, former Victorian Legislative Council Member, author and artist. (Nugan Hand)

“But,” Coxsedge continues, “it seems his biggest ‘crime’ was the ‘Loans Affair’ committed by Minister for Minerals and Energy Rex Connor who tried to ‘buy back the farm’, in other words, buy back our foreign-owned resources.”

“Our man Kerr,” as the CIA called him, had strong ties with the CIA and links with Groupers, a virulent anti-communist group that set out to rid trade unions of communists. He had far-right views and long-standing ties to military intelligence. Kerr, with the blessing of the Queen, the reactionary Attorney-General Sir Garfield Barwick, the military, and opposition leader Malcolm Fraser, did the CIA’s dirty work for them. He rid US’s military ally of a “dangerous” leader. Big business was also happy to see a progressive government go. Shares on the stock market rose following the coup!

When news broke that Kerr had sacked Whitlam, furious workers took to the streets. Unions called strikes, workers walked off the job. There were violent clashes with police, who rode horses and drove vehicles through crowds of protestors. A number were injured, some arrested and charged.

Whitlam made the famous statement: “Well may we say God save the Queen. Because nothing will save the Governor-General.” Nothing did save him. He was hounded out of Australia by demonstrations wherever he went.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president, Bob Hawke, responded by calling for restraint. In the trade union movement, he was notorious for putting out disputes, not winning them for workers. Militancy was not in his vocabulary, and that is what was needed at the time. The working class was ready to respond to strong, militant leadership, but that was not forthcoming.

Hawke, more interested in class collaboration than class struggle, told The Australian, “... we have got to show we are not going to allow this situation to snowball and there is a real possibility it will snowball into violence.” He continued, “We must not substitute violence in the streets and anarchy for the processes of democracy... .

“What has happened today could unleash forces in this country the like of which we have never seen.” What was he so afraid of? A militant uprising? The end of the monarchy in Australia?

“We are on the edge of something quite terrible and therefore it is important that the Australian people respond to leadership.” His leadership, of course. This means acquiescence to the situation and sitting it out for the “processes of democracy” in an election on December 13.

That did not deter the Australian Building Construction Employees and Builders Labourers Federation. They called for a general strike and condemned Hawke for his call for restraint. Needless to say, under Hawke’s leadership of the ACTU, the call for action was not heeded.

The mass media, employers, and Coalition waged a massive campaign vilifying Labor, in which facts were a rare commodity. Labor lost the election. Malcolm Fraser was installed the following January as Prime Minister. The coup had achieved its aim.

The November 11 coup has been forgotten by many. For others, it was well before their time. It is an example of how the ruling class will dispense with democracy when it suits them and also of the influence the CIA has over politics in Australia.

Next article – Automation must include less hours, no loss of pay

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