In the essay by Martin Lynch, “Why Alice Can’t Get Ahead” (Quadrant, October 2019), although he did not use the word socialism, it is obvious that what he was describing was, in fact, a textbook example of socialism. To me, his essay raised the question: What is a socialist society, whose very nature is to choke individual initiative, doing in Australia, one of the best democracies in the world?
After first demonstrating that Alice’s society is indeed socialist in form, I have attempted to answer the question by outlining the historical progress of Aboriginal affairs in the context of the Australian Constitution, the consequences flowing from the diversity of people of Aboriginal descent, and the effect of the flow of taxpayer funds into that area. The conclusion I draw is that, although Alice’s society is indeed socialist in form, it is not so by accident, but by design: it is a key part of a much larger socialist strategy.
The fundamentals of socialism
What is socialism? The most wide-ranging and rigorous description of socialism that I have found is Igor Shafarevich’s The Socialist Phenomenon (1980). In the foreword, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn noted that “Shafarevich has singled out the invariants of socialism, its fundamental and unchanging elements, which depend neither on time and place”, and that “the first socialist doctrines … sought to counteract the endeavour of the human spirit to stand erect, and strove to return to the earthbound existence of the primitive states of antiquity”.
This essay appears in April’s Quadrant.
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Shafarevich studied forms of society from antiquity through to the present. On the basis of this study he concluded that four clear-cut principles exist at the base of the socialist doctrine. These principles have guided the life of socialist societies in the course of several millennia, and have changed over time only in form and motivation. The four basic principles are: the abolition of private property, the abolition of the family, the abolition of religion, and communality or equality.
The abolition of private property in its negative form, that is in a form that is not asserted, he found to be inherent in all socialist doctrines. Its appearance in its positive form is not as common, but when it does appear it is usually of one or two distinct variants: communality of property, or state property.
The abolition of the family is proclaimed in most socialist states. The most common form is the negative form, a de-emphasis of the role of the family, such as the weakening of family ties, and the termination of certain functions of the family. In its positive form, concerning the relationship between the sexes, or between parents and children, it appears in a number of variants: total obliteration of the family, communality of wives, destruction of the relationship between parent and child, or as a weakening of family ties, or making the family into a unit controlled by the bureaucratic state.
In the case of the abolition of religion, Shafarevich showed that in Plato’s system, religion was made an element of the state’s ideology, and the opinions of the citizens were shaped into a form necessary to the state. In many of the states of the ancient orient, a similar situation existed: the main function of religion was deification of the king, the personification of the state. Hostility to religion is inherent in all socialist situations from the Middle Ages through to the present, but only rarely has it been legislated.
As far as communality or equality is concerned, this feature is found in almost all socialist doctrines. In its negative form it is expressed in calls to depose society’s leaders, such as calls to bring down the proud, the rich and the powerful, or to abolish privilege. As well, the requirement of equality can give rise to an attack on the prevailing culture if it is seen as contributing to spiritual and intellectual inequality; this can lead to an attempt to destroy the culture itself. This is first seen in the works of Plato, and recently in the leftist movements in the West that say Western culture is individualistic, repressive and suffocating, and ideological guerrilla warfare against the prevailing culture is promoted.
Shafarevich then goes on to elucidate the inter-relationship of the four key elements, which form an organic whole. He came to the conclusion that all four components of the socialist ideal may be deduced from one principle: the suppression of individuality. This notion of the suppression of individuality is particularly pertinent to Martin Lynch’s essay, which focused on a very real individual, Alice. There is a tendency these days to think in abstract terms of groups, or collections of individuals, in which the basic humanity of the individuals in them becomes blurred and lost.
Alice’s socialist society
Let us now see if the four socialist invariants of Sharafevich can be found in the society that Alice lives in.
First, the abolition of property. Lynch’s essay centres on the only bit of property, an old uninsured car, that Alice had saved for and purchased, and that she very much needed; it was stolen, and wrecked, by black juveniles living in her community. Even though the offenders were caught by the police, this was of no use to her in terms of getting her car back in a drivable state. The justice system where she lived saw it “as an insurance issue” even though it was a theft, effectively shutting the door on the possibility of compensation from the offenders.
To make matters worse, “many in the justice system even say that property crime is a form of wealth distribution, something that should be tolerated as the dividends of a wealthy society”. This idea makes “sense” only if the “wealthy society” referred to is the wider society in Australia, not Alice’s poor society. The theory behind it is that, if a black person steals something from the “wealthy” white society, what has happened is simply a transfer of wealth from one person to another, and nothing else. Justice is done. This situation is the happy dream of well-off socialists, who accept the benefits of democracy, but whose minds occupy an abstract world far removed from the reality of the plight of a black woman trying to get ahead. These well-off socialists would be the first to resort to the justice system if their Audi were redistributed. The redistribution of Alice’s old car is another matter.
Clearly, in Alice’s case we have the application of the socialist “abolition of property” in its negative form (calls to bring down the proud, the rich and the powerful or to abolish privilege) alive, and thriving, in the justice system that oversees the community that Alice lives in. When it is applied to the community of which Alice is a part, a community that has very little property, it is devastating to any individual who desires to get ahead. In reality, the effect is to keep her dependent on the state, keep her down, to deny her the practical opportunity to rise, a situation that is incongruent with the spirit of our democratic Constitution. Here is the first of the four socialist variants at work within our borders.
Second, abolition of the family. If Alice’s situation is any guide, the abolition of the family has been already achieved in her community “There were some white men in there, one white man being a baby daddy … That relationship ended with acrimony … The next baby daddy was an Aboriginal boy … That relationship did not last either … while the fathers shared custody, they were not with her to assist, provide comfort, share the burden … and generally take responsibility … Over the years, another baby, and another baby daddy came, but he did not hang around either.” The baby daddies do not even go anywhere near replacing the father figure in the traditional family. So who, or what is now the husband and father, the one who assists, provides comfort, shares the burden and takes responsibility? “The state has taken that role … She is now married to the state”. And what about the love that binds the traditional family together? Where did that go? To be “married” to the state, an impersonal bureaucracy, must be the stuff of nightmares, an awesome monster on which you are totally dependent, and that reluctantly gives you just enough to get by on. Love, one of the deepest of human needs, is non-existent.
Third, abolition of religion. Is it likely that we will encounter Christianity in Alice’s society? Christianity, one of whose main tenets is the importance of individuals in society, is the religion historically at the basis of the Australian nation, but we see no evidence of it in Alice’s society. What about traditional Aboriginal religion? We are dealing here with the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Australian continent, all the many tribes of which had forms of religion. Concerning the religion of the Australian Aborigines, in his book The Australian Aborigines A.P. Elkin noted:
It is the life apart, a life of ritual and mythology, of sacred rites and objects. It is the life in which man really finds his place in society, and in nature, and in which he is brought in touch with the invisible things of the world of the past, present and future.
There is no sign of this spiritual life in Alice’s community. On the contrary, if the juvenile offenders are an indicator, they seem lost and searching for something to give their life meaning, to satisfy a deep spiritual urge that is in every human being. Lynch notes:
Crime, despite what many people say, isn’t a political act. The offenders are not trying to strike a blow against oppressors. Most of them have enough to live on … It’s excitement, challenge, meaning and point they crave … They are surrounded by people, but people like themselves, selfish, bitter and cynical. Therefore, most of them, even in the midst of a crowd of like-minded people, feel friendless and lonely.
There is no traditional spiritual life here, no man “finding his place in society and nature”.
The post-Christian West of the last sixty years might explain the lack of Christianity in Alice’s community. But where did the indigenous religion go? It has certainly gone, and has been replaced by a society that is drifting and lost and dependent on the state. Here is a successful case of the socialist aim of the abolition of religion.
Fourth, communality or equality. In the case of this variant, we are seeing again the application of calls to bring down leaders, “calls to bring down the proud, the rich and the powerful or to abolish privilege” that we saw in the case of the variant “abolition of property”. We saw that this idea, when taken out of the context of a wealthy society, was disastrous when applied to individuals in a poor society. Is stealing Alice’s old car perhaps, in the minds of the offenders, an unconscious form of this idea, somehow intimately mixed with their urge to steal and give their life meaning? It seems likely. As well, the requirement of equality can give rise to an attack on the prevailing culture if it is seen as contributing to spiritual and intellectual inequality. Could this also be an element in the minds of the offenders?
It seemed that everyone, including other indigenous people, was comfortable with Alice being helpless and dependent, but had a problem when she started digging herself out … The wider indigenous core identity statements discouraged even taking part in, let alone succeeding in broader society. Those appeals to her identity were targeted at her very mind and soul.
Was Alice’s aspirational culture the target as well? If it was, we have the bizarre situation of a community that, made a dependent society by others, is now actively perpetuating its own dependency. This has overtones of science fiction!
In what has been written so far the reader will have noted examples of Shafarevich’s principle of the suppression of individuality, but now let us focus on Alice as an individual, trying to rise above the very bottom rung in society. Alice clearly saw herself, and was viewed by others, as having an aspirational nature, and was willing to work hard for her kids, “who Alice wanted to get educated so they could have some sort of a future … She was doing what she could to inch herself up too”. She was enthusiastic, doing extra work. But, “Any time I try to get ahead, its like they purposely drag me back. I’m not even a tall poppy. I’m like a weed trying to get its leaves above the soil.” She clearly did not understand what was happening; she thought nothing made sense:
She was constantly told that the system makes allowances for indigenous people. So why was she disadvantaged by the system? Because she owned just a little bit of property? For being aspirational? Being a single mother? Being a single aspirational mother who owned property?
Clearly, this was a society that suppressed individuality.
The society in which Alice lives satisfies the four variants that have characterised socialist societies over the millennia and, to confirm this, the society suppresses individuality. Without doubt we have here a socialist society. But how can this be? How can such a society exist in our free democratic country, a country of opportunity for all individuals, designed so that they can contribute their gifts to the flourishing of our democracy and, at the same time, get ahead? To assist us to answer this question we need to know a little more about the history of Australia.
The Constitution and the progress of Aboriginal affairs
Before the arrival of European civilisation in 1788, the continent was occupied for many thousands of years by hundreds of tribes of Aborigines speaking many different languages. With the writing of the Australian Constitution in 1901, Australia became a nation. The Constitution is enriched by conventions dating back to Magna Carta, including the rule of law: the idea that all citizens, high and low, are bound by the same provisions, to be applied impartially. The Constitution, in a clear and authentic form, enriched by democratic values, laid out a system of federal government, the relationship between the central institutions, and the distribution of powers between them; it was intended to serve the country as a whole, and to endure. The Constitution, and the parliamentary system that works within its framework, is a voice for all the citizens of Australia irrespective of race, religion or creed. The special status of the individual is underlined by the fact that constitutional change can only be accomplished by a referendum measuring the response of individual voters throughout the land.
By 1961 the policy of assimilation of Aborigines had been approved by the various Australian governments. The policy aimed at ensuring that all Aborigines, and part-Aborigines, would live as members of a single Australian community, enjoying the same rights and opportunities as other Australians, and accepting the same responsibilities. The push for integration was driven by a feeling that Australia needed cohesion, a single clear focus of loyalty that stood above sectional and racial preoccupations. The 1967 referendum provided for an expansion of Commonwealth powers over Aboriginal affairs. The vote accepted the sole sovereign authority of the institutions established by the Constitution, but went some way towards removing any differentiation between citizens on the basis of race.
In the early 1970s there was a shift to a policy of self-determination for Aborigines, rather than assimilation. At a time when many people of Aboriginal descent were living in towns and cities, it was not clear how the new credo applied to such people. In 2017, a proposal for an Aboriginal special “voice” to parliament was put forward, but was rejected by the Prime Minister. The central issue concerning the “voice” is whether a group within the community, defined by race, should be given a constitutionally enshrined entitlement to participate in the parliamentary process in a way not open to other citizens. The proposal was, therefore, contrary to the democratic spirit of the Australian Constitution designed to secure the rule of law and provide equal civil rights for all.
The diversity of people of Aboriginal descent
People claiming to be of Aboriginal descent are a very diverse group, ranging from many totally assimilated, part-Aboriginal people living in suburbs, many holding positions in the public service, the professions, universities and government, while, at the other extreme, there are others who live in remote communities, many of whom are full-blooded, and attached to their tribal ways. There are varying combinations between these two extremes.
I remember being in the main street of Tennant Creek in the late 1980s when one of a small group of young Aborigines hailed another Aborigine in front of me, who had just alighted from his four-wheel-drive, with the words, “Hello, brother!” to which the other Aborigine replied emphatically, “I am not your brother!” Of course this encounter may have been due to personal animosity that I was not aware of, but my feeling at the time was that it was something else. In his essay, Martin Lynch makes the comment that “Government, even the bloated indigenous bureaucracy, can’t or won’t help her.” There is apparently no brotherhood there either. Paul Hasluck, in his book Shades of Darkness (1988), commenting on the shift to self-determination, said:
One immediate change in method was the sudden transference of a number of fully-assimilated persons of part-Aboriginal descent into professional Aborigines who … became the confident authorities on the “way of their people”.
It seems reasonable to infer, on the basis of these comments, that within the assimilated end of the spectrum of the Aboriginal community, there has developed an elite political class. This elite group has set itself up as the source of knowledge concerning Aboriginal life, and the needs of anyone who is Aboriginal or part-Aboriginal. As far as concern for the welfare of those at the other end of the spectrum, one gets the impression that although mentally pulling everyone together on the basis of race, personal, brotherly feelings are weak to non-existent in the political class. The attention of the political class is focused elsewhere, on gaining power—the indigenous “voice” to parliament. In this sense, there is a disconnection between the political class and the others, that I will call the “detached” class. But in another significant sense, the political and the detached classes are intimately and tightly connected in a symbiotic relationship. This relationship is underpinned by the flow of money from the taxpayer to all people of Aboriginal descent. But it is not in an even flow. The conduit varies in diameter. Like a carpet snake that has just devoured a possum, there seems to be a distinct bulge towards the end that the political class resides in.
The effect of the flow of taxpayer funds
Is not the flow of taxpayer funds over the last fifty years, down the conduit to the detached class, aimed at improving their situation, with a view to helping them, as individuals, to rise in the wider Australian society, and access the opportunities available to each citizen within the framework of our democratic Constitution? Is not the aim to eventually have everyone on a truly equal basis? Has not the massive flow of money been meant to solve this social problem once and for all? When you look at the steady progress since the 1930s on improving the situation of Aboriginal people in general, and making them fully participating members of the nation, that is clearly what has been the goal of government. So how is it that, after fifty years, where Alice lives, there exists a self-perpetuating dependent socialist society in which initiative is choked off?
To answer this question, let us follow the technique of Poirot: “Cui bono?” he says to himself in order to guide his thinking.
Start with Alice’s society. Does this flow of money to Alice’s society advantage the individuals in it? We have shown that the flow of money has produced a dependent society that will self-perpetuate as long as the flow of money continues. The individuals in it are mostly lost, dispirited, isolated, cynical and lonely, seemingly drugged by the flow of money. Those individuals that want to rise out of it are cut down by the self-perpetuating socialist society. In other words, there is no evidence that the stream of money is having the effect for which it is intended.
Let us now look at the other end of the money flow, the bulge in the pipe. Here a large part of the money is used to support a bureaucracy that is supposed to ensure that the flow of money to the other end has the effect of solving the social problems there. But we have seen that this is not happening. Some money does flow down the pipe, but it does not achieve its intended aim. What then are the individuals in the bloated bureaucracy occupying themselves with? It seems that the availability of vast funds has allowed the growth of a political class whose aim is to gain advantage and power, based on race, in clear contradiction to the wishes of the taxpayers who supply the money and to the spirit of the Australian Constitution.
Common sense tells us that the Aboriginal political class have a very clear goal, and a set plan on how to achieve it. Their goal is to achieve power in Australia based on race. Their plan is to continue to soak up taxpayer funds on the pretext that they are concerned about “their people”. Written into the plan is the crucial requirement that the flow of funds must never cease, in fact must continue to increase. Creation of a self-perpetuating, dependent society at the far end of the Aboriginal spectrum will ensure this. The socialism existing in communities like Alice’s did not somehow appear of its own accord, but was a necessary element in a much bigger socialist plan.
What can be said about the ideology of the Aboriginal political class? I think Marxism-Leninism fits. Lenin realised that to achieve the utopian goal of communism, the principles of Marxism needed to be put aside “temporarily” while the economy was built up, and if some of the proletariat needed be sacrificed along the way, for the greater good, then so be it. The Aboriginal political class, to ensure their “economy” continues to flourish, are sacrificing their “proletariat” for the ultimate “greater good”.
Richard Forrest is an Australian consultant geologist, now retired, living in Queensland. He has a keen interest in Western history and the trajectory of the Australian nation