Jordan Shanks (Friendlyjordies) recently released a video about AUKUS which was generally quite agreeable. He agreed with Keating’s assessment of the AUKUS deal (which was fiery and correct) and the media infatuation with it (which was even more fiery and correct). He took shots at the think tank “experts” of ASPI and other NGOs, including an amusing and mildly surprising jab at the Israeli lobby. He even called out people within the Labor Party itself who in various ways sell out to the allure of Empire.
But then he fell back on some lacklustre arguments to sort of just, sweep it aside with a nationalist flair.
The basis of Shanks’ argument is that Labor is, and should be, full of true Australian patriots, including Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong. Putting aside the clear issues with nationalist rhetoric generally, he is quite selective with his examples, perhaps wrongly. Albanese and Wong, as current leaders, are safe – they must not agree with AUKUS because… well, how could they? Never mind that the party, including Wong and Marles, strongly supported the agreement back in 2021, or Wong’s general parroting of the Washington position mixed up with rhetorical shred of independence as a middle-man in the region.
Whitlam is another favourite pariah against US interests, given the supposed “coup” against him that available documents don’t appear to substantiate. For instance, to the contrary, he wasn’t opposed to US interests in Chile in the early 1970s, and didn’t want his unease about Australian involvement to be seen as anti-American. He was also very keen for Indonesia – under the brutal rule of Suharto – to “diplomatically” take over East Timor, another move that was heavily backed the US in 1975 resulting in a genocidal invasion (I’ll even cite a source Shanks swears by for this, Independent Australia).
Even Rudd, while quite publicly opposed to war with China and pretty blunt in his criticisms of certain policies and decisions, disagreed with Keating and called for a “realistic” approach that embraced AUKUS and increased US engagement. Such is the script for someone who recently became the Ambassador to the US. Interestingly, Shanks was quite sharp in his condemnation of Gillard – probably more because of her backstabbing of Rudd than the American connection, a personal bias as a personal friend of Rudd. He also did not mention Bob Hawke, which is for the best given the man was an informant for the US (article is behind a paywall, but if you contact the author he has handed it out previously, and if you have access to university libraries online it’s there).
All that on top of the fact that Shanks himself notes there are those in the Labor Party who are beholden to US interests, which he is, to his credit, willing to call out. But there are two concerns with his approach. The first is the deference to “good” leaders, which as discussed is dishonest at best. The second is the solution. It isn’t criticising the Labor Party for kowtowing to US demands – a criticism Shanks, champion of the people, jokes comes from the unemployed – but… joining the Labor Party and accepting US power as the norm.
The premise is nice – the more people who join the party, the more the interests of the people will be heard and represented. Two problems arise from this, however. One, it seems like the majority of the Labor Party membership does oppose AUKUS and the loss of independence and sovereignty, and some MPs have broken ranks to voice this. For naught, it seems, as AUKUS is going full steam – or nuclear – ahead. Second, following that, the Labor Party and the party system as a whole has historically been an extremely ineffective way to oppose US power, and in fact it binds us to it more. It is not through the meek subservience to foreign interests within the Labor Party we will make change, it is through direct defiance to US power and interests in Australia and the wider Asia-Pacific region.
Albanese “recognising the limits of power” isn’t something to be lauded as a good leadership quality as a “governor of a province in the Empire”, to me it’s a terrifying capitulation to the fact we are not in control of our own affairs on the international and even national stage. That it is such an open secret that we are simply a lackey to US and corporate interests, and that the media can suddenly shift public opinion against anyone they dislike, is abysmal. By not calling it out, by not challenging it loudly and directly, the chilling effect on Australian democracy is winning.
Albanese won’t last a term if he steps back from AUKUS and the US moves to depose him? Good – let them try it and take the movement to the streets. For all my criticisms of Labor, I’d sure as hell be out there marching to defend them and Albanese against the overreach of US power in this country. All it would take is a shred of conviction from the Labor leadership and their membership to rip themselves out of the stranglehold they’ve let themselves be dragged into.
That’s what I’d defend. Not the half-arsed excuses for toeing the US line, again. That deserves all the derision it gets from those who genuinely oppose US Empire.