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As in other countries, peace and anti-nuclear movements in Australia have lost ground because of illusions in mass social-democratic parties, in Australia's case the A L P . A m o n g the more notable disasters w a s the 1966 federal election, in which m a n y opponents of the Vietnam W a r actively supported the A L P ; the result w a s that the m o v e m e n t w a s demobilised and demoralised and the A L P secured fewer votes than at any election since 1906 (Saunders and S u m m y , 1982).

Then the anti-uranium m o v e m e n t lost energy after the federal elections in 1977 and 1980; m u c h hope w a s put in an A L P victory which did not eventuate (Martin, 1989).

The "victory" of the ALP winning government in 1983 was even more demoral-ising since the n e w government reversed most of its progressive policies such as its opposition to uranium mining. (The government put in place a compromise policy which allowed only for the development of three, n a m e d mines; this policy remained in place from 1983 to 1996.) Anti-nuclear movements have had some limited success in winning over the A L P to certain positions on certain issues at certain times, but as Saunders and S u m m y (1982, p.26) note:

the cost of wooing the ALP has usually resulted in the need to adopt a lowest-common-denominator approach; analysis has been simplified and

policy and tactics have been moderated in order to maintain and increase the support the movement has won from the party. Moreover, not only has the

movement's ability to engage in radical critique and militant action been

compromised, but concomitantly the prospects for sustained future growth have been diminished.

The early performance of the ALP government led to a great deal of bitterness. At the 1984 A L P National Conference, the three-mines policy w a s established, and

the conference gave support to the A N Z U S Treaty, the U S bases, and visits of nuclear warships to Australian ports. The major response of nuclear critics w a s to compete with the A L P in the electoral arena. Thus w a s born the Nuclear

Disarmament Party ( N D P ) . In less than six months the N D P had 8 000 members, it had polled 650 000 primary votes (6.8%) in the federal election of late 1984, and an N D P candidate, Jo Vallentine, w a s elected to the Senate. (Christoff, 1985; Prior, 1987; Pakulski, 1991.)

In another six months the NDP had all but collapsed. From the start the NDP's purpose w a s to contest the next federal election; it w a s in Christoff's (1985, p. 15) words "guerilla electoralism". The N D P drew considerable support from

disgruntled m e m b e r s and former supporters of the A L P , it w a s very popular a m o n g young people, and a range of people and groups from the environmental and peace movements threw their weight behind the N D P election campaign. The Party had three planks to its platform (and no more): the closure of all foreign military bases in Australia; banning the stationing in Australia or the passage through Australian waters or airspace of any nuclear weapons; and the banning of uranium mining and export.

NDP election campaigning was frantic, and there was a good deal of exhaustion after the 1984 election (which returned the A L P to government). Since the N D P had been established to contest the election, its future direction w a s unclear. S o m e hoped it would evolve into something along the line of the G e r m a n Greens.

Other people had different ideas. The general and vague Party program w a s a blank page onto which m a n y groups wrote their o w n ideologies and programs, and these proved too diverse and contradictory. The N D P had grown so quickly that issues of structure, accountability, policy, and the involvement of m e m b e r s of other parties had not been properly addressed. At a conference in April 1985, the Party w a s badly split over these issues. The charismatic rock star Peter Garrett led a walk-out of s o m e of the leaders which signified the beginning of the end of the N D P . Jo Vallentine renounced her allegiance to the N D P . Membership declined rapidly and the N D P faded into obscurity.

R E T R E A T A N D C O - O P T I O N

The A L P w a s certainly affected by the initial success of the N D P , but it did not adopt more progressive policies. Indeed it w a s soon after the 1984 election that the M X missile controversy flared up. Early in 1985 Prime Minister H a w k e m a d e a secret commitment to the U S government to provide back-up facilities for the test landings in the T a s m a n Sea of two unarmed M X missiles. This information came to public notice, and provoked such a furore that H a w k e w a s forced to reverse his decision in the next few days. (Sharp, 1985.) The M X missile controversy helped to put the U S bases and the A N Z U S alliance firmly on the political agenda of nuclear critics and the major political parties alike; the decision of the N e w Zealand

government to ban visits by nuclear warships w a s seen by m a n y as a model for Australia.48

A section of the ALP left faction resigned from the Party in the mid 1980s. Since then the left faction has been nothing more than a r u m p with bland policies and

very little influence within the A L P . Perhaps the most significant change in the A L P w a s that its leadership became considerably more adept at co-opting social movements including eco-pax49 movements. This co-option took various forms.

In general the main method of co-option w a s (and is) to offer leaders of the movements places in the bureaucratic sun, for example through state funding of conservative peak bodies (such as the Australian Conservation Foundation) and the involvement of m o v e m e n t leaders in formal processes such as the

Environmentally Sustainable Development process. (Shannon, 1996.)

In the case of anti-nuclear movements, the ALP government appointed an Ambassador for Disarmament, w h o sometimes appeared to be primarily a spokesman for the government's policies on the U S alliance and uranium

mining (Diesendorf, 1987). A Nuclear Free Zone Treaty w a s signed in 1986 by the government, which also amounted to little more than a co-option of the

movements. Such initiatives gave politicians the opportunity to appear to be making a contribution to non-proliferation, but issues such as the U S bases and uranium mining and export were not negotiable. These projects also gave the leaders of the anti-nuclear groups something to do in a period w h e n the movements were in decline - though the movements declined all the faster

4S A s Wills (1985) notes, the stance of the N e w Zealand government w a s little more than electoral populism: the government still supported U S interests in the region, not least by continuing to host U S intelligence bases. In retaliation to the banning of nuclear warships, the U S cut a n u m b e r of military and intelligence links with N e w Zealand, but m u c h remained.

42 There w a s a good deal of coalescence between the various strands of the environmental and peace/anti-nuclear movements, hence the term eco-pax. See Pakulski, 1991.

because resources were diverted from important, topical campaigns such as uranium mining at Roxby D o w n s (Fricker, 1988; Martin, 1985).

The ALP's task of co-opting anti-nuclear movements was made easier by three interconnected developments: the m o v e m e n t s became increasingly disconnected from the working class and the unions; they were in decline from the m i d 1980s onwards; and the broad political strategy of building and broadening the mass m o v e m e n t increasingly gave w a y to various dead-end liberal strategies.

The movements were increasingly disconnected from the working class and the unions. A s economic stagnation and the associated capitalist austerity drive took hold from the m i d 1970s, concern gradually shifted from environmental, nuclear, and foreign policy issues to jobs and the economy. With the A L P in government from 1983, the union m o v e m e n t w a s increasingly being d r a w n into the consensus conservatism of the business-union-government Accord process. Struggles

around workplace issues were on the w a n e , as were struggles around broader social issues such as uranium mining. M a n y union leaders were only too happy to do the bidding of the A L P government because of the close historical links

between union leaders and A L P politicians and their c o m m o n class location in the labour aristocracy. Socialists were excluded or went into self-imposed exile from the eco-pax movements; other socialists had failed to see the anti-capitalist dynamic of the m o v e m e n t s and had ignored them from the start. (McDonald, 1996; Shannon, 1996; Beresford, 1977.)

Working-class involvement in the movements declined, and the power that could be wielded through union activities such as strikes w a s all but lost to the social movements. In turn the m o v e m e n t s distanced themselves from the

working class and unions; less effort w a s m a d e to involve unions and workers in campaigns. The movements became m o r e bureaucratic and reformist and far easier to co-opt whether by the state or by capitalists (e.g. green consumerism).

Building and broadening mass campaigns gave w a y to reformism and

individualism - professional lobbying, letter-writing campaigns, petition drives and so on, all of which can be useful tactics in the context of the building of a mass campaign but have precious little impact by themselves. S o m e activists retreated entirely into the dead-end politics of lifestyle change.

These various trends are neatly summarised by Shannon (1996):

With the labour movement hunkered down in defensive bunkers, resisting

with more or less (mostly less) success the assaults of a desperate capitalist

class during the 1980s recession, green strategies took on a wistful and ineffective hue. Green self-improvement versions of the Biblical injunction to 'change thyself (half a brick in the toilet cistern, recycling, and so on), elitist Greenpeace heroics, green consumerism, and the perennial ballot box came to dominate the outlook of most of those with environmental


Universities were of course shaped by the capitalist austerity drive and the decline of the social m o v e m e n t s . Milieux of m o v e m e n t activists and academics w e n t into

decline, as seen for example in the inward turn of STS. Theoretically, m o v e m e n t leaders and theorists, and s o m e academics, constructed a intellectual edifice justifying the retreatist politics of the movements. T h e idea took hold that the working class w a s n o longer the agent of social change, that it had c o m e to form part of the "productivist core" (or similar notions) along with the ruling class and the state. Often this w a s (and is) linked to overambitious theorising about the possibility that the social m o v e m e n t s might fill the void left b y the "corporatised"

working class (e.g. Touraine, 1981, 1988). Sometimes the "new" social m o v e m e n t s as a whole are glorified - "neither left nor right but out in front" - and contrasted to the "old" labour m o v e m e n t . In other cases one or other of the n e w social

movements is held to be the guardian of the n e w age. T h u s the central argument of Babin's (1985) book o n the Canadian nuclear industry is that "it is within the antinuclear m o v e m e n t that w e find the starting point for the most important struggle in post-industrial society."50


From the mid to late 1980s, in Australia as in many other (predominantly capitalist) countries, leaders of the eco-pax m o v e m e n t s formed green electoral parties. T o s o m e extent the green parties were an advance o n the environment-alism of the 1970s, in that they w e n t beyond simplistic lifestyle solutions, and they bridged local issues to international issues and environmental issues to social issues. T h e green parties were attracting significant n u m b e r s of people from the social-democratic parties and the m a s s m o v e m e n t s . They sometimes threatened to disrupt the two-party systems typical in most capitalist countries, and m o r e generally they had the potential to spur the growth of progressive m o v e m e n t s both inside and outside the electoral arena. (McDonald, 1996.)

52 For more sober and convincing assessments of the social movements, old and new, see Burgmann, 1993; McDonald, 1996.

M a n y local green parties formed in Australia - there were 13 in N e w South Wales alone by 1991. H o w e v e r their early promise has not been realised. The political circumstances in which they were developing w a s not helpful, with the movements in decline and increasingly disconnected from workers and unions, the economy in stagnation and periodic recession, most of the small socialist

parties in self-imposed exile, and the A L P becoming m o r e adept at co-opting social movements. M o r e than a few of the green-party leaders were (and are) opportun-ists and careeropportun-ists - social m o v e m e n t superstars - and this w a s never likely to help. Early electoral successes immediately raised the question of the balance to be struck between electoral and campaigning work. Most of the leaders argued for a greater focus on electoral work, and by pursuing this approach the green parties have become disconnected from their extra-parliamentary campaigning base. This w a s exacerbated by the enactment, after a struggle, of a proscription clause which resulted in the expulsion of campaign-oriented activists such as those from the Democratic Socialist Party. (McDonald, 1996.)

The Australian Greens were launched in 1992, uniting all those green parties which wanted to be part of a national organisation and would agree to adopt

proscription. This unification w a s of little significance however. Before and after the formation of the Australian Greens, the trajectory w a s towards a narrow electoralism. The various parties affiliated to the Australian Greens have generally had only limited involvement in campaigns around French nuclear testing, uranium mining, or woodchipping of native forests. Indicative of the trajectory w a s the decision of the Australian Capital Territory Greens (affiliated to the Australian Greens) to form a coalition government with the conservative Liberal Party in the m i d 1990s. Thus the A C T Greens are dutifully implementing the ruling-class austerity drive and justifying this with appeals to the shibboleth of

"stable government". (McDonald, 1996.)