You’ve got to be Jo(h)king: History, the Left and Queensland


(This is a guest post from a friend of The Word From Struggle Street Jon)

It was the 40th anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic uprising recently. On the 17th of November 1973, tanks rolled onto campus, and in a bloody orgy of violence unwittingly sealed the demise of the regime of the Colonels. The Polytechnic uprising holds a vital place in Greek radical mythology – hell, there’s a public holiday for it – and it is a constant reference point by the media and the generation of ex-protestors – who now hold power in Greece and have set themselves up as the arbiters of radical memory – whenever another spate of political engagement emerges.

One ex-protestor, Mimis Androulakis, a student leader during the dictatorship period, “has argued that the Polytechnic Generation acts like a group of ‘vampires.’ In his view, through its deification, the Polytechnic Generation absorbs younger generations in its own past, rather than allowing them to develop their own genuine rebellions.”[1]

I want to briefly explore herein whether something similar can be seen to be occurring in Queensland. With the Newman conservative government rising to power, and a movement emerging to counter it which makes explicit and constant references to its ‘glory days’ during the rule of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, I want to ask whether a similarly parasitic relationship with the past is emerging, and point to a few ways it might be avoided. In the end, a successful movement needs to engage in a productive dialogue with the past, and with the currently global context of austerity, in order to be successful.

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